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SnakePit Round Table: Post-Turkey ruminations

Out of the mythical tryptophan coma yet? We managed to find three SnakePit writers who had regained at least some semblance of consciousness for some post-Thanksgiving chit-chat

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Awards week has come and gone. Who would you say were the five best players in baseball this year?

Makakilo.  I picked two pitchers and three position players. For pitchers, I looked at Cy Young points.  The best were Jake Arrieta (115.1) and Zack Greinke (109.3).  For position players, I screened out players with less than 16 home-runs (one per ten games), then I looked at on-base average (OBA), and batting average (BA).  The best were Bryce Harper (42 Home-runs,.460 OBA, .330 BA), Miguel Cabrera (18 Home-runs,.440 OBA, .339 BA), and Paul Goldschmidt (33 Home-runs,.435 OBA, .321 BA).  Although I may not have been free of bias, considering his gold glove award and team leadership, I picked Paul Goldschmidt as the best of the best.

Steven: Not an easy choice to make, since the MLB is flooded with elite talent on both sides of the position spectrum. Easy choices are Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, young outfielders who probably haven't hit the apex of their prime years, along with pitchers Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw. Last is a toss-up and Paul Goldschmidt because I'm an admitted homer.

Jim: It's weird how things skewed this year, particularly on the pitching side where I would say that there were three pitchers in the National League who were better than anyone in the American League, in Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw - likely in that order. And two of the top three hitters were also from the AL, with Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt, along with Mike Trout. If I need to dump one of those, I'm going with Kershaw, because I just wasn't that impressed with what I saw of him. Admittedly, that was mostly his two starts against Arizona, and his 6.35 ERA against us was clearly not Kershaw at his best. But I don't really need any excuse to exclude a Dodger.

Is Manager of the Year at all a meaningful award?

Makakilo.  It is about managing a team that exceeds expectations and pre-season predictions.  The team gets the glory when they win their Division, a league pennant, and world series; and rightly so because it is a team effort. When a team does well and it is a surprise, then that manager is contending for his league's manager of the year award. Uhm, unless he has previously managed a team through a season with a losing record, which leaves rust on him.  Joe Girardi is the only rusted manager to win the award. Tony La Russa has won the award four times without rusting!   If the manager pulls more than the best out of his players, if his players exceed their capabilities, then he has earned recognition.  This award is meaningful.

Steven: I'm a believer in a coach can only do so much to dictate a game that his only influence is probably off the field in developing and nurturing young talent. I'm not quite convinced that wins = good coach, but it sure does help.

Jim. I'm less certain, since it seems to be awarded to the manager whose team undergoes a big turnaround, regardless of whether that's down to the manager or the GM. I think it's almost impossible to parse a team's success, especially from the outside, and say how much of it is due to the man at the helm. Sure, you can look at decisions during games, but I tend to to the view that 90% of those could be made by a moderately well-programmed AI. I suspect the heavy lifting is done in the locker-room, out of sight of the press who vote on the award; local beat reporters might get an idea of their own guy, but can they really speak with authority on what, say, managers in another division bring to the table? We just need to look at the 2014 NL Manager of the Year, fired a year later.

Outside of Goldie and A.J, which Diamondback do you think has got the best chance of an MVP mention in 2016?

Makakilo.  Our outfield is strong.  I see three possibilities: 1)  In 2015, David Peralta's home runs, batting average, and OPS+ were in the same bandwidth as Pollock and they both could improve in 2016.  2) In 2015 Ender Inciarte was a clutch hitter, and he is only 24 years old!  He will certainly improve! 3) Tomas could start 2016 in the best shape of his life, and blossom into an awesome power hitter.

Steven: Previous to any off-season signings, Patrick Corbin probably has the greatest shot at bring home some votes. He's our best pitcher and has the highest ceiling of anyone right now on the team. That all could change once we sign Jordan Zimmermann though ;)

Jim. I'm hoping we get someone who is so dominant on the mount - right now, Patrick Corbin is easily the most likely - that he gets MVP mentions. Hell, we haven't had anyone named on a Cy Young ballot since Ian Kennedy in 2011. On the position player side, I'd love it if Welington Castillo continued to show what he can do with regular playing-time. He has 17 home-runs in just 80 games, and anything like that pace over a full season should merit some kind of consideration.

If you had the chance, what one award would you add to the MLB mix? e.g. Best Mascot

Steven: I think a Best Fans award would be a solid addition. It could be pretty vague on who is the winner, but could be voted on by the players and coaches.

Jim. I like the unsung hero award we have here. Every team has a player whom the fanbase loves, but to whom no-one outside it pays any attention. It would be nice to see all 30 teams select one of that kind for national acknowledgement, and some kind of balloting, maybe fan-based, for an overall award. Though we should figure out some way that fans can't vote for players on their own team. Actually, that would be a pretty good idea for the All-Star Game as well, while you're at it.

The D-backs were linked with Johnny Cueto last week. What are your thoughts?


  1. Adding a starting pitcher is vital.  Advantages of Cueto are 1) teams perceive risk in Cueto - which means the winning bid will have an upside (which is rare in free agency), 2) there will be time during the off-season to address the issue that Cueto had with his catcher, 3) he will be affordable - I would be shocked if the AAV exceeded $26 million, 4) compared to Price, less risk of coming away empty handed, 5) Cueto will be an upgrade in quality of starting pitching, and 6) Cueto's high innings pitched will help the bullpen.

  2. Nevertheless, there are alternatives.  In 2015, Johnny Cueto ranked #26 with 53.6 Cy Young points.  Some alternatives (via trade or free agency) had about the same number of points - Corey Kluber (58.6), Danny Salazar (55.0), Carlos Carrasco (53.4), Scott Kazmir (51.0), and Jordan Zimmerman (48.2). And other alternatives had more points, such as David Price with 90.7 points.  And Sonny Gray (a trade target in the off-season plan by Inside the Zona) had 71.9 points.

  3. Cueto carries with him a significant risk of injury.  However, I would rather know that risk than be surprised by it.

  4. This article refers to evidence that some pitching characteristics are more stable than others.  The two year average of Cueto's more stable characteristics are K% of 22.7%, BB% of 6.0%, FB%of 35%, GB% of 44.3%.  Further, it tells me that ERA says what happened while SIERA says what should have happened.  In 2014, ERA was 2.25 while SIERA was 3.15.  In 2015, ERA was 3.44 while SIERA was 3.81.  It seems that Cueto's performance was luckier than his SIERA would predict.

Steven: Cueto would be an excellent acquisition, supporting and anchoring the pitching staff for years to come. The D-backs need to be aggressive and sign someone like Cueto/Zimmermann as anyone else isn't a large enough upgrade over our prospects. Both of those guys aren't without their blemishes of course, with past injury history and age playing a decent role in what contract they'll end up receiving. If they can go a maximum of 5 years on both, that's a signing you need to make.

Jim: It depends, he says, hedging his bets carefully. I think Cueto would be a decent acquisition, but I'd be hard pushed to see him as the one piece that would push us over the top. If it was part of a double-bill, with another acquisition, such as Kenta Maeda, then I'd be a lot happier, since just signing Cueto doesn't seem enough of an upgrade, and would also feel dangerously like putting all our eggs in one basket. There's always risk, and there were aspects of Cueto's performance after his trade to Kansas City that had me concerned. I'm never happy with giving any pitcher a long-term contract, but if we're to compete in the next couple of years, I think it's a case where we will have to bite that bullet.

The team also seemed to be distancing themselves from getting a new closer. Would you be happy with Brad Ziegler in 2016?

Makakilo.  Yes! I especially like that he has value both as a closer and as a "fireman" with men on base.  This adds flexibility so that if a prospect blossoms into an effective closer, Brad Ziegler can put out fires!

Steven: I think we're all for Ziegler having a more flexible role in the bullpen, but boy is it nice not worrying about closing the door in the 9th inning. It's been awhile since we've had one, probably J.J Putz back in 2011 was the closest thing we've had to having a shutdown closer.

Jim. Certainly preferable to trading for a replacement. I do think we have enough alternatives that we could put Ziegler back into a more flexible role, where he would potentially be more useful. I think Daniel Hudson and Silvino Bracho would probably be almost as good, and Ziegler's talents at generating ground-balls perhaps work better when he isn't stuck coming into the ninth inning with a clean slate. Even though his DP% of 23% was above career average, he only rolled up eight, which is tied for a career low. An opponents' OBP of .253 and only 20 inherited runners all year will do that.

As a D-backs fan, what are you thankful for?

Makakilo.  Last weekend, I watched the Muppet Christmas Carol.  I am thankful for all the snake-pitters.  "God bless us, every one!"

Steven: Being able to come on this site and talk about my team was one of the best things to happen to me. When I think about where I was before (azcentral) I shudder.

Jim: A team which appear to be going in the right direction as we head into the off-season. Been quite a while since I've been able to say that. Getting to watch one of the best players in baseball on a daily basis - and one who is a good representative for the team and state. And I'm VERY thankful for the other writers here. Trust me on that one. You should all be thankful for them too. :)