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The Day The Arizona Diamondbacks Roster Caught Fire

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When the history of the 2016 season is written, Friday, May 27 will likely be seen as a day of significance. Let's review, and also peer into the future.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I don't recall any other day, perhaps excluding mass call-ups once rosters expand in September, where Arizona made eight roster moves. We saw 40% of the rotation hit the disabled list, concurrently with one-quarter of the bullpen being sent to the minors. In return, we got three relievers - two are likely short-term moves, to provide arms out of the bullpen until the starters' spots come up on Sunday and Monday - and a position player. That adjustment does redress the configuration of the D-backs roster, to the more standard one of a seven-man bullpen and five-man bench. The team had been using an eight-man bullpen for a while, to help handle a heavy relief load.

But let's go through the eight players involved, and see what was done, why, and where they might go from here.

Out

Andrew Chafin

Reliever Volatility, thy name is Chafin. Last year, he worked 66 games with a 2.76 ERA. This year, it's 9.00: we're still in May and he's allowed half a dozen earned runs than all of 2015. The weird thing is, his peripherals are great: indeed, Chafin's FIP and xFIP have actually both improved on last year's figure, to 2.91 and 3.37 respectively, because his strikeout rate has gone up to an excellent 10.6 per nine innings. But that hasn't been able to counter a .457 BABIP, which trails only Luis Perdomo (who, coincidentally, also pitched in last night's game) among all major-leaguers with as many IP. Not Chafin's fault? Perhaps, but still Chafin's responsibility.

Rubby De La Rosa

This was a surprise. There had been chatter about health issues for De La Rosa, who had a start skipped recently. But this was on the groin and blister front, not the elbow issue which resulted in him joining Miller on the DL. For now, the problem is being described as a "sprained UCL", which will always be a concern for Tommy John survivors like De La Rosa, although he is almost five years removed from his procedure. Rubby had an MRI on Friday and there will apparently be a consultation with Dr. Knife,. a.k.a. James Andrews. That's never a good thing, but right now, the team is saying surgery does not appear necessary, though he'll likely be out at least a month.

Evan Marshall

Marshall is another one who has been BABIP'd to death, his .420 figure ranking him seventh among major-leaguers with 10 or more innings of work, and a FIP of 3.86, which is a good deal more respectable than his ERA of 6.92. xFIP, which uses a "standard" rate of home-runs, is rather more pessimistic at 5.07, because Marshall has been better than your usual Diamondback pitcher at keeping the ball in the park, not having allowed a home-run in 13 innings of work. It's a great story that he is even pitching in the major leagues this year, and like Chafin, I get the feeling we'll be seeing him back here before too long.

Shelby Miller

Getting Miller off the roster was the move Diamondbacks fans had been calling and waiting for. In the end, the team took the DL route, citing a "strained right index finger". Quite when this took place, and whether it was related to him banging his hand on the ground I'm not sure - there wasn't much indication of that happening in the last couple of outings. While perhaps saving face over optioning Miller to the minors, the down-side is that it puts a cap on the amount of time he can pitch in the minors, at 30 days, while an optioning is unlimited in duration. If, after that 30 days, Miller still isn't "right", we will have an issue. For now though, let's see how it goes.

In

Silvino Bracho

Chip Hale said of the bullpen moves, "We just need the middle of the game to calm down. We need to get to the seventh ahead, obviously that’s our main goal. But when we are down one, down two, we can’t let it get out of hand." Bracho is on the roster for the third time, but has accumulated less than a week of service time. He appeared on Opening Day, was optioned the next day, then got recalled on April 19th, only to be sent down again four days later after one further appearance. He did work a pair of scoreless innings in mop-up last night, which more than cut his ERA in half. Hopefully, he'll get back to his debut form which saw him post a 1.46 ERA in 13 appearances last year.

Josh Collmenter

Colly went on the DL immediately before the start of the season with shoulder tightness after an awful spring which saw his ERA balloon to 9.69 over 13 innings. His rehab appearances weren't great, with a 6.00 ERA at High-A and Triple-A, but he was approaching the 30-day limit mentioned above - into the final week - and the decision to recall him was made. However, last night's outing was real horrorshow stuff; Josh may have been throwing too hard, as his average fastball there, at 83.2 mph, was almost four mph quicker than the 2015 average. Perhaps that brought his pitches back into "batting practice", rather than "effectively slow"?

Dominic Leone

Those blackmail pictures of Dave Stewart are really paying off for Leone, who inexplicably not only remains on the 40-man roster, but received another shot in the majors. His overall line as a D-back is now fifteen hits over 6.2 innings, with 10 earned runs allowed and three homers. Leone's career ERA for Arizona of 13.50 trails only Kerry Ligtenberg (13.97) among all Diamondbacks pitchers with more than five innings of work. I'm fairly confident this stay will be another short one, however: if he isn't one of the players sent down to make way for a starting pitcher in the next couple of days, there's something seriously amiss.

Peter O'Brien

The only position player involved in yesterday's flurry saw the arrival of a man who has been mashing the ball in Reno, with 12 home-runs in 42 games. However, with that also comes a K:BB ratio of 54:6 - and, wouldn't you know it, he struck out off the bench last night. Mind you, he only reached the park a few minutes before game time, so likely deserves some slack. Expect more of the same going forward: if he connects, it'll go a long way, but the key word there is "if". Still, it might be nice for the team to have a genuine power threat available in late innings. Because Rickie Weeks and Phil Gosselin, for their respective merits, aren't it.

Conclusions

If you'd told me when pitchers and catchers reported in February, that by the end of May our roster would include Rickie Weeks, Michael Bourn and Edwin Escobar, I'd have been forced to conclude that something had gone very wrong indeed with the Diamondbacks 2016 campaign. It's hard to avoid thinking that is indeed the case, as a team that was expected to contend find themselves sitting with a 21-29 record that's closer to that of the woeful Atlanta Braves than the division-leading San Francisco Giants. With our sole starter possessing an ERA+ of 100 or better now on the shelf for an indeterminate period, even climbing back to a .500 season won't be easy.

At what point does the team give up on 2016 and start planning for 2017? We may get some kind of clue from the line-up construction. If we see Jake Lamb get more regular starts against left-handers, that may be a sign: it may not help the team immediately, but could help Lamb become a better player down the road. Conversely, starts for the likes of Weeks and Bourn, who probably won't be part of the future, would point in the other direction. But if the losses keep mounting, and the team falls further off the pace of last season, it seems quite possible that the next set of wholesale changes to take place, may not be limited to the playing staff.