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SnakePit Round Table: Looking back

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The writers review a post-season which began in dramatic fashion, and ended (as most do) in an L.

MLB: NL Wildcard-Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What do you take away from this year’s post-season overall?

Steven M. Taylor: From an overall perspective, my takeaway is that even aces can falter on any given day, and the postseason is a beast unto itself. It seems like there are fewer guarantees of “we’ve got our ace going, that’ll be a win” these days than in years past. From a Dbacks perspective, I am taking away a successful wild card game, and hopefully some well deserved post-season experience for a very young team.

James: This postseason mostly confirmed what most around here already know, winning the division can mean everything. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks are chasing the Dodgers in the NL West, so, under normal circumstances, winning the division is always going to be an uphill battle instead of an even one. If the Diamondbacks don’t find themselves pitching Ray in the play-in game, then Ray starts the NLDS in Los Angeles, and Walker, with less pressure on him pitches the second game. Maybe that doesn’t change the eventual outcome of the series, but I sure would have liked to have seen that series more than the one we wound up with.

Pitching and defense still rule the postseason. It’s unlikely that is going to change anytime soon. Even when the Diamondbacks held the Dodgers in check, the Arizona offense just was not able to come through to prevent the sweep. The Dodgers picked up Yu Darvish, not to help them win in the regular season, but to help solidify their playoff chances. He did just that in the final NLDS game. The Diamondbacks now know what they need to be prepared for to take the next step in 2018.

Makakilo: The D-backs are a winning team and cheering for them is super-fun!

  • From a fan perspective, if this is sustainable it means the team consistently contends in September. The uncertainty of making the playoffs and how deep the team advances in the playoffs challenges and energizes me.
  • The D-backs played the wild-card game like it was the last game of the season (as they should have), and the D-backs won it! That game was loud and fans jumped from their seats every inning! As a fan, although I was in the stands behind the third base dugout, in spirit I was on the field giving 110% to help the D-backs win.
  • Overall, this was a very awesome season; it was a season that I will remember fondly for a long, long, long time.

Keegan: No such thing as too much pitching. I think after watching most of these postseason games all of the managers are employing the strategy discussed by Sean before our Wild Card game which is to pull the starting pitcher at the first sign of trouble in the second time through the order. I am not exactly a fan of that tactic, but I can understand why it happens. During the regular season teams need length from their starting pitchers, so it is not foreign to see a starting pitcher in the 7th inning after already giving up 4+ runs. The 1 game Wild Card play in is highly dramatic and entertaining, and I have a greater appreciation now as to why the league went to the format. I probably would feel differently if the Diamondbacks lost that game of course. I have not felt that type of energy and emotion in Chase Field on many occasions.

Tanner: I took away that a Dodgers vs Yankees World Series would be my worst nightmare, and that the Astros are FUN. The Dbacks are a couple good bullpen arms away from being scary on the pitching front, but we need to do a better job gameplanning for the starting pitchers in the playoffs. But I definitely think next year we can fight for a spot, and hope the Dodgers suck a big black hole and fall of a cliff

Jim: That what you do in October is all that matters, and the playoffs now seems to be a very different beast from the regular season. Going into Sunday, more than 60% (27 of 44 starts) have lasted five innings or fewer. We’ve seen quick hooks even when managers aren’t in elimination mode. That seems to be the new post-season normal.

Jay: The postseason is different than the regular season. This team wasn’t expected to do much in the regular season and the postseason was a pipe dream. It almost felt like the Wild Card game was so amazing, that a letdown was inevitable. I didn’t want to believe it, but the postseason is another animal. Next year? This experience for a core of young players should help. We need to bring most of this team back. If we don’t sign Just Dingers, who could own this town by the way, we should be able to afford everyone else. Like most fans, we want them all back after falling in love with this team. If we did an NBA style trade giving up a high draft pick or prospect to encourage someone else to take the salary of Tomas, I would be fine with that if it makes a Martinez deal possible. Next year might be different in a good way.

What went wrong in the Division Series?

Steven M. Taylor: I think it was a mixture of things. First, we had to burn our two best pitchers in the Wild Card game, and that was the biggest impediment. But we also were up against a Dodgers team that was really good, and had to play two games in Los Angeles with our fourth or fifth best starter starting game 1 against Clayton Kershaw, and a visibly tired Robbie Ray going in game 2. I think that on the surface, it looks like a sweep and the Dodgers dominated us, but I think that we were not far off from making it an interesting series. Things just didn’t line up for us, and that is what the Wild Card game is supposed to do.

James: We didn’t win the division. The play-in game ravaged Arizona’s pitching, going into the NLDS. As I mentioned above, pitching and defense win in the playoffs. If a rested Robbie Ray starts the series, I honestly believe we, at the very least, avoid the sweep. THe other thing that stood out to me though was, the Diamondbacks need better situational hitting. IN the play-in game, the team squandered chances to put the game to bed early, which led to Robbie Ray entering the game. In the NLDS, the team was unable to capitalize on the few scoring chances that presented themselves.

Makakilo: Torey Lovullo said the Dodgers played adequately and the D-backs did not play their game. My view is that the Dodgers had an outstanding game plan that was well executed and that is what prevented the D-backs from playing their best game.

Winning or losing in the playoffs is a team effort. Rather than blame specifics, my view is that on those 3 days, the team did not execute well enough to win. Next year’s playoffs will be a new story.

Keegan: Feels like the Diamondbacks could never quite get over that hangover of the Wild Card and get to their style of play. Arizona played the Dodgers much better during the regular season, but in the end Los Angeles was the better team. Sure, the volume of home runs hit by the Diamondbacks was exciting, but it did not equate to wins. Would have prefered to see more scoring outside of the long ball. The Dodgers simply overwhelmed the Diamondbacks with the quality of arms they had coming out of the bullpen. Dave Roberts had the luxury of being able to bring out a Kenta Maeda, Brandon Morrow, or Tony Cingrani out to face 2 or 3 guys. The Diamondbacks simply did not have the bullpen arms to compete. Plenty of depth all over the field for the Dodgers.

Tanner: Burning Ray in the WC game didn’t help. Starting Walker and pulling him after an inning for Godley when you could have just started Godley also didn’t help. Ray looked gassed the whole time, Greinke was struggling, but it just means every guy has an off night.

Jim: Our starting pitching melted down. Over the four games, they lasted a total of just 14 innings, and allowed 15 earned runs in 18 hits and 12 walks. The Dodgers (and the Rockies, to a lesser extent) both formulated and executed a great game-plan against them. Conversely, our hitters didn’t: only nine at-bats with a runner in scoring position for the entire division series, and one hit. That’ll never get it done, almost regardless of how many home-runs you hit.

Jay: The Dodgers are good and the D-backs starters couldn’t pitch. The offense and Archie Bradley bailed out the pitching in the Wild Card game that not only didn’t pitch well and got burned out, but started a precedent of poor pitching that lasted for the next three games. Honestly, it wasn’t until game 3 did the offense not produce, when the pitching struggled but held up.

In hindsight, do you still think Torey Lovullo should have gone with Robbie Ray as a reliever in the wild-card game?

Steven M. Taylor: I have to say yes. Because as much as I would have loved to have a fresh Ray in game 1 against the Dodgers where we tagged Kershaw for four runs, I honestly don’t know that we would have even gotten that far if it weren’t for Ray’s relief appearance. Those Rockies just would not go away, but Ray gave us more than 2 solid innings, he gave us the difference that was needed to push us into the NLDS. If he doesn’t pitch, we could very well be answering a question that says “Why didn’t TL use Robbie Ray in the WIld Card game?”.

James: I didn’t care for the move at the time, and I said so. I’m still pretty sure I don’t care for the move. Greinke had given up some runs, but it wasn’t like he was getting tagged. He was giving up very weak contact that kept resulting in little flares and soft liners that fell in. Arizona’s defense didn’t stand a chance fielding those balls, so he got BABIPed to death. He needed only one more out to get through the fourth inning, after which, he would have started with a clean slate again. I totally understand Lovullo’s decision to pull Greinke. Under the circumstances, not pulling him would have been open to just as much (if not more) second-guessing. Pulling Greinke didn’t have to mean going to Ray though.

There were three other starters available. Patrick Corbin is a lefty if the desire was for a lefty. Taijuan Walker is a flame-thrower if the desire was for a power arm. Zack Godley would have been the best bet for inducing weak, groundball contact. I would have much rather the team lean on one of them in order to keep Ray ready. Yes, in an elimination game, it is “all hands on deck”. That means Ray too. I would have preferred Ray being the “in case of emergency” arm though. Arizona’s pitching was its strength all season. Showing some faith in it when it mattered, either by trusting Greinke, or by trusting a starter other than Ray, would not have been amiss.

Makakilo: I say yes with confidence. Steven is right, and he said it well.

Keegan: Have to agree with Steven. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. The decision paid off this time. It is an interesting question for me because, as I said above, I do not prefer the strategy of running starting pitchers out of the bullpen, but what other options does a manager have in a high stress game? Dave Roberts has plenty of options, but Torey Lovullo not so much. I truly think bringing Robbie Ray in during the Wild Card game was the right decision. He shut down the Rockies momentum when he entered the game. Of course Lovullo could have gone with Walker, Corbin, or Godley, but if that decision backfired we would be criticizing him for not bringing in Ray. You do what you have to in order to win the game.

Tanner: No not a fan of the move. Corbin was there as well, and I think he also could have done well. Godley had experience coming out of the ‘pen and could have done it as well (Corbin then may as well have been the guy in game 1 of the NLDS).

Jim: While I see the need, I wasn’t a great fan at the time, and hindsight seems to prove the concern was right. The NLDS could hardly have gone any worse in the end. Torey rolled the dice and it came up snake-eyes. But if the only person you trust to protect a two-run lead is your best starting pitcher, I would have to wonder.

Jay: In hindsight? I guess not. At the time, it was the right thing to do.

Was there anything else the D-backs could have done?

Steven M. Taylor: The only thing that I would have like to see differently was Godley or Corbin starting game 1 over Walker. Walker has been good this year, but I don’t think that he needed to be the guy on the hill for the start of game 1. There were some other things that I questioned, like why Mathis played so much over Iannetta, and some of the relief options used (like Jimmy Sherfy), but those were the same decisions that TL made to get us here, so who am I to question them when the playoffs roll around?

James: Win the division. Other than actually winning the NL West, I’m not sure that there is much different they could have done, beyond what I discussed above. I was a bit surprised to see Walker tabbed as the Game 1 starter, but I supported the decision, as I wanted Walker starting in Los Angeles, not Phoenix. Granted, I wanted him starting Game 2 after a Ray outing to start the series, but since that wasn’t an option, having Walker start made sense to me. Other than relying on a non-Ray arm in the play-in game, I thought Lovullo made the right calls. Outside of Greinke’s starts, I was a bit surprised to see Mathis getting so much playing time, but Lovullo has way more information available to him to make those individual calls, and he made the right ones to get the Diamondbacks to the NLDS, so I didn’t sweat it much.

Makakilo: The D-backs can sleep well because as a team they exceeded expectations and played a joyous season. A better question is, “As a fan and AZ Snake Pit writer, is there more I could have done?” Next season is my opportunity!

Keegan: The Diamondbacks need more depth in the bullpen and off the bench. That is the job tasked to the front office made much more difficult by payroll constraints. I do not think it is feasible to have the quality of depth the Dodgers had, but Arizona did not really have many options off the bench. I am confident that this is an area Lovullo can really excel above other general managers. However, I feel that the players we did have put in everything they could give the ensure the success of the team, and for that I applaud them.

Tanner: Start Godley over Walker, which i think we could have ended up at least getting to game 4 with a win in game 3. Also, signing better depth guys. Bullpen was tragic and the bench borderline anaemic.

Jim: Learn from what was done here, for next time we reach the playoffs. I’ve little doubt Lovullo will do that, and let’s just hope it’s not six years and two more managers down the road, as it was this time!

Jay: When I saw Walker as the starter in game 1 I cringed. I felt like Godley had the better mental stature for a game like that. I doubt the outcome would have been different though.

Who were the D-backs post-season MVP and Least Valuable Player?

Steven M. Taylor: MVP for me was Archie Bradley. He provided the biggest hit in the Wild Card game, with the emotion and intensity to ignite the crowd and the players for years to come. He also pitched 4.2 scoreless IP against the Dodgers, which was pretty impressive because he seemed to be the only pitcher that could quiet them. My LVP is a dual award to both Taijuan Walker and Jimmy Sherfy. Walker set the tone for the series by giving up four runs in the first inning before being pulled in game 1 against Clayton Kershaw. That is the most foreboding thing that I have seen in awhile, and proved to be the catalyst that got the Dodgers rolling.. It’s not really Sherfy’s fault because he is young and inexperienced, but his efforts (especially in game 2) deflated any momentum the Dbacks had. Ray had suffered through a few innings, and the game was still close, but Sherfy came in and basically gave it away.

James: An MVP is difficult for me to choose, as the team just looked plain outmatched after the play-in game. I suppose I would have to go with Archie Bradley. Despite also giving up two solo home runs to the Rockies, his triple really energized the team and it turned the momentum in Arizona’s favour. It made a statement that Colorado could keep clawing back, but that Arizona was the superior team. In addition to that, he also provided 4 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief across two games of the NLDS. While he couldn’t win the games for Arizona, he did all that could be asked of any reliever to give Arizona the best possible chance to come back late in the game.

Makakilo:

MVP:

Two Honorable Mentions:

  • Paul Goldschmidt with 3 RBIs in the Wild-Card game and another 2 RBIs in game 2 of the NLDS with the Dodgers.
  • Zack Godley pitched 5 inning with 2 earned runs. In the D-backs postseason, the only other pitcher who pitched 5 innings was Greinke, who allowed 3 earned runs.

First Place: Archie Bradley because of his intense positive attitude. Although he allowed 2 earned runs in the Wild-Card game, he drove in 2 runs, so it felt like allowing no runs. And over two NLDS games, he pitched a total of 4.2 innings with zero earned runs allowed.

LVP:

Two Disappointments:

  • JD Martinez with 4 hits including a homerun in 16 plate appearance. Although he was great and his presence in the lineup gave Goldy more opportunities, I hoped for more homers from him in the postseason.
  • Zack Greinke with 7 earned runs in 8.2 innings pitched. Considering it was Colorado and the Dodgers, he pitched very well. However, I hoped he would dominate in the postseason.

First place: Taijuan Walker because of his bad first inning (4 earned runs on 4 hits, 1 walk, and 1 intentional walk). My intuition (although I may be wrong) is that the D-backs could have won that game (for several reasons). Nevertheless, win or lose, the postseason is a team effort.

Keegan: I prefer to go against the grain here. I think Ketel Marte deserves MVP for the Postseason, this being his first in his career. 7 hits in 17 at bats including 2 triples in the Wild Card and a home run the first game of the Division Series. He took tremendous strides forward this season in his development being called up after Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed went down, and it really showed in the Postseason. Archie Bradley is just as deserving for MVP. Least Valuable would have to go to Marte’s trade mate, Taijuan Walker. I was hardly expecting the type of performance seen from him the first game of Division Series, as I am sure it caught him off guard as well. Nevertheless, still have to be happy with the return those two provided all season long. Makes up for the loss of last year’s MVP, Jean Segura.

Tanner: MVP was Bradley. LVP was Walker.

Jay: The problem was there wasn’t a true MVP. Archie Bradley was emotional leader, but wasn’t lights out pitching. Goldy hit a couple of huge dongs, but not much else. Descalso and Marte did fine. Lamb even produced. But we needed either a monster performance out of someone or a starting pitcher that could shut down his opponents. LVP goes to Yasmany Tomas. His salary and his production make him least valuable.

Jim: Jorge De La Rosa was probably our best pitcher: appeared in the three of the four games, pitching 2.1 scoreless inning. He and David Hernandez (1.2 scoreless) were the only men with post-season ERAs below three. Small sample size, but they did their job when virtually every one else failed. On offense, I’d go with Keegan and award it to Marte, whose performance may well have inked him into the 2018 starting line-up as shortstop - at least going into spring training! LVP: A collective award to the pitching staff. 29 earned runs over 34 innings is a 7.68 ERA, and is why we’re now sitting at home.

Which of the four remaining teams will win the World Series?

Steven M. Taylor: After seeing what Justin Verlander did to the Yankees today and what Keuchel did yesterday, I am going to say the Astros. They have a fan base that deserves it, with all they’ve been through this year, and lord knows they will be pumped for every home game from here on out. And their offense is just killer. I think it will be theirs in the end.

James: I’ve been picking the Astros since the Verlander trade. After his performance last night, I think I’ll stick with that choice. I do think that the Dodgers might just fall to the Cubs in the NLCS for a second year in a row though (despite their Game 1 victory). The Dodgers have the better overall team, but I honestly think that the loss of Seager might be enough of a difference-maker to help Chicago over the hump and return the Cubs to the World Series. Regardless of who represents the National League though, I expect Justin Verlander to finally hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy once the World Series is done.

Makakilo: Arrrggg!! It might be the Dodgers. In the best of all worlds, the Astro pitching dominates all other teams, allowing the Astros to win the World Series. Their Mascot, Orbit, is out of this world! Go Astros!

Keegan: Let’s go Astros (clap clap clap-clap-clap). Pretty awesome to see the success that team is having given the struggles they went through to begin the decade. They have rebuilt that team the right way and should have sustained success for years to come. Anyone but the Yankees, Dodgers, or Cubs!

Tanner: After seeing Verlander go Randy Johnson all over the Yankees, I say the Astros. The Cubs pitching is not nearly good enough, I hate the Dodger with the passion burning of a thousand suns, and the Yankees being dead to me and also appearing too young for some clutch situations, Let’s Go ‘Stros!

Jay: I am rooting for the Astros to beat whoever wins the Dodgers and Cubs series. Verlander is back and it is beautiful to see. That’s the type of starting pitcher work we needed this year.

Jim: The Astros. Please! But I can’t deny, the way the Dodgers have handled the Cubs has been impressive.