We start with series wins over two teams that made the Division Series last year. How do you feel?
Nate- Excited! I never would have seen this coming, but it has sure been a pleasant surprise. While I am unsure how the rest of the season will play out, I plan to enjoy this while it lasts.
Keegan: Pleasantly surprised. A part of me believes that this is how last season should have gone. That team was never able to shake the tone of a rough start. The start of this season so far is the polar opposite. Baseball is a funny sport. I will provide a revised end of the season expectation when April is finished as I tend to do each season.
Jim: Frankly, astonished. Given our problems at Chase and the ownership the Giants had over us there last year (taking nine of ten), I would have been delighted with any kind of winning record. To take both series and go into Sunday’s with the best run differential in the majors? Don’t wake me up.
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): I feel absolutely elated! I am so excited to see how well this team is fighting, with coming from behind in all five wins. I know it’s early, but I think that this team is looking really good, especially if all of our key players continue to show that they are playing up to their potential.
Makakilo: I could float away with joy and happiness. Four positions have contributed double my optimistic prediction - shortstop and outfield(combined). First base is on-track for my predicted 5.3 WAR. And further good feelings abound about no significant in-season injuries. I feel optimistic!
Xipooo: As someone who was on the more optimistic side of things last year, I feel like this is starting out like the year I expected last year. Though, I’m still worried a bit about our starting pitching. It doesn’t look as solid as it should be.
James: I’m steadfastly enjoying every moment of this that I can. The way the team is winning is completely unsustainable. But I love the results nonetheless. Hey, a winis a win.
Michael: Starting 6-1 is no laughing matter, especially considering it was against two playoff teams. Both teams pushed the eventual World Series champions to a win or go home situation. However, I don’t think this is the same Giants and Indians teams from last year, they didn’t look anywhere close to those teams.
What are the biggest differences between the 2016 and 2017 performances?
Nate- The team seems to have more “fight” I suppose. Last year it seemed that after getting down early, the game was a lost cause. Now, every game has been a come from behind victory. The starting pitching also hasn’t had a complete explosion, they are keeping the team within striking distance.
Keegan: Body language and that killer mentality. You can see it on the players’ faces. Every time they step into the box you get the feeling that something big is going to happen. The importance of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller’s first starts cannot be overstated. If they continue to build that confidence, it should breed desirable results.
Jim: Confidence? That’s certainly the case in the GDTs. Last year, whenever the D-backs fell behind, it seemed to be a case of “Game over, man!” But now, we’re actively joking about it: “Ah-ha! Got them just where we want them…” You sense this hot start, under a new manager, couldn’t have been scripted better in terms of boosting morale.
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): Health. For people like A.J. and David, I think that the health is obvious, with both players missing well over 100 games last year, but I think that the mental health of some of our pitchers is important too. Albeit it was only one start, but Shelby Miller looked like he developed some of the intestinal fortitude that he once had with Atlanta and St. Louis. Greinke looks like he might be a little more comfortable in the desert after one year; there are still some questions, but he looks lightyears better than last year so far.
Makakilo: Pitching is better. Players are healthier and more productive. The mental game is different. Games are more fun for players and fans!
Xipooo: Though I haven’t been able to watch any games other than opening day, it feels like the offense is coming through in the back end of games. There’s a word for that… um… I think it starts with a c and rhymes with dutch.
James: The biggest difference seems to be the way starting pitching is responding to adversity. Also, it has helped that the team has managed to curtail the free passes somewhat. Those were an absolute killer last year. This year, Greinke has started the season with two acceptable starts. Miller, despite a very rough first two innings, settled in and gave a nice start. Last season, Miller would have melted down and given up 2-4 more runs in the third. Greinke would have been pulled after four innings for hitting 102 pitches.
Michael: First time through the order only 1 had 1 bad start and that was Corbin vs. SF. Walker, Ray, and Miller had solid first starts while Greinke and Corbin posted quality starts in the last two games. I’m hoping the rotation continues to improve as the offense comes back down to Earth.
Any players who stood out in particular for you over the first week?
Nate- Yasmany Tomas has looked very good at the plate, we are seeing that power which we were promised when he was signed. 4 extra base hits through 5 games played already. It’s also great to see Goldy and Pollock off to a hot start.
Keegan: Archie the Destroyer. I absolutely love his attitude even after losing out on a rotation spot. He comes into a blowout game and is lights out. It was the one time this past week that our offense could not pull out the win. He puts me in a really tough spot because I would like to see him in the rotation again, but he would be a lethal weapon coming out of the bullpen which we desperately need.
Jim: I’ll go with Brandon Drury. While he has had his rough moments on defense, there has been no question about his offense. Jean who?
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): For me, the standouts were Jeremy Hazelbaker for never getting out, Shelby Miller for throwing heat and not melting down after a rough start to the game, and Goldschmidt because it looks like he has a renewed focus on hitting the ball hard *really hard.
- Brandon Drury stood out. Extended from last season, his 9 game hitting streak was awesome and ended today. And yesterday against the Indians, he scored 3 runs and hit two RBIs. I predicted Drury would be better than expected.
- Five relief pitchers have pitched at least one inning with no earned runs in multiple games : JJ Hoover on 2, 6, & 8 April, Randall Delgado on 6 & 7 April, and Tom Wilhelmsen on 4 April(loss) and 7 April, Fernando Rodney 5 & 9 April, and Archie Bradley 3 & 9 April.
Xipooo: You should probably get your opinions from a more informed source than someone like me. Seriously, if you’re reading this right now you should probably just skip ahead to the next question. No, I mean it. Get out of here. Stop reading this text. Why are you still here? I told you to go away. Clefo is far more clever, go read his articles or something.
James: Two players stand out for me. Brandon Drury has not disappointed with the bat. He isn’t going to be a masher, but if he can hit like this for the whole season, he could be a younger Daniel Murphy. The second player is A.J. Pollock. We are only seven games into the season and it is night and day from last year. This team missed him in so many ways, and it is showing up early.
Michael: Drury can hit, his defense against Cleveland wasn’t as awful as it was against the Giants. Chris Owings has proven me wrong so far even though his defense isn’t as good as Ahmed’s, it’s been not terrible outside of 1 game and he’s swinging the bat well. The biggest surprise for me is Archie Bradley and to be honest, that’s a failure on my part because the guy could be the next Wade Davis and I should have seen the parallels.
Who have been the biggest surprises?
Nate- This isn’t really a who, but the biggest surprise for me is how almost everybody on the offense is off to a hot start. The impressive hitting seems to be infectious.
Keegan: The Hazelraker. Arizona can find substantial value from part time players who were expected to be below or at replacement level. We do not need him to reach base every time or set the world on fire. He has probably been the biggest BABIP beneficiary. Hopefully the team has found a quality fourth outfield option, so that we do not let out a collective sigh when he fills in for any of our current starters.
Jim: Jeremy Hazelbaker and his perfect 1.000 on-base percentage after six games. He had a thoroughly wretched spring, and I wasn’t convinced he could add anything to the team. So far I’m delighted to be proven wrong.
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): The biggest surprises for me has be Jorge De La Rosa and Archie Bradley. De La Rosa could very well be pitching to save his major league career, and so far so good. Archie looks like he has elite closer stuff out of the bullpen, and I was not expecting his stuff to look that good just yet.
Makakilo: Because I expected the bullpen to be average, the bullpen did not surprise me. What did surprise me was Shelby Miller’s first appearance. Although 5.1 innings pitched with 3 earned runs may be an average result, it wasn’t that bad. With 7 strikeouts, I saw potential for better results this season from Shelby Miller.
Xipooo: You’re still here? I just told you I haven’t watched any games, I don’t have a clue what’s going on. My wife is probably more informed than I am at this point. I’m questioning my fandom as we speak. How does Jim even keep me around? I didn’t even know Tomas was playing left field now until my wife pointed it out to me. There. Tomas. That’s my answer. I’m surprised Tomas is in left field.
James: The biggest surprise for me is the poise this team has shown. There have been multiple come-from-behind wins already. We beat Melancon. We swept the Indians. In the final game, the team committed four errors and had a wild pitch, all in tight circumstances. The team kept it together and held on to win. Last season, the team would have gone from up 3-1 to losing that game 6-3.
Michael: The biggest surprise is how drastic the team adjusts to starting pitchers each time through the order. First time through, they hit like NL pitchers. 2nd time, they hit like Paul Goldschmidt. 3rd time, they hit like Paul Goldschmidt on a hot streak. That will becomes less drastic as the season goes on as it didn’t affect Kluber that much. I would like to say that Bradley is the biggest surprise in how dominant he’s looked so far, but honestly if you look at Wade Davis’ career arc, you’ll see a ton of similarities with Bradley.
What concerns do you still have about the team?
Nate- Starting pitching hasn’t been great, but they have been good enough. What does concern me is the lack of one or two reliable, shutdown guys in the ‘pen. I fear this might bite them in the butt at some point.
Keegan: An offensive production line that is unsustainable and a lackluster bullpen. Right now everyone is hitting at the same time which is fun and exciting. How this team performs when Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock, David Peralta, or Jake Lamb go through a 30 at bat slump will determine what this team is capable of. Every night is not going to be a blowout come from behind win. We are going to have to grind it out in close games.
Jim: The offense will cool down. They’re not going to hit over .300 for the season, and they’re not going to bat close to .400 with runners in scoring position. When they hit the inevitable rough patch, we’ll need to find other ways to win games, and the pitching has not been entirely convincing, shall we say.
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): My concerns are that the team continuously falls behind, and the bullpen could have some major holes. We won’t be able to have a truly successful season if we have to come from behind for every win, and similarly, we need to see some consistent bullpen performances if we are to go far this year.
Makakilo: This season, something will test the team - either an injury or perhaps a performance slump by a starting pitcher. How will the team react mentally? How fast will the team bounce back?
Xipooo: They’ll move to somewhere in Tempe and I’ll end up paying double in parking fees.
James: What happens when the team’s offense comes back to Earth, and what will the team do about the bullpen?
Michael: I still feel that the bullpen is being held together by duct tape. Defense is the #1 concern for me, it’s still not at the level I expect. It’s getting better, even if marginally better.
Next week, we hit the road, against the Giants and Dodgers. Hopes/expectations?
Nate- I am hoping for a .500 record in these games. Not losing any ground which the D-Backs have gained this first week.
Keegan: I mean at what point does everyone start feeling like it is going to be a two horse race for the division crown between Arizona and Colorado? Next week is paramount to gauge where this team might end up. LA has limited a Rockies’ offense that is just as potent as ours to 6 runs through 2 games at Coors Field. As for the Giants, I would love nothing more than to put them into a deep hole to begin the season. “It puts the division title in the basket.”
Jim: It won’t be easy, though at least we miss Madison Bumgarner. Friday night will be interested, with Zack Greinke taking on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. The Giants are reeling right now: I think we can win a third straight series, thanks to the absence of MadBum. Dare I hope we make it four against the Dodgers?
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): My hopes are that we sweep both series and absolutely humiliate both team in the process. However, my expectations are a little more realistic, and I think they will go .500 on the road trip.
Makakilo: Because the tough schedule in April, I set thresholds for number of wins in April. In April, 12 wins would mean the team looks like a serious contender. In April, 14 wins would mean the team is darn likely bound for the post-season. My expectation has risen to 14 wins, which previously was my optimistic hope.
Xipooo: I hope I get to find some place near my work where I can get a couple of beers and watch the games without my wife getting suspicious I’m having an affair.
James: I’m hoping for a .500 series. Anything more than that is gravy. Anything less than that chips away at the small bit of a cushion the team has created for themselves in terms of record.
Michael: At least 6 wins out of 10 on the road trip. With 20 games against the division, the team needs to play well in order to set up any postseason hopes. If they win 12 of the 20 games, I think they’ll be in the thick of things in September after a 18-9 start.
There was discussion on the ‘Pit this weekend about the low level of minor-league salaries. Is this something which should be addressed?
Nate- I am not knowledgeable about the subject at all, but it seems that if the minor league salaries are so low, then these huge 200 million dollar contracts which are sure to be signed in the future could become 180 million dollar contracts. Then, that extra 20 million could be distributed to those guys in the low minor leagues.
Keegan: Quite frankly, it needs to be addressed. It is a problem. My brother and I had the discussion on Opening Day, and he was shocked to learn how common it is for 5+ full grown professional athletes to share a two bedroom apartment sleeping on air mattresses. How we feel about how much professional baseball players get paid is irrelevant to the subject at hand. Minor leaguers sacrifice as much time, if not more, than major league players with just the hope that they will someday make it to the big leagues. I will not advocate that they should receive upwards of $100,000 per year, but at least give them a salary above the poverty line. It is going to take support from current major league players, the MLBPA, owners that are willing to sacrifice some profit (good luck), and the current guys in the minor leagues cannot be afraid to voice their discomfort.
Jim: [unleashes his inner Ayn Rand] No-one forces these players to sign contracts. There aren’t many other fields in which a 20-something has a chance to become a millionaire, particularly pure meritocracies like professional sports, and that’s the trade-off they make. Most have already obtained a college education through their talents too, via scholarships. The problem for them is, there’s no shortage of others who would be willing to step into their shoes…
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): I will have to agree with Jim here. I’m not terribly educated on this subject, but a cheaper (or free) college education is priceless, and they are getting paid to play a game.
Xipooo: I’ve been around some of the guys who play in the minors. They get pennies. We’re talking less than minimum wage in many cases. To be in the minors and stick it out means you really love the game. Or maybe your parents are filthy rich. Or you’re an ex-football player. Something like that. Where’s my beer? I was promised alcohol if I finish this.
James: I absolutely think it is something to be addressed. Yes, these players chose to enter the system. Still, this is a system that expects year-round dedication and during the season, 60-80 “work weeks” and still pays a pittance. When AAA guys are pulling in $11,500 for an entire year’s worth of work, something is wrong. There is no living on that, but to quit when literally a heartbeat away from MLB because of salary is not really an option either. Frankly, I’m not a union man, but there really should be a MiLBPA to protect these kids and to keep the MLBPA from railroading them.
Michael: Unfortunately this is an issue that both MLB and the MLBPA have turned a blind eye to if not actively worked to make it worse. While I do think that minor league baseball should not be a career for those who have no shot at the majors, the salary issues could turn some people away from the game. Not every minor leaguer has a $2M signing bonus to fall back onto for extra money, heck Goldy signed for $10k IIRC.
What food item would you most like to see added at Chase Field?
Keegan: Certainly not grasshoppers! Seriously, who thought that was a great idea? I would like to see the team approach me for a beer bratwurst stand. Take my word for it that my brats are better than any that are currently sold there. I was a fan of Fatburger when it was there.
Jim: A friend visited us from Thailand this week, and brought us a gift... Apparently, there they sell packets of silkworms, the same way we sell salt ‘n’ vinegar chips. Different strokes, I guess, but… No thanks! I think the team should approach the Cornish Pasty Co about opening a location at Chase Field. Extremely tasty, very portable food. That’ll do, at least until they open a curry house!
Steven (thunderpumpkins87): Lo-los. I will have some today.
Makakilo: Chocolate covered cauliflower. It combines healthy and chocolate.
Xipooo: A steak from Ruths Chris. Can I have my beer now? I’ll take a Black Butte Porter if you got it.
James: Jim took my idea. In fact, I have floated this on multiple visits to the stadium over the years. They could limit the menu to 3-5 of their staples and just pass them out by the hundreds on game night. Folks would be lining up for them, even adding on the $2.50 extra for being “ballpark food”.
Michael: I feel like the team is trying to be way too unique from a food item standpoint and it doesn’t work. Personally I would like to see the team make a smaller version of the Dbat dog (12 inches instead of 24). I like the corn dog itself, but it is too big. 12” version should be around $15-17.50.
Who was Player of the Week, #1?
This poll is closed
Archie Bradley: 5.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 8 SO
Brandon Drury: 10-for-21, 1.119 OPS
Paul Goldschmidt: 9-for-26, 1.144 OPS
Zack Greinke: 11.2 IP, 2.31 ERA, 10 SO
Jeremy Hazelbaker: 6-for-7, 2 BB, 1.889 OPS