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SnakePit Round Table, Week 8: Road Warriors

The D-backs begin their longest road trip of the season, after sweeping the White Sox. How did the panel see the week?

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another five-game winning streak. Thoughts?

James: I would feel better if the team had managed to beat Chase Anderson, especially with Zack Greinke on the mound for that game. The win streak probably should have ended at four, but the team managed to steal one on Friday night. I am liking that this team doesn’t seem to be giving up late in games like last season’s team seemed to. This year the team seems to fight until the end where last season, not scoring through six innings was a red flag for this team. The Diamondbacks have a small handful of games left that they need to continue getting fat during. The second half of the season is going to be much more difficult, and they are still chasing Colorado and working hard to hold off the Dodgers.

Makakilo: Winning streaks are exciting! Although the statistical significance can be debated, for me this season’s winning streaks are a sign that the D-backs are playing with winning mental attitudes. Can I find stories waiting to be told?

Tanner (Hazzard21): (Bear with me, I’m answering these from my phone so if my answers seem short or awkward grammar, that is likely why). As for my answer, no win streak is a bad streak. The Greinke/Anderson matchup did not go as expected, and today running out the B/C lineup for Corbin seemed like a throw away, but a win is a win is a win.

Steven (thunderpumpkin87): They have been playing very well lately, the last two games notwithstanding. These type of win streaks have me very optimistic that this team has a chance at contending. It may not result in a playoff berth, with the Dodgers and Rockies seemingly unstoppable lately, but the Dbacks have looked good so far and far better than I thought they would.

Jim: Can’t complain: keep churning out five-win weeks, and the playoffs are a certainty. But as we are all well aware, this is a chunk of the schedule that the team definitely needs to seize and stack up as many wins as possible. They’re likely to be a lot harder to find in August and September. But, let’s not forget, it has been long enough since this team has even had meaningful games in September, so that alone would be an improvement.

The pitching has gone from bottom five in the majors last season, to top five this year. Who do you credit for this?

James: The list of people to credit is a long one. I think first and foremost I credit the pitchers themselves. The pitchers have really responded well to the new season and the new environment. They are being given the opportunities to succeed or fail, and they are answering the bell. Last season the team seemed too interested in not allowing the pitchers the chance to fail, and that also prevented them from stepping up and succeeding in the face of adversity. It also helps that the team added Walker to the rotation and that Miller didn’t self-destruct this year. I think that all of this starts at the very top. Clearly, this front office is no longer on board with the Dave Duncan approach to things.

Nor do they seem to be interested in directly meddling with pitchers (as evidenced by the appearance of Bradley’s cutter). They are allowing the pitchers to pitch to their strengths, especially guys like Ray and Bradley. Walker was not here last season, but it seems unlikely that he would have been encouraged to pitch up in the zone last season. Dan Haren was brought in to help the pitchers with pitching strategy. It is clear in the way that they are attacking some of the more difficult lineups that the pitchers have a gameplan they are trying to execute. Is that Haren? This group of catchers is also head-and-shoulders better than Castillo with pitch framing this season. This is especially true of Mathis. Sadly, Herrmann is a very poor pitch framer, but even he has lost only half as many pitches as Castillo. Castillo was known for his bat, but he also had a reputation for not being big on pre-game pitching prep. That doesn’t make him a bad catcher, but it does seem that he was a bad fit for this staff.

Makakilo: D-backs pitching is better than top five because the D-backs lead the Majors with an ERA+ of 129. The starters rank second in the Majors based on WAA. The relievers rank eighth in the Majors based on WAA, but my intuition tells me they are better than that. Who deserves credit? Dan Haren and the better pitch framing get some credit. The return of Pollock gets some credit. And GM Hazen deserves some credit for adding Walker. And for the most part the D-backs pitchers deserve credit.

All the current starters (Greinke, Ray, Corbin, Godley, and Walker/Delgado) have an ERA+ over 100. Bradley and Chafin have an ERA+ over 200. Hoover and JDLR have an ERA+ over 100. And I’m happy with Rodney as the closer because his performance and because there were no other proven options.

Tanner (Hazzard21): I think the pitchers get credit for changing things up. They're trying new tactics and approaches, some learned new pitches (Ray’s curve) some are using other pitches much more than usual (perhaps Greinke and his slider), the catching battalion gets credit as well, because Mathis and Iannetta are a step up from Beef, and even Herrmann isn't terrible. Also, Dan Freakin Haren. He's done something to help analyze and game plan and for the most part it's worked. Thanks Hazen for hiring him.

Steven (thunderpumpkin87): I think that the previous regime was trying too hard to make pitchers do things that weren’t to their strengths, which resulted in a lot of bad outings. This year, it would appear that players are playing up to their potential so far, and having fun doing so. I expect Greinke to stay right about where he is at (~3.00 ERA), I expect Corbin to continue to regress, and once Walker comes back I think that he will show marked improvement. Ray continues to do well, especially the last couple of very efficient outings. And Godley has been outstanding.

Jim: It’s likely a combination of factors. But I do think that the new regime simply getting out of the way of the pitching staff may be a significant step forward. Pitchers know what works best for them on any given day; combine that with catchers who now appear to be significantly better in the defensive arts, and perhaps the work of Dan Haren and the advanced scouts, and we appear to have the ingredients for success. It’s not a perfect science: I’m beginning to think we should be considering swapping Patrick Corbin and Archie Bradley. But we’ve been much better at stopping games get out of hand. We’ve allowed more than six runs only seven times, and never double-digits. Last year, those were 55 and 19 times respectively.

Besides Goldschmidt, should the Diamondbacks have any other All-Stars?

James: Small sample sizes make it tough to say, but if Greinke had not laid an egg yesterday, I would have said he belongs as well. There is still plenty of time for him to go on one of his extended streaks of miniscule ERA games though. Bradley and Chafin have had a lot of bullpen success, but I doubt either. Chafin hasn’t performed in enough high leverage outings and Bradley has been sitting too much. Jake Lamb has the misfortune of playing at the same time as Arenado and Bryant, and Turner will get votes from Los Angeles faithful, so he isn’t making it. Even if he continues his recent performance, we saw last year that even being one of the biggest run-producing bats in the game isn’t necessarily enough to change opinions.

Makakilo: Putting aside whether enough votes will be gathered for anyone not named Goldschmidt, there are at least five All-Stars on the D-backs. Despite the last start, Zack Greinke is pitching at an All-Star level. Under the radar Zack Godley is a star, too! As far as relief pitchers, Bradley is without any doubt playing at the All-Star level and making an impact. And in May Jake Lamb received recognition as a National League player of the week - solid evidence he is playing at an All-Star level.

Tanner (Hazzard21): Well, “should” is the operative word there. Goldy, Greinke and Lamb all SHOULD be All-stars, and Pollock would be in the conversation as well if he didn't get hurt. Robbie Ray is getting closer to that point. If he starts missing more bats and consistently goes Scherzer-like length through games (8ish innings) and keeps that elite K Rate he should be. But will anyone? MAAAAAAYYYYYBE Greinke although the start today and the start vs Kershaw didn't help (granted Kershaw got lit up today so perhaps it's a wash), no one else will because no one pays attention to us or knows who is on the team.

Steven (thunderpumpkin87): Since the All-Star game is somewhat of a popularity contest mixed with results, I would expect that Greinke and Lamb also have a pretty legitimate shot at attending.

Jim: Lamb is having a similar first half of the season as he did last year:
2016: .291/.371/.612 = .983 OPS
2017: .279/.370/.574 = .943 OPS
If it was deemed not good enough to make it in 2016, got to wonder if he’ll make it in 2017. Beyond that, the problem is profile: I’m not sure any of the team are well enough recognized outside of Arizona. It may almost come down to our position in the standings. If we’re leading the West, we will likely end up with more. But if (as now) we’re third, even if that’s one of the best records in the Natonal League, I can imagine a scenario where Paul Goldschmidt is flying solo.

Fernando Rodney in May has allowed two hits over 8.2 scoreless innings. Are we feeling comfortable?

James: Not even a little bit. Rodney got a big save Friday night. He also threw more balls than strikes and allowing a walk to bring the tying run to the plate and then surrendering a loud out. He still has problems with the strike zone and gives up a lot of hard contact. For two years in a row now he’s been a half-season pitcher. Are the Diamondbacks nearing the point where it is time to move him before he implodes? If they are one of the top five teams in baseball, it will be difficult to move him.

Makakilo: Yes for two reasons.

  • His numbers look good. In May’s 8.2 innings, he allowed zero runs, with 2 hits and 3 walks. In May, his RE24 numbers were always positive and always greater than 0.5.
  • He passes the Addison Reed test. With a 1 or 2 run lead, I feel much hope when the “Green Arrow” (Fernando Rodney) enters the game. This contrasts with feeling concern and worry. In May of 2015, while playing for the D-backs, Addison Reed pitched 13 innings, while allowing 7 runs, 10 hits, and 6 walks.

Tanner (Hazzard21): Eh. I still feel a slight sense of foreboding when he comes in, but it's not as bad as when he got double digit ERA last month. Going forward I don't think he’ll stay consistent. The velo is there and that change is filthy wiffle-ball type stuff, but if the Archie Starting experiment has quietly been discontinued (as James extrapolated on below) I’d rather see his beard in the 9th instead.

Steven (thunderpumpkin87): Maybe? Lol…. Yeah … Maybe.

Jim: I’m with Steven: I’m horribly conflicted. On the one hand, he has been getting the job done to the point that the terrible week he had seems almost like a nightmare. Yet I don’t feel any sense of solid contentment when he comes in, especially when he puts runners on base. With Brad Ziegler, you always thought - and it wasn’t sarcasm - “setting up the double play.” With Rodney, it’s more a case of bracing for impact.

Randall Delgado gets another start Monday. Is he now our anointed sixth starter?

James: It would seem so. I’m pretty sure this team has moved on from Shipley as an option for starting at the MLB level. It also looks like the team is quietly closing the book on Bradley starting games. I do think (and hope) that Bradley will get another chance at the rotation again come spring. He just isn’t providing nearly enough value out of the bullpen and there are still a bunch of quality bullpen arms waiting in the wings.

Makakilo: Good question because it made me think. My thought is he has been anointed as a spot starter instead of as the sixth starter. How I reached that conclusion follows:

  • Can he change from a reliever to a starter? Probably, although not since 2013 has his main role been a starter. He started 4 times in 2014, 1 time in 2015, and one time in 2017.
  • Will he be effective as a starter? A starter needs more than two good pitches. Delgado has five pitches: four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, slider and curve. His slider seems to get a lot of strikeouts, and his sinker keeps batting averages low.
  • If he is a starter, can you expect more than some spot starts? Probably not. In the last three seasons he pitched 77.2, 72, and 75 innings. My guess is that if he exceeds 90 innings, his effectiveness would drop. So far this season, he has pitched 30.2 innings, so I conclude he has about 60 effective innings left. At 5 innings per start, that would be 12 games. If he is used in relief, that would reduce the number of possible spot starts.

Tanner (Hazzard21): Looks like he's the guy who's going to spot start sometimes here and there. Once Walker is back he (hopefully) won't be needed for that for a while. But if Corbin continues to struggle we may see a change. But like Makakilo said, that inning threshold sneaks up on you in a hurry.

Steven (thunderpumpkin87): It would appear so for now. I expect that if Corbin continues to struggle, that Bradley will take his spot. But I think that Delgado will get plenty of opportunities to start this year.

Jim: I believe Walker has a simulated game upcoming, and if that goes well, Delgado could end up thrown back into the bullpen. But it’s interesting the team chose to go with him, rather than stretching Bradley out. It has been more than three weeks since Archie had an outing of more than an innings, which might suggest the team is perhaps looking at him as a potential future closer - whether that’s 2018, or sooner, I couldn’t say.

Series against the Pirates and Marlins this week. Should we expect a winning record?

James: The team should not only have a winning record, they should win convincingly. 4-3 should be the minimum acceptable record, though I would hope for a minimum of 5-2 against those two teams. The Diamondbacks need to win as many of these soft games as possible if they want to contend late in September.

Makakilo: Yes! I expect 6 wins. Although the D-backs split the previous 4-game series with the Pirates, this 3-game series will be a win for the D-backs. And I expect a 4-game sweep of the Marlins. Let me show you the top two reasons.

The D-backs will score more runs. For the season, let’s look at runs scored:

  • D-backs: 253
  • Pirates: 201
  • Marlins: 200

The D-backs will pitch better. For the season, let’s look at pitching ERA+:

  • D-backs: 129
  • Pirates: 102
  • Marlins: 88

Tanner (Hazzard21): I like Makakilo’s numbers on this. I'm expecting 5-6 wins. The Miami pitching is atrocious, and while Stanton, Realmuto and Bour to an extent are all dangerous, the rest of that lineup has some issues and injuries. But I just wanna see Ichiro some more.

Steven (thunderpumpkin87): Dear God, I hope so. The Marlins have been pretty bad so far, and aside from the last two games, the Dbacks have looked good on the road.

Jim: Got to be thinking 5-2. These are both teams sitting last in their divisions, and if you can’t beat both of them, even if it is on the road, you would have to question your credentials as a genuine contender.

What’s the most memorable location you’ve visited, and why?

James: It seems like such an easy answer, and one that would indicate a lack of travel and adventure, but I would have to say the Grand Canyon. My trip to the Grand Canyon is not my most memorable trip somewhere in my life, but it is hands-down the most spectacular object of attraction I have visited. It is, after all, one of the seven natural wonders of the world for a reason. I just happen to be spoiled with having it in my backyard. Now, one of these days I will get up near the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. When that happens, I have a feeling I will be changing my answer to this question.

Makakilo: To visit Paris is to discover art, watch people, enjoy food, and feel romance in the air. I found amazing museums, especially the Louvre. Although the Eiffel tower was big, the Pantheon was the most memorable building. My small boutique hotel felt like Paris. Relaxing meant eating local food in an outdoor cafe while watching people walk by on their own adventures. On a brave occasion I ate an escargot – it tasted like garlic chicken. I discovered morel mushrooms and macaron cookies, but not at the same time. I remember many things about my visit to Paris.

Tanner (Hazzard21): I'm young and haven't traveled much, basically only within the tri-state area and Salt Lake City once. So I don't have much of an answer to this besides a few dozen feet into the Atlantic Ocean, lost a pair of sunglasses to it, hope it enjoys them.

Steven (thunderpumpkin87): Pearl Harbor hands down. A very, very moving experience to be there and imagine what those brave people dealt with.

Jim: I’m a big fan of scale. James took one of my answers, so I have to say, in terms of man-made constructions, seeing the Las Vegas Strip for the first time was an utter sensory overload, coming as I was, off a flight from London and jet-lagged as hell. In terms of natural stuff, taking a train through the Swiss Alps was similarly overwhelming: you’d see one mountain vista, go into a tunnel, then come out to another, even more staggering one.

Player of the week

As the NL Player of the Week award went, so did the SnakePit title, Jake Lamb pulling in a season-best 79% of the votes, which put him in a tie with Zack Greinke, on top of the season leaderboard. Here are the standings after Week 7’s results are all included.

  1. Zack Greinke: 121%
  2. Jake Lamb: 121%
  3. Paul Goldschmidt: 103%
  4. Patrick Corbin: 55%
  5. Archie Bradley: 55%
  6. David Peralta: 44%
  7. Brandon Drury: 32%
  8. A.J. Pollock: 30%
  9. Taijuan Walker, 26%
  10. Nick Ahmed: 25%
  11. Jeremy Hazelbaker: 25%
  12. Chris Herrmann, 16%
  13. Fernando Rodney: 10%
  14. Chris Owings, 9%
  15. Robbie Ray: 8%
  16. J.J. Hoover: 7%
  17. Yasmany Tomas: 7%
  18. Randall Delgado: 4%

Should be much less of a one-side vote this time, with a couple of sterling starting pitching outings, some good relief work, late inning heroics at the plate, and Goldie being Goldie. Curious to say which way this one leans.


Who was the Player of the Week, May 22-28

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Zack Godley: 6 IP, 5 H, 6:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Paul Goldschmidt: 8-for-23, HR, 4 RBI, 1.075 OPS
    (2 votes)
  • 23%
    Chris Iannetta: 3-for-10, HR, 2 RBI, 1,164 OPS
    (10 votes)
  • 9%
    T.J. McFarland: 5 IP, 3 H, 4:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
    (4 votes)
  • 53%
    Robbie Ray: 7 IP, 2 H, 9:0 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
    (23 votes)
43 votes total Vote Now