We were swept in LA. Is that the end of our division hopes?
Keegan: Not even going there with a prediction. Of course it isn’t! This season is a prime example of how bizarre the season can be. It’s a difficult path for sure, but anything can happen. There are still plenty of games left against the Dodgers with quite a few coming at Chase Field. Being this far back at the midpoint makes for some potential excitement late in the season.
Jay: It is not the end. Perhaps someday the Dodgers will go on a losing stretch like the Diamondbacks and Rockies have recently. Having said that, the probability of winning the division has gone down. Beating up on the Dodgers in the future will be what changes the math on it.
Jim: I’m not expecting much. There’s still a chance, with plenty of games head to head between the teams, and we only need to catch up about one game every ten on the Dodgers. However, they’re first going to need to stop playing insanely well for that even to start happening. If it does, cool. But as mentioned a while ago, I think it would be a fool’s errand to go into full-on “win now” mode, and actively try to chase them down. If we end up in a wild-card spot, that will still be an utterly amazing season, given expectations coming in.
Tanner: No, it makes it tougher, but it's not the end of those hopes.
James: Not yet. There is a lot of baseball left to be played this season, during which, just about anything could happen. If Kershaw’s back flares up again, or if Bellinger or Seager get hit by a pitch and are lost for the season because of a fracture in the hand, or if number of other odd things come up, that changes the entire dynamic. What hurts is, the Diamondbacks are no longer in control of their own destiny - not really. In order to be so, they would have to sweep the entire rest of the season against the Dodgers. Since it doesn’t seem reasonable to go 9-0 against the team with the best record in baseball, and arguably the best starting rotation 1-3, the Diamondbacks now need help from outside forces. This is why I wanted the Diamondbacks to take at least two of the games against the Dodgers, it would have meant going 6-3 against them the rest of the way still changed the standings, assuming everything else was equal. The Diamondbacks still need to just take care of their own business and let the Dodgers do what they are going to do. The margin between L.A. and Arizona is too big now to be concerned with chasing the Dodgers down. Now the Diamondbacks need to be playing strong ball to hold off Colorado from overtaking them.
Should Fernando Rodney remain the closer?
Keegan: Nah, I’m good. I don’t really understand the argument against Archie Bradley as closer. Every time he steps on the mound he does so with the mentality of destroying opposing batters. Rodney just looks lost out there at times. Honestly, I would like to see the team try to acquire another starter, move Patrick Corbin into Bradley’s role, and bounce Fernando Rodney.
Jay: The problem with this question is it accepts the modern-day baseball definition of a closer. Torey Lovullo is like most managers and accepts that definition as well, so we as fans have to think along those lines. Basically, a closer’s influence is too narrowly defined. He pitches in the ninth inning in save situations. He will come into the game in the ninth inning if the tying run comes on deck making it a save situation, like Rodney did in the first game of the Reds series. Occasionally, if the closer is well-rested, he will pitch the ninth or tenth inning of a tied game. That’s it. He gets 3 outs. That’s it. Archie Bradley, will sometimes get 4 or 5 outs in a game. In the 7th inning maybe a lefty gets a couple of outs and Bradley finishes the job and proceeds to finish the 8th inning. Or maybe the 7th inning guy (who is a lesser bullpen guy) runs into trouble that Bradley can fix.
The 8th inning is (almost) as important as the 9th inning. If we let Bradley pitch in the modern-day baseball closer role, his influence will be limited to 3 outs. Furthermore, if he pitches the 9th, who pitches the 8th? Rodney? Someone else? Who? So there it is. Unless we get another dynamic arm by the trade deadline, we may have to accept Rodney as the closer only because the role Bradley currently fills is more important. And all of this assumes that Closer Bradley will not succumb to 9th inning pressure after he has finally tasted big league success after all these years since he has been drafted and heralded as a top prospect.
Jim: Put it this way, if that wild-card game happens, and Zack Greinke has pitched us through eight innings, with a one-run lead… Who do you want to see in the ninth? For me, that would be Bradley. But between now and then, if Bradley is used correctly - to work the highest-leverage situations, regardless of when they are - then let Rodney amass all the three-run saves he wants. But I’d have someone ready to warm up at the first sign of trouble. Waiting for three runs to score before you bring in an alternative arm is not wise.
Tanner: Screw it, give me The Destroyer
James: Torey Lovullo has made it pretty clear that Rodney is going to remain the team’s closer. While that doesn’t thrill me, I’m willing to let it go for now. The Diamondbacks are now playing defense, trying to keep anyone from catching them in the standings, hopefully that means there are fewer high-leverage games (like the Dodgers series) where he might be called on. Once it comes to the playoffs, unless he finishes the final two months of the season in vintage, dominant-Rodney fashion, I don’t want him anywhere near a tenuous lead. This is why I am glad Barrett is up now. I don’t think he’ll be a closer, but he could still be a decent setup man. I also think Sherfy gets a look in August. It would be nice to be able to turn to Bradley as a multi-inning closer for the playoffs.
There’s three weeks to the trade deadline. How do you see it unfolding?
Keegan: I don’t expect the team to dominate headlines perhaps making a few minor moves. Mike Hazen does not have the resources in the minor leagues to make a huge splash. We need a batter that can handle left handed pitching, and the back end of the bullpen will need help. I would like to see the team move Corbin into Bradley’s spot as I stated above. I think he could experience the same type of success as Bradley.
Jay: Bullpen help is the only possibility I see. Another arm in the bullpen can help (see previous question) and can come at an acceptable cost. The team has a tendency to downplay injuries. If they know RDLR has a serious injury, they might want to make a trade. Also, it is true that the Diamondbacks do struggle against left-handed pitching. However, most players that are good at hitting left-handed pitching are also good at other baseball skills making them too expensive for a team that should be rebuilding its farm system and not depleting it. I might hesitate to write it, but getting Yasmany Tomas back might be a good thing in that regard.
Jim: Depending on the Tomas situation, a good right-handed bat would also be useful. This team has struggled terribly against lefties, as has been well documented, and I think we should be able to pick someone decentish up for not much more than a bit of cash. The return of Nick Ahmed might well help in that department. Chalk up another thing I never thought we’d see: Ahmed providing offensive assistance.
Tanner: They might like Marte enough to not go after a SS, but a right handed outfielder and some bullpen help aren't out of the question.
James: Before the Diamondbacks dropped two of three to Cincinnati, I was starting to lean towards the Diamondbacks being pretty strong buyers, looking for an untraditional solution to finding a right-handed bat to play in left field, or possibly another arm for the bullpen to bridge the gap between starters and the ninth inning. Now though, I am more prone to believe that the team will simply look for internal solutions, unless another team comes along and drops one in their lap (which does sometimes happen). For all the flack he gets for his bat, Nick Ahmed is more than just “okay” against left-handed pitching. He’s just the sort of lefty-killer the team is missing. He may not be a significant long-ball threat, but he is very much a threat to get the ball in play and make use of his speed. Of course, that all relies on him being back in time to get enough reps in before October rolls around. It may come down to Lovullo and Hazen getting creative and looking for ways to make use of Marte and Vargas in left field if Tomás is going to continue to be out. Running with Blanco, Fuentes, and HAzelbaker (all lefties) is not going to work.
A.J. Pollock has struggled on his return. Cause for concern?
Keegan: Not quite considering the obscene amount of baseball he has missed the past two seasons. I’m honestly quite surprised he does this well against major league pitching coming off extended absences. He still knows how to grind and have productive at bats. I look to him to be a key component of success if he can stay on the field in the second half.
Jay: I’ve seen so little of AJ the last two years I don’t even know how to answer the question. I like his game in CF. He gets some hits and steals bases sometimes. Strikes out too much. I just don’t know, I need more information and hopefully the second half of the season will provide it.
Jim: Yesterday put a good chunk of my fears to bed, not least with the two stolen bases. He had seemed very static in the early going, so it was good to see him get his wheels up. We saw how Billy Hamilton could be a difference maker, and he can’t get on-base for shit. Pollock is almost as good a base-runner, and an awful lot better hitter. I think he’ll be a key piece in this team’s second-half performance… providing he stays healthy, of course.
Tanner: After yesterday, not so much. Just had to knock some rust off.
James: My biggest concern was how he was going to respond to the new role he is in of playing part-time. I understand the team wants to ease him back into things, but at the same time, he’s a difference-maker when he gets going. He looked a little rusty until yesterday. I think that was to be expected with all the games he missed. I think he might still stumble a bit more at the plate, especially with this stretch of days off for the break, but it was good to see him making some big plays with his speed on Sunday. The big catch in center field and the two stolen bases were nice to see. Pollock and Hamilton were leaving the league behind with stolen bases, and this team is really starting to show how badly it needs a spark plug to get the offense going. Blanco and Fuentes did what they could, and it was an admirable job, but this team needs a healthy Pollock if it is going to be truly dangerous.
In 25 words or fewer, recap the first half of the season.
Keegan: Pleasantly surprising, but still unfinished business.
Jay: The miracle I was praying for. Offense went cold for last two weeks. That’s a baseball life.
Jim: Oh, so that’s what good pitching feels like. I’d almost forgotten. The most pleasant half-year in a long while. Everything else is gravy.
Tanner: Good pitching, All-Stars, mostly consistent production, still plenty of time and room for improvement.
James: So much better than expected. I had forgotten what dominant pitching felt like. Just don’t choke, and the rest is gravy.
[Jim: It appears the panel has a fondness for gravy...]
What are your biggest concerns for the second half?
Keegan: A monumental collapse of epic proportions and a late season surge by the Cubs. I’m concerned that Jake Lamb, Paul Goldschmidt, and Chris Owings will taper off too sharply in the second half. We have also been spoiled with strong pitching performances before the All Star Break, so regression there is certainly plausible. I’m not ready to wake up from this dream just yet.
Jay: I think the offense will get back on track. I’m just concerned that they will primarily excel at hitting average or below-average pitching. Can they scrape across a couple runs against the Kershaws of the world? As for pitching, I am convinced the starting rotation will be fine. Out of the bullpen in the first half we got important work out of players like Jorge De La Rosa, J.J. Hoover, Andrew Chafin, and Fernando Rodney (it’s true). They have all gotten a bit shaky as of late with Hoover not even being on the active roster anymore. I started the season with the bullpen being my top concern and despite a good performance overall so far, it remains my top concern going forward.
Jim: Health. We don’t have a great deal of depth at any position on the diamond, and we could be ruthlessly exposed. One misplaced pitch up and inside to the wrong guy, and you’re probably looking at Chris Herrmann in the everyday line-up. It would suck to have a miracle like we’ve had, derailed by the fickle hand of the baseball gods. That’d probably be worse than simply playing badly, because of the “what if…?” taste that would linger forever.
James: The fickleness of the baseball gods and the team’s severe lack of depth. Pollock is back, but the team is still patching things together with both Tomás and Ahmed on the the DL. Rodney is showing cracks. The bullpen in general is starting to look a bit tired. Goldschmidt, Lamb, Owings, and Greinke are holding this team together right now. If anything happens to any of them, this team could go from sitting atop the Wild Card standings to looking up at multiple teams in a hurry. A second-half collapse of any sort (especially after going 2-8 over the last 10) still worries me, but collapsing because the team just doesn’t have sufficient depth would hurt the most.
Are you glad World Series home-field is no longer determined by the ASG?
Keegan: Not as glad as others are. The 2002 All Star game remains a vivid memory in my mind. I don’t really believe in giving home field advantage to the team with the better record because the game is quite different between the two leagues, so a superior record does not equate to a better team. I’m not naive enough to say that home field advantage in the World Series was enough incentive to have All Stars play full speed, but at least the possibility existed.
Jay: I always thought that the World Series home-field thing was a lame excuse to try and make the All-Star game exciting. Interleague baseball is what killed the All-Star game. It used to be exciting to know this was the only time, other than the World Series, that these matchups can happen. I doubt I will even watch the whole game this year, as usual. I’ll just read about it later and complain that it was a waste of time. I’m just happy that the timing of the break this year was a good one for the D-backs. They need some time to relax and get their heads right.
Jim: Yes. Stupid idea that should never have been implemented. This is either an exhibition game or it isn’t. If it isn’t - and it “counts” - then all the limitations about having a player from every team, and Little League rules of playing time should go out the window. Not that I’d actually mind seeing the best nine from each league go at it, full-bore, for nine innings. But the exhibition aspect keeps it nice and relaxed.
Tanner: yeah it's an exhibition game to take a break and showcase the best players and have fun. I wanna have fun damn it.
James: It should have never been allowed to determine home-field advantage in the first place. It was a bad idea from the start, and it never made any sense. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the old system. In odd-numbered years, the NL enjoyed home field and in even-numbered years the AL had the advantage. I honestly see nothing wrong with that. If they wanted to make it about best IL record between the teams, I could go with that I guess, or with best overall record, I could live with that too. But it used to be simple, and it worked. Then Bud Selig had to go and complicate the World Series in order to provide a solution to a problem that didn’t exist.
Rank the parts of the All-Star festivities in order, and explain why:
- Futures Game
- Celebrity Softball
- Home-run Derby
- All-Star Game
Keegan: The Celebrity Softball game has fallen flat on its face in recent years. I used to really enjoy that in the past, but could careless now. I absolutely love the changes that were made to the Home Run Derby. That first contest under the new rules when Todd Frazier won at the wire was pure excitement at its finest. The Home Run Derby takes the cake for me. I still enjoy the All Star Game probably more than others. I don’t take for granted watching the best players interact and compete against each other on the field. Watching Paul Goldschmidt participate the past few seasons and cheering him on has built my excitement. The Futures Game should not be overlooked either as those players audition not only for their parent clubs but also for scouts around the league. Some of the players in the Futures Game are on the cusp of making the show and play with a little more hustle than those already there.
Jay: Celebrity Softball is unbearable. Futures game makes me tired. The All-Star game has interesting moments surrounded by uninteresting ones. The Home Run Derby used to be better, but I have to admit, I want to see Aaron Judge.
Jim: Home-run Derby tops my list, just because it’s the offensive side of baseball distilled into a concentrated form: hit the ball as hard and as far as you can. Pitching is nice, but a K will never give you the shot of adrenaline you get from a homer. Then the All-Star Game, but they need to get that moving along at a quicker pace. I must confess, I kinda enjoy the Celebrity Softball game; it’s goofy fun. Never bother with the Futures game: if I want to see top prospects and then forget about them until they appear in the majors, that’s what the Arizona Fall League is for.
Tanner: Derby is 1, the new format is awesome, plus chicks dig the long ball. Then the All-Star Game because that's the whole point of the break. Futures game 3rd since it's all about the young guys who could be stars which is always awesome. Celebrity game used to be fun when I knew who they were, now it's just blah and boring.
James: From worst to first:
- Celebrity softball - just say no.
- Future’s Game - I think it is important and is something special for the players. I’m in the same boat with Jim though. I live in Arizona, so I get to see the AFL. If I didn’t live in Arizona though, I would probably pay much more attention to this game.
- All-Star Game - I get that this is an exhibition game, but it has reached the point where the business concerns of baseball have encroached so far into the way the game is played now, that after the 4th inning, I tend to watch the game while also doing something else.
- Home Run Derby - Now that Chris Berman is gone, I think I might enjoy this one more than I have in recent years. Also, this year’s showdown, at least on paper, has the makings of being epic. This is great fun to watch over some wings and a brew, and there is enough going on to keep my attention.
Player of the Week
Chris Owing’s power-riffic performance got him almost two-thirds of the votes last week, powering him from almost the bottom of the table, into the top five. But we did have two new entrants, with Descalso and Chafin both getting on the board for the first time this year. Here are the full standings, through week 13.
- Paul Goldschmidt: 208%
- Robbie Ray: 205%
- Zack Greinke: 136%
- Jake Lamb: 121%
- Chris Owings, 75%
- Fernando Rodney: 75%
- Archie Bradley: 65%
- Patrick Corbin: 57%
- Brandon Drury: 52%
- David Peralta: 51%
- Taijuan Walker, 37%
- Chris Iannetta, 34%
- Nick Ahmed: 30%
- A.J. Pollock: 30%
- Randall Delgado: 29%
- Jeremy Hazelbaker: 25%
- T.J. McFarland: 19%
- Chris Herrmann, 16%
- Zack Godley, 11%
- J.J. Hoover: 7%
- Yasmany Tomas: 7%
- Daniel Descalso: 6%
- Andrew Chafin: 2%
A severely pitching dominated week, to the point that only one hitter produced enough to make the list of nomination. The other four are split evenly between the starters and the bullpen, so let’s see where the votes fall.
Who was the Player of the Week, July 3-9?
This poll is closed
Archie Bradley: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 4:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
Randall Delgado: 4.1 IP, 0 H, 4:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
Zack Greinke: 7 IP, 4 H, 7:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
Jake Lamb: 4-for-17, two HR, two RBI, 1.028 OPS
Robbie Ray: 6 IP, 5 H, 13:4 K:BB, 1.50 ERA