The D-backs had their first five-game losing streak of the season, and have lost 11 of 14. How concerned are you?
Makakilo: Not concerned.
The Dodgers look like strong contenders to win the Division. In the last 20 games, they won 17 and lost 3. Nevertheless, in my view when the D-backs play in the post-season, this memorable season will have exceeded expectations. My joy will abound!
So let’s look at the standings for the 2 wild card slots in the National League.
- The D-backs are 7.5 games (before today’s games) ahead of the third place team in the wild card race. In the last 20 games, the D-backs have 9 wins and 11 losses – a slump but not a disaster.
- The Rockies are 5.5 games ahead of the third place team in the wild card race. In the last 20 games, the Rockies have won 5 and lost 15 – a disaster. Unless they right their ship, they will drop below second place by August.
- The Cubs are in third place in the wild card race. In the last 20 games, they won 9 and lost 11 – a slump that matches the D-backs’ slump. The D-backs are staying ahead of the Cubs in the wild card race.
Tanner: Not overly concerned. Every team has patches like these. And Kilo basically summed it up for me.
Michael: The Cubs lost 15 of 21 at this point of the year last season, so it’s still possible for the Diamondbacks to bounce back. What they do with this little losing streak will define their season. Will they bounce back or will the pile up of injuries and lack of roster depth end up being their undoing in August. I still think it’s the latter given the amount of talent already on the roster. The hitters just need to hit better.
James: I am only somewhat concerned. The primary factor here is I have now focused on securing home field for the Wild Card play-in and pretty much written off the NL West crown. I do have concerns that the team is regressing all at the same time. Right now, the offense is not finding timely hits. The free-swingers are no longer working counts. The defense is now showing more signs of wear and tear, especially in left field. As a result of all this, the pitching is now under more stress than ever, and that is starting to show in bits and pieces as well. Despite just coming back from the break, this team still looks a bit lethargic - which is actually a bit odd given the way Lovullo has employed the roster this season.
Keegan: I am mildly concerned. The team now sits just 14 games above .500. They could conceivably bomb the entire month of July and be looking up at Mt. .500. That would change the conversation around what Mike Hazen should do at the deadline. Going forward from this point in the month will determine the true identity of the team going forward. Are they the surprise contenders that finally harnessed their true potential, or were the critics correct when they claimed that this team would struggle to be a .500 team? It would be a sad turn of events if Hazen would be pressed to tear it all down at the deadline. With that being said, I don’t foresee that happening. The starting pitching should be able to keep the games close enough to provide opportunities once the offense comes around again.
What needs to be done?
Makakilo: Nothing needs to be done, and yet a trade opportunity may happen.
- Diamondback starting pitching and bullpen are strong – ranking #1 and #3 in the Majors in Wins Above Average.
- Hitting is winning games.
- My threshold is scoring at least 3 runs in each game. This was achieved: 19 of 27 games in April, 19 of 28 games in May, 22 of 26 games in June, and 7 of 10 games in July.
- Without some spectacular defensive plays by the Braves, and without the 4 for 16 with RISP and 11 men left on base by the D-backs, I suspect the D-backs would have hugely won yesterday’s game. And scoring 5 runs was not bad.
- The team displays exemplary teamwork. The team has exceeded expectations. I am not sure any changes need to be done. Any changes would involve risk to the team chemistry. Nevertheless, due diligence is needed to capture any opportunities that would strengthen the team both this season and next season.
Tanner: The hitting needs to get better. They need to stop hacking so much. Go back over pitch recognition. As for personnel moves, I still think a replacement bat for Herrmann in the OF needs to happen
Michael: I would like to see the Diamondbacks improve their lineup against LHP. Dbacks have issues against lefties this season and losing Tomas, Pollock, and Ahmed to significant injuries did not help. The best two hitters against LHP on the current roster are Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannnetta, and those two cannot play in the same lineup.
James: Specifically, nothing much. The roster as a whole just needs to buckle down and play with the fire and focus that they had in May. As the schedule continues to creep closer to September, Lovullo may need to play the ‘A’ lineup more. The point of resting the roster is to keep them fresher in late months of the season. In order to hold off the field, it may be necessary to rely on that freshness advantage.
Keegan: Don’t go out and make a huge move and further jeopardize the future of this franchise. You should see what others were claiming the Diamondbacks would have to surrender for J.D. Martinez on Bless You Boys. The conversation started with Archie Bradley and Anthony Banda in addition to a top tier position player in the minors. For a 2 month rental? Get real. Again, if the team tanks this month and struggles to maintain standing among Wild Card teams Hazen may need to look towards future success. It doesn’t take much from 2 or 3 guys in the lineup to get it going and put this team on a roll again.
How do you see the team approaching the trade deadline?
Makakilo: In the context of their superior evaluation of players, I expect any executed trade would improve the team this season AND next season. Perhaps the D-backs can capture an opportunity for bench depth at a reasonable cost.
Tanner: Maybe a shortstop, maybe JD Martinez, maybe some bullpen arms. Who knows.
Michael: Improve left field and maybe a bullpen arm. I’d like to see someone in LF who isn’t defensively challenged in some form that can play everyday. In terms of the bullpen, the biggest acquisition they can make is a healthy Rubby De La Rosa although adding another LH arm to replace Jorge De La Rosa would help.
James: Now that the NL West crown is more of an afterthought than an actual bottom--line goal, I don’t see this team doing much, if anything, at the deadline. Rumours have swirled about J.D. Martinez, David Phelps, and A.J. Ramos, but I think it is highly unlikely that anything comes of those. Maybe the team looks at Phelps and Ramos in the offseason, but they still have financial concerns to deal with first. There just aren’t many players available that clearly meet the remaining needs of the team, and those that are going to be available are going to come at a steep price.
Keegan: See my responses above. It hinges on how the rest of the month unfolds. If the team turns it around and plays well again, stay the course. If the team regresses back to preseason expectations, maybe it’s time to start thinking about building for the future. The best course is to perhaps do nothing at all.
The starting pitching has held up well. Who has impressed you most?
Makakilo: Zack Godley. He rocks! He signed my baseball card!
- His basic numbers (before today’s game): Of the five starting pitchers, he has the best ERA+ (182), the lowest FIP(3.10), the lowest WHIP(.947). He ranks third in strikeouts per walk(3.1).
- His advanced numbers(before today’s game): Of the five starting pitchers, he has the highest average game score (62), and the highest percentage of starts with a positive Win Probability Added (WPA) (9 of his 11 starts).
Tanner: Godley. By virtue that this wasn't expected of him and he wasn't in the rotation Opening Day
Michael: Everything about it really. Greinke bouncing back, Ray stepping up, Walker and Corbin making serviceable starts, and Godley literally coming out of nowhere to pick up the team. Godley in 12 starts has made 11 winnable starts, which is a better ratio than even Greinke.
James: Individually, it has been Zack Godley. That is due in large part to my thinking he was destined to be a bullpen arm as little as 8 weeks ago. He’s making a believer out of me, despite laying an egg today. I don’t expect him to ever have a full season that resembles the great stretch he had this year, but I am starting to become a believer that he could be a quality arm in the middle of the rotation moving forward. The biggest surprise for me has been how well the rotation has performed collectively. Each pitcher has stepped up and done what was required. Everyone, from top to bottom, has shown improvements over 2017. Zack Greinke is back on pace to earn his contract. Robbie Ray is getting deeper into games. Now that he is healthy, Taijuan Walker is showing definite signs of taking that next developmental step. It has been a long time since the Diamondbacks had an exciting rotation like this.
Keegan: Robbie Ray and the progression of his curveball and Taijuan Walker finally beginning to harness his true potential. Although highly unlikely, wouldn’t it be tremendous if Robbie Ray could pitch near Max Scherzer levels and we actually held onto him? I’d like a redo on a player of that caliber. Godley’s blowout today was mildly concerning. It’s a bit of a sigh of relief seeing Greinke pitch near his career performance after preseason concerns of his diminished velocity. Pitch framing is real folks.
A.J. Pollock: Trade, keep or extend?
Makakilo: Great question. I would consider replacing Pollock. Given the rate of re-injuries, it seems that Pollock will never fully reach his full potential. In any case his hitting is worse than the start of the year. His fielding as measured by UZR/150 is worse than any year from 2013 onward.
Pollock’s biggest value lies in his ability to play center field very well, especially at Chase Field in the context of sharing the outfield with Tomas. Internally, Socrates Brito has the potential to play great defense. The issue would be, “has he improved his hitting?” Externally, there are many possible replacements. I would look for a defensively skilled center fielder who could adapt to Chase Field. Examples would be Tommy Pham and Bradley Zimmer.
Tanner: Either extend cheap because or his injuries, or trade in the winter
Michael: Goodbye AJ, can’t count on a center fielder who will miss 2 months a year. If the Dbacks are obviously attempting to contend in 2018, they should opt to go for a free agent pickup to replace AJ. Otherwise, just give Brito a fair shot at the position.
James: Unlike others, I am not terribly concerned about Pollock’s health. He missed two months this season due to a muscle pull. Those happen to plenty of speedy outfielders. His previous injuries were being hit by a pitch and having a surgeon screw up. There is nothing about those injuries that point to being injury-prone. That said, I expect he will be traded this offseason - not because of health, but because of cost. As long as Ken Kendrick holds the purse strings, this team is going to be forced to choose which stars to keep for their patchwork stars and scrubs rosters. This winter’s free agent class is terrible with regard to center fielders, so I am very concerned with what they will do if they trade him. However, all he needs to do is stay on the field and Pollock will be in line for $20 million AAV when the 2019 season rolls around. We all know that he isn’t going to be allowed to earn that here in Arizona.
Keegan: Keep him. If he is truly as injury prone as some claim he is, including myself, the team loses nothing but salary if he gets hurt again next season. He is a special player when he is on the field, so I’d be willing to claim that teams would shy away from giving him a sizeable contract as he enters his 30’s if he cannot demonstrate an ability to stay healthy. If the team can buy a few more years of Pollock on the cheap to extend whatever window may exist while they develop his replacement in the minors, I’d lean towards taking that route.
Can they turn it around in Cincinnati and against Washington?
Makakilo: Cincinnati is in last place in the NL Central. Cincinnati may be riding a 4 game losing streak when they play the D-backs. This is a great opportunity for a sweep. On the other hand, the Nationals are in first place the NL East, they are playing well, and perhaps Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will pitch against the D-backs. One win against the Nationals will be another step toward playing in the post-season.
Tanner: Cincinnati maybe. We already played them and it was close. Washington entirely depends on who's the starters for them.
Michael: They can, the question is if they will. Cincinnati is a good park to score runs in, so it’s important for the offense to start putting together better ABs and the pitching to keep the ball in the yard. I’m very confident in the latter. I don’t expect better than a 3-3 stretch for the next 6 games. Just need to avoid dropping games and then start winning regularly again.
James: These next two weeks are going to be big for Arizona. If they can play strong over the next two weeks, they can get some breathing room between themselves and the field with regard to the first wild card berth. Cincinnati is as good a team as any to get fat on. They can and should do well there. Washington is going to be a challenge, but they wil be precisely the sort of challenge the Diamondbacks need to measure up against when evaluating their fitness for the postseason. 3 If the team goes 3-3 it will probably be seen as sufficient. I would argue that they really need to go 4-2 or better though.
Keegan: They have to. There is no other option. If they drop these next two series, they are in some serious trouble. Luckily, Cincinnati is an offensive leaning ballpark, although, so was Atlanta. If the team manages to pull out a series victory or sweep there, that should provide some breathing room for the return home. Continuing that momentum against Washington would make a huge statement that they are contenders and can overcome adversity.
Game of Thrones has re-started. Do you care?
Tanner: DA DA DADADA DA DADADA DA DADADA DA
James: I care, but only a little. My household won’t be watching until the entire season is out. I am probably the least excited of all of us though. The show is beautifully made, but it has never lived up to the hype for me.
Keegan: Not in the slightest bit. Watch the South Park episode on it. That’s a good laugh.
Player of the Week
Given there were only three games played, AND we lost all three of them, we’ll hold no vote this week. We’ll circle around next Sunday, covering all the games in the second half to that point. Hopefully, we will have some wins and decent performances to chose from by that point!