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SnakePit Round Table, Week 19: It’s Tough at the Top

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The D-backs were tested against a pair of division leaders, and left with more questions than answers.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

How has the Hell Stretch of the schedule gone?

James: The team has been up and down. I think if they want to be serious about October baseball they are going to have to step things up though. The team needs to find a way to start hitting with runners in scoring position, and it needs to start playing cleaner baseball. Sloppy play and wasting scoring opportunities are going to cost them dearly in the postseason, where pitching and defense dominate.

Jim: Within the scope of what has been expected. I was thinking 3-3, plus or minus a game either way, and it ended up being down. The good news is, it has not cost us very much in terms of standings overall, and once we get past Houston this week, the schedule should get easier. This could have been a lot worse: but I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again, we only need to play better than the WORST of the teams we’re competing against (right now, Rockies, Cardinals and Cubs).

Makakiko: In last week’s roundtable, I wrote, “My hope is that the D-backs win 3 out of 6 games against the Dodgers and Cubs, and that the losses are close games.” With only two wins, my hopes were not realized. And the two losses to the Cubs were by 5 run margins. Nevertheless, that result was close enough to keep the D-Backs as strong contenders for the post-season.

Tanner: Like James said, up and down. I’m not feeling all that confident just because the offense is so feast or famine and the bullpen outside of Bradley and DHern (who would’ve seen that coming??) and sometimes Chafin leaves me with just about 0% comfort.

Keegan: Frustrating. As I said in the 8/13 Snake Bytes it is difficult to gauge the true identity of this team. It’s a fringe team that was finding ways to win difficult games early in the season. If their first half performance mirrored what we are witnessing lately, the topic of conversation would have a much different tone around here. Anyways, back to the prompt, I feel that the team had an opportunity to win the Zack Greinke start against the Dodgers. The Taijuan Walker start against the Cubs could have had a more desirable outcome. What in the world happened to Jake Barrett in the last game of the Cubs series? Gotta find a way to fight through the struggles and pull through with a win.

Steven: It’s been alright. Sad to see close games fall the wrong way. We all know this team is better than they’ve played, but maybe the wheels are finally starting to fall off on this magical season? Either way, it’ll be an exciting run the rest of the way.

Patrick Corbin is terrible. Patrick Corbin is great. Discuss.

James: This has been Patrick Corbin all season long. My concern with Patrick Corbin is that he now has only 3-5 more games before he reaches the point at which he previously broke down. He’s never had a season where he was a reliably effective pitcher beyond 160 IP. With this season, he can hardly be said to have been “reliable” at any point during the season. I tend to agree with some others that, at this point, the best place for Corbin might be in the bullpen, where he can give some long outings as needed and he can let his stuff tick up a bit in short outings. If nothing else, Corbin is not going to be a starter in the postseason, getting he reacclimated to a bullpen role now might not be a bad thing.

Jim: The only thing consistent has been his inconsistency. He’ll have starts where he looks absolutely terrible, then next time out he’ll be excellent - witness his two recent games against the Cubs, ten days apart, which had Game Scores of 11 and 71. It’s a little bit like what Robbie Ray used to do last year. But unless he can pretty much run the schedule out with quality starts, or there’s a problem with Robbie Ray’s return, it’s hard to see any way how he will be part of our post-season rotation. The 2018 situation for Corbin looks murky too, with Anthony Banda looking like a younger, cheaper option.

Makakiko: On 30 July, I wrote that Patrick Corbin’s numbers were improving and his average game score was 48. Despite a bad performance the next day, today (13 August) his average game score is back to 48. Also unchanged is my opinion that he is a solid #5 pitcher.

I see a pattern – each month, his worst performance is the first time he pitches that month. Maybe he could start each month with a simulated game to get it out of his system. In any case, I am grateful to have him pitching for the D-backs.

Tanner: He’s been consistently inconsistent and it’s frustrating to say the least. I’m not too sure of the correlation of Corbin based on which of the catching Cerberus is behind the plate in his starts, but I’m sure that each guy that’s had multiple catchers is gonna have some splits. I’m probably ok with moving on from Corbin or moving him to the bullpen next year.

Keegan: Patrick is a daunting opponent on the mound when his slider is moving as it should. There are few pitchers I would rather watch when he is commanding that pitch as he wants. He has also made Chase Field look like a pitcher’s haven this season. I’m not going to get my hopes up. I feel that he is a true #4 type starter. Not much sense in paying what should be coming his way in his final arbitration year for that type of performance.

Steven: I want off Mr. Corbin’s wild ride. 2.70 ERA in wins, 6.99 ERA in losses. Unless he somehow pitches better to close out the season, Corbin might be a non-tender candidate at the end of the year. With a salary pushing $7M, is he worth it?

Brandon Drury has lost his everyday starting spot. Can he win it back?

James: With Chris Owings hurt, I think the starting second base job is still Drury’s to lose. Neither Descalso or Rosales is a good option for a full season, nor is either one likely to be here next season. I know a lot of people want the Diamondbacks to make an August trade for Cozart or Phillips, but I don’t think either one of them really solves much. Brandon Phillips has been only marginally better than Brandon Drury at the plate, and despite his early career of being a premium defender, he is now worse than Phillips. Although second base is Marte’s natural position, I don’t think this team is ready to push him back over there and stunt his shortstop development just to get Zack Cozart a month of at-bats.

If/when the team comes to a point where Ahmed, Marte, and Owings are all healthy, then Drury might wind up being the odd man out. His lack of plate discipline is what has cost him his starting role. He’s going to have to refine his approach so he can get back to driving the ball if he wants to stick beyond next season.

Jim: I still would prefer him over Adam Rosales or Daniel Descalso on an everyday basis, but it seems like he’ll need to earn his way there off the bench - never easy to do when you are getting only 10 or so PA a week, many of them coming against tough relievers. Longer term, youth is on his side. But Ketel Marte has made a very good first impression over at shortstop, and when Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed are healthy as well, there’s the distinct possibility of a roster crunch. I can see one of them being traded over the winter, and that’s a decision I don’t envy Mike Hazen and co.

Makakilo: On 9 August, Torey Lovullo confirmed he was going with Drury and Descalso as a platoon at second base. I’m not sure whether this was a response to Drury having a drop in his sOPS+ from an average of 114 before July to about 70 in July and August, or whether there is a platoon advantage to be realized. The only clear platoon I found would be to play Drury in home games and Descalso in away games.

I compared Drury and Descalso. As far as hitting, they looked very similar. Then I looked at defense. Drury has a UZR/150 of 4.1 (very good), while Descalso has a UZR/150 of -13.2 (poor). What would it take for Drury to win the second base position? In my opinion, not much.

Then I looked at contracts. Drury makes near league minimum and arbitration does not start until 2019. Baseball Reference shows Descalso makes $1.35 million in 2017, and the team has an option for $2 million in 2018. Could this money be make a bigger marginal improvement in another position?

Tanner:If and when Ahmed comes back, I would hope Rosales is the odd man out, but right now, that ice cold stretch could be what keeps Drury riding the pine. I think he might just be pressing way too hard at the plate right now. If he just gets patient, he can earn it back. Granted, he learned from Tulo and we can all see how great Tulo was this year…

Keegan: Reading between the lines it appears that there is some strife between Lovullo and Drury. I could be completely wrong, but I wouldn’t take Lovullo to be the type of manager that completely abandons a young player in the middle of a struggle. Makes me wonder what Drury did off the field to harm his playing time. I want him to succeed, and I hope he is given the opportunity to succeed.

Steven: I hate what Lovullo’s doing to Brandon but completely understand. He’s struggled badly since the All-Star break and needed to change something. However, I think he needs everyday at-bats to get out of the slump. I would’ve liked to see him tear it up in Reno then come back ready to go for the playoff race but I don’t know how he can come back and overtake Descalso.

Who do you see as a bigger threat, the Cubs or the Cardinals?

James: I see the St. Louis Cardinals as the bigger threat, mostly because I think the Cubs are still going to win the NL Central. It took the Cards winning eight straight to close the gap and catch up to Chicago. The Cards are not going to stay hot until the end of the season. Chicago is still the team to beat in that division. That makes the Cardinals the team that is chasing Arizona.

Jim: The Cardinals have got hot of late, and have overall the better run differential The loss of Wilson Contreras will certainly impact the Cubs offense, during what could become a crucial stretch of the schedule. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Cardinals end up edging the division, but seven of the last sixteen games see them go head-to-head. Those will likely be the decider. Whoever doesn’t win the division still has some catching up to do - and neither of them have any “wins count double” games against ourselves or the Rockies.

Makakilo: The Cardinals look like Central Division winners. Recently they had an 8 game winning streak and they are 8-2 in their last ten games. Although they are 1 game behind the Cubs, they will soon take and hold the Central Division lead.

Therefore, the Cubs are the biggest threat. The Cubs and the D-Backs are nearly equal in strength based on the six games they played in August with a 3-3 split. The D-backs are ahead of the Cubs by 3.5 games, and with average luck the D-Backs will stay ahead!

Tanner: The Cardinals, only because they end up whining about everything, and Yadier Molina gets the benefit of the doubt, so i know if we play them in a one off game, we’re gonna get screwed over by whichever umpire we get regardless. I’d honestly rather face the Cubs. We at least know how to get to Lester and Quintana.

Keegan: At this point in time the team I fear the most is the Cardinals. Teams that are typically successful in October are the ones that go on a tear during the stretch run (2007 Rockies). The Cardinals and the Cubs remaining schedules appear to be equally as difficult. As Jim said above, the Diamondbacks have the advantage that both of those teams will be forced to face each other effectively preventing both from winning on the same day. Arizona has to make the most of those games if they want to secure a Wild Card berth.

Steven: To me, the Cubs are what the D-backs want to be. At this point in the season they play great defense, pitch well, and do just enough to win. The Cardinals have youth and I question their ability to keep up this stretch of play through the end of the year.

It’s American League week, as we face the Astros and Twins. Who should DH for Arizona?

James: The simple choice is to let J.D. Martinez be the DH. It’s a role he is somewhat accustomed to playing already. I suppose an argument could be made to make Goldy or Lamb the DH if there is a desire to give one of them a pseudo off-day, but at this point in the season, I would just as soon keep everyone where they are comfortable.

Jim: I wouldn’t mind seeing Chris Iannetta, for the games where he isn’t catching. He’s probably the most explosive of our bench bats. Though I would be quite amused if Torey Lovullo starts Chris Herrmann there, simply for Twitter trolling purposes.

Makakilo: Against the Astros, my prediction is we will face starters Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, and Charlie Morton. Looking at past results against these pitchers, and not designating players I want in the field (like Goldy, Peralta, and Iannetta) my choices for designated hitter are Brandon Drury against McHugh, JD Martinez against Peacock, and Gregor Blanco against Morton.

Against the Twins, my prediction is we will face starters Ervin Santano, Bartolo Colon, and Jose Berrios. Looking at past results against these pitchers, and not designating players I want in the field (like Peralta, and Iannetta) my choices for designated hitter are Gregor Blanco against Colon and against Santana. That leaves Jose Berrios. This season, he has hit 1 or 2 batters in half his games. I looked for a D-back who gets hit by the pitch very often, so he would not be intimidated. This season, Drury and Peralta have been hit 5 and 6 times, which translates to about 1.5% of their plate appearances. Adam Rosales has them beat hands down. He was hit 1 time in 23 plate appearances, which is about 4%. And in his career he has been hit 19 times. Adam Rosales is my designated hitter against Jose Berrios.

Tanner: Gonna go with JD and maybe Goldy. JD has DH’ed a ton in the past while in the AL, and Goldy could get a half a day off. Also, if they want to get more lefty bats in, they could DH Peralta, and have Blanco play LF. I think, theoretically, that is something they could do.

Keegan: Easy. The DH should be Yasmany Tom… oh wait. I wouldn’t be opposed to Goldy getting a game or two at DH to give him some extra time off of his feet. Same for J.D. Martinez. The obvious choice to replace both of them in the field would be Daniel Descalso. Drury should be an option to DH too. If part of the reason for his benching are due to mental mistakes on the field in addition to offensive struggles, perhaps this would give him a chance to focus on the later.

Steven: I actually like the idea of Jake Lamb taking some time off from the field and just pounding the ball. With how porous the defense has been, let’s take advantage of this while we can.

Do you have a go-to ballpark food?

James: I used to. When Big Dawgs was at Chase Field, that’s where I headed once I was in the gate. I would grab one of those and a large garlic cheese fry and mow down on that while I watched batting practice. Now though, I often go to games either eating the buffet in the Draft Room and watch the game from there, or I am eating at and watching the game from Friday’s Front Row. However, when I do sit down in the regular seats, I would say my big go-to now is Hungry Hill.

Jim: I miss the garlic fries as well. Those and a polish sausage were always the bomb. I feel I should branch out and try some of the other fare at Chase Field, but I usually end going with the standard offerings. But I *will* try the bacon-wrapped pretzel baguette before the end of the season, mark my words....

Makakilo: At a ballpark, my go-to drink is a frozen lemon drink, like an Eegee. It’s my go-to because it’s cold, it keeps me hydrated, and it lasts a relatively long time. If I can’t find it, I am happy with lemonade.

I always take my baseball mitt to games because catching a foul ball is my priority over holding my go-to drink, to the consternation of nearby fans. Even my baseball cap could catch foul balls beyond my jumping reach. Or so it could in my imagination.

Tanner: No, not really. I do like to get the giant $9 hot dog and get nacho cheese to put all over it. Also, Nachos. Oh, and pretzels with cheese. Actually, I think my ballpark food might just be melted cheese sauce.

Keegan: I’m really big on trying the unique food offerings at Chase. This season I fell in love with the Grilled Cheese Bacon Cheesy Mac n Cheese Cheeseburger Heart Attack on a bun thing-a-ma-bobber. D’bat dog is always a great choice to share with a few people. I wish they would bring Fatburger back.

Steven: Out of necessity I grab the designated driver drink and bring a sandwich from home. Growing up is awful :(

Player of the Week

As expected, this was close to the biggest landslide of the season, with Goldschmidt’s single-handed demolition of the Cubs, powering him to 89% of the vote. That allows him to take over from Greinke at the top, by quite a comfortable margin. Here are the full standings including all votes from Week 18.

  1. Paul Goldschmidt: 310%
  2. Zack Greinke: 233%
  3. Robbie Ray: 211%
  4. Jake Lamb: 138%
  5. David Peralta: 87%
  6. Archie Bradley: 84%
  7. Patrick Corbin: 79%
  8. Fernando Rodney: 79%
  9. Chris Owings: 75%
  10. A.J. Pollock: 58%
  11. Brandon Drury: 52%
  12. Randall Delgado: 41%
  13. Taijuan Walker: 37%
  14. Chris Iannetta: 34%
  15. Nick Ahmed: 30%
  16. Zack Godley: 29%
  17. T.J. McFarland: 27%
  18. Jeremy Hazelbaker: 25%
  19. Ketel Marte: 24%
  20. Chris Herrmann: 16%
  21. J.J. Hoover: 7%
  22. Yasmany Tomas: 7%
  23. Daniel Descalso: 6%
  24. Jake Barrett: 5%
  25. Andrew Chafin: 2%
  26. Anthony Banda: 1%
  27. J.D. Martinez: 1%

Here are nominees for this week - heavy on the hitting side, with just one starting pitcher making it into this round.

Poll

Who was the player of the week, August 7-13

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Archie Bradley: 3.1 IP, 1 H, 1:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
    (8 votes)
  • 17%
    Patrick Corbin: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 8:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
    (8 votes)
  • 8%
    Paul Goldschmidt: 5-for-22, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 1.002 OPS
    (4 votes)
  • 50%
    David Peralta: 7-for-22, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1.066 OPS
    (23 votes)
  • 6%
    J.D. Martinez: 5-for-19, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .943 OPS
    (3 votes)
46 votes total Vote Now