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SnakePit Round Table, Week 20: This is fine

If we don’t play Minnesota for another three years, it’ll be too soon...

Wildifires In Santa Barbara County Scorch Over 24,000 Acres Amid Heat Wave Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The D-backs haven’t won a series since beating the Cubs in Chicago. Time to panic?

ISH95: Panic is such a funny word. We are eleven games over .500, I believe, as I write this, and the opposite was much more likely at the start of the season. Because of that, I'm pretty satisfied no matter how the rest of the season goes, really. I am starting to get concerned about how small the gap is getting between us and third in the WC.

Jay: The best thing going for us is the big lead we had at the end of June and the uninspiring play of the rest of the National League. Right now, it’s the Rockies, Cardinals, and Brewers to worry about. My guess is 86 wins should be enough, but that means the D-backs would have to play .500 the rest of the way, which they haven’t been doing as of late. Easier schedule might help, but the offensive needs to score some runs, simple as that. I was hoping by this point, the D-backs could coast to the playoffs, but now they need to play decent ball just to join the party.

As for panic. It’s kind of like having a girlfriend you want to marry. The girlfriend stage has just about run its course and something needs to change. Will she marry you or break up with you? Hope for the best, but prepare mentally for what was once unthinkable.

Makakilo: Clearly, the team wants to win every game and reach the postseason. September’s schedule is less daunting, and it provides the opportunities that the team needs.

Right now, the team is being tested. Can they prevent their losses, frustrations, and fears from causing mental blocks? Can they continue to see and respond to opportunities on the field? Can they continue to play with intense Fire Chakras? Yes to all three questions.

James: Time to panic? No. Time for a greater sense of urgency? Absolutely. The team has been resting to stay fresh all season long. The roster expansion is less than two weeks away, when some fresher arms and legs will become available if needed. It’s time to take advantage of being the “rested” team and start playing the ‘A’ squad as much as possible. If Pollock needs to move down to the 6-hole to wake his bat up a bit, so be it. (Though you move him back up again as soon as possible.) Herrmann does not need to be getting nearly as many ABs as he has been. With the roster expansion, as much as fans might detest it, the bullpen depth needs to be used.

Jim: This team has had losing streaks before. They’ve been swept before. But let’s look at how much we were outscored by in those series:

  • Marlins (June 2-4) = 5 runs
  • Dodgers (July 4-6) = 3 runs
  • Braves (July 14-16) = 10 runs
  • Twins (Aug 18-20) = 19 runs

Hard to argue this has been the worst three games of the season. But of their last seven losses, going back just to the Cubs series, six have been blowouts (5+ run margins). Conversely, they haven’t won a blowout this month.

That must change. The team simply needs to play better. That’s the bottom line. This is not the D-backs we saw through June. They need to get back to that: winning moments, and using those to build into winning innings, and then winning games. It’s now we find out what Torey Lovullo is made of as a manager. It’s easy to manage when everything is going swimmingly well. But it’s what you do when the chips are down that matters: can he right the ship?

On the other hand, so it’s the BREWERS we’re now concerned about? Wasn’t it supposed to be the Cardinals? Oh, hang on: they didn’t win any more games than we did this week...

Tanner: In the words of Woody from Toy Story “This is the perfect time to panic!” We’ve been losing, seen pitchers underperform, guys be left in too long, guys taken out too soon, some slumps, some injuries and a lot of head scratching moves from Lovullo. We need to play more urgently. Like I said in the “120 Games In” thread; sure, we’ll probably MAKE the playoffs, but if we play the way we are now we sure as hell aren’t gonna STAY in the playoffs. Things need to change.

What are the main concerns with regard to the team?

ISH95: We have a team of a few big stars and not much else. The veteran minimum role players we dug out of the scrap heap have remembered what they are and aren't providing the Herculean support they were to start the season, and that in large part seems to be what's dragging us down.

Jay: I miss how aggressive the Diamondbacks used to be during the first half. I don’t know if they lost some swagger by getting comfortable playing station to station baseball. Teams are more inclined to take chances when they are confident a mistake can be picked up later by someone else. Injuries have been an issue, but they shouldn’t be insurmountable.

Makakilo: I have some concerns, including the platoon at second and depth in some positions. However, my biggest concern is the outfield. This season, improved outfield defense was one of the new pillars of strength that allowed the D-backs’ pitching to shine! The pillar has cracks.

AJ Pollock is not playing at All-Star levels. Fangraphs has Pollock’s defense in center field rated as UZR/150 of -0.1. His previous seasons were all higher, with last season at +17.3. His hitting is at wRC+ of 94, which compares poorly to 134 and 131 in 2014 and 2015. To be fair, maybe I had unrealistic expectations.

Left field has been worth negative 1.9 wins above average. The most plate appearances in left are Tomas with -12 UZR/150 in left, Descalso with -15.1 UZR/150 in left, and Peralta with +31.5 UZR/150 in left. Because Peralta is needed in right field, I looked for another player. JD Martinez, although he excels at offense, is not the solution. Gregor Blanco, with +9.6 UZR/150 may be that solution. Can the team live with his wRC+ of 74? Yes, if it means better defense in the outfield.

James: Consistency and focus. This team as a whole is becoming consistently inconsistent, from Patrick Corbin’s Jekyll/Hyde starts, to bullpen performances, to the heart of the order driving in runs, to the leadoff spot providing base runners. It just seems that when one goes well the others fall apart, and vice-versa. Putting everything together is becoming a day-in, day-out issue. Torey Lovullo said it himself last week, this team seemed to lose a bit of its focus. He felt they were getting it back, but I am not so sure. The losses of late have been sloppy ones. The Godley start was as much about the wheels coming off after a sloppy play as it was anything else. That fire that the team had early, when they were never out of a game seems to be smoldering instead of burning.

Jim: I’ll highlight the bullpen, which has become a mess. A 5.62 ERA in August is close to worst in the National League. The problem has mostly been outside the Chafin-Bradley-Rodney line-up, and it’s that which has fueled the blowout losses. In games earlier, we may have fallen behind, but the likes of T.J., McFarland kept it close, and gave the offense a chance to climb back. Now, it seems they specialize in taking manageable margins and turning them into insurmountable mountains. We have just two come-from-behind wins, our first-half speciality, since July 29.

Tanner: Consistency, the bullpen, and Lovullo’s pitching decisions. The team is feast or famine on offense and look great one day and like a crappy minor league team the next day. The bullpen has not performed as well outside of Bradley. Sherfy could change that, but McFarland, JDLR, Hoover, and DHern have not given me any more hope. And Lovullo, well, I’ll just point to today’s pitching box score…

And what are the causes for hope?

ISH95: We have a really great core of stars. If you start with Goldy and Greinke, and then add Lamb and Ray, you're doing something right. Those four alone could carry a team to the post season.

Jay: Starting pitching. Has been solid even during this rough patch. Getting Ray back this week will help as well.

Makakilo: The players continue to demonstrate talent and intense effort. They want to win!

The coaching is spot-on. I have every reason to think they will be stronger as a team for having been tested by some excellent teams in August.

James: The biggest reasons for hope are, the team is still in control of its own destiny, and once in the playoffs, anything can happen. This team really needed a 6-4 or 7-3 trip through Minnesota, New York, and San Francisco. That’s going to be a tall order now, but still not impossible. Once the calendar switches over to September, they should still have a 5-7 game lead on the rest of the pack, with only 32 days left. Even playing just .500 ball will almost certainly get them to the playoffs at that point. Of course, they are having issues with .500 ball right now, so they need to get cracking on that.

Jim: I’ll echo James: They still hold their own destiny firmly in their hands: one game back of the Rockies and 2.5 up on the Brewers. More than 20 teams would love to trade places with the Diamondbacks. The return of Ray should provide a sound base, as long as we can keep to those five starters. [Greinke, Corbin, Walker, Ray and Godley have combined for a 3.51 ERA. Everyone else? 5.57]. We just need to get through this rough patch and playing the way the team can. Some of that will happen: RISP hits will come again, for instance. But the margin for error we had has gone. That focus we had needs to be regained.

Tanner: Robbie Ray is returning, Corbin is actually showing consistency, and Godley continues to be solid. JD, Goldy, and Lamb are all still making loud contact, Drury is maybe finally showing signs of life, Ahmed is starting rehab (please, end the Rosales Experience as soon as possible), and we could still make moves to help until the end of the month in regards to the waiver trade deadline.

A.J. Pollock. Keep, trade or extend?

ISH95: Listen to offers, and if they find someone willing to pay for the production he should bring and not what he gave this season take it. Otherwise, keep and see what happens next year.

Jay: I say extend him now. Buy low is the way to go. Pollock hasn’t been great at the plate, but at Chase Field you need someone like him playing CF. Of course, we could just see what happens next year, but if his price goes up, he will be gone and we don’t have anyone in the system who could replace him at this point. Meaning, we’d have to sign someone who might be more expensive than Pollock would be right now.

Makakilo: Player salaries balloon in 2018, 2019, and 2020. I could be wrong, but it does not appear the team can afford all it’s current players. Whether Pollock or a different player is on the bubble is a difficult decision.

A defensively outstanding outfield is a key to success for the D-backs. My previous comment explained that Pollock is not performing as well as I expected. Whether Pollock will achieve his previous excellence is becoming more uncertain.

In the preseason CBS Sports ranked Pollock as the #8 center fielder in the Majors and asked whether he would return to his 2015 levels of offense and defense. Now I know the answer. I am confident that if Mike Hazen finds a trade, it will help the team tremendously. I give Mike Hazen the green light to trade Pollock.

James: Before this season went off the rails due to injury and then up-and-down performance, I would have been in the group of people saying to extend him if he is open to it. However, at this point, I am less confident of that, but only a small bit. Fangraphs doesn’t love his defense this season, but that isn’t matching the eye-test. He isn’t the defender he once was, but he is still makes that outfield a difficult one to hit into. I do think they should explore trade opportunities, but the problem is they would be trading low on him. Unless they can get a MLB-ready talent in return, and precisely the one they have their eye on, I don’t make the trade. Pollock’s value to the Diamondbacks is greater than it will be for many other teams. They need his defense in that vast center field. They also need the sparkplug ability he brings to the offense. Also, the team has zero capable options to fill in should they trade him away, so they would be forced to sign one in free agency, and it seems unlikely there will be any cash available at all to do so.

If Pollock is open to a reasonable three or four year contract, I probably extend him and use that as a timetable to rectify my lack of depth at the position. I think it very unlikely he goes for it though. He is set to become a free agent with the mega-class of 2019. Even taking a cut-rate contract, the market will be so inflated that a cut-rate deal is going to be a sizeable one. Assuming he ages out gracefully, this will be his one and only shot at a big payday, so it seems unlikely he makes many concessions to sign an extension now.

The best option may just be to play him at his arbitration salary in 2018 and then let him walk with a qualifying offer. Maybe committing to that QO will be enough to convince him to stay for another single season, or sign a shorter-term deal.

Tanner: I’m in the Trade camp. Hopefully he defrosts a bit over the last chunk of time, finishes on a high note, and we need to get what we can for a guy who is a CF on the wrong side of 30 who hasn’t been able to stay healthy and produce consistently. Otherwise, let him play out his ARB 3 year, and let him walk and pray we have a replacement ready.

Jim: It’s a difficult question. Do we have any cheaper options that can give us Pollock-like production? I’m not seeing it on the farm for 2018. Maybe if we can trade for a young, cost-controlled CF, then we can then trade Pollock on in turn. But going onto the free-agent market isn’t going to be the solution. Unless we have a credible alternative, I think we need to hang on to him; possibly even look at a “buy low” extension - not long, maybe just an extra year or two.

The schedule finally gives the D-backs some teams below .500. Will that right their progress?

ISH95: God I hope so. Let's crush some bad teams and give us some fun wins again.

Jay: Theoretically.

Makakilo: Yes!

James: Righting the ship was supposed to start in Minnesota, a team that isn’t very special. However, things have not gone well there. I am hopeful that the Mets provide a suitably depleted team to get Arizona right again. They are in the process of gutting that team entirely, so hopefully the level of competition is sufficiently lacking. Then there is the Giants, who are just plain bad this season. Playoff teams beat terrible teams.

Tanner: As long as the major league, competent version of the team shows up, yes it should.

Jim: If it doesn’t, then it will be time to kick the DefCon Threat Level up a notch or two.

If you had to live in a different state, which one would it be?

ISH95: I've always been drawn to Washington state and Oregon. I've lived somewhere we have 300+ days of sunshine a year for almost 22 years. I'm ready to try the opposite.

Jay: I’m an AZ native and I still haven’t gotten used to the summers that sometimes don’t end until Veteran’s Day. I sweat at lower temperatures than most people, I’ve never grown accustomed to it. I want to move, but the state matters less than having a nice four seasons. If I must choose, perhaps Wisconsin. Beer, brats, and cheese. The people seem friendly too. With streaming I will always follow the D-backs, and I might even attend a Brewers game once Ryan Braun leaves.

Makakilo: Arizona. Watching D-backs games in person would be awesome! Meeting other Snake-pitters would be fun!

James: I was born and raised in Arizona, and after I left for a spell, I couldn’t wait to get back. However, if I had to love in another state, it would probably be Washington. There I get the anti-Arizona. I get a lot of rainy days, but I get a laid-back atmosphere, great coffee, and I get to watch west coast baseball. Also, under the right circumstances, I would finally get to see the Aurora Borealis.

Tanner: I’m born and raised Arizona, but I could probably do Nevada, maybe certain parts of California, maybe Florida. But I like not worrying about natural disasters (except for an earthquake once every decade) or having to change my clocks.

Jim: I really haven’t seen too many other states to decide. It would depend a lot on things like property prices! Maybe somewhere with a bit more of a temperate climate, but my opinion on that changes with the seasons… Ask me in winter, and Arizona’s perfectly fine. But I think I’d have to see a good few more states before I could come up with an credible alternatives.

Player of the Week

David Peralta won last week’s poll, getting exactly half the votes cast, with Patrick Corbin and Archie Bradley tied for second, on 17%. Here are the full standings including all votes through Week 19.

  1. Paul Goldschmidt: 319%
  2. Zack Greinke: 233%
  3. Robbie Ray: 211%
  4. Jake Lamb: 138%
  5. David Peralta: 137%
  6. Archie Bradley: 103%
  7. Patrick Corbin: 96%
  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.D. Martinez: 8%
  22. J.J. Hoover: 7%
  23. Yasmany Tomas: 7%
  24. Daniel Descalso: 6%
  25. Jake Barrett: 5%
  26. Andrew Chafin: 2%
  27. Anthony Banda: 1%

This week’s nominees again skew towards the hitting, but I think it will probably be a pitcher who comes out on top of the ballot.


Who was the Player of the Week, August 14-20

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Patrick Corbin: 8.2 IP, 4 H, 7:1 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
    (53 votes)
  • 7%
    Brandon Drury: 5-for-17, HR, 3 RBI, 1.074 OPS
    (5 votes)
  • 3%
    Paul Goldschmidt: 7-for-24, HR, 4 RBI, .846 OPS
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    J.J. Hoover: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 6:2 K:BB, 1.59 ERA
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Jake Lamb: 7-for-26, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .937 OPS
    (2 votes)
63 votes total Vote Now