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SnakePit Round Table, Week 24: Closer to the Edge

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The team inched closer to the post-season, bouncing back after some wobbles early on against Colorado. Might this be THE week?

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

A shaky start, but the week turned into a winner. Thoughts?

Keegan: The Diamondbacks outscored the Rockies 21-11 despite dropping the first 2 games of the 4 game set. Arizona has a better, more experienced pitching staff than Colorado. However, like Arizona, Colorado has an offense that can put an opposing team in a hole quickly. It makes me hate the coin flip of the 1 game play in even more. The Rockies are beginning to play well again in the stretch run, and Carlos Gonzalez is finally hitting. It’s going to be a highly contested game between those 2 teams in October assuming that Colorado maintains their lead in the wild card.

Nate: 2 more weeks of play like this should guarantee home-field advantage in the wild card game. I am happy.

Makakilo:

  1. The week was great! The D-backs kept the lead in home field advantage by splitting the series with the Rockies. With mostly wins for the week, the playoffs look extremely likely!
  2. In the last two weeks, the D-backs face weaker teams – this part of the schedule is a chance to make a habit out of winning series while giving players regular rest days.
  3. I am super-excited about the possibility of attending a D-backs playoff game! As a member of the public, I registered for a chance to purchase playoff tickets. By Friday of this week, I will be notified whether or not I will be given an opportunity to purchase tickets! Being an optimist, this is an exciting week for me. And next week could be an even better week!

Jim: Solid stuff, bouncing back after losing the first two to Colorado, to split an important series, and then win against the road. Okay, the latter was against the Giants, but it’s still a road win. I think I’m more or less convinced that this team will go exactly as far as their starting pitching will take them. I don’t think there’s a team in the league who can quite match our rotation, from top to bottom. I think this week shows that the road-map for the postseason will have the starter trying to turn a lead over to Archie Bradley and Fernando Rodney after 21 outs. If we can do that, I think we’ll be fine.

Will the team clinch a wild-card spot by next round table? How about home-field?

Keegan: Don’t want to count the chickens before they hatch, but I’d say it’s likely Arizona will clinch within the next week. I won’t go as far as guaranteeing home field because that could come down to the final week of the season. I don’t believe Colorado will have an opportunity to clinch until the final week of September.

Nate: With a magic number of 6 for the wild-card spot, I’d imagine so. They should be able to go 4-2 or 5-1 against the Marlins and Padres, and I expect the Brewers to lose a game or two against the Pirates and Cubs.

Jim: I wouldn’t mind if it happens at some point during the series at Chase Field against the Marlins. It would be particularly fun for the team to win a game and clinch the spot. After all the effort they’ve put in this year, they deserve a victory celebration. Won’t be quite the same if we get word in the sixth inning that the Brewers have lost to the Cubs and Arizona are in that way - or worse, if it happens on Thursday’s off-day entirely. I think it’s more likely to be a bit before the Rockies are finally dispatched and we can buy tickets for the game here.

It’s also increasingly likely to be against the Rockies. What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Keegan: Spoiled that with my response to the first question above. Their pitching staff is really shaky, young, and inexperienced. The Rockies have outplayed their expectations both in terms of expected W-L record and total team WAR. What is concerning is that they find a way to win baseball games despite their deficiencies. Having a potent offense and playing all of your home games in Coors field will do that to a team. On paper looking at traditional and advanced metrics the Diamondbacks are a better team than the Rockies, but none of that matters in a 1 game play in. We can tend to lose sight of that sometimes.

Makakilo:

1. Third Base is a strength. The Rockies rank #1 in WAA at third base in the Majors. Nolan Arenado is the reason! No need to say more.

2. Starting pitching is a strength.

  • The Rockies’ starting pitchers are all young (27 years or younger) and amazingly rank as the fourth best in WAA in the Majors! Although Tyler Chatwood will be a free agent, the others are under team control next season. Starting pitching will remain a strength next season.
  • Nevertheless, the D-backs’ starting pitching is better. The D-backs rank #1 with 15.3 WAA compared to the Rockies rank of #4 with 7.7 WAA.

3. First base is a weakness this season, and a strength next season. In spring training, All-Star Ian Desmond fractured his left hand.

  • He did not return to full strength. Connor Byrne of MLB Trade Rumors wrote, “Along with a .273/.319/.367 batting line that’s 35 percent worse than league average (per FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric), Desmond’s groundball rate [12% worse than his yearly average] and exit velocity [90.5 mph dropped to 87.4 mph] have trended in the wrong direction.” The result was that the Rockies currently rank #27 in WAA at first base.
  • If Ian Desmond can return to full strength (and he said he can), it will be a great thing for the Rockies. His contract with the Rockies pays him $60 million over the next four seasons, with a $15 million team option for 2022.

4. Outfield is mixed. The Rockies’ outfield (as a whole) ranks #22 in WAA in the Majors.

  • Strength. Aniello Piro, of Mile High Sports, wrote, “Charlie Blackmon…bumped his RBI total up to 89 on the season at the time, setting a new record for most RBI by a lead off hitter in the National League, surpassing the mark set by Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 1998. Blackmon also with his 81st extra-base hit while batting first, passing Jimmy Rollins (2007) for the most by a leadoff hitter in NL history.”
  • Improving. At the end of August, All-Star Carlos Gonzalez had a BA/OBP/OPS of .239/.308/.665, which would be lower than any of his seasons from 2009 to 2016. However, from Sept 1 to 16, he raised this season’s numbers to .255/.330/.740. Impressive!
  • Weakness. David Dahl suffered a rib injury in the spring. He showed great hitting potential and was expected to compete with Gerardo Parra for an outfield position. Instead, he has been out the entire season. If he returns to full strength, he could earn an outfield position next season.

Jim: If CarGo is back on form, then the top of the Rockies order, in Blackmon, LeMahieu, Arenado and Gonzalez, is as good a quartet of hitters as you’ll find anywhere. Being able to restrain them will be key to any D-backs victory. I’m not quite as impressed with the starting pitching as Makakilo, and think they can be worn down. They’ve averaged only 4.5 innings per start this month, although maybe that’s an effort to keep them fresh? Their staff overall has an ERA of 5.18 against Arizona this year, where our ERA against Colorado is 3.35. I think we should beat them. But, as has been mentioned, in a single game, anything can happen.

What are you looking for in the final two weeks of the season?

Keegan: Hone in and mentally prepare for the challenges of October. Limit Giancarlo Stanton to 0 home runs for the series. Pulverize the Padres at Petco. Don’t allow the Giants to build momentum and play spoiler heading into the 2018 season. Put the nail in the coffin that is the Kansas City Royals. I don’t expect Arizona to win every game from this point forward, and September results have no bearing in October, but I want to see the team finish strong. It would be spectacular if Corbin could eclipse the 200 strikeout mark, but that could be difficult. If Paul Goldschmidt could reach 40 home runs, the National League MVP would likely be his. I would like to see Chris Owings and Jeff Mathis to return to Major League action before postseason play.

Nate: Priority number 1 is obviously no injuries. Clinch home field and sit everyone.

Priority number 2 is to just be decent down the stretch. Enter the playoffs with some positive momentum.

Makakilo: I am looking for three things:

  • Clinch the home field advantage in the play-in wild-card game.
  • Make a solid habit of winning. I am looking for series wins against weak teams.
  • Stay healthy. Give players some strategic days off. Limit the number of pitches by the starters.

Jim: Health, as Nate mentioned. It’s a difficult line to negotiate after we clinch. We want to keep players fresh - but on the other hand, don’t want people to get rusty. Bullpen sessions and BP will only go so far. But if anyone has shown they can figure that out, it’s the manager whose Lovullo Line-ups™ have got us this far. I just want to see the mythical creature called the John Ryan Murphy in a Diamondbacks uniform. I am seriously beginning to doubt its existence.

Should Jake Lamb start in the postseason against a left-handed pitcher?

Keegan: Yes, what other options do we have at third base? Jake Lamb needs to step up and be the big bat in the lineup besides Paul Goldschmidt because J.D. Martinez likely won’t be with us beyond 2017. Jake Lamb isn’t completely useless and is capable of reaching base via the walk against a lefty. He is going to face a barrage of southpaws with Colorado likely using one in the wild card game and the Dodgers marching out one of the best in the game in Clayton Kershaw. Lovullo can’t just leave Lamb sitting on the bench for most of the postseason, so Lamb’s only option is to step up and perform.

Nate: Agree with Keegan above, he is better than the other options. I would probably bat him at 7 or 8 though instead of the heart of the order.

Makakilo: More interesting to me was the split of sOPS+by location: Coors 43, Chase 114, Dodgers Stadium 195, and Nationals Stadium 292. Perhaps Coors field is the only location where Jake Lamb should not start in the postseason.

Jim: I am going to disagree. Let’s play the old Player A/Player B game:

  • Player A: 2017 OPS vs. LHP = .572; career OPS vs. LHP = .573
  • Player B: 2017 OPS vs. LHP = .746; career OPS vs. LHP = .718
  • Player C: 2017 OPS vs. LHP = .625; career OPS vs. LHP = .673

Obviously, Player A is Lamb. But B is Adam Rosales, and C is Daniel Descalso. Both likely would be offensive upgrades over Lamb against a left-hander, and it’s not as if Lamb’s defense is enough to tip the balance back towards him. He has started 24 times against a left-handed starter this year, and it just hasn’t worked. Hoping it’ll suddenly work in the post-season seems counter-intuitive to me.

Is Taijuan Walker going to miss out on a playoff rotation spot?

Keegan: I know this is likely an unpopular opinion, but I actually think Godley could be the odd man out. Lovullo has a difficult decision no doubt about it as all 5 have had flashes of being spectacular this season. Even Tai was dominating in the finale against the Giants before the disastrous 4th and 5th innings. It's not a huge deal because the odd man out is going to be the long man.

Nate: I would imagine he gets in and Corbin gets bumped to the bullpen due to Corbin’s success last year pitching in relief.

Makakilo: Greinke, Godley, and Ray are aces! I pick them for the first three spots with high confidence. I am in a quandary about the difficult decision of Corbin or Walker for the fourth spot.

The easy part is the tiebreaker – if I decide they are equal I pick Walker because he is under team control through 2020, while Corbin is under team control through 2018.

Now the tougher parts. I looked at recent games

  • Bad inning. Walker has the better bad inning by a slim margin. On 8 September against the Padres, with 2 outs in the fourth inning, Corbin allowed 6 ER in the remainder of that inning. On 17 September against the Giants, Walker allowed 3 runs in the fifth inning including a bases loaded walk. A TOOTBLAN ended the inning.
  • Latest six/seven games. Ignoring the two “bad-inning” games, I compared the latest six games for each pitcher. Corbin allowed 3 earned runs in 42.1 innings. Walker allowed 7 earned runs in 33.2 innings. My conclusion is Corbin pitched deeper into games (saving the bullpen) and Corbin allowed less earned runs (increasing winning chances).

I looked at two season-wide stats.

  • Location splits. While Walker and Corbin pitched about the same at Chase, Walker pitched better at Coors and Dodgers stadium.
  • ERA+. Baseball reference shows Walker has an ERA+ of 143, while Corbin has an ERA+ of 117.

In conclusion, Walker had the better bad inning by a slim margin, pitched better at Coors and Dodgers stadium, and had the better ERA+, while Corbin pitched better in the last six/seven games. The tiebreaker tips the scales to Walker as the fourth starter.

Jim: It’s a very interesting question. Walker’s overall stats for the year are still better than Patrick Corbin, but over the last month or so, Corbin has been better. Walker’s control seems to have deserted him: including today, he has 11 walks in his last 21.1 innings. That would be a real problem in the post-season, where you can’t afford to put men on base for some of the best hitters in the majors. Right now, I’d give Corbin the fourth slot. But considering Walker was Mike Hazen’s first big acquisition as GM, would he have the will to pull the trigger and sit him? I’m very curious to see what happens here.

Is a hot-dog a sandwich?

Keegan: I wish I could remember which Diamondbacks player replied, “I’ve never had someone bring me a hot dog after asking for a sandwich.” That sealed the deal for me that a hot dog is in fact not a sandwich.

Nate: I always just agree with whoever is asking this question. Also, here is a link to a wonderful “sandwich alignment chart.” I enjoy the radical sandwich anarchy box which calls a Pop-Tart a sandwich.

Makakilo:

  • Sometimes, it is largely a matter of what you decide to name something. For example calzone is a pizza while stromboli is a sandwich.
  • Sometimes, it is a matter of making rules. For example a sandwich must have one or two slices of bread and be symmetrical when viewed from the top or sides.
  • Sometimes, it is a matter of expert opinion. For example, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council wrote that the hot dog is in a category of its own and not a sandwich.
  • However, in this case history and culture are most important. Because hot dogs, like baseball, are an important part of American culture, they are not sandwiches. In 1893, sausages became standard food in baseball games. About 1900, they were served with bread so people could comfortably hold the very hot sausages. There are two stories of how the name “hot dog” started.
  • A New York Journal sports cartoonist, Tad Dorgan, drew a cartoon of barking dachshund sausages nestled warmly in rolls served at a New York Giant baseball game. Not sure how to spell "dachshund" he simply wrote "hot dog!" The cartoon is said to have been a sensation, thus coining the term "hot dog."
  • Culinary historians say the word "hot dog" began appearing in college magazines in the 1890s. In the fall of 1894, "dog wagons" sold hot dogs at the Yale dorms. The name was a sarcastic comment on the provenance of the meat.
  • Jumping ahead to March 28, 2017, MLB announced that Nathan’s is the league’s official hot dog.
  • During the 2017 season, National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (NHDSC) estimated that baseball fans will consume nearly 19 million hot dogs and more than 4.1 million sausages.

Jim: Back in London, a favored breakfast was the sausage and bacon torpedo sandwich from a place called Benji’s. So the sausage sandwich certainly does exist. Does restricting the sausage to a particular subset of the species make it no longer a sandwich? That’s a reasonable argument. But I’ve yet to see any agreement on what constitutes the definition of a sandwich. Call it whatever you want, I just call it delicious. :)

Player of the Week

Well, this wasn’t too much of a surprise. Doing something no other Arizona player has ever done before, will tend to give you a leg-up in the poll, and Martinez’s four home-run game against the Dodgers powered him to the biggest win of the season, getting 92% of the vote. Here are the updated totals, after all the voting for Week 23.

  1. Paul Goldschmidt: 327%
  2. Patrick Corbin: 245%
  3. Zack Greinke: 233%
  4. Robbie Ray: 230%
  5. Jake Lamb: 141%
  6. David Peralta: 137%
  7. Fernando Rodney: 106%
  8. Archie Bradley: 107%
  9. J.D. Martinez: 103%
  10. A.J. Pollock: 97%
  11. Chris Owings: 75%
  12. Brandon Drury: 60%
  13. Chris Iannetta: 54%
  14. Randall Delgado: 41%
  15. Taijuan Walker: 40%
  16. Nick Ahmed: 30%
  17. Zack Godley: 29%
  18. Ketel Marte: 28%
  19. T.J. McFarland: 27%
  20. Jeremy Hazelbaker: 25%
  21. Jimmie Sherfy, 18%
  22. Chris Herrmann: 16%
  23. J.J. Hoover: 9%
  24. Yasmany Tomas: 7%
  25. Daniel Descalso: 6%
  26. Jake Barrett: 5%
  27. Andrew Chafin: 2%
  28. Anthony Banda: 1%

A 4-3 week for the Diamondbacks, with the starting pitching the main driving force - but some good offensive performances as well, with Martinez continuing to do his thing, and Pollock bouncing back. Likely not to be anywhere near as one-sided as last week, I suspect!

Poll

Who was the Player of the Week, Sep 11-17

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Zack Godley: 8 IP, 5 H, 7:0 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
    (7 votes)
  • 37%
    Zack Greinke: 15 IP, 7 H, 14:1 K:BB, 1.20 ERA
    (23 votes)
  • 34%
    J.D. Martinez: 10-for-23, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 1.437 OPS
    (21 votes)
  • 16%
    A.J. Pollock: 9-for-23, HR, 10 RBI, 1.156 OPS
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Robbie Ray: 7 IP, 6 H, 10:0 K:BB, 1.29 ERA
    (0 votes)
61 votes total Vote Now