So, how’s it going? :)
Makakilo: D-backs caught a tidal wave that will take them far into the playoffs. After sweeping the Dodgers, who are never easy to sweep, they swept the Rockies who desperately needed wins to keep their hopes alive. The D-backs’ 7 game lead in the wild card race, with 25 games remaining to be played is unlikely to be challenged. And the likely home field advantage in the play-in game is awesome! And speaking of optimism, the SnakePit rally cats are feeling unneeded with 52 consecutive innings with the lead. Overall, it’s the cat’s meow!
ISH95: I don't think it’s hyperbole to say that it literally couldn't have gone better this week. The Diamondbacks have resumed at playing at the level they were at in the first half, if not better. Their main competition, the Rockies, have started their long delayed, but long expected, fall off a cliff.
Keegan: The past week has been fun to watch except for a few bullpen meltdowns. I’m looking forward to not having to rely on some of the lesser arms in the bullpen come October. Nice to see the team not limping through the 4th quarter of the season. We are likely going to be able to get postseason revenge on either the Rockies or Brewers at Chase, and that is enough for me.
Steven: About as well as one could hope. A 10 game winning streak, and the Dodgers are losing a bunch, so what’s not to love. The pitching staff is performing admirably against some tough opponents, and the offense is playing well too.
Jim: Mustn’t grumble, he said, with traditional British understatement. How about, unprecedented in the history of the SnakePit? It’s amazing what a turnaround from the destruction at the hands of the Twins, when the season seemed poised on a knife-edge. Even if our Fangraph playoff odds never actually dropped back below 76.5%, it certainly seemed a lot less certain.
Michael: Took all weekend, but I finally was able to take the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom All Stories from a New Game+ file record. Beat the record by 3 full minutes. As for the Dbacks, they are playing their best baseball at the right time. I was a bit worried they’d limp into the postseason, but it now almost seems inevitable that the Wild Card game will be at Chase Field on October 4th. Hopefully I’ll see you guys all there.
What have been the keys to this remarkable stretch of baseball?
Makakilo: Starting pitching is key to the whole season. As Jim McLennan wrote about, the D-backs are the first team in the integrated era of baseball that has five pitchers make 20 starts, all with an ERA+ of 120 or better. Remarkable!
Even with great starting pitching, winning 10 games in a row is amazing. I credit the winning streak to an improvement in offense. This season, before the winning streak, the D-backs averaged 4.8 runs per game. During the 10 game winning streak, the D-backs averaged 6.1 runs per game, an increase of 26%. Remarkable and amazing!
Starting before this 10 game stretch, I see an improving trend in the offense – less games with little or no offense. Each month, I counted the number of games that the D-backs scored one run or less.
- April: 5 games
- May: 4 games
- June: 2 games
- July: 5 games
- August: 1 game
- September: none so far
Keegan: Being the type of site Snake Pit is generally leaning towards statistical analysis, the psychological aspect of the game can sometimes be forgotten. The starting pitchers have been able to settle in and breathe easy before they even taken the mound because of the team’s success scoring in the 1st inning. Playing all week in Chase and Coors can really help jumpstart an offense, and the starting rotation has not struggled in two difficult pitching environments.
Steven: The key for me has been the level headed approach that the coaching staff has employed from day one. They didn’t freak out and change a whole bunch of things when things weren’t going their way, but everyone just kept working hard, and not losing confidence. Both the offense and the pitching staff have gone through minor slumps this year, but they both appear to be firing on all cylinders now, and hopefully will continue to do so for the remainder of the year!
Jim: Anyone remember the late innings of the first game in New York? David Peralta threw out the potential go-ahead run for the Mets at the plate, and the D-backs recovered to win. At the time, I wondered if that might get the team going again (and know I wasn’t alone in doing that), but I doubt anyone would have called this. The starting pitching has been amazing. They are 10-0 over this time, with the following line:
AZ starters: 60.0 IP, 40 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 21 BB, 66 K, 1.80 ERA
As long as that keeps up, it’s going to be pretty hard for opposing teams to beat us: they’ll need to limit our hitting to three runs or fewer, and that hasn’t been happening.
Michael: The Diamondbacks had the 3rd highest streak of consecutive innings lead since the start of the Live Ball Era. That’s not by accident, the Diamondbacks coming into play on Sunday have the best park-adjusted rotation ERA in baseball (79 ERA-/127 ERA+). As Jim pointed out, the Dbacks have gotten not good starting pitching, but great starting pitching and it’s coming from everyone. Paul Goldschmidt has been playing at an MVP level during this stretch and the Dbacks are executing in big situations. Heck, even Chris Herrmann is contributing.
How much does the sweep of the Dodgers “matter”?
Makakilo: It matters for two reasons. First, the D-backs are confident that when they play well they can beat the Dodgers in a playoff series. Second, the seeds of doubt have been planted in the Dodgers, who were likely overflowing with optimism. Those doubts will add stress to the Dodger players and hopefully they make mistakes in the playoff series.
Keegan: Significantly more than Dodgers fans think it does. I really don’t care that we didn’t face Kershaw or Darvish. The Diamondbacks handled them rather easily, and it’s not as if the Dodgers have been blowing the Diamondbacks out of the water all season. The Dodgers swept us earlier in the season in an entire series decided by 1 run games. The Arizona Diamondbacks match up with them the best, and I think they know that.
Jim: It is true that we didn’t face Kershaw, whom we will see twice in a Division Series. But the high-volume shrieking assertions from Dodgers fandom that the sweep meant absolutely nothing, pretty much proved that it did. Psychologically, this team now knows they can play at the Dodgers’ level, and handle them. It wasn’t just about the offense taking the back end of their rotation to the cleaners: it was also about our starting pitchers all but shutting down their hitters. If the Dodgers aren’t worried about the facing D-backs, they’re stupid. And they’re not stupid.
Michael: I think the sweep had a larger psychological effect on the Dbacks than the Dodgers. The Dbacks offense scuffled for six weeks after a poor showing against the Dodgers and have just rebounded from that, finally getting their post-July 4th record to .500. The Dbacks strength is pitching and a league average offense, which in Chase Field is basically 5 runs/game. Rich Hill is probably the only of the 3 pitchers the Dbacks will face in a hypothetical 5-game series, so I don’t read too much into that.
How has the winning streak changed your expectations for the rest of the season?
Makakilo: Unchanged is my high confidence that the D-backs will play in the postseason. What did change is that in a playoff series against the Dodgers, the D-backs are now the slight favorites instead of underdogs with significant chances.
Keegan: Feels much better than being a Rockies fan at this time that much is true. Limping through September only to lose the 1 game play in would be extremely disappointing. I wouldn’t say that it has changed my expectations because I feel that the team is playing to its true capabilities recently. The team we saw in July and August was not the team we have seen for the majority of the season.
Steven: It matters a lot. The division is not in the picture barring a collapse of epic proportions, but this sweep is a great boost to the confidence of a team that could very well face the Dodgers come the NLDS. Not laying down or being intimidated will have a very positive effect should they meet.
Jim: Not much. I’m more confident there will be more games than 162, and that’s going to be totally glorious. I’ve been content, simply to enjoy the ride, for the past five months. Where that ride stops, and makes us get off, doesn’t concern me. Whatever happens the rest of the way, this has been the best Diamondbacks’ season in a long time, and nothing will change that.
Michael: It wasn’t a question of whether or not the Dbacks would make the postseason, rather if they can win enough games to host. The hot streak has removed most of that doubt, as the Dbacks are 6.5 games ahead of Colorado and 7 ahead of Milwaukee. In the middle of August, it looked the team that gets hot as the calendar flipped to September was going to be the team that takes the first Wild Card spot. The Dbacks are that team.
Are you worried about the bullpen’s recent struggles?
Makakilo: It’s hard to complain with a 10 game winning streak. However, I decided to rank relief pitchers by how often they pitch unsuccessfully - which I defined as either pulled from the game without recording an out or allowing more runs than innings pitched. I excluded from the rankings long relief pitchers Delgado (on DL) and Shipley, and Sherfy (3 appearances is a small sample size, although 6 strikeouts in 4 innings is impressive).
Percentage of appearances that were unsuccessful
- Bradley: 4%
- Hernandez: 11%
- Rodney: 13%
- Chafin: 13%
- Mc Farland: 18% with August struggles
- Jorge De La Rosa: 19% with August struggles
- Hoover: 23%
- Barrett: 25% with August struggles
- Bracho: 29%
I have high confidence in closer Rodney, and relievers Bradley, Hernandez, and Chafin. Hoover looks good, too.
I am concerned that in August McFarland allowed 19 earned runs in 12.2 innings, although he pitched well against the Dodgers on 31 August. I am concerned about JDLR with 3 recent appearances (30 July, 13 August, 1 September) without recording an out.
Keegan: Not really because the bullpen pitchers that are harming us in key moments will likely not be utilized in October. 2 pitchers, likely Godley and Walker, will be moved to the bullpen should Arizona make it to the NLDS. Jimmy Sherfy is going to get his cup of coffee in September to prove he belongs, and I expect Jared Miller to be here as well before too long. Those two should be key additions to the bullpen.
Steven: Not at all. They are just having a down time. As a matter of fact, I am watching Jimmy Sherfy mow down some Rockies right now, and it is glorious.
Jim: It’s fortunate they are having their issues in games where the starting pitching and/or offense are doing their part, and so haven’t blown a lead. There’s no doubt an August ERA of 5.09 is not very good, but a chunk of that is just reliever volatility. But I must confess, I do not have much confidence in the likes of T.J. McFarland.
Michael: The bullpen isn’t set up well in case a Dbacks starter can’t go 6 innings. Fortunately, the team will only need 4 starters in the postseason and depending on matchups you could have Godley, Walker, or Corbin chew up some middle innings in case the starter pitches 5 dominant innings. Randall Delgado is close to returning, although elbow innings are always a cause for concern, so that should help the bullpen in the middle innings. Also, as silly as this sounds, maybe Sherfy should replace Barrett in the October bullpen.
Any thoughts on the September call-ups?
Keegan: This essentially ties in with my answer above. I don’t feel that any bats down in the minors would be a significant improvement on anyone on the current depth chart except for Christian Walker. The pitching additions are where Arizona can really improve, but so far Sherfy is the only call-up I am excited about. I would like to see Miller and Anthony Banda here soon. Negron does not appear to be ready for the majors. John Ryan Murphy needs to be attached to Jeff Mathis’ hip.
Steven: Not really, it was about as I expected. I think that there won’t be any major contributors except for Sherfy and probably John Ryan Murphy, but they will all play their roles and get some very valuable big league experience.
Jim: Can I just say how incredible Jimmie Sherfy was this afternoon in Colorado? Coming in and punching out the side in the eighth, in front of a hostile crowd and with the game virtually on the line? Well done. I think he’s going to be a big arm for the team in September, and on into the post-season. Potential set-up man for 2018? [Or perhaps even closer, if the team lets Archie Bradley go back to the rotation - though I’m doubtful that will ever happen] Most of the rest, however, are there to allow the post-season roster a bit of a breather. I imagine we’ll see that especially in the final week, after we clinch home-field, as we get the rotation lined up and rest key players.
Michael: Sherfy is probably the one guy who will generate a lot of buzz considering how well he’s pitched the last two years. He looks like a keeper now that his command issues that plagued him in college and early in his pro career are mostly behind him. I would have liked to see Jared Miller get a call-up, and it’s still possible if Reno gets eliminated early in the PCL postseason to add an extra LHP to the bullpen and see if he can replicate his success. Seems like the org also chose Negron over Walker, although Negron had a solid spring so maybe that’s the reward for that. The rest for now are basically roster filler that you don’t want to see very often in games.
Close Encounters was re-released this week. Do you believe in UFOs?
Makakilo: In the Phoenix area, UFOs were widely seen on March 23 1997, and again in 2007 and 2008. They were attributed to flares released by the military. Who knows for sure? Maybe aliens like the climate near Phoenix.
There are many intriguing possibilities to consider. Are UFOs evidence of aliens from another planet? Are UFOs evidence of aliens from under our oceans? Are UFOs evidence of military testing of technology that is decades ahead of cutting edge? Are UFOs evidence of time travelers from earth?
A related question is whether aliens landed in Roswell. I visited Roswell on the 60th anniversary and had unbelievable fun. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. The smoke of Roswell has lasted 70 years. I am convinced something happened. Did aliens land at Roswell? Was Roswell a cover-up for something else? Did aliens land at a different nearby site, like Corona? Was the alien story a cover up of the possibility that Japan could send weapon-laden weather balloons to America? Many books have been written about the possibilities.
In the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Ben Gates finds a presidential book that contains answers to the biggest cover-ups in history. Wouldn’t it be eye-opening to have an hour with that book?
Keegan: I have always been fascinated by extraterrestrial life (aliens) since I was very young. I find it hard to believe that we are the only intelligent beings in the entire universe. I would like to think that the government is hiding evidence of other worldly beings at Area 51. Beam me up, fam.
Steven: I don’t know that I believe in UFO’s in the standard sense, but I do believe that there are aliens out there. I think that some UFO encounters can be explained logically, while others could be something as simple as governmental testing. So, while I don’t think there is some little green dude strolling around the planet in a flying saucer, I do think that there are intelligent beings somewhere in the universe. It will just be a long time before we could ever meet. Unfortunately.
Jim: The thing about the Phoenix Lights is there were TWO separate and distinct events in the 1997 sighting. The second, I’m inclined to believe was flares. But the triangular craft seen flying over virtually the entire length of the state earlier that night? Much less discussed, and certainly not flares. I think black budget military tech is a potential explanation.
More generally, I think 98% of UFO sightings do have a rational explanation: misidentified natural phenomena, hoaxes, etc. But there are a very small number which are pretty hard to explain. Does that make them visits from extra-terrestrials? I think there is life on alien planets, but it seems a very long way to come for no real purpose!
Michael: Aliens may indeed exist, but we’re at the stage where you can’t prove or disprove it. Then again, I don’t read or watch Science Fiction either, it’s not my genre.
Player of the Week
As expected, double-barreled Corbin action powered him to the top of last week’s voting again, this time with 65% of the vote. But a good showing by Rodney, whose five-save week got 27%. Here are the full standings including all votes through Week 21.
- Paul Goldschmidt: 327%
- Patrick Corbin: 245%
- Zack Greinke: 233%
- Robbie Ray: 211%
- Jake Lamb: 141%
- David Peralta: 137%
- Fernando Rodney: 106%
- Archie Bradley: 103%
- Chris Owings: 75%
- Brandon Drury: 60%
- A.J. Pollock: 58%
- Randall Delgado: 41%
- Taijuan Walker: 37%
- Chris Iannetta: 34%
- Nick Ahmed: 30%
- Zack Godley: 29%
- T.J. McFarland: 27%
- Jeremy Hazelbaker: 25%
- Ketel Marte: 24%
- Chris Herrmann: 16%
- J.D. Martinez: 11%
- J.J. Hoover: 9%
- Yasmany Tomas: 7%
- Daniel Descalso: 6%
- Jake Barrett: 5%
- Andrew Chafin: 2%
- Anthony Banda: 1%
Hard to select players this week, when virtually everyone (save Silvino Bracho) was a positive contributor. But here are the five chosen by the judging panel.
Who was the player of the week, Aug 27-Sep 3?
This poll is closed
Chris Iannetta: 5-for-15, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1.244 OPS
A.J. Pollock: 6-for-19, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.199 OPS
Robbie Ray: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 10:2 K:BB, 1.35 ERA
Jimmie Sherfy: 2 IP, 0 H, 3:0 K:BB, 0.00 ERA
Taijuan Walker: 5 IP, 3 H, 10:3 K:BB, 0.00 ERA