This week, with guest contributor edbigghead! If you’re interested in being the guest panelist next week, speak up in the comments. The first one to do so (with a valid email address on file!) will be sent the questions for that round table on Saturday afternoon, and will get to answer them alongside the rest of the panel... And with that said, on to this week’s largely content discussion.
A winning road-trip - how satisfied are you with that?
James: I’m an entirely satisfied with the overall results of the road trip. Sure, it’s nice when the Diamondbacks sweep other teams, but the reality is that the team is going to have some down days and lose some games. The important thing is how the team responds. So far, the team has responded well to adversity. Avoiding losing streaks and winning series is how one wins the division.
Michael: That’s exactly what they’re supposed to do if they want to make the playoffs. Like last year, the goal is win ⅔ at home and play above .500 on the road. Last year they were 41-40 on the road while going 62-29 at home. Winning all 3 series is big on the first road trip is a very nice start, but there are 72 more road games ahead.
Edbigghead: I am completely satisfied. Obviously winning on the road is very important, and winning on the road against St Louis and San Fran are big in my big-book.
Dan: Entirely satisfied. As Michael noted above, we’re doing what we need to be doing, and beyond that the team as a whole is overperforming according to my somewhat pessimistic expectations, and doing so in ways that feel broadly plausible and sustainable going forward.
Makakilo: 100% satisfied! With a streak of five series wins, this season is looking as great as last season!
Keegan: Like James I am waiting to see how the team responds when the pendulum swings the other way. How will the guys react during the dog days of summer as the bumps and bruises continue to build? I think they are built to weather that adversity. The team played tremendously on this road trip with the only frustrating loss, for me, being the walkoff surrendered to the Giants.
Alexander: I think this road trip is a step in the right direction. Like James and Keegan discussed, the eventual downfall is what we are all afraid of. Zach Godley has been magical, but he could very well lose 2 of his next 3.
Who were the standout players over the last week for Arizona?
James: Paul Goldschmidt comes to mind. First, he continued his rough start. Then he went into San Francisco and “got right” in a big way. Zack Godley was also tremendous in his start this week.
Michael: Goldschmidt loves hitting in San Francisco and Los Angeles, that trend continues. 4 bombs in the final 5 games on the trip and has caught fire at the plate. McFarland was a game saver in last night’s win and got shafted by batted ball luck against Taylor in the 7th inning of the first game.
Edbigghead: Descalso and Ahmed are obvious answers. With Goldy hitting well in SF and LA.
Dan: Goldy, agreed. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I was concerned. But it was just a slow start, it looks like, and he’s very much back on track. Given that we’ve been leaning pretty heavily thus far on our starting pitching, seeing Goldy begin to come around is welcome. Godley, honestly, not quite so much as the rest of y’all...I recapped his latest start, and watched every pitch he threw, and it remains my feeling that it looked a helluva lot better in the box score than it did in what passes for reality. I feel bullish on Godley, but not quite as confident as the rest of you seem to be. That start actually got me thinking about the humidor effect on breaking pitches, because he didn’t have it in SF and while the start turned out well, he was a big ole mess in terms of control.
Makakilo: Zack Godley is amazing! He stands out!
- Two outstandingly great starts. He has allowed zero earned runs in 14 innings! He has struck out 12 batters and walked one batter. He leads the NL in several stats.
- One bad start(today) - which stood out because he was left in the game. The bullpen had been depleted the previous game - so he took one for the team.
Nevertheless, it is heartening that Goldschmidt is showing clear signs (3 homers and 8 hits over 4 games) that he is breaking out of his slump. Plus another home run in today’s game! Maybe next week will be his turn to stand out.
Keegan: For the sake of variety from the above responses, I will go with T.J. McFarland. He was a bit underutilized to begin the season and was 10 days between appearances in this series against Los Angeles. When Tai Walker was pulled after the 2nd inning of his start, the Dodgers had a prime opportunity to knock McFarland around and regain some momentum. That would have stretched Arizona’s bullpen thin, but he stood his ground and shut the Dodgers down for 4 innings. Huge performance from him.
Alexander: Easily it is Zach Godley. His curveball has been one of the best pitches in baseball. It is the cliche answer but Godley may be the most important player for the Diamondbacks to achieve success.
What was your reaction to the Lovullo/Molina dust-up?
James: My only real issue with the entire incident is that there is simply no excuse for Timmons not ejecting Molina as well as Lovullo. For once I have to agree with Derrick Hall though. While the umps might have gotten the call wrong on the field (leaving Molina in), the league still got it right and handed out appropriate suspensions to both Molina and Lovullo.
Michael: Lovullo probably could have used better words when he was referencing Molina, but at the same time Molina bumped the umpire and took a swing at Lovullo. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some time of calculation to try to set off Molina as well considering how hot-headed the guy gets when something goes against him. Hopefully MLB upholds the suspension.
Edbigghead: How can Molina get away with bumping/pushing an umpire like that? Torey was gonna get tossed no matter, but somehow Molina stays in the game after making aggressive physical contact with blue during his juvenile attempt to claw at Torey only because Torey called him a bad word. The umps dropped the ball on allowing Molina to stay in.
Dan: Yeah, this. I didn’t wind up watching that game, so I missed the action in real time, but seriously, Molina’s conduct was not okay.
Makakilo: Lovullo did what any great manager would do. The umpire immediately ejected Lovullo before listening to what he had to say - a move that did not seem fair. Lovullo let loose with words that accurately reflected his feelings about the situation.
Molina stepped into the discussion with obvious intent to start a physical confrontation. He made repeated contact with the umpire - so it was puzzling and irritating that he was not ejected.
Keegan: Lovullo could have had better word choice and directed his anger more clearly towards the umpire and left Molina completely out of it. I was kind of blown away that Molina was allowed to stay in the game because he essentially escalated the situation. Lovullo and Diamondbacks can’t get too mad at the concept of pitch framing, a strategy they have employed on their own as well.
Alexander: I agree with Keegan, the word choice was not great. To me, it seemed like Lovullo was instigating Molina to when he reacted Lovullo just threw up his hands as if he was not at fault. With Molina, he is the best defensive catcher in baseball who will get calls that other players simply cannot.
Are you concerned about the heavy usage of our A-bullpen?
James: Yes and no. My biggest worry with the heavy usage of the A-pen is that it has been needed usage. Randall Delgado is still a few weeks away from returning, but I am hoping that he gives some stability to the front of the bullpen. I just have no faith in Jorge De La Rosa right now, T.J. McFarland has been a crap-shoot in each outing going all the way back to the beginning of last season. Andrew Chafin is having some rough outings here in the early-going this season. Of those three, Chafin is the only one I have reasonable hopes for turning things around.
Michael: It’s been very concerning, although the Diamondbacks haven’t had a blowout victory yet this year. Part of that is the team has had issues putting extra runs on the board on days they have great pitching and the days they have great offense the pitching falters a bit. I’d definitely like to see the team upgrade the bullpen at the deadline this year.
Edbigghead: Not at all, smoke em if you got em, amirite? I would like the B squad to be able to handle things but we have faced some tough teams so far. I do not trust the likes of McERA to come in and handle things if the game is close.
Dan: I will admit that I was kind of concerned last night, especially with Archie--his inning and change were kind of a mess, and we were damn lucky to get that Ahmed homer in the 8th. But then, seeing the rest of the bullpen (and the bats, oh, the bats) step up today after Walker went down early...well. Well and well. I think we’ll be fine. And also, let me just say that I continue to vastly prefer the Brad Boxberger experience to the Fernando Rodney experience.
Makakilo: In the context that this bullpen was rebuilt during the offseason, I am not concerned about overuse. Instead I am pleased that they are getting the job done!
Archie Bradley is the best! Because he is so outstanding, and because the D-backs are winning against excellent teams, it will be a constant effort to keep his use balanced.
Keegan: The most frustrating aspect about their overuse is that it could have been avoided at times. I thought that the Wednesday finale against the Giants was a prime opportunity to bring in McFarland with a 4 run lead in the 7th. It’s odd to me because Lovullo is keen on getting his position players adequate rest. It should begin to balance out as the season progresses forward.
Alexander: I wouldn’t say that it is frustrating, more-so that it is confusing. Lovullo has mentioned that they don’t want to waste Boxberger now and prefer to save him for the end of the season. The Dodgers can and most likely will go on a run like last season, you cant win games that haven’t happened yet.
James: I was torn between the Mets and Braves, but I am going to go with the Braves. The Mets are looking like the team they should have been for the last two seasons. However, they have the same problem the Diamondbacks faced both last season and again this season. The Mets simply do not have any depth to weather injuries. Given that the team’s biggest issue the last two years has been their health, I’m not bullish on them staying that way until October. The Braves, on the other hand, look to be building off of the success they were flashing at the end of last season. Atlanta is pretty much in the same position now that the Cubs were in three seasons ago when they hit the playoffs one year ahead of schedule. Prospects are coming into their own. Payroll is opening up. Young talent is building on the early experience .
Michael: You can thank Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa for the Braves being where they are today, but I’d have to with the Mets being the more legit team. The Mets are off to a hotter start than the Braves, although they don’t have a lot of pitching depth and their starters have a long injury list over the past few seasons. It will be interesting to see if a new manager helps in that regard, Terry Collins was terrible at managing his pitchers. The Mets if healthy have the pieces to win a World Series.
Edbigghead: The Braves are most legit imo. Most of their offense have been hitting pretty well and to piggy-back on what others have mentioned; Stewart and La Russa have set the Braves up to win. I am impressed with the Mets hot start but fear injuries could derail their chances at maintaining their current pace. The Pirates have had a pretty easy start so far ( including MIA, CIN, DET). Not sure they will maintain.
Dan: Given the fire sale party the Pirates threw during the offseason, and given the Mets being, well, the Mets (a sudden gust of wind from an unexpected direction could easily land half their starting rotation on the DL), I’d have to say the Braves as well. I don’t think they’re quite there yet, but they’ve got a lot of youngsters coming into their own and they’re going to keep improving and getting more consistent as the year goes on.
Makakilo: Braves. They are deep in talent, including some former Diamondbacks. Except for Ender Inciarte, all of the main starting lineup are hitting better than OPS+ of 133. And starters have ERA+ s of 320, 136, 120, 99, and 56. The ability to play better each season for the next few years was a positive factor.
Keegan: Atlanta, but I don’t see any of those three teams as a playoff contender this season. The Braves are coming up on a run similar to the one the Astros are currently on here in a few seasons.
Alexander: The Braves are outstanding, they are playing very well and they boast one of the top farm systems in the league. Oh and the phenom Ronald Acuna is still in Triple-A.
Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals: all playing worse than expected. Which one is in most trouble?
James: I’m going to have to go with the Cubs. The Nationals are still the cream of the crop in the NL East. The Mets just don’t have the horses to keep up with the Nationals once Washington gets rolling. As much as I love having a 5.5 game lead on the Dodgers in the NL West, I still stand by the idea that they will have to continue to suffer injury woes in order to not eventually right the ship. They are not going to run away and hide with the division this season, but they are not going to be buried. By the end of the season, the Dodgers will be back in the thick of things. The Cubs are in a rough spot though. The Brewers and Cardinals both improved this offseason. Even the Pirates are looking decent right now. Despite Yu Darvish replacing Jake Arrieta, Chicago’s pitching is still suspect. Chicago is loaded with young talent. They simply need to stay close and they’ll be in a good position to win the NL Central. However, they cannot afford to dig themselves much of a hole this season, or they will be looking to make up too much ground on Milwaukee to be able to come out on top.
I do have a feeling that all three of the teams named in this question are likely to roll with the talent they have and make few, if any, moves as the season moves on. I think all three of these teams are already lining themselves up for the next FA class and are as concerned with how they will be winning in 2019 and 2020 as they are with winning this year. That means, the teams they are running out there right now are probably the teams that will win or lose it
Michael: Cubs probably have the toughest road to the playoffs with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh looking much better. The Nationals and Dodgers have the best two rosters in the NL and the Nationals record is more because of the Mets success early on. In terms of division play the Nationals competition is strictly the Mets and the Dodgers competition is strictly the Diamondbacks.
Edbigghead: As much as I like to talk crap about LA I know they will snap out of candy land and start to win again, especially if Turner comes back as usual Turner and Kershaw does not break his back. With that said I believe they will not match last season’s record, glory, or a trip to the WS. We will however most certainly battle them for position in the NL west all season long. The Cubs have depth like LA plus a great Manager in Hipster Guy Maddon. The Cubs will get better as the season goes on. The Nationals are set up, on paper, to win. They have big names and big guns, but a brand new manager. I say the Nats are in the most trouble at this point. I mean on paper The Nats have had a great team season after recent season, though if you have to change managers every season (seems like) what is wrong with your team/franchise?
Dan: I’d honestly say the Dodgers, though that’s partly informed by their performance in the five games we’ve already (!) taken from them so far in 2018, and also because of the elevated expectations that the baseball world seems to have for them year in and year out in these times. Their lineup is fearsome and young and will only get better, but their starting rotation and their bullpen both look deeply questionable to me (as, frankly, they did last year as well). They rolled the dice with their starting staff last year, beyond Kershaw, and the grab bag they accumulated worked out. I don’t have any expectation that they can pull that off two years in a row, and they’ve still got pretty much the same approach. Kenta Maeda...starter, reliever, coin flip, who knows? And Rich Hill, according to the depth chart is their #3 starter this year. He didn’t look good tonight, and shelling him looked easy, frankly. It looks to me like the chewing gum and baling wire that held their pitching staff together last year (the last couple of years, really, once Greinke signed with us) is already coming apart, and that’s gonna be a persistent problem for them, and a hard one for them to fix. As for their bullpen, Jansen looks shaky so far, as many have noticed, and how they even get to Jansen with their starting rotation not going deep into games...well. Again, lots of coin flips, open questions, dice rolls in their offseason roster augmentation that don’t seem particularly to be paying off just yet. We shall see. 8-D
Keegan: The Chicago Cubs have been in the most trouble dating back to last season. Outside of the National League West, the National League Central could be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball. Remember that the Brewers were leading that division for much of last season. Which doesn’t make all that much sense to me considering the tremendous amount of talent they have on that team.
Alexander: The Nationals seem to be the most worrisome. A change in manager was more focused on assuring playoff success, but with this team faltering it seems as if the decision was not the right one. Also, with Bryce Harper seemingly planning his escape this team seems to be in a “oh crap we need to win” mode.
If you had to live in another country, which one would you pick?
James: England. I’m getting up there in age, but I still haven’t given up on making this a reality.
Edbigghead: New Zealand. Dan: Possibly NZ (who wouldn’t want to live in Middle Earth?), but I really want to say Spain, though I don’t speak the language. But the tapas...good lord, the tapas. Yes to the tapas, all the time. All the tapas.
Makakilo: Hawaii is my choice. Although it is not a foreign country, it has the feel of an Island country.
- The spirit of Aloha is awesome.
- It is a state deep in culture. It even has a native language.
- It celebrates holidays that are based in Hawaii history.
- Visitors from foreign countries are common.
Alexander: The easy answer would be Canada with their football (Go Argos!) and hockey, but England seems to be the right choice.