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SnakePit Round Table: Swept Away edition

The worst week of the season so far, as the D-backs were swept at home by the Nationals. Is it time to head for the shelters?

Japan Commemorates 3rd Anniversary Of Great East Japan Earthquake Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

Your weekly “Are you concerned about Goldschmidt?”

Makakilo: No for two reasons.

  • In the last week (six games) he hit two singles, a double, had 5 walks, and an RBI.
  • He is hitting the ball hard. On 11 May, against the National, I wrote in the gameday thread that he hit the ball hard. Sprankton wrote, “108.2 mph exit velocity from Goldy on the hit that’s his second hardest hit ball of the season.”

Dano_In_Tucson: Yeah, kinda, I think. If it’s just his head not being right, which I could certainly understand because, while it’s not like I’ve ever had a month or so of relative fail (nope, never, never happened, not at all, no way), I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Goldy’s had those periods before, i think, and he’s always sorted them out eventually.What concerns me is that maybe it’s not just psychological, and that there might be some burgeoning physical thing that will lead to him being remanded to the DL (like some final payoff from the elbow thing he was experiencing last September). If it’s just a mental thing, my sense is that Goldy will work it out, as he has before, and then, well, look out. Also, per Makakilo--he’s been making better contact this week. I don’t have the command of the metrics, but in the games I’ve watched I’ve noticed him having some better at-bats and making better contact when he does connect. So I dunno. We’ll see.

Steven: He’s turning a corner and still taking walks. I would like to see him be more aggressive early on in the count for a couple weeks, because he’s being targeted with early strikes. I think everyone on the offense is pressing, especially when you can’t score like you know you’re capable of doing.

Wesley: Once again I am not terribly concerned. It seems like he’s turning a corner finally to me. I’ll be concerned when it’s the all Star break and he’s still slumping.

Keegan: No, it’s so historically not like him that it’s unlikely this could continue for much longer. It probably will be the worst offensive season of his career because of the sluggish start, but he’s bound to come around. His contact rate on pitches in the zone is down, weak contact percentage is up as well as his strikeout rate. It’s about as bad as we’ve ever seen him. The fact that the team has the record it currently does in the absence of his bat gives me hope for the rest of the season.

James: Yes and no. My concern with Goldy is that he has started to swing at pitches outside the zone that he usually does not. I still temper that concern a bit though, as I do not know why he is swinging at those pitches. Is he swinging at them because he is not recognizing them like he used to? If that’s the case, then my concern is increased. If, however, he is swinging at them mostly because he is just pressing too hard trying to make something, anything happen, well then, my level of concern remains about the same.My bigger concern is for the offense overall. Without Goldy hitting, the offense has almost entirely disappeared. A.J. Pollock, despite having what is currently an MVP-caliber season, cannot carry this offense by himself. Not only is Goldy not currently hitting, but no one else is stepping up. That is bothersome.

What about the struggles of the offense in general, especially with RISP?

Makakilo: A few weeks ago, Matthew Thomas wrote that the difference between runs scored by a team’s hitters with RISP, and runs allowed by a team’s pitchers with RISP, was highly predictive of which teams made the playoffs in 2017.

  • In 2017, when the D-backs made the playoffs, the D-back difference was + 102, which was the eighth best in the Majors.
  • Through 13 April of this season, the D-backs difference was +22, fifth best in the Majors – that ranking was solidly playoff bound.
  • Through 11 May, the difference had fallen to +14, eleventh best in the Majors. That ranking was borderline playoff-bound because 10 teams make the playoffs.

On 13 April, the D-backs had 10 wins and 3 losses. In the games between 14 April and 11 May, the D-backs scored 95 runs while allowing only 85 runs. Using the pythagorean formula from Baseball Reference, that translates to an expected pace of 89 wins per season.

My conclusion is that despite the drop in RISP difference, the D-backs continue to outscore their opponents at a pace that supports my expectation of postseason play.

Dano_In_Tucson: Gah. It’s been brutal to watch. But again, Cf. Makakilo, above. And also, we’ve been facing a murderer’s row of starting pitchers and very good teams all month, it seems like. I found myself wondering earlier today what it would feel like to have a string of series where we aren’t facing the likes of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, et al. Until the end of the month, facing the Brewers, the Mets (well, maybe not, depending on the starters we face), the Brewers again, the A’s, and finally the mildly tragic Cincinnati Reds, I’m just gonna wait and see.

Steven: I think it’s a side effect of the roster construction. With potentially 5 middle infielders playing at a time, and most of them known for their glove rather than their bat, you’re going to struggle. Combined with normally solid contributors struggling, it’s a recipe for long term disappointment. It was fine when the pitching was amazing, but once they started slipping and the bullpen seeing heavy usage, the formula wasn’t right for success.

Wesley: I think one, we had guys playing over their heads, and they have regressed back to career numbers, and guys who are actually solid just slumping. Combine the two and you have a recipe that’s not going to equal success. I think Souza is pressing too hard to make an impact coming back, and it’s shown in his numbers. I think we’ll be fine in the long run. We weren’t going to win every series, so we had to have a rough patch eventually.

Keegan: I’m fairly certain that I’ve seen somewhere that it has been a trend around the league. I could be wrong about that. The team just hasn’t seemed to string at bats together as they did last season. Lovullo has been quoted as being big on that subject. There has been little to no bridge between Peralta and Pollock with the only exception being Daniel Descalso. It’s frustrating to see because this is essentially the same first half lineup as last season with minor changes around the edges. Yes, Jake Lamb had his first half tear last season and has missed almost a month and a half this year, but that is countered by the early season tear A.J. Pollock has been on. Arizona played well in Pollock’s absence last season. Just too many guys not playing to their potential.James: I touched on this above. The lack of offense is starting to worry me a bit. My biggest concern is what the lack of offense is doing to the team’s pitching, both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Our ‘A’ bullpen is getting over-taxed trying to protect against the fact that the team has not been scoring.Yes, hitting with RISP is an issue. I am less concerned about that than I am about the hitting as a whole. Hitting with RISP is down across baseball this year. Arizona’s struggles in this regard are not unique. The fact that the other night the team ran out two starters with batting averages over .260 concerns me, especially when this team is still not known for taking walks. This team is slowly but surely becoming an OBP-focused team, but in order to get there, the hitting is coming to need to come around a bit more.

The bullpen has had a rough start to May as well. Any members you’re concerned about?

Makakilo: For the season, they all have an ERA+ of 157 or greater except Fernando Salas, who has not pitched well against the Dodgers, but pitched well otherwise. Today Jimmy Sherfy was added to the roster. An interesting question is whether Clay Buchholz will join the bullpen or become a starter? In any case, I am not concerned about the bullpen’s performance.

What about last week’s roundtable discussion of sustainability - due to six pitchers on a pace to exceed 73 games? The pace for the season has gone down for Bradley(89 to 83), Salas(78 to 75), and Boxberger(78 to 75). The pace of Hirano has edged upward (78 to 79). The other bullpen pitchers have picked up the pace (with Chafin at 79 and De La Rosa at 79). My conclusion is the sustainability has improved.

Dano_In_Tucson: On the whole, I’m worried that they’re gassed. Overall, though, nah, aside from maybe Salas and JDLR. Well, and Chafin also...he’s been a mess recently, leaving aside his outing Saturday afternoon.So, okay, maybe I am, a bit.

Not with our back end, though, which is refreshing--Archie and Box are solid, and Hirano seems reasonably trustworthy, I think, at this point. Getting to them, though, is kind of a long walk these days, when our starters don’t get through six innings.

Glad to see Barrett back today, and doing the business. Also, Bracho seemed steady and reliable this last time he was up on the major league roster. I think we maybe have some choices to make going forward with how we shuffle the front-end bullpen folks, but I think we’ve got enough good arms that we can figure it out.

Steven: It’s a by-product of having to shop the bargain bin. Solid one month, absolute garbage the next. I would rather have young guys see innings than afterthoughts like Jorge de la Rosa and Fernando Salas.

Wesley: I don’t think there’s much I can add to the discussion here, other than we are just seeing some statistical regression. The numbers will swing back the either way sooner or later.

Keegan: Andrew Chafin was becoming frustrating to watch there for a brief period of time. In 3 appearances from May 5th to the 9th he failed to retire all 5 batters he faced. I’m excited to see Sherfy back with the big league squad although it may be brief. It’s kind of the nature of the beast with bullpens though, and on the whole Arizona’s bullpen has been great with a few hiccups. It’d be nice to see the offense give them more runs and breathing room.

James: As a whole, the bullpen is actually still doing a fine job. However, I am starting to lose patience with Fernando Salas. Yes, he has actually had some better results than his peers, but those have come almost exclusively in low-leverage situations. Salas is no longer an arm I feel comfortable with the team relying on if the game is still close. For mop-up he is fine, otherwise, I would rather see someone else. The problem is, the offense has left too many games close, making it hard to keep Salas in low-leverage situations.I’m almost through with Jorge De La Rosa. He’s had some more luck than Salas in close situations, but too much of RDLR’s struggles have been clearly mental. The team has other options in the minors (including Sherfy who just came up) to be giving too many innings to a pitcher who is just not able to stay sharp on the mound.

Andrew Chafin has been very frustrating. However, I still give him a bit more leash, largely because he only seems to be coming in to pitch when his margin for error is close to zero. He has a long enough recent track record of success to garner a few more outings worth of faith out of me.

As we approach the quarter-mark, how do you see the NL West?

Dano_In_Tucson: Honestly, I think we’re good, and it’s going to be hard to dislodge us from where we are right now. I’m knocking on wood as I type this, but we posted a big lead early, and even if we play only slightly better than .500 ball the rest of the way, we have a good shot at the division title. And when our bats come alive again, and when we get some of our injured players back, I truly believe we are better than a .500 team.

Steven: Despite the struggles in May, we’re still right in the thick of things, with reinforcements close to comebacks. Jake Lamb and Shelby Miller will be welcome additions as we continue to fight in a tough NL West. Colorado looks great, San Francisco looks tough and the Dodgers will get healthy and rolling at some point.

Makakilo: Based on the last ten games, the D-backs and the Rockies are evenly matched and will fight for first place. The end of the season will be exciting! The Giants and the Dodgers are evenly matched and will fight for third place.

Wesley: I think it will be hard for us to not win the West at this point, but it is possible. The Rockies are good and assembled a dynamic bullpen. The Dodgers are going to get on a roll once they get back key cogs like Justin Turner, who is already rehabbing at Hi-A and played against Visalia last night

Keegan: Still up in the air to be honest and the Diamondbacks can’t lose focus by looking too far ahead. These guys know that. How pleasant is it that the Arizona is even in this position? I see Lovullo’s squad as more legitimate contenders than the Rockies and the Giants. At the end of the day it’s still the Dodgers who concern me the most.

James: With all the injuries the Diamondbacks are dealing with, I think the division is still up in the air. Los Angeles is borderline done, but the fork hasn’t been stuck in them yet. Despite Colorado nipping at Arizona’s heels, I have no faith that they can maintain the pace while running a run deficit - not playing in Colorado. San Francisco would be more worrisome if not for the injuries to their starting rotation. However, they are hanging around and have the salary space (and owner goodwill) to be aggressive at the deadline to improve the team. Arizona has had their opportunity to bury Los Angeles and the Giants, but they have not yet finished them off.

What do you think will happen with regard to the D-backs stadium situation?

Dano_In_Tucson: Oh, good lord. I love our team, but I would hope that the ongoing fiasco of an endgame between the city of Miami and Jeffrey Loria (as well as the new Marlins ownership) should make any reasonable citizen think long and hard about public financing for new stadia, and conclude that the only reasonable answer to a profitable MLB team looking for a handout for a new stadium is a profoundly emphatic “Hell no.” I’m trying to ignore this whole thing as much as possible, honestly, because it tends to make me angry. So thanks for making me think about it for a hot minute.

Steven: I think they stay in downtown despite a very attractive option in the Scottsdale area.

Makakilo: The D-backs will build a stadium on the Native American Reservation. The new stadium will improve the fan experience at the game, be surrounded by businesses that fans like, and be closer to the freeway.

Wesley: They’ll end up building on the reservation. Unlikely they stay in downtown Phoenix, with maybe 10% chance of that happening.

Keegan: Highly unlikely that Maricopa County contributes to the funding of another stadium. I wish more people would take the time to really go back and research the history of the issue. It was the Board of Supervisors who failed to live up to their obligations. The Diamondbacks gave them this out opportunity long before the lawsuit. I choose to direct my blame towards the politicians who should otherwise be collecting eggs from the chicken coop. The only way I see AZPB receiving any funding contributions is if a new stadium is built on tribal land. The Texas Rangers new stadium, which will also have a retractable roof, will cost roughly $1.1 billion dollars. It goes without saying construction costs are not nearly what they were in the 1990’s. A new stadium here would cost roughly the same. The rumor of a Norterra Stadium had me excited for my own selfish reasons, but I think it is highly unlikely the team would move to my neck of the woods. Development up my way has a long way to go before it could anchor a professional baseball stadium.

James: I’m 50/50 on where I think they wind up. If ground is not broken in the next 12-18 months on a new location in INdian territory along the 101, I have a feeling the team stays right where it is. I do think that Ken Kendrick will be more aggressive with his sports complex plan now that the team is able to look at new locations, but I just don’t see the team feasibly moving to any place other than the reservations, where they might get lucky enough for another 50/50 deal.That said, now that the Diamondbacks are in charge of bookings for Chase Field, I could see some substantial changes coming to their current home. I wouldn’t be opposed to that.

Are you a morning, afternoon or evening person?

Dano_In_Tucson: Proudly none of the above. I just spent the last two hours and change working on my forthcoming far-future sf police procedural novel (it’s easier to get decent writing in the wee hours, and yes, I’m a gigantic nerd, in case no one had realized), and now I’m doing my periodic RoundTable business for the ‘Pit, at a bit after 4am on Sunday morning. Unrepentant and unreformable night owl, baby. Late Night for the win.

Steven: Night person. Mornings make me sick and despise life.

Makakilo: I’m a morning person. A typical day follows: 3am - wake up, read internet, and write for AZ SnakePit, 7am - yoga class, 8:30 am - exercise class or gardening at Urban Garden Center, afternoon - household tasks, yard tasks, and/or shopping, evening - relax. The sun shines brightly in the morning.

Wesley: If it wasn’t obvious from the fact that I’ve yet to miss one of my scheduled minor league recaps and that I’ve written most of the stuff in the middle of the night, I am very much a night person. Lately I wake up way too early though at 6:30am since my window faces Northeast, the sun wakes me up first thing in the morning. Which is rather obnoxious when I have to stay up to 11pm at the minimum.

Keegan: Late night/early morning person. It’s when I do most of my writing for the Pit. That stems from procrastinating assignments in college having to do them late at night and working in bars and restaurants throughout college. It became a way of life.

James: That’s a trick question for me. My responsibilities over the last 15 years or so have required me to function well in the mornings and I have (mostly) excelled at it. I also enjoyed a long stretch in there where my happy hour/recreation time started around noon during the week. That said, I actually despise mornings with a flaming hot passion. If given my choice, I am all about being a night person. I would prefer to get up between 7 and 9 in the morning after having gone to bed around 2:00. My best mental space comes to me in the wee hours, usually after 10:00 at night.