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SnakePit Round Table: This is Fine edition

A week that could, shall we say, have gone better...

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Erupts Forcing Evacuations Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The D-backs haven’t won a series in their last three attempts. How do we fix them?

James: Patience. The easy and obvious answer is that the team’s offense needs to start producing. The return of Jake Lamb should hopefully help with that. The loss of Souza (again) hurts that process though. We still don’t know just how long Pollock will be out, but we do know it will be long enough that someone else is going to have to step up, otherwise this team is going to start getting buried in the standings. This team has shown it actually has some depth, enough to remain competitive. Unfortunately, competitive has meant losing a bunch of one and two run games. Since the Houston series, the team has lost by one three times and lost by two three times. In those six losses alone, they scored a grand total of eight runs, four of them in a single outing. Obviously, the offense is going to need to come around.

The pitching is also going to need to step up a bit more. The fourth and fifth slots in the rotation are a ticking time bomb. THe thing is, the team just needs to keep on doing what it has been doing, but get a bit of luck to find some better results. They need to weather this storm and look for the return of Robbie Ray, A.J. Pollock, Randall Delgado, Shelby Miller, and Steven Souza. All of these players could potentially be back by the break. That’s a huge influx of talent. Unfortunately, that influx is still a month away, and this team needs to hold it together until then.Maybe they need to make a pre-deadline trade. If that’s the case though, who do they trade for?

Keegan: Change the walk up music, clearly. Entirely too soft. How are opponents supposed to fear the Diamondbacks when half of them step to the plate to the tune of country while the other half is jiving to pop songs? Get angry. There are a handful of brand new metal albums out there to choose from with heavy hitting riffs. Step to the plate feeling like you want to bash a 700 foot home run, bite a chunk out of your baseball bat, and stare the pitcher down with a slow jog around the bases. Going up there wanting to get your girlfriend back isn’t going to scare anybody, and you’re gonna get blown away on three straight pitches. Obviously. /sarcasm

Turambar: I’m with Keegan on this. Some Thrash Metal by Powertrip or Traitor might be just the ticket. Fast and violent riffs with harsh vocals to boil the blood and steel the heart.

Makakilo: What caused the losses? Let’s look at three possible causes: offensive slump, opponent pitchers beat the D-back hitters, and the Nationals and Brewers played better than the D-backs.

Offensive slump: Runs scored per game (10 game average) did not fall below 3.9 until 4 May. If a slump, what adaptations promote success in response to slump? And a related question is how can hitters prevent starting bad habits (such as expanding the strike zone)? Are the players tired? ‘’Tiredness plays a major role in slumps,’’ said Piniella.

Opponent pitchers beat the D-back hitters: Is the D-back hitting process great? If so, great results will return!

Even if the process is great – have the D-back hitters become too predictable? Maybe a little unpredictability would help break out of the slump. What prompted that thought? I heard, “Goldy has always been a robotic type of hitter,” during game on 18 May vs Mets.

  • Even if the approach is great, are D-backs staying too close to pre-game prep – instead of observing the pitcher in the early innings and adjusting hitting strategy on-the-spot?
  • At Chase, does the approach to higher OPS mean pulling the ball more often? Diamondhacks posted this idea on 17 May. Going beyond that idea, D-backs have hit far fewer homers at Chase than their opponents – maybe the best approach at Chase is to hit homers, despite the humidor!

Nationals and Brewers played better than the D-backs: In these two series, the D-backs won 1 game out of 7. What happened? In three games, D-back starting pitchers allowed a total of 16 earned runs. In the other four games, the D-backs scored a total of 7 runs. However, excluding those two series, runs scored per game and runs allowed per game continue their undesired trends:

Wesley: We need to be patient, and just wait and see what happens. There’s really not much we can do other than that. Pollock, Ray, and Shelby Miller will all be coming back before the trade deadline, and we can evaluate the team then. If the team is good, and we can get a deal like we did with JD last season, then we can go for it and acquire a Manny Machado if the price is right. If we have slumped far enough in the standings that we are only contending for the wildcard, then it’s time to fire sale the team, and build for the future.

That leads to the question, “Should the team acquire a proven hitter?”

Makakilo: My first observation is that financially, the Dbacks have gone “all-in” – current salary is the highest ever. Therefore, an acquisition would mean trading prospects and dimming the future of the team – something that conflicts with sustainability that GM Hazen said is a guiding principle.

My second observation is that the D-backs acquired Souza to form a dynamic duo with Goldschmidt. Currently neither player is hitting well – so there is no synergy to be gained by adding a third excellent hitter.

On Friday, the D-backs scored 4 runs! Maybe the tide is turning! Torey Lovullo said, “I think once this thing gets moving in a good direction, you’re going to see everybody turn the tide.”

My conclusion is the D-backs do not need to acquire a proven hitter

Turambar: Nope. Lots of underperforming players who will eventually start playing toward the mean. Not fun to watch now, but I’m confident it’ll come around.

Wesley: Well I have two thoughts on this. One, if the team rebounds, and we got Ray back, Miller back, Goldy starts hitting again, Pollock comes back hot, et cetera, and we are contending and an added bat would make that much of a difference, I think maybe

Our farm isn’t deep at all. We are starting to have some guys pop that are becoming real prospects. Unless we get a deal like we did with JD last season, I just really don’t think it’s a good idea at all. I think having a fire sale would probably be a better idea than going all in. Our farm system is just starting to get better, and our investments in Brazil for instance, are starting to pay with guys like Gabriel Maciel and Bo Takahashi starting to break out. We have a bunch of guys who were honorable mentions or fringe C+ prospects that are turning the corning, like Galli Cribbs and Jamie Westbrook. . Right now our window of contention is quickly closing. If we made the right trades, we could have a larger window of contention in a couple of years. By trading off these guys, we are mortgaging our future. Corbin could land a very nice haul, Pollock could as well.

Jim: Anyone think, at the end of April, that the team would carry on at that pace, win 116 games and take the NL West by thirty? Of course not. Which is why I’m gobsmacked by the people who treat a part of May as if it measure the team’s true talent either. Every team has a bad patch. The pessimists yell, “Remember 2008!”, but I’d rather remember 2017. You might recall the dreadful TWO MONTHS from late June through the series in Minnesota. The D-backs went 17-29, yet survived. The Astros had a streak matching our 5-13 (July 26-Aug 14), where they were outscored by 31 runs. The Dodgers had a 2-16 streak (Aug 26-Sep 12) and were outscored by 55. Those two ended up meeting in the World Series.

They were, likely, better teams than the 2018 D-backs, yet had their period of struggle. For virtually every playoff team has a stretch like this. The Diamondbacks are still in first place, and no franchise in the West has a better run differential. Sure, this stretch has sucked: probably worse than multiple similar stretches last year, because of higher expectations. But it doesn’t define the season at all. What will do that is how the team plays over the remaining 116 games, not the 46 which have passed.

That said, there’s something to be said for shoewizard’s idea that the team needs to go full bore in for it this year. Next year, there’ll be no Corbin and no Pollock, so things are not going to get easie: we’re going to have to run simply to stand still and replace them. Getting better will be harder still. It’s quite easy to see a scenario where 2019 on will suck in the desert. Maybe we should punt those seasons and go all-in for 2018. Make a trade for Machado or Realmuto, and see how far we can go.

Your weekly, “Are you worried about Goldschmidt?” question.

James: Despite the fact that Goldschmidt finally went deep again on Saturday, I am still a bit worried. However, mu level still remains in flux, as it is still not clear what the issue is. He does seem to be getting around a bit slowly, but more concerning for me is that his normal excellent pitch recognition seems to be eluding him. Until we can figure out what is causing the issue with that part of his game, it’s tough to decide just how worried to be. Regardless of the answer though, if the Diamondbacks are going to have a legitimate shot at postseason play and success, Goldschmidt is going to need to get right again in a hurry. The team cannot afford much more of this and remain in a contending posture.

Keegan: If and when Goldy comes around, this team is going to be pretty damn hard to beat. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that this will be the worst offensive season in his career, so we just need to hope that he can produce value on offense for the team going forward. I just wish we had some sort of answer. Is his bat slowing down due to age related decline? Is his vision hurting his ability to make hard contact? Is he just pressing too hard? According to him, he just sucks. I’m not buying that.

Makakilo: No. Saturday, his homer was a breakthrough! Sunday, I liked how he swung. He will continue to show improvement that has been long expected.

In today’s game thread, samath noted the following: Buster Olney wrote, “Through Friday’s games, the Diamondbacks’ first baseman had seen 77 pitches of 96 mph or faster without logging a hit, the most in the majors.” An early step in fixing a problem is identifying it!

Turambar: Very. Something is bad wrong. He obviously needs power metal. I recommend a heavy dose of Blind Guardian and Edguy. Soaring vocals, extreme technical guitar work and uplifting themes will power Go;dy back to glory.

Wesley: He’s slowly starting to look like himself again, I think.

Jim: I don’t think this will be an MVP season, but if we’re in first-place with almost no contribution from Goldschmidt, getting him back to being productive could be the best mid-season addition the team could make. I’ll still take five seasons of MVP-quality as a better predictor going forward than six weeks of sub-par performances. But it’s not as if we have much in the way of any credible alternatives.

Clay Buchholz started today, our third #5 starter in three rotations. Thoughts?

James: Meh. Honestly, the moment he was released I was wondering if Hazen and Lovullo might not go after him. Once he was inked by the Diamondbacks, his eventual debut seemed inevitable. Medlen was a dumpster fire. Scribner simply is not a MLB-caliber pitcher. Buchholz has the highest upside, and possibly the highest floor of the three. Even a bad Buchholz start is almost certain to be better than Medlen.

Makakilo: In the AZ SnakePit roundtable on 6 May, I wrote that Clay Buchholz was a wild card for the fifth starter spot. He has strong mental attitudes: contributes his best in any situation, and stays positive in adversity (quotes from Buchholz provided in earlier roundtable). He has four fly-ball pitches (four-seam fastball, curve, sinker, and changeup) and one ground-ball pitch (cutter). Also, he has a circle-grip changeup.

In today’s game Buchholz was awesome! One earned run in 5 innings! When will he start again?!!

I agree with James’ opinion from that earlier roundtable that TJ McFarland is best left in the bullpen where he is pitching very well.

Jim: You’ll take one run over five innings any time from your fifth starter, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what we can rely on from Buchholz: he needs to generate a few more swings and misses, though there may also be an adjustment period, simply to pitching in the majors, which he has hardly done since 2016. He has certainly earned another start when we need him again, but if he can simply be a #5 starter place-holder, with an ERA somewhere in the mid-fours, I’ll be happy with that. Shelby Miller might be back before we see too much more of Buchholz.

Meanwhile, Jake Lamb returned, but Steven Souza is still having pectoral problems.

James: Glad to see Lamb back. It was also nice to see him contribute to the scoring in his first night back. Yes, he also struck out three times, but the pressure was on in a big way for him to help this team’s anemic offense. Pushing his lone base runner across in his first and only opportunity in that game was a good thing. With Goldschmidt going yard the next night, maybe this is the start of turning things around. It will be nice to see them in the lineup together again.

As for Souza, this is what I feared all along when he went to the turf in spring and came up injured. Those pectoral muscles are big. That means they take significant time to heal. Add to that, his setback during his first DL stint came from throwing the ball, not swinging the bat. This led to worries that this injury might be lingering a bit longer than anyone would care for. It also was going to be much more difficult to fully test out. It’s easy to test muscle response and comfort with the bat. It’s far more difficult to test those things from the fielding perspective. He felt comfortable throwing at range. Great. But, that throwing at range was not in active gameplay where he might be throwing from an odd angle or after fatiguing himself. Though it would be terribly unfortunate, I would not be at all surprised if Souza winds up being out until after the All-star break. Whatever is decided, he needs a full rehab stint this next time around, not so much to get his bat going, but to fully test out that pec as much as possible in fielding situations.

Keegan: Is it too late to ask for Brandon Drury, Anthony Banda, and Collin Poche back? I actually really like Steven Souza Jr., but it just sucks that the prized offseason acquisition has been on the shelf for mostly the entire season. It has to be pretty painful for him to not be able to push through and play. They need to shut him down until he is completely healthy.

Makakilo: I hope they are both hitting well by the All-Star break. The D-backs need their contributions.

Wesley: I agree with Keegan here, I would like to undo this trade, and they really do need to shut Souza down until he’s healed completely.

Jim: They seem to be trying to avoid a DL stint this time, but we will see what happens after the MRI gets looked at tomorrow [I guess the team doctor had tee times already scheduled this weekend…] Maybe that has factored into Souza’s slow start? With Pollock out as well, likely through the end of June, Souza becomes that much more important. But if he isn’t at 100%, then I’m not sure we are better off.

Who has been the biggest disappointment for the D-backs so far this year?

James: The overall results since the Houston series. The pitching has been mostly good, though not spectacular. The offense has stunk. However, the team has been without Pollock, Souza, and Lamb, three of the four players penciled in to hit in the heart of the Diamondback’s order. With that sort of firepower on the DL, scoring expectancy is understandably down. Goldy slumping obviously hurts. The team is still surviving on the cushion they built for themselves in April, but that cushion is now gone. They need to start winning and winning now if they want to avoid being knocked off the top of the division.

I have my concerns that this team is not built to come from behind in the standings.In the long run, I think the biggest disappointment comes from the fact that this team, with its “lack of depth”, has actually exhibited a surprising amount of depth, given all the adversities, but that depth has not translated to wins, only to being competitive. They need to start winning those one-run games, not giving them all away.

Keegan: Alex Avila. I’m actually starting to find the three headed catching concept to be extremely annoying. Inconsistent playing time is affecting Avila and John Ryan Murphy in different ways. JRM deserves the bulk of the playing time behind the plate with Mathis as the reserve. JRM has been hitting very well when starting, but is just as bad as Avila offensively when coming off of the bench. Find a trade partner who needs a catcher, Avila’s salary is not hard to move, and open that roster spot up for Christian Walker off the bench.

Makakilo: In the pre-season, if I had been told that on 19 May the D-backs would be in first place in the NL West, and 6 games in front of the Dodgers, I would have been very happy. With that perspective, I do not feel any disappointment.

In that context, recent games have revealed problems in execution, resulting in 10 losses in 11 games. The D-backs need to win more games!

Wesley: I agree with Keegan here, that Alex Avila has been quite the disappointment. They way we have been playing the last two weeks has been completely disappointing all around.

Jim: I’m going to go in a different direction and say Robbie Ray, in part because hopes for him were so high. All-Star, Cy Young mentions, sub-three ERA… This was going to be the year he became our ace. Instead, we’ve seen a 4.88 ERA and the highest walk-rate of his career, then this injury. He was worth almost five bWAR in 2017, and has been below replacement level in 2018. He may not have been our worst player, but the disappointment is real.

What is your least favorite genre of TV, movies or music?

James: This is a tough one, since I can generally find examples of material I like in just about any genre. I suppose the easy answer is modern rap, especially the hardcore modern rap. Massive egos and showing up the people around them have always been the hallmark of the big names in the genre, but the lack of dignity and respect the various modern performers show to their peers (and sometimes their fans) these days is at an all-time low. Furthermore, the topics of “discussion” have tragically devolved as well.

Keegan: Hah! You couldn’t tell by my first response? I absolutely cannot stand country music. Why anybody would choose that as their entrance music is beyond me. Which is really odd because I thoroughly enjoy the country bars in Cave Creek.

Makakilo: In 2018, crime shows on TV are prolific. I’d rather have a dentist fill a cavity than watch a crime show on TV. That is interesting because I am enjoying watching a British-French crime-drama series on Netflix - Death in Paradise.

Wesley: Once again I am agreeing with Keegan here, I hate country, outside of a few exceptions. A lot of the modern mainstream pop music, regardless of specific genre just really sucks. Not a fan of horror movies all that much. TV shows, I can’t stand most reality television, the big bang theory, amongst other things. Generally I am very agreeable person and can find something I like in anything.

Jim: Reality TV shows are almost entirely unwatchable. They’re like the worst kind of “documentary” (hello, Michael Moore), where everything is forced into a pre-determined agenda. Musically, I’ll agree with both James and Keegan: rap AND country both suck. :) Movie-wise, I will watch almost anything, but I’m thoroughly bored with the superhero genre right now.