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SnakePit Round Table: He’s baaaack...

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Who’s back? If you need to ask... How was the dark side of the moon?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

For the last time: give us a Paul Goldschmidt status update.

Dano: A succession of multi-hit games, and multi-dinger games, this week, makes me feel very good. I think the HMS Goldschmidt has been righted. Here’s hoping, anyway. Still a lot of games left this season. But for now, I think he’s good.

James: This looks like Goldschmidt building on the incremental improvements he made over the previous three weeks. Frankly, I’m not sure that a trip into San Francisco, followed by spending time in Denver, could have come at a better time. Just as he was showing he might be getting right, he went into two stadiums he has always thrived in, even this season. Clearly, he is not going to remain as hot as he has been over the past 5 games. However, if he can just hit .300 for the rest of the season, with typical Goldschmidt power numbers, that completely changes the profile of the Diamondbacks’ offense.

Makakilo: From last week’s roundtable: “His slump ended 25 May. I looked at his season OPS after each game (source: Baseball Reference), and compared it to his season OPS from seven games earlier. The comparison has been positive every game starting 25 May. [remains true!] His season OPS is .732 and I feel confident it will improve to at least .800. [current OPS is .855!] He is on his way back. “

Beyond the numbers, I saw Goldschmidt was smiling and enjoying playing baseball. Paul Goldschmidt said, “…it’s nice to be able to help us now.”

Keegan: Coors Field and AT&T Park or not, the baseball looks like a beach ball to him at the plate right now. I only think that one of his home runs at Coors in this series (prior to Sunday’s contest) would not have been a home run anywhere else. I’m referring to the one with the ridiculous 46 degree launch angle or whatever it was. He’s such a special baseball player and is extremely fun to watch. If he continues to play to his capabilities for the rest of the season, we’re probably looking back at the end of the season and claiming that he should win the MVP were it not for a horrendous start to his season. Baseball is weird, but his only option is to put it behind him and press forward. Very happy to see this from him.

Michael: The slump may have been a confidence issue because he usually only has 1 bad slump a year. However, as bad as the 2nd slump was is how awesome he’s been at the plate this week. His wRC+ now sits at 136, which is only 7 points below his career average. It will be interesting to see how long he stays hot at the plate, he’s always hit in SF plus everyone that’s good hits in Colorado. If this hot streak continues through the home stand, I think we can definitively say that he’s back to his MVP form.

What did you think about the trade for Jon Jay?

Dano: We needed outfield depth, and Jay seems like he’s a quality player, so far as that goes. Kind of a fringe player, but he has tools, and can do stuff. Hasn’t been using them and doing stuff for us so far, but I don’t mind having him available given how thin our outfield has gotten recently.

James: I’m thrilled that the Diamondbacks made a move early, rather than waiting until the deadline. This team needed to do something to help the offense. Jay is not Manny Machado, but then, Machado would still have cost the farm. Jon Jay essentially cost the team nothing. Even his salary is almost trivial at this point. In exchange for an extreme lottery ticket and a reliever who never had a chance to see a Diamondbacks uniform, Arizona got a defensively capable (though limited) outfielder to force Owings back to the bench. They now have an OBP presence at the top of the lineup. Getting runners on base in front of Goldschmidt, Lamb, and Peralta is only going to help this team’s scoring.

Makakilo: I felt like a detective, trying to put the pieces together to explain the trade. I thought of five possible reasons:

  • I understand that if Souza was not available, Jay was the next choice – so Jay is on a short list of players that could help the team. How long until Pollock and/or Souza are playing in the Majors? It may not be soon.
  • Is it possible that the Dodgers are playing well enough that the D-backs needed an immediate improvement to win the Division. Then I can feel good about the improvement while feeling bad about the close competition.
  • Jon Jay has been a positive clubhouse influence. Perhaps the May struggles made clear a need for his influence.
  • Doing something additional, especially stretching the team’s resources, can tell the players that the team has a real commitment to win the NL West this season.
  • Possibly, Mike Hazen has thought several moves ahead, and acquiring Jon Jay is part of a bigger plan. That bigger plan could include a couple extra immediate wins and then when Pollock and Souza return, trading from the outfield surplus to improve an area of need.

In the context of my five possible reasons, although I may not be happy about the situation, I like the trade. I especially like communicating the team’s commitment to win the NL West this season.

Keegan: Poor, poor, pitiful Gabe Speier. That guy has more travel miles on him than a Greyhound Bus. I think it signals a lack of faith in Chris Owings’ bat going forward as the fourth outfielder upon Pollock’s and Souza’s return. As long as he avoids the Diamondbacks offensive plague and continues to get on base as he has over his career, he will be a nice table setter for the heart of the order.

Michael: Despite Jay’s early struggles, he’s an improvement on Owings in the outfield and at the plate. He probably gets relegated to a bench role when AJ and Souza both return, but could see some regular action if Lovullo wants to give his injured players rest.

Who will be the odd man out on the roster when Steven Souza and A.J. Pollock return?

Dano: Could be Jay, actually. Or maybe Avila, or possibly even Owings, if Jay begins making himself useful, because Avila’s bat continues to show no signs of coming around, and Owings is still hanging around well below the Mendoza line. And bats do matter.

James: I really think it will depend on just how long it takes for both of them to return. I know Souza just took some swings against Robbie Ray the other day, but I would still be surprised if he was back before the All-Star Game. A ton can happen between now and then. If nothing at all changes by the time the team is in the position where they are forced to make a move, I think it will depend on Jay’s performance. If he falls off a cliff, I think he finds himself the odd man out. However, if he manages to perform anywhere near what could be reasonably expected, I think the decision becomes harder. If Owings is still riding the interstate, I think there is a very good chance the team tries to get him through waivers to send him to Reno. Marrero is out of options, but unlike Owings, he is defensively gifted at multiple positions. Besides, Owings isn’t hitting any better than Marrero right now anyway. Avila seems safe, being the incumbent back-up for next season. I would be shocked if this front office moved dropped Mathis, especially since Greinke continues to thrive with Mathis behind the dish.

Makakilo: My thoughts align with James. Although Marrero has a slightly lower OPS (.428 vs .541), if Jon Jay is in the outfield with Peralta/Souza/Pollock, then Owings is the likely odd man out. Roster Resource shows that Owings has options remaining.

Keegan: If it was my choice, the odd man out would be Alex Avila, but Hazen has already gone on the record to say that the team will probably still continue to carry three catchers. That really only leaves Chris Owings and Deven Marrero as the only options to lose their roster spots. I’ve loved watching Marrero in the field because he has come as advertised defensively from Boston.

Michael: Dbacks gave Avila a 2-year deal, so he’s not going anywhere most likely. I think the most expendable player will be Chris Owings. With Jay in the fold and Dyson capable of playing all 3 OF spots at an above average level, they don’t need him there. On the infield, Descalso is absolutely raking vs. RHP with the occasional hit vs. LH relievers. Plus the organization doesn’t really feel like letting Marrero go. Owings has options and only 4 years of service time, so they can option him to Reno.

Shelby Miller is close. How do you see the team making room for him and then Robbie Ray in the rotation?

Dano: My guess, after tonight, is that Koch goes back to the bullpen, or back down to AAA. Of course, depending on how tomorrow goes, it might be Godley, if his start at Coors is even worse. But even if it’s comparably shaky, my guess would be that Koch goes away. When whichever of the Ray/Shelby tandem is the second one to return comes back, it’s either Buchholz or one of the other two, depending on who’s shakiest. But probably Buchholz.

James: I have felt all along the Koch would be the first to get bumped from the rotation. I think yesterday’s outing might have solidified that position even more. Godley has been struggling mightily as well. I think that once both Miller and Ray return, Koch is back in Reno. The big decision in my mind is whether the team sends Godley back to Reno as well, or if they stick him in the bullpen, a place many of us thought he was better suited to in the first place (before he went on that killer tear of his). With the decreased workload and with the promise of not having to face a lineup twice in a game, Godley might be able to recover the lost velocity on his curveball. If he can, he becomes a disgustingly difficult change of pace pitcher to bring out of the bullpen, especially on days where Ray starts. I do think the team needs to keep at least one of Koch or Godley working as a starter though, in case Miller falls apart in his return.

Makakilo: When Ray returns, I confidently move Zack Godley to the bullpen. He has done well in that role in previous seasons.

Because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, I start Shelby Miller in the bullpen so I can control his pitch count and slowly bring him back. When Miller is ready to start, I likely option Koch to the minors.

Keegan: Depends on how Arizona plans to bring Shelby Miller along post Tommy John Surgery. If he is going to be on a pitch count limit, Matt Koch or Zack Godley could still stay with the team in the bullpen and come in for long relief on days Shelby starts. Or Shelby could go to the bullpen to provide the same role. I like the thought of keeping Godley and Koch on the Major League club and bouncing Jorge De La Rosa or Andrew Chafin from the bullpen. Koch has decent splits against left handed batters, who knows what that means going forward, so he could come in against left handed hitters. I’d do something similar to what the Dodgers did with Kenta Maeda last season. Nothing wrong with keeping a starter or two in the bullpen to save miles on the arms down there. Either way, I feel that Clay Buchholz has earned his stay for now.

Michael: Godley probably staved off a move to the bullpen with an excellent outing against the Rockies. I think Koch is either going to Reno or the bullpen when Miller is back. Dbacks really shouldn’t send Koch to AAA because he’s got enough pitchability to stick as a reliever where his fastball velo should be mid 90s vs. 90-93. Change-up has been an effective weapon vs. LHH, but he lacks an out pitch vs. RHH (cutter hasn’t been there for him much of the year).

Randall Delgado is near, too. How will he fit in?

Dano: He was strong last year, but he’s not exactly been reliable year-to-year. If he comes back in early 2017 form, he probably takes Salas’s job, which I would be fine with. My guess, though, would be that we run him up the flagpole, see how he does, and then go from there.

James: Goodbye Fernando Salas. He isn’t replacing McFarland or Chafin, or any of the three back-end arms. I think if Delgado is healthy and ready to go, the team looks to make a deal for one of Salas or Delgado. Trading Salas seems more likely at this point than trading Delgado. I’m entirely fine with that. Frankly, I’m ready to move Salas for Barrett or Sherfy already. It’s also possible that somehow Bracho is still on the roster and not on the bus somewhere between Phoenix and Reno when Delgado returns. If that’s the case, he might need to grab his go-bag. At this point though, I’d rather they kept Bracho over Salas.

Makakilo: The D-backs bullpen is outstanding, third best in the Majors. Nevertheless, changes are likely.

Recently, Hazen talked about adding Shipley to the bullpen. Today’s roundtable talked about moving Godley to the bullpen. How will Delgado fit in the bullpen? These changes to the bullpen involve several difficult decisions - very difficult decisions.

Keegan: I’d sure hate to see Fernando Salas get bounced for a guy whose arm health is questionable at best over the past year. Bring Delgado back as slowly as possible to ensure he is 100%.

Michael: Salas would be the easy choice for everyone, although it looks like his numbers have come down to a more reasonable range (4.20/4.13/4.40). Salas is basically a 4.00 ERA pitcher for close to MLB minimum, so he’s not a problem. Silvino Bracho would be another choice, but it looks like he may have found something this year. It’s a good problem to have.

It’s the slumping Pirates and Mets this week, back at Chase. Should we realistically expect to take both series?

Dano: If they continue slumping, of course, yes, absolutely. Chase is a hitter-friendly park, though, and eventually slumps end (as ours seems to have done recently 8-D), so who knows? Both are beatable teams, though, even when they’re playing better than they are right now. I am guardedly confident.

James: I actually view the Pirates as the tougher team right now. I do think the Diamondbacks should expect to win both series. They aren’t going to be “easy” series like Cincinnati and Miami, but they are very winnable. New York’s pitching worries me a little bit, simply because Arizona’s offense is so unpredictable right now. However, they are so beat up right now that Arizona should be able to make quick work of them, especially if Goldschmidt is going right again to help keep the offense from disappearing entirely.

Makakilo: While the Pirates offense and bullpen were great at the start of the season, in June the tables have turned. Additionally, I like the rotation match-ups, except Monday’s game. On Sunday, Ivan Nova came off the DL bumping Joe Musgrove to Monday’s game against the D-backs.

Looking at the big picture the D-backs are favored to win the series with the Pirates based on two measures:

  • June runs per game: D-backs 6.5 vs Pirates 3.1
  • Season run differential (scored minus allowed): D-backs 31 vs Pirates 1

Although in May the Mets swept the D-backs, in June the Mets offense is slumping. In June the Mets scored 1 run or less in 5 of their 7 games.

Keegan: Torey Lovullo will not allow his team to get complacent against the Pirates and Mets. If the Diamondbacks come prepared with a gameplan and respect each opponent, good things will happen. Don’t forget that New York swept the Diamondbacks during the hell month of May. The Mets and Pirates are in the bottom third of the league pitching when it comes to park adjusted metrics. New York is slightly below average offensively, but Pittsburgh is slightly above average. That’s right in line with their win loss records, so the Pirates should be the more difficult opponent of the two. For the Diamondbacks, their approach should not change and they should just focus on winning the series.

Michael: The Dbacks certainly have found some confidence at the plate, but it can change in a hurry if Goldy’s hot streak is short-lived. The motivation to play the Mets should be there because you know the Dbacks want a shot at avenging the sweep in NY. Dbacks schedule certainly is doing them favors with them playing a struggling Rockies and Pirates team. However, my realistic expectation is a 4-3 homestand. Anything better would be great, and possibly put the Dbacks in great position to make a run for the postseason.

If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done?

Dano: Either a DUI, or a domestic terrorism charge for a Marxist-inflected arson against a closed or evacuated Walmart, probably. Submitted without further comment.

James: Probably that I had hit someone who refused to respect my personal space or the fact that I am an introvert and who continued to push my buttons, especially if I happened to be trying to unwind over a pint - or four.

Makakilo: Perhaps they would assume Hawaii 5-0 was filming on-location and my role was a gardener who gets framed by criminal mastermind Moriarty for plotting the illegal import of invasive insect-eating raspberry plants from Saint Marie. Perhaps they would be as clueless as I.

Keegan: Without a doubt felony speeding. I put Yasmany Tomas to shame. 120 MPH in my car is a brisk jog. Can’t wait to get it back this week.

Michael: It would probably be over starting a fight at a Denny’s Parking Lot.

Jim: Probably something dubious involving computers. I’ve never even had a speeding ticket, my closest brush with authority was almost getting tossed from uni after some… ah, “unapproved” exploration of networks. Fortunately, the disciplinary guy really didn’t seem to know much about hacking (this was the late eighties!) and I got away with a fine and costs.