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SnakePit Round Table: Independence Day edition

Two starting pitchers returned, to sharply different results, a very satisfactory June ended and roster crunches loom...

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Special announcement. If you’re interested in taking part in the round table, speak up in the comments, and I’ll email the first qualifying person to post, the questions on Saturday (so, obviously, you need to have an email address attached to your account!). You’ll need to be able to get the answers back to me by Sunday evening, so a timely turnaround will be necessary. If you miss out this week, try again next - we’ll aim for a different person each time. And with that said, onto this edition...

Compare and contrast the returns of Shelby Miller and Robbie Ray.

Makakilo: Shelby Miller and Robbie Ray are on different paths on three levels.

From a top level view, Ray allowed less earned runs (zero earned runs in 6 innings vs 11 earned runs in 8.2 innings).

From a batter level view: Ray had better efficiency and strikeout rate, while Miller had a better walk rate.

  • Ray has needed 3.95 pitches per batter, with .29 strikeouts per batter and .10 walks per batter.
  • Miller has needed 4.11 pitches per batter, with .25 strikeouts per batter and .07 walks per batter.

From a pitch level view: Three points:

  • Fastball velocities are unchanged. Ray’s fastball velocity of 93.5 mph is the same as April. Miller’s fastball velocity of 95.2 mph is the same as 2017.
  • Shelby Miller is searching for the best mix of pitches. In his first game back Miller did not pitch his cutter, sticking with his fastball 74% and curve 26% In his second game back he included his cutter.
  • My opinion that Shelby Miller could be a reliever has not changed. In his two games back, let’s look at OPS by inning:
  • .875 in first inning
  • .958 in second inning
  • 1.292 in third inning
  • 1.194 in fourth inning

James: The two starts were night and day. Shelby Miller embraced almost all of my fears for him. Robbie Ray embraced many of the hopes I had placed upon him. Miller needed more time to get tuned-up for pitching to a big league lineup again. Hopefully he can relearn on the fly. As for Ray, I’m hoping he can just get a bit more economical.

Turambar: Miller is broke, Ray ain’t. Shoewizard said it best last night “Miller is a head case” and boy does it show. Too afraid of anything but his fastball and everyone in the entire NL knows it. Hense last night’s outcome. Ray on the other hand, he’s fine. I’d love to see some of that velocity back from last year, and more efficiency in his starts, but even if he doesn’t round in to last year’s form he’ll be consistent every start.

Keegan: Robbie Ray Is one of the best young left handed starters in the game. Shelby Miller… is not. Nothing against him. He isn’t a bad dude. I wish him success, but we can’t give him many more opportunities to soil in the thick of a division race. He either tightens his belt buckle and helps the team win or he doesn’t have a spot. A perfect example was when Ray walked 2 batters back to back on 8 pitches against Miami. He told himself that he was a better pitcher than that. That he needed to collect himself and perform better. Those were his words postgame. Is Shelby just begging to a higher power hoping he gets out of similar jams? Who knows.

Jim: Obviously, the two returning in the same series was more coincidence than anything. But Robbie reportedly made a mechanical adjustment just before hitting the DL, and that seems to have carried forward, to great success. It’d be great to have him back to peak Ray. However… it was still the Marlins. Let’s see how tomorrow against the Cardinals goes.

As for Miller, he either was brought back too soon… Or still sucks. I’m hoping it’s the former, and his control will improve. But it could also be the beginning of the end, and perhaps a move to the bullpen is the only hope.

Steven Souza and A.J. Pollock are now both on rehab assignments. What roster moves to you make to accommodate them?

Makakilo: Looking at roster resource, I would move two players with options – Owings and Walker. When Souza and Pollock return, with a surplus in great outfielders I would keep open to an opportunity to trade from the surplus.

James: Given the roster and option situation, I have to agree with Makakilo. Chris Owings and Christian Walker look like they wind up on the outside looking in.

Turambar: What they said.

Keegan: x4. Marrero when he comes off the 10 day DL.

Jim: I’m not quite so sure I’d want to go so completely outfield-heavy. With Jon Jay alongside Jarrod Dyson and David Peralta, that’s five “pure outfielders”, which seems like a lot, even though we are no longer carrying three catchers. Walker is the obvious first surplus name, but beyond that… Well, let’s first see if Ketel Marte is fully healthy, after his scary moment in Saturday’s game.,

And what about Randall Delgado, who must be recalled this week?

James: I’d be just fine with the team letting go of Jorge De La Rosa to make room for Delgado.

Keegan: Really your only options are JDLR or Fernando Salas. Salas doesn’t give me heartburn nearly as much when he enters, so my vote to evict is JDLR.

Jim: It has to be one of the veteran arms. Salas is the more “natural” replacement, being a right-hander, but it’s interesting to note he hasn’t been a long reliever as much as in the early states. Over the first 11 games, he got five or more outs three times.But he hasn’t done so at all since May 14. De La Rosa has gone the other way. Never got more than three outs in April or May, but including today’s two-inning stint, each of his last three appearances have been like that. This suggests to me he’s occupying the Delgado role.

June was great. To what do you credit the team’s success in the month?

Makakilo: The offense consistently scored runs. The number of games with 2 or less runs scored:

  • 6 in March/April
  • 16 in May
  • 5 in June

An insight about how runs are scored consistently is in shoewizard’s fanpost which states, “They are one of the best base running teams, they are one of the best in avoiding Double Plays, and they are one of the best in executing productive outs.”

James: The pitching continued to be great, meanwhile some of the position players, namely Goldschmidt and Marte, started hitting.

Turambar: Hitting. Specifically Marte and Goldy caught fire. They helped lead the team out of low scoring hell and in to crooked number Valhalla.

Keegan: Paul Goldschmidt put together one of the best individual months in awhile, and Ketel Marte added a little loft to his swing. This team doesn’t overreact to a tough stretch. They’ve played together for long enough through extended periods of winning and losing. Torey Lovullo is one of the best at keeping that in perspective. May was one of the worst offensive months for a team, so even marginal improvement was going to turn their fortunes around.

Jim: A little tactic I call, “Scoring more runs than the opposition”. :) I think the offense got back to doing what it does best, putting together chains of good at-bats, especially early in games, it felt to me. The pitching improved somewhat, but it was mostly on the back of Goldschmidt. As Paul goes, so goes Arizona: they’re 14-4 when he gets two or more hits, 18-10 when he drives in at least one run.

Yoshisa Hirano set a team record for scoreless appearances. Should he and Brad Boxberger swap roles?

Makakilo: This season, Brad Boxberger is closing as well as closer Fernando Rodney. Boxberger has the better save rate (82.6% vs 81.0%), and the better ratio of strikeouts to walks (3.25 vs 2.8). The closing role has unique mental stress, and Boxberger is getting the job done.

That being said, Yoshisa Hirano is pitching better than Boxberger. Hirano has allowed less earned runs (5 vs 12), and has a better ratio of strikeouts to walks (6.8 vs 3.25). Hirano is contributing to team success (for example 18 holds), and so there is no compelling reason to swap roles.

James: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Boxberger has, for the most part, been getting the job done. The pitching situation of Hirano, Bradley, Boxberger is working. Let the team ride it.

Keegan: No, I think Jim said it best earlier this week. You just need a mildly competent reliever to secure the final three outs of the ball game, not your best. Box will be fine as the closer. No need to mess with the chemistry back there right now.

Jim: I think what Hirano has done, is earned the right to share duties with Archie Bradley for the highest-leverage innings. It has usually been Bradley to whom Torey Lovullo had turned, when it comes time to go through the heart of the opposition order one last time. But Hirano had pitched so well, I’d have absolutely no qualms about seeing him in that situation. But, yeah, I think the A-bullpen has been insanely good overall.

Clay Buchholz and Alex Avila hit the DL. Do you think these were legitimate injuries, or is the team pulling a Dodgers?

Makakilo: Yesterday, it was reported that Buchholz did range of motion activities – that is evidence of a legitimate injury. Nevertheless, Buchholz’s injury was likely minor (based on his comments) and I anticipate a quick return.

Alex Avila’s hamstring injury is common. Depending on the severity of the injury, recovery can be as short as a few days (source: Lindsay Berra article on MLB.com), or as long as several months. A possibly short recovery time is consistent with a legitimate injury.

James: The fact that Avila was never seen again after his big night tells me there probably is something going on there. Clay Buchholz came out in the midst of another fine outing. Sounds to me like two legitimate injurus.

Keegan: It would have been strange for the team to pull Buchholz from a solid outing for an illegitimate injury. I sure do miss his outings right about now. Didn’t think I’d be saying that at the start of this season. I’m inclined to think putting Marrero on the 10 day DL would be the D’backs version of pulling the Dodgers’ DL stunt.

Jim: It was certainly very convenient timing in both cases, especially Buchholz, opening up a spots which was needed in the rotation. That one feels more suspicious to me, especially if he ends up coming back immediately - most likely to replace Shelby Miller. Avila’s absence is, as James says, probably legit: I’m sure after close to his best night in Sedona Red, he’d have played again if at all possible.

Finally, seeing it’s the United States’ birthday this week... What’s your favorite place in America?

Wesley: I haven’t traveled much outside of California, Nevada, and the four corners states, but I actually really love is the Madrean Sky Island mountain ranges in Southern Arizona. You can go from the hot Sonoran desert to cool mixed Pine-Oak forest in 20 miles and less than an hour of driving. In a few of the mountain ranges, you can even find cool flowing water in creeks, streams and lakes (albeit generally man-made lakes) to cool off in. Sahuaro national park, which contains the Rincon Mountain range and the Tucson Mountain Range, is the most biodiverse National Park in the United States. The most southern ski slope on the continental United States is the Catalina Mountain range just directly north of Tucson.

Makakilo: Beauty and aloha are found in Hawaii. When I take a minute to pause my life and to contemplate Hawaii, I relax and a shower of awesome feelings touches my soul. More so than any other place on earth, Hawaii is where I am fully me.

James: I’m not sure if Arizona is my favorite or not. I was born and raised there. I have left a few times, but I always end up returning.I don’t see many scenarios where that would not continue to be the case.

Keegan: I’ve been to most states in the continental United States having moved across the country two times. Arizona is my favorite place to live because of our predictable weather. I come into contact with people in catastrophe areas frequently in my professional life. When you talk to someone who is knee deep in floodwater having lost everything, you realize that 100 days straight of 100+ degrees isn’t so bad. However, outside of this beautiful state my favorite place would have to be San Diego. We’ll be making the road trip with the team at the end of July. Again with the predictable weather.

Jim: I’d go with the Grand Canyon. It was virtually the first thing I saw of Arizona, back in 1997 (on a trip from Las Vegas!), and it’s so completely unique. It’s also the kind of thing that you can’t describe to someone adequately, and pictures don’t do it justice either. It’s absolutely something which has to be experienced first-hand. But I’ve also a fondness for New York - again, my first experience of the United States - with a vibe which is all its own.