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SnakePit Round Table: Reds Scare edition

We beat the Phillies! We’re great! We lose to the Reds! We suck! Yeah, it’s been like that...

Moscow Celebrates Victory Day 70th Anniversary Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If you’re interested in being a “reader representative” on next week’s round table, speak up in the comments. I 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.

A series loss in Cincinnati is not how the D-backs wanted to start the road-trip. What went wrong?

Makakilo: Matt Harvey pitched his best game of the season (most innings and most strikeouts). I suspect his success was helped by the D-backs offense. One possibility is that because the Reds have strong infield players, the D-backs prioritized hitting into the outfield instead of getting on base – and that strategy failed. In the first two games of the series, all 3 runs scored because 2 homers (Peralta and Escobar). Other superior hitters were Goldschmidt (3 hits) and Ahmed (2 hits). The team strikeout-to-walk ratio was 11:1.

In the second game, an important negative event happened with two outs in the eighth inning. The D-backs had a one run lead. Archie Bradley walked catcher Curt Casali on 4 pitches. That walk kept the inning alive – and indirectly resulted in 4 runs. The decision whether to intentionally walk Peraza and pitch to Votto could have been avoided if Curt Casali had made an out.

UPDATE: In the third game of the series, all of the nine D-back runs scored when D-backs hit homers - so games can be won by hitting home runs.

James: Two things happened. Firstly, the offense continued to sputter and fail. The scoring is not at season-low levels, but it is creeping quickly in that direction. Secondly, the bullpen is showing signs of cracking. Unable to lock down the win after Peralta put the team ahead late was simply not excusable for a team that is looking to run deep into the playoffs. The Reds are the sort of team that should be put away, not allowed to creep back late.

Jim: Generally sloppy play, cost the Diamondbacks across this series. The most obvious was Clay Buchholz throwing away a bunt in the opening game, with two Reds scoring on that play. But there have been a bunch of others. David Peralta in particular, seems almost to have let his hitting go to his head. I just watched him literally run into an unnecessary inning-ending out because he failed to slide into second. This team is better than that, and it’s no wonder Torey Lovullo opted to have a team meeting after Saturday night’s defeat.

Jack: Since the all star break, July 20th, the offense has a 110 wRC+ (10h in MLB) and has scored the 11th most runs. However zooming in closer, since the Calendar turned to August they have scored 3 runs or fewer 6 times in 10 games. Today’s outburst brings the total runs scored to 41 runs for the month, or 4.1 /G. But as often as not the offense has been shut down this month. This inconsistency has given us a 5-5 record. At the same time, a former strength and pillar of the team, the bullpen, has been very bad since the All Star Break, putting up 4.84 ERA vs. a 4.57 FIP.. In August, prior to today, it was 4.33/3.26. Isn’t regression fun ?

Small sample size allowed, which of our “new” guys has most impressed you?

Makakilo: Eduardo Escobar! In his first 12 games as a D-back, he has 9 singles, 4 doubles, and 1 homer. With that kind of hitting consistency, and with the outstanding rotation and bullpen, the D-backs are a powerhouse team!

James: Eduardo Escobar. He’s played very solid defense since arriving and continues to hit those MLB-leading doubles.

Jim: Just for variety, I’m going to highlight Matt Andriese. He had some home-run issues early on, but seems to have settled down. You can’t argue with a K:BB ratio of 9:1 over nine innings, and I think he’ll be a nice option in the bullpen going forward.

Jack: The answer to the question is obvious. Escobar. However prior to today he had 0.1 WAR in 12 games, and had the following line on his value section at BB-REF, which I gather will look a lot better after tomorrow’s update ;)

Jim: Yeah, I was looking at that. Can someone explain how Machado for the Dodgers has 0.6 oWAR compared to Escobar’s 0.1, when Machado has a lower OPS+ than Escobar? Playing time would come into it, but it surely ain’t a 6x factor.

Jack: As for Andriese, it’s great that he has been turning things around. Just keep in mind that he hasn’t had hardly ANY leverage since those early blowups, as his last 5 appearances have all been low leverage situations. Team Win Probability Page So hopefully when he does get handed a higher leverage situation in the future, this recent success will have restored his confidence.

Do the D-backs have an Archie Bradley problem?

Makakilo: Two ways to look at this.

  • Bradley has the best ‘stuff’ in the bullpen. Because his ‘stuff’ is the best, he is called in to pitch against the best batters. Pitching against the best batters, his results will sometimes look worse than he deserves. As long as he is contributing his best to help the team win, no problem.
  • In his last 10 games his results look bad: His 10-game ERA is 9.9. His record is 1 win, 5 holds, 2 losses, 1 blown loss, and 1 no decision. But maybe 60% success (wins and holds) against the best batters is not so bad. As a fan, I am concerned with a 60% success rate but I don’t know yet whether it is a problem.

James: I am a bit concerned. I think that concern stems from not yet being able to tell what the actual problem is. He seems to still have his “stuff”. Is he showing signs of fatigue? Or is the league simply adapting to the fact that he has nearly scrapped his devastating curve? Hopefully he gets right soon. This team is going to need the primary three in the bullpen to be sharp if the team is going to go far.

Jim: Make no mistake, Bradley has been horrible of late, and particularly since the All-Star break. 11 earned runs in 9.2 innings? Ouch. However, it’s worth noting that his two worst outings were both 30+ pitches. It feels as if Lovullo perhaps still regards Bradley as a former starter, someone who can be stretched further than most. But of his 56 appearances this season, 46 have been for three or fewer outs. Nine have been four or five outs - and the ones there where Bradley hasn’t been scored upon, have all been 25 or fewer pitches. It seems that should be a hard cap, until he can prove otherwise.

Jack: Yeah, they do. As commented this morning, and in last night’s recap the fact that he is reluctant to throw his curve in big situations is a problem. If it’s physical, i.e. the nail thing, then there is no easy answer. It’s up there with blisters as a thing likely to recur. If it’s mental, I actually would feel better about it, as it would seem more fixable in the near term. As usual, Jim is putting facts to a concept that I have discussed recently several times : Archie should not be asked to come back out for a 2nd inning, as either he’s cooled down, and then can’t get hot easily again, or the pitch count becomes an issue, (or both). Hmmmm….. I wonder what role he could serve on the team where he would get high leverage innings, but he could be limited to just one inning ????. Seriously, until the curve issue is resolved, I don’t know what to do.

Infielder Ildemaro Vargas has a 35-game hitting streak going into Sunday. Has he a future with the team?

James: With the departures of so many players this offseason, including Daniel Descalso and Eduardo Escobar, I think Vargas will be given an opportunity to play his way onto the 25-man roster come spring. He might be the Descalso/utility infielder replacement. The team is going to need inexpensive options for as much of the roster as it can find. Vargas would fit that bill.

Makakilo: A few observations follow.

  • Always read what Jim writes. Thanks Jim!
  • “Good energy guy; always smiling; works during infield drills but also likes to flash around the leather; teammates love him.”... “He is a great player to have in your organization because of his positional flexibility and positive attitude on the field.” 2015 scouting report on Ildemaro Vargas, Baseball Prospectus
  • Two years in a row (2017 and 2018), he was named Carson Cistulli’s guy - the best prospect with a future value less than 40. He was picked because his low strikeout rate.
  • Vargas has a outstanding strikeout rate of 8.3% (estimated by SO/(AB+BB)), third lowest in the Pacific Coast League (must have 2.7 PA/team-game to make the list). On the other hand, Vargas ranked 67th in walks (5.1%).
  • As a side note, I saw that Kevin Cron and Christian Walker ranked second and third in slugging percent (.601 and .598) in the Pacific Coast League.

Jim: Being in AAA with Reno brings its own set of issues in terms of evaluating hitters. A .766 OPS would be good for an infielder in the majors, but the Aces overall are hitting .815, basically 100 points better than the D-backs (.716). So, take even 100 points off Vargas’s numbers for that, and he becomes a lot more fringey. Though I do like prospects with low strikeout rates; shame the walks are even lower. But there’s no denying, a 35-game hitting streak is impressive.

Jack: I was driving home from Golf in the 3rd inning this morning , listening on radio,, and Mike Ferrin asked Gonzo what it was like to have a 30 game hit streak. Gonzo : “It felt great !!……..I slept well at night”. They were laughing pretty hard about the gusto with which Gonzo expressed the emotion. I’m sure it feels great for IIdemaro, and it’s a neat accomplishment , regardless of the level. But it’s not very predictive of anything at all. His projection for the “rest of season”, so taking into account his minor league season so far is .268/.306/.371 .295 wOBA . Better than Chris Owings this year anyway. (Who by the way is 9 for 17 since going to AAA)

Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto have never played past the Division Series. Which team has wasted their star most?

James: The Angels. I’d like to say the Diamondbacks, but the reality is, they have at least gotten Goldschmidt to the playoffs twice so far. They simply have not been able to advance. The Angels, on the other hand, have a ton of money and have made a number of terrible decisions over the lasts 5 years or so with regard to how to spend it. The Hamilton contract is why Greinke left the Angels. The team has needed pitching ever since. Now they are looking up at the Astros, a team that looks poised to remain strong for at least another three years. Trout, Simmons, and Cozart all leave after three more seasons ) if not before due to trade. It isn’t looking good for Los Angeles.

Jim: It’s amazing to think that perhaps the three most consistently good position players of the past decade, have combined for one playoff series win - and a one-game wild-card game, at that. The D-backs had the misfortune to have Goldschmidt’s rise coming at the same time the Dodgers got both wealthy and smart, a bad combination for everyone else. The Reds are going to be regretting that Votto deal. I mean, he’s not a BAD player yet, but another five years and $132 million owed to him, including the buyout, for his age 35-39 seasons. Hoo-boy.

It looked like the Angels might have figured it out after 2014, when they won 98 games. But they missed the playoffs on the final day the next year, and it has been a lot of flailing ever since. Yeah, got to agree with James: the best talent of our generation shows every sign of being wasted in Anaheim.

Makakilo: Let’s look at this from another view. A combination of each star’s personality and his teammates/coaches determine whether he reaches his full potential to perform at the highest level. “Did he reach his potential?” is how I would determine the ratio of waste to awesome. How far the team advanced in the playoffs seems like a lesser consideration.

More than Trout or Votto, Goldschmidt lives “ make his teammates better and find a way to help his team.” For that reason, the D-backs winning the NL West and advancing in the playoffs are important factors in whether Goldschmidt was wasted. Happily, I don’t think he was wasted because in 2011 the D-backs won the NL West, and in 2017 the D-backs won the Wild Card game. This season (and next season, too!), if the D-backs win the NL West, I will very confidently say Goldschmidt was the least wasted of the three stars.

Jack: Somewhat ironic perhaps, but the Reds may have the best chance to put their star into the playoffs beyond this season. Goldy of course is under control for just 2019, and Trout thru 2020. Votto is signed through 2023. (team option 2024) He may be past his prime now, but maybe the power comes back next year. But if we are talking about wasting… has to be the Angels. Trout is so much better than Goldy. (30 points higher OPS+, 24 more career WAR) Thats no knock on Goldy. But the gap between him and the best player on the planet is sizable, however the Angels have only gotten Trout into one post season series. See career side by sides HERE

Should the team look to sign Clay Buchholz for 2019?

James: I’d wait to see how he finishes out the season before even considering it. The stronger he finishes, the more I like the idea of a 1-2 year deal at a low-to-middling salary. However, the stronger he finishes, the harder that would be to make happen. I do think the team makes a run at Buchholz, mostly because of the relationships involved.

Makakilo: The contention window may close at the end of next season. At the end of this season, when Buchholz and Corbin become free agents, two rotation spots will need to be filled. Although Buchholz is relatively old (33), I would offer 2 years. With escalating salaries in 2019, the D-backs will not have a lot of bargaining power, and they may be outbid by other teams.

Jim: I’d not mind at all, he seems to have done a great job of reinventing himself, and proving his health. We will almost certainly be short of Corbin, but whether we go after Corbin may well depend on whether the front-office thinks the team can still contend, despite the loss of him, A.J. Pollock, etc. If not, the team may decide to go cheap and young, promoting the likes of Taylor Widener, Jon Duplantier instead.

Jack: I think they should. Even though his ERA may regress, he still has the 3rd best FIP on the team. (Starting Pitchers) With Corbin leaving, the healthy and effective return of Walker mid season a question mark, and Robbie Ray failing to develop beyond a 5 and dive guy, they need to hold on to Clay and hope he stays healthy and can provide some veteran stability beyond Greinke. If the team tried to do it now they’d probably get a better deal. But Clay is probably looking to parlay his comeback season into one last good pay day. This is his last shot at it.

What would be on the back of your Players’ Weekend shirt?

James: I’ve actually never had a nickname, so I have no clue, whatsoever. If I were picking a nickname, possibly “Book”.

Makakilo: Inspirationalist”

Jim: 77 99 76 101 110 110 97 110

Jack: Duh…...