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SnakePit Round Table: Bullpen revamped edition

The trade deadline came and went, and with it, some new faces in the bullpen. What did people think?

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to red_leader for their guest commentary! 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.

What did you think of our deadline moves?

Makakilo: Awesome!! At the deadline, the two biggest needs were met: Eduardo Escobar was acquired as a power hitter with the bonus of improving defense at third base; and Jake Diekman was acquired as a lefty reliever. Brad Ziegler was serendipity – and although his first two appearances as a D-back were not up to his usual results, I am confident he will greatly help the team in the fire-man role. I like the acquisition of Matt Andriese because in addition to being a bullpen arm, he has potential to transition back to being a starting pitcher during the next three seasons (free agent in 2022).

But the Diamondback bullpen was great! Was any improvement needed? On 1 August, Ken Rosenthal wrote, “… the strong performance of the Arizona ‘pen was somewhat deceptive.”… “In opponents’ expected weighted on-base average — a Statcast metric derived from the quality and amount of contact allowed — the D-Backs’ bullpen ranked only 16th.”

The bullpen acquisitions were needed!

Jack: Overall I think pretty good. Much has been written about how Mike Hazen did well to keep pace considering his limited resources. But lets not kid ourselves, he DID expend resources. At least several of the prospects traded have major league futures, and at least one has a Major League Present . And of course the payroll went up too. So they need to get results. But I am happy they went for it.

The Escobar deal looks to be the strongest move to me. They knew Lamb was probably gone for the year, and acted quickly, getting the best player available to fill the hole. He has looked good in his early games in Arizona of course. 7 singles, 1 Double, 1 Walk in 27 PA. He hasn’t shown the power breakout he was having prior to the trade yet. But hopefully that will surface soon as well.

Keegan: Even if Jake Lamb did not go down with a season ending injury, I would still be thrilled that the team went out and got Eduardo Escobar. We desperately needed an upgrade at third base this season. The production wasn’t there at all from Lamb. I’m glad that he elected surgery, and hopefully he can come back with full health next season. For sentimental reasons I like the Brad Ziegler mover, and I feel that he will do well with the defense here, but I think there were better options to be had [cough Jared Hughes cough]. Jake Diekman has an electric left arm and provides additional firepower that the bullpen was missing. He can get up there with velocity like Archie.

Red_leader: Two thumbs up. Call it confirmation bias, but when I read Eno Sarris’ Athletic article about teams that improved the most at the deadline, I wasn’t surprised (but was definitely gratified) to see Arizona listed as the team that did the best. I’m super impressed with Hazen’s skill as a GM and someone who has a holistic vision of this particular team and our farm that is complemented by an amazing awareness of talent around the league. You see a lot of teams make deadline moves that are basically obvious or consensus type moves, or teams like the Brewers who add players just because they’re good and not necessarily because they fit the team. Hazen doesn’t do that; it’s clear to me that he’s put a lot of time and thought into how exactly the move will help the team, he finds guys in places others don’t, and he makes good, balanced decisions on how much to pay.

I’m really stoked about the Escobar move; I’ve seen the Twins a number of times this year and I’d take Escobar over Dozier any day of the week, but Dozier was the guy getting the press. I never even thought about Escobar as a trade target (granted Lamb wasn’t on the DL) and yet Hazen had him on his radar well before Lamb was injured and the guy is a perfect fit for us. Like the trade for Jay, we got a guy who really lengthens the line-up and helps this offense reach its full potential. The bullpen adds were smart moves that give us a lot of options as we head towards the postseason. Remember how badly everybody’s starters were hammered in the postseason last year? It didn’t matter who the starter was, all the teams were going to their pens early. These moves will help us reach the postseason and hopefully will carry us to the Series.

How would you rank all our bullpen arms?

Makakilo: Let’s look at number of scoreless appearances in the last ten games. That will be my short-term measure of success in the bullpen. Next, I will adjust the rankings based on season ERA, my longer-term measure of success in the bullpen. Ranks, starting at best, follow:

  • McFarland: 9/10 scoreless, 1.85 ERA (McFarland edged out Chafin, who was better on 22 July)
  • Chafin: 8/10 scoreless. 1.86 ERA
  • Boxberger: 9/10 scoreless, 3.40 ERA (Boxberger kept his spot)
  • Diekman: 8/10 scoreless, 3.63 ERA
  • Ziegler: 8/10 scoreless, 4.53 ERA
  • Hirano: 7/10 scoreless, 2.28 ERA
  • Bradley: 7/10 scoreless, 2.96 ERA (Although his ERA improved from 3.11 Bradley dropped below Hirano due to 7 scoreless instead of 8 scoreless.)
  • Andriese: 6/10 scoreless, 4.25 ERA

Jack: I may as well take this space to address a question about the use of the phrase “A” Bullpen. It seems it was thought I was using that term in a sarcastic or facetious manner, perhaps because of the use of the quote marks. I didn’t mean it that way at all. Yoshi, Archie, and Box have been very good this year, and clearly have been the backbone of that bullpen. I guess I should change to making the A Bold, so in future I will write A Bullpen. ;)

Archie is our best reliever, and should be closing now. (Article Coming)

Yoshi is our second best reliever, and should get the next highest amount of Hi Leverage innings. All the rest should be used situationally as the matchups determine.

Red_leader: I’ll go with ranking these guys on my level of concern when they enter the game. Frankly, the top three are separated by the slimmest of margins, but because I feel like two of them are definitely underappreciated, I’ve put those two guys first. In order of the least amount of concern to the greatest, here’s my ranking:

  1. Hirano
  2. McFarland
  3. Bradley
  4. Boxberger
  5. Chafin
  6. Ziegler
  7. Diekman
  8. Andriese

Archie is Archie, and probably most of the Round Table went with him as #1, which is totally understandable. But honestly, I have zero concern when Hirano or McFarland come in. I want to see them in – I look forward to seeing them come in. I know their peripherals and their numbers say I should be more concerned, but when they come in it’s like our defense just becomes lights out, like they just complete it somehow.

Archie dominates more on his stuff, but there have been occasions when it wasn’t there; Hirano and McFarland just kind of gel with the defense and enhance the team overall, in the way its expected Ziegler will. I think they both deserve extra kudos, especially considering the improvement TMac has made over last year and how hard it is to be a successful long reliever, and all that Hirano has had to deal with transitioning to life in the USA and MLB.

How do you see the NL playoff races shaking down?

Makakilo: NL East: The Nationals are a better team than the Phillies, but they are 6 games behind the Phillies with less than 2 months remaining in the season. The Braves are only 1.5 games behind the Phillies. The NL East is too close to call.

NL Central: The Cubs will win the NL Central. Although the Brewers are only 1 game back, I would be greatly surprised if they won the NL Central.

NL West: Currently the Diamondbacks are in the lead. Will their trade deadline acquisitions be enough to win the NL West? I have consistently seen the Rockies as contenders. And the Dodgers are a good team. Both the Rockies and the Dodgers are good, even very good, but not good enough. The Diamondbacks will win the NL West.

Jack: The top 5 teams in all the playoff odds reports floating around Are Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies Brewers & Diamondbacks. Those all seem like good bets to make the post season, but the Braves are right on the cusp too. All 3 divisions too close to call. I don’t see the Nationals making a run this year.

Keegan: The last week of September is going to be wild for all National League divisions. All three are still so close with two months left to play. Right now you only have about one to two teams per division that don’t have a chance to make the playoffs. I’d like to put a nail in the coffin of the Nationals season, but we’ve seen crazier things happen before. Ultimately I do think that Philadelphia wins the east, but that’s about as confident as I’ll get.

Red_leader: If this team plays consistently to their potential over the next two months, I have no doubt they will win the division. LA has weaknesses in their rotation and pen and they have the tougher schedule. Having said that, consistency has been an issue for us all year. Hazen has positioned the team for success – we just need to execute. With that in mind, I’ll predict the following:

Division winners – Diamondbacks, Cubs, Phillies. Wild Cards – Dodgers and Brewers.

I’ll predict the D-backs over the Cubs in the NLDS and then over the Dodgers in the NLCS, then losing to the Astros in the Series. I don’t think it matters who the NL puts forward as their champion – the AL is just too good this year.

And in the AL, are you pulling for Oakland or Seattle?

Makakilo: Because the D-backs play the Seattle Mariners in August, I won’t be pulling for the Mariners. In the past, the Mariners have won 14 of 24 games against the D-backs – they don’t need any encouragement! Currently the Mariners are in third place in the AL West – behind second place Oakland Athletics. Go Athletics!

Jack: Normally I’d go with Seattle because of some regional affiliations I have, and I like Jerry Dipoto. But Oakland is the better team by objective measures such as Run Differential, team OPS+, ERA+, and even defense. So I’d rather see the better team get in.

Keegan: I was just saying yesterday that I would love to see an Oakland-Arizona World Series. That would be a nightmare for Fox executives. I’d enjoy the narrative of Bob Melvin and Matt Williams coaching against their former team. I’m good with either organization, though. Would be nice to see Seattle end their playoff drought.

Red_leader: Tough one – I like Oakland because no one expected them to be where they’re at and I always have a soft spot for small market underdog teams, but Seattle has Segura and Hanniger and they’ve had a long dry spell themselves. Either team is just going to be cannon fodder for one of the AL’s big three though, so you can’t get too emotionally invested in it. With that said, I guess I lean a little more towards Oakland.

Do you agree with sending Chris Owings down, for an extra bullpen arm?

Makakilo: Yes. This season, Chris Owings’ hitting is at a career low. Two stats tell the story.

Ranking of D-backs with at least 100 plate appearances this season:

Highest Ratio of Strikeouts to Walks

  • 5.60 Murphy
  • 3.78 Jay
  • 3.14 Owings

Lowest OPS+

  • 42 Dyson
  • 45 Owings
  • 53 Mathis

Jack: There may be a counterintuitive thing happening. Because of the short bench, the Manager may be hesitant to burn a pinch hitter in a close ballgame and try to get one more inning out of the starter. This may have happened Friday night where Corbin batted in the bottom of the 5th and came out to pitch the 6th with slightly elevated pitch counts, even though the team had a full bullpen. Of course it worked out fine as he had a had shutdown 6th inning. Buchholz was on deck in the bottom of the 5th last night when Mathis came up with 2 out, and probably would have batted had Mathis go on base. Buchholz of course went out and also had a quick shutdown 6th. But I am wondering if having a 4 man bench was a factor there as well. I just wrote a long comment in the Chafin/Owings thread Here regarding Owings bad luck this year. Worth a peek. He has been very unlucky this season. He’ll be back in September , if not sooner.

Keegan: The move either needed to be Owings or John Ryan Murphy. Owings isn’t getting consistent at bats to find any rhythm, and having three catchers on the 25 man roster has become silly at times for the same reason. The right move was sending Owings down to give him steady playing time so hopefully he can be effective when he gets his call again. Going with the additional arm in the bullpen will allow Lovullo to save his starters, and relievers for that matter, during the stretch run.

Red_leader: Yes. I think it’s in everyone’s best interests for CO to get regular playing time and work out the kinks in his game. He still has a lot to offer but I think the way he ended up getting used this season really messed with his offensive game. There’s so much to remember and concentrate on when you’re shifting around the field like that – almost like a catcher who’s got so many things to keep focused on – that it becomes hard to either keep your bat in a groove or figure out why it’s not. Steady time at one or two positions and consistent at bats should be just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully he’s squared away by the time September call-ups happen. The bullpen needs the help, and Torey needs to get a good feel for how he’s going to use everyone as we head into the final stretch and hopefully the postseason.

Would you make any changes to the 20th anniversary team?

Makakilo: I would add Craig Counsell as utility player! Reasons follow:

The AZ SnakePit voted him #16 on the all-time top 50 Diamondbacks. Fans know he was great!

He was on-base for two World Series walk-off wins, including the Diamondbacks win, when he was hit by a Mariano Rivera pitch to load the bases for Luis Gonzalez.

He was the NLCS MVP, key to the Diamondbacks arriving at the World Series. In that series, he had 8 hits and 4 RBIs, and played outstanding “uniform-dirtying” defense.

Off the bench, he could play at the highest level at three positions.

  • Baseball Reference leaderboards for “range factor per game” shows him ranking in the top two (NL) for second base (2005), third base (2006), and shortstop (2002).
  • Career Total Zone Runs ranked 21st at second base, 39th at third base, and 57th at shortstop.

Jack: I’ve reconciled myself to the inclusion of Tony Womack over other options due to the emotional connections people have with him, (Fathers day grand slam) his role in the 2001 playoffs and world series with the big hits, and his overall awesomeness as a person. It’s not ALL about accumulative performance. Moments matter. Either Haren or Batista should have been on the team over Corbin. But really overall the fans did pretty good. I hope that Diamondhacks is doing O.K. He hasn’t been around for a couple of months. I’m sure he would have something to say about Matt Williams. ;)

Keegan: I go back and forth between Haren and Corbin. Obviously, Haren was lights out and the two best seasons of his career came during his two full years here. However, Corbin has higher cumulative stats because of how long he has been here. There is little doubt in my mind that the Corbin we are seeing now is what we would have had the past few seasons were it not for him needing Tommy John Surgery. It’s a coin toss between those two for me.

Red_leader: There are three guys on this list that, IMO, are there for the same two reasons – their performance in the 2001 World Series and that there is no clearly superior alternative – those guys are Matt Williams, Jay Bell and Tony Womack. I’m actually fine with Womack, and was one of those who thought he should have been on our top 50 GOAT list earlier this year. Baserunning is a lot more important and valuable than people usually give it credit for, and he has been our best baserunner to this point. I was never really big on Jay Bell and probably would have voted for Aaron Hill, but I can understand and accept his selection.

Both Bell and Williams I feel are overvalued based on their reputations prior to coming to Arizona, while their play here really just showed flashes of their former greatness. Williams in particular drove me nuts to watch play – he was like the anti-Descalso, just terrible in the clutch. Plus, he has to be the worst 3B coach I’ve ever seen. But, he did hit the 3-run bomb in Game 2, which I got to see in person, and he did toss me a Ryan Roberts foul ball when the D-backs played in KC in 2012, so I can live with it. But if Ahmed and Marte keep playing the way they are, I’m hopeful that they’re our middle infielders on the 30th anniversary team.

Random question: What is the longest you have gone without sleep?

Makakilo: I remember two occasions with a sleepless night. The first sleepless night was over a decade ago, when I was sick – which made the night seem to last forever. I quickly recovered!

The second sleepless night was last year in October. It was not my first travel choice, but for reasons that conflicted with having a level head, I flew all night (2,905 miles) to attend the D-back wild-card game. In the airplane’s economy section, comfort was not to be found except a blanket –a blanket that was like a handkerchief in a windy snowstorm. I admit it was my mistake to wear short pants with an aloha shirt on the airplane. Upsides: I learned that artic explorers rarely sleep at night, and the D-backs won and I was there cheering!

Jack: Early in my footwear manufacturing career, while living in Taiwan in the early 80’s, we had several times where we had to pull all nighters to get containers of goods out on deadline, and literally worked until morning to get it done, went home, showered, and went back to work for the day, and didn’t get to bed until the following evening. So roughly 36 hours actually up and working. Too many sleepless economy class trips with Children crossing the Pacific in those early years to count…..but since sitting….resting a lot of that time, not quite the same thing.

Keegan: Most of my sleepless nights came when I was younger and played video games more often. If you put a good video game in front of me, I could probably stay up until 7 in the morning. Now, responsibilities and a job prevent me from being able to do that anymore. Not fair if you ask me.

Red_leader: About two and half days, my senior year in college, trying to finish my senior honors thesis so I could graduate from U of A. The whole thing was about 80 pages and had to be typed, back when doing so meant using an actual typewriter and correction tape. Used a hell of a lot of tape, as I recall.