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SnakePit Round Table: SSS edition

Let’s over-react wildly to small sample sizes!

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Nobby’s Knee Photo by John Madden/Keystone/Getty Images

Hot take: Please over-react violently to a small sample size (good or bad)

Wesley: Luke Weaver is the next Babe Ruth, based off that one at-bat where he hit a two a run home run. The Zacks will be gone before the end of the year, maybe even the All Star Break Grienke will turn it around after the standard bad opening day, as per tradition, and then will be traded at the deadline. Godley demoted and released by the end of the year if he is unable to turn it around. Both will be replaced by the Taylors.(Widener and Clarke)

James: Despite Lovullo saying all the right things and praising the work that JRM did on Opening Day, Murphy will be out as Greinke’s catcher by the middle of May. This will create more playing time for Carson Kelly, either as Greinke’s new catcher, or picking up some of Avila’s other starts so Avila can catch Greinke.

Also, Matt Andriese will be gone by mid-May. Matt Koch being out of options is going to hurt a bunch, as his arm is going to be ready to fall off, but the team will not be able to send him to AAA to get some rest. This means that someone else will need to be sent down, in addition to Koch. My money is on Vargas.

Keegan: Alright, but you asked for it. The Arizona Diamondbacks might actually be worse than we initially anticipated. Like an end of the season win total in the 60’s. They don’t even look like they’re in the same league as the Dodgers and could have just as easily been shutout on Friday if it weren’t for Christian Walker. Yes, it’s a remarkably small sample of 4 games, but this early season schedule doesn’t do any favors. It’s as if the collective losses of Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and Patrick Corbin have sucked the air right out of the ballclub. We could be staring at a full scale tear down before the deadline wondering if it would have been more prudent to do so before the season began.

Makakilo: The two teams scored 64 runs in the series – that’s action-packed baseball to watch, regardless who wins!

Jack: Based on the first series of the year, I project the DBacks will have the worst ERA of any team in baseball. OK, thats my small sample size overreaction. But man, the pitching was really bad this series. If this is an actual trend and not just a blip, they are in deep doo doo.

Jim: The D-backs are on pace to walk 1,093 batters this year, close to twice as many as last year (560), while allowing 567 home-runs (more than three times 2018’s total of 176). Yet they still don’t have the worst ERA, their 9.24 surpassed by the 9.43 by the Texas Rangers. Who are 2-1. Meanwhile, the Yankees just lost a series at home to the Orioles, and are tied in the cellar of the AL East with the Red Sox. Know how bad our starters have been? 10.31 ERA bad? The rotation of the reigning World Series champions has been almost three runs worse (13.20). So, yeah: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Positives from the opening series?

Wesley: I didn’t watch either of the blow out losses. That’s positive. We had a nice comeback win, the longest game in Chavez Ravine history. Our offense I think has been been better than most predicted, though that has been overshadowed by bad pitching.

James: The team is finding ways to score, even if many of the runs are coming during garbage time.

Keegan: Adam Jones has settled in nicely despite getting a late start in Spring Training. He’s got a surprisingly strong arm in right field. Let’s see if he can maintain that hard contact and be a bopper in the middle of the lineup.

Makakilo: Average of 5.5 runs scored per game – the offense is consistent and on-target to reach 810 runs or more for the season – awesome!

Jack: They didn’t face Kershaw or Hill, and Buehler was relegated to 60 something pitches and 3 inning. But they did score some runs against the Dodgers in this series. Of course some came in garbage time in game 1, and then Walker’s HR late in the extra inning game got them going in game 2. Today looked like a great offense day, but they scored in just one inning and had some really bad at bats trying to push across more runs with lots of chances…. Oh wait..this is supposed to be the positive portion. Sorry.

Jim: You average 5.5 runs per game on the road and your offense clearly is not the problem. 4/4 in free tacos, while Christian Walker, Alex Avila and Jarrod Dyson lead the team’s position players by OPS. Just like we all knew they would - with Adam Jones looking better than we expected. And Greg Holland is perfect in save opportunities.

And… negatives?

Wesley: We had two bad, bad, bad blow out losses. A game where we gave up ten home runs. This team looks like it could be really bad. The pitching right now looks atrocious. The defense looks awful.

James: At this rate, our pitching staff is going to be gassed long before June even rolls around. The prospect trio of Taylor, Taylor, and Jon could all be forced into service four weeks before we reach the All-Star break.

Al though Lamb has looked entirely serviceable at first, our defense on the whole has looked quite poor, especially Peralta in left field. Avila looked good defensively in Friday’s start, and Ahmed is still Ahmed. But the outfield as a whole is already showing it is going to get scored upon and infield defense, especially coming in, is looking rough.

Keegan: Zack Godley is a lost cause if he doesn’t take fixing his weak points seriously. Jack summarized my thoughts very well in Snake Bytes. There just doesn’t appear to be any serious effort on his part to improve the areas of his game where he most struggles. He falls off the mound once or botches a throw to a base and all hell breaks loose. Typically around the third inning. Sandwiched between flashes of dominance it becomes highly frustrating.

Makakilo: Rotation: Pitch efficiency (pitches per inning) was horrible. In the first three games, D-back starters averaged 19.9 pitches per inning (ouch). If that continued for a full season, it would set new records for worst efficiency. In 2015 (quickly found data), starting pitcher efficiency ranged from 13.9 pitches/inning (Bartolo Colon) to 17.7 pitches per inning (Robbie Ray).

Bullpen: In the first three games, relief pitchers averaged 101 pitches per game. That compares to a MLB average of 52 pitches per game in 2009 (quickly found data). The reasons were too many innings (6.9 innings per game) and poor pitch efficiency (20.2 pitches per inning).

Jack: Pitching just shockingly bad this series. But defense was sketchy too. Is this team going to flip on a dime and have a good offense and lousy pitching/defense?

Jim: That bullpen. 16 walks to only 11 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. While he certainly hasn’t been helped by the defense, Hirano allowing five hits in two innings is not good. Matt Andriese and Yoan Lopez have combined for five innings, with a K:BB of 1:7. That’s not a mis-print. I never thought I would miss T.J. McFarland so deeply.

Discuss the Lamb/Walker situation at first base.

Wesley: I’d prefer seeing Walker get regular time at first and Lamb in a platoon situation at third.

James: It seems to be working out so far. Obviously, Christian Walker is not going to hit 108 home runs on the season, but it’s nice to see some early pop from his bat. We’ll see if he is still having success in May and June, or later, once he sees almost nothing but a steady diet of breaking balls. Lamb has so far been fine at first, he even made a good play on a 3-6-1 double play, where he was cut off by the pitcher in getting back to cover first.

Keegan: I’d personally prefer for the team to move Lamb back to third, Walker at first, Escobar at second, and Marte in center. Lamb is not a natural at first and it shows. I’m probably jaded from watching Goldy man the position for as long as we did. Lamb is tepid when charging a bunt. He should have called Godley off yesterday. His footwork seems awkward. It’s not his fault though. He’s learning a new position and that takes time, but I say why bother. Give Walker his chance to sink or swim.

Makakilo: In the first three games, Walker averaged 1 RBI per plate appearance. His OPS+ was 480. Impressive and likely unsustainable because opposing teams could just walk him.

One factor is he lowered his whiff rate (Source: Brooks Baseball):

                   2017      2018     2019
Hard pitches       20.8%     19.9%    10.5%
Breaking pitches    8.7%     17.0%     8.1%
Offspeed pitches   45.5%     25.0%     0.0%

Jack: It’s very simple. Jake better start hitting very soon. If he doesn’t the calls to replace him with Walker will get louder and louder. Teams are far more susceptible to making decisions on small sample sizes in season as opposed to off season/pre season….especially if there is a slow start.

Jim: Torey Lovullo said, “It’s not a platoon situation. I want to make sure that I define that perfectly.” Games to this point where it actually has been a platoon situation: 100%. But Lamb ha started the season off 1-for-10 with four K’s. Three walks is nice (getting the OBP up to an almost-respectable .308), but Walker is 4-for-5 vs. RHP and Lamb is 1-for-9.

On a scale of 1-5, how worried are you about Zack Greinke?

Wesley: On a scale of 1-5, a 1, only because times wears down every pitchers body. It has been one game, I think Grienke is at the ‘veteran pitcher whos well past caring about spring training’ point of how career as well, if Grienke ever really cared all that much about spring training in the first place, at least once he had secured a job for good. When it’s May and Grienke is struggling, then I’ll begin worrying. I am much more worried about Godley, and I am beginning to wonder if he can be even an average mlb starter, as harsh as that sounds.

James: Probably either a one or a two. I could have done without him surrendering four home runs, but his control was off all day on Thursday. Control is usually where he excels. Since that is not normally the sort of thing to just evaporate overnight, I am confident that part of his game will return. What I am more concerned with was the obvious lack of synchronicity between Greinke and Murphy. If Greinke has another similar outing next week to what he had on Opening Day, my worry factor will increase substantially and I’ll be looking to see a new receiver behind the plate.

Keegan: I’m at a one here. He looked really good in Spring Training before. I honestly pin his bad start on JRM. The two did not appear to be in sync at all on Thursday. The hall of fame bound veteran will get himself on track.

Makakilo: In Greinke’s start, the Dodgers hit 4 home runs in 3.2 innings. That is unsustainable. I am confident Greinke will find what needs to be changed. My worry level is at one.

Jack: Guess I’ll be the bad guy here. 3. There is a tipping point to velocity loss where even a crafty veteran like Greinke with great command can’t perform at previous levels any more. He’ll have good games for sure. But will he be able to handle good lineups going forward ? Very questionable if 88 MPH really is his new average FB velocity. Just not enough spread between that and his “hard change”. Think about all the good lineups he’s going to face over the next 4 weeks. Could be a very rough start for Zack beyond just opening day.

Jim: I’m at a 2. We’ve seen him start slowly, but I would be completely unsurprised if he never throws to John Ryan Murphy again. That was the first time they’d worked together in a game, and it just never looked comfortable. It may be the last. But Jack’s right about the velocity thing; eventually, a lack thereof will catch up to you. See JRM’s second inning of work.

What will be the first move the team makes?

Wesley: Dumping a starter for someone in the minors. Who that starter is depends on who is having the most success at the time, and who is most ready in teams opinion. I think it’s pretty much a given by most that the team will enter firesale mode this trade deadline season.I see Peralta or Lamb as the easiest player to move.

James: Unless there is an injury, it will be a bullpen move, possibly as early as Tuesday if the team cannot save the bullpen from piling up too many more innings between now and then.

Keegan: Free us from the prison that is three catchers. Let Carson Kelly flourish into the catcher he can become.

Makakilo: Increase the number of bullpen pitchers on the 25 man roster.

Jack: There’s gotta be a catcher out there they can sign or pick up off waivers, so probably that. You laugh, I swear that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Seriously though, like everyone else I am guessing they will be forced to make a pitching move sooner rather than later. What also bears watching here is there are essentially 3 open spots on the 40 man roster once they move Souza to 60 day DL. They need to leave a spot open for when Taijuan Walker comes back in June or July, but that still leaves 2 open spots. While adding a pitcher that is not yet on 40 man such as Widener or Duplantier seems likely, I wonder if there is a trade or signing in the works.

Jim: Bullpen churn, quite possibly before we even get back to Arizona. We need fresh arms.

Home opening day for the D-backs this week. What will you be doing?

James: Not this year. The cost is too high and the timing just doesn’t work with other adulting duties I have going on.

Keegan: We’ll be meeting up with the Brute Squad at Seamus McCaffrey’s ahead of the game. I’m going with my girlfriend, Mom, and her husband. Wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Makakilo: I will watch the game on-line, hoping to avoid distractions.

Wesley: Besides the fact that tickets are too expensive, it’s four hours of driving just to get there and back from my house in Vail. Considering I have a very nice set up with a 55 inch 4k TV, surround system, suede leather seating, AND I’m my own Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, it’s almost a better expierence at home these days. This year I’ve got a nice Japanese menu planned for opening day, since I have a small get together planned out.

So the menu I’ve planned for this year for those wondering : Having a a bunch of different nigiri and maki sushi rolls, then my main course is a homemade mushroom chicken shoyu ramen, and boiled and salted edamame, roasted wasabi soybeans, roasted seaweed to snack on throughout the same. That ramen I’m making is completely homemade, and is going to have this awesome miso-honey glazed grilled chicken with all my favorite mushrooms in it: fresh oyster, button, shiitake, and enokitake mushrooms, along with dried porcini notably. Point is, I’ll have all that amazing food while I watch the home opener.

...and why Japanese? Well, because my favorite modern non-Dback position player Ichiro has likely played his last professional game. He got a great send off to his career back home with the Mariners too. So he’s getting a proper send-off with food. That and Japanese food is just amazing.

Jack: Working out of the press box, covering the festivities.

Jim: Avoiding it for the 19th consecutive season. Paying over the odds for a ticket to a stadium that will be enemy territory, with horrendous lines everywhere, and n00b staff who are suddently dealing with a crowd four times the size of the exhibition games? I’ll pass.