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SnakePit Round Table: Killing Boston

Series wins against the Padres and Red Sox have definitely put a better spin on the D-backs season so far.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The D-backs set a record for runs in the first eight games. Discuss.

Makakilo: Offensive consistency is key. The D-backs scored 5 runs or more in 8 of 10 games! The importance of consistency cannot be overstated. If that consistent offense continues for the full season, even with inconsistent pitching, I easily foresee the D-backs in the playoffs.

Dano: Well, to be fair, in the first game of the season, and in Godley’s first start, the runs we scored were mainly in garbage time. Those were sad tacos games, and also garbage taco games (insert Taco Bell joke here). But especially since opening weekend, I’ve been impressed. I found myself wondering last week, “Now that Goldy and Pollock are gone, where are the runs going to come from?” And it looks like, on many days, they’re coming from pretty much everyone in the lineup, which is how it has to be for a team without any marquee “superstar” offensive players. I don’t expect it will last, at least not to the degree we’ve seen so far, but I’m very happy. This is frankly a lot closer to what I expected from our lineup in 2018, and maybe it’s a year late, but it’s still very nice to see.

Turambar: Very small sample size, but I’m encouraged. I doubt they’ll keep up this torrid pace, but my initial fears about a Pollackless and Goldyless offense seem somewhat unfounded. Which brings me to an interesting point, which I’m hoping Jack can prove or dismiss, that perhaps teams see a small but noticeable offensive boost the season after losing a key bat.

Hear me out! It’s not too crazy to think that established mashers like Goldy potentially get treated like a crutch for the rest of the team. His bat is there, and subconsciously I wouldn’t be surprised if players get over comfortable with that presence. Then when that player is gone (see post-Bonds Pirates or post-Pujols Cards) those surrounding players are FORCED to step up.

Now, I’m likely wrong on this theory, so please poke holes in this in the comments below.

Dano: I have actually found myself thinking along the same lines as Turambar about Goldy and Pollock functioning as crutches in a way.

Jack: Some may be discouraged by getting shut out Sunday. One thing Torey emphasized in post game was that a big part of their success is preparation, and they feel the hitters have been well prepped to face starting pitchers. But today no batter saw a pitcher for a 2nd AB, and that may have been a factor in the offense never getting in a rhythm . They don’t expect to see too many bullpen games in the NL though, so it’s not something they’re worried about. Overall, it was good to see the offense get off to a good start through the first 9 games. Obviously that pace was not sustainable. But it shows them they can do it, and that may help them through the inevitable lean times. Still…..a lot of homeruns could be missing long term due to all the injuries. Will need a lot of step up performances to continue.

James: I’m honestly not sure what to think. On one hand, I am thrilled to see the offense getting on a roll the way it has. On the other hand, with the team losing Souza, Lamb, and now Avila, I wonder how long it will last. All three of them were going to be looked to to provide some significant offense from their positions. So far, the team has not needed them. However, what happens as soon as someone like Jones or Walker cools off? Home runs seem to be flying out of ballparks everywhere. The Diamondbacks are going to need to hop on that train if they are going to keep it up. They don’t exactly have a team that is scary when getting on base. Hopefully, this early jolt gives everyone up and down the lineup some extra confidence that can be used to help prevent some deep slumps.

Michael: The lineup is much different than it was a year ago with Christian Walker replacing Goldy at 1B and Adam Jones replacing Souza in RF. Most of the team has gotten off to a hot start at the plate, save for Escobar who started to warm up in the Red Sox series. Jones and Peralta have been locked in from Day 1 and carried the team so far and gotten significant contributions from Marte, Avila, Carson Kelly, Christian Walker, and Ahmed. When most of the team is hitting well at the plate, you’re going to go score runs consistently.

Sean: It’s hard to say much beyond Small Sample Size.

The main takeaway here is the team could be better offensively than a lot of fans were expecting. The power is going to regress and the low walk rate is a concern, but the team could certainly be a league average or slightly better offense this season.

Wesley: I am extremely impressed, I thought the offense would be much worse than it has been so far. I am concerned with how well they’ll be able to maintain the offense throughout the course of the season, but i am in wait and see mode until we have a bigger sample size to work with.

Who has stood out most in your view?

Makakilo: So many great choices! Three honorable mentions:

  • Christian Walker, a personal favorite, whose OPS is 1.143. He excels in pinch hitting. For years, he has been on the fringe of reaching the Majors. He developed his abilities to play other positions, and he finally reached the Majors in his best position. This season, I predicted he would make the 25 man roster! And he mitigated the impact of Lamb’s injury.
  • Adam Jones, another personal favorite, whose OPS is 1.239, has made a critical impact by mitigating the injury to Steven Souza Jr.. “Adam Jones has earned four gold gloves and one silver slugger! Adam Jones is a “face-of-the-franchise” type player, and he could assume a leadership role the D-backs.” -- Makakilo
  • Greg Holland, who will make a huge impact on season wins by pitching well in close games. My pre-season view was Holland is worth 3 to 5 wins more than last year’s closer (Boxberger) - I may have underestimated his value! This season, he has allowed zero earned runs, with zero walks and four strikeouts in 3 innings. So far, he has earned 2 saves and a win!

After Saturday’s walk-off RBI, Carson Kelly is my pick.

  • Catcher of the future: At age 24, he is the youngest player on the 25-man roster, 3 days younger than Duplantier.
  • Offense: This season, his OPS is a career high. With only 14 plate appearances, he hit game winning RBIs on 31 March (13th inning) and 6 April (walkoff in 9th inning). That impact is easy to see.
  • Defense: His pitch framing is great. In 2017, the Stat Corner’s catcher report showed his plus calls per game (+1.67) ranked 7th best in the Majors. Although he dropped off in 2018, with the D-backs focus on defensive catchers, I have reason to think he has bounced back!
  • “I think the opportunity here is going to be good for me and my development.” - Carson Kelly talking about his new team.
  • “Things will play out. When I get my opportunity, I’ve got to go out there and do my best. The time will come.” - Carson Kelly with a positive attitude at the start of this season.

Dano: I kinda want to say Merrill Kelly, because he impressed me so much on Monday and he gave us the first quality start of the season (and he’s someone I had no sense of until I watched him Monday night), but really, it has to be new hitting coach Darnell Coles. The crazy offense so far this season is probably not sustainable, but it doesn’t feel like a fluke to me, either. So many of our players are having good at bats, hitting the ball hard, getting on base, that seems to me like it’s gotta be at least partly a result of an improvement on the coaching side.

Turambar: Christian “Thiccness” Walker. Nuff said. No, he’ll never be Lord Goldy *sniff*, but he’s doing far more than I had hoped. Lambs poor production followed by his injury has certainly helped give him the ABs he needs, but there really could be something to him.

Jack: Since I’m doing this late Sunday, I’ll go with Merrill Kelly. Shoutout to my buddy Fang for calling me out for being too impatient with Kelly in spring. He was right. He pounded the strike zone, changed speed, pitched aggressively without any fear. One sequence really stood out to me. In the 2nd Benintendi singled off a first pitch curveball. He came right back and threw his curve on the first pitch to Bogaerts in the very next AB. He showed he’ll throw that pitch on any count any time and you can’t sit on his fastball. And he was landing it for strikes all day. Add today’s outing to the first start in San Diego, and I think it’s a no brainer. He saved the bullpen and got the rotation turned around.

James: As far as standing out in a good way, I will go with Kelly, Kelly, Ahmed, and Jones. Merrill Kelly has performed above expectations so far and has arguably been one of the team’s best pitchers. I’m still not sure it is sustainable, but he is already doing better than I had predicted. Carson Kelly seems to be finding his groove. He still needs to get some more playing time though. Adam Jones is trying to make the most of his new home. Nick Ahmed continues to do enough with the bat to make the little things happen while still playing elite defense. If his bat continues the way it has so far, it will be difficult to take him out of the lineup, and that’s a good problem to have.

Michael: From the position player group, I have to go with Adam Jones. I didn’t have high expectations for him considering he was a mid-March signing and for a paltry $3M. Jones has been playing with a huge chip on his shoulder so far this year and it’s rubbing off on the rest of the team. Nick Ahmed is also going a long way to prove that he can be a steady offensive player as well. He’s not hitting the ball over the fence, but he’s grinding out ABs and using the whole field to his advantage.

From the pitching side, Merrill Kelly and Greg Holland have been solid pickups so far. I didn’t watch much of Kelly’s MLB debut, but came away from his 2nd start completely blown away. Not only does Kelly spin the ball well (4SFB 2335 rpm, CB 2736 rpm in his first start) but he has the presence of a 30-year-old veteran pitcher vs. the 30-year-old rookie that he is. His delivery has a good rhythm and tempo to it plus he can rely on 3 pitches on any count (4 seamer, curveball, change-up) with 2 of them being borderline plus or better.

Greg Holland has been a good luck charm (Dbacks 3-0 when he pitches) so far with 2 saves and a win, allowing only a single in his three games with 4 strikeouts. Holland’s fastball looks better than last year and his slider is still a great pitch and a useful put away pitch to RHH. Kelly and Holland didn’t look great in Spring, but when the lights came on they’ve been up to the challenge.

Wesley: I’ll have to go with Ketel Marte. He looks like he’s not only hitting the ball well, but has been unlucky at the same time. Could this be the year he finally breaks out? I am hoping so.

Sean: I know everyone is talking about Peralta, Adam Jones, and Christian Walker, but offense is to be expected from them. The stand out to me is Carson Kelly. He looks really good up at the plate and could very well be an above average bar at catcher, which is something the team hasn’t had in a long timetime.

Are we worried about Eduardo Escobar?

Makakilo: Yes. His hitting needs fixing.

First, Fangraphs shows his line drive rate and how hard he is hitting. I compared this season (small sample size caveat) with last season:

2018 2019
Line Drive Rate 24.8% 12.5%
Hard Hit Balls 38.2% 33.3%
Soft Hit Balls 15.2% 25.0%

Second, Statcast shows (small sample size caveat with 24 batted balls):

  • 2019 Hard Hit Percent 8.3% (previous seasons ranged from 23.6% to 30.6%)
  • 2019 Exit Velocity 82.7 mph (previous season ranged from 85.3 to 86.5mph)
  • 2019 Launch Angle 7.0 degrees (previous seasons ranged from 13.5 to 18.8 degrees)

Third, this season he has 9 strikeouts and 1 walk. [Edit - He walked on Sunday lowering his ratio of strikeouts to walks to 4.5.] Although this is a small sample size, in the Majors the average is about 3 to 1 (all players including pitchers who bat). This season, the D-back team average is 3.1 to 1.

Dano: Meh. Before Saturday’s game, I would have said “hell yes!” But now I’m choosing to believe that he just got off to a slow start, and that he’s turned a corner now and will settle into a groove. I reserve the right to recant this at a later date, however, should his performance on Saturday prove to be a flash in the pan.

Turambar: Meh, way too early. Ask me in two more weeks and I’ll have a better feel for how he’s trending.

Jack: Depends on your expectations I guess. I didn’t expect him to match 2018 numbers in the first place. It’s just a slow start. He’s coming around. Had a 3 hit day yesterday. He’s had 2 walks in the last 3 games. So I think he’ll continue to come around and have a hot streak at some point.

James: Not yet. He’s a glove-first infielder capable of playing multiple positions with above average defense, including third. He hasn’t walked as much as I would like to see, but that has started to shift a bit. Right now, I am chalking this up to a slow start and little else. With the team scoring the way it is right now, he picked the right time to stumble. Hopefully he finds his stride before the rest of the lineup cools off. That would help keep the offense clicking.

Michael: I think he made some improvements in the Red Sox series to where we don’t need to sound the alarm bells. 2 walks and 4 hits in the series plus a couple hard outs is a step in the right direction after two series of bad ABs. He’s seeing and hitting the ball better than he was in the Padres series. I’d still bat him lower in the order until he starts hitting the ball harder though, but I do think he’s close to breaking out of his slump.

Wesley: It’s too small of a sample size to make an accurate assessment. Give me 100 PAs and I can make a better assessment.

Sean: No. 8 games.

Do you feel better about the starting pitching?

Makakilo: Four Diamondback pitchers (Greinke, Ray, Godley, and Weaver) improved in their second start. I am very happy!!

  • In their second starts, their pitch efficiency improved from 20.8 pitches per inning to 16.7 pitches per inning.
  • In their second starts, their earned-runs-allowed improved from 5.25 runs per game to 2.25 runs per game.

Dano: No, not so much, honestly. We’re two starts in for everyone but Kelly at this point, and at best it’s been a Jekyll-and-Hyde contrast for each of them (well, except for Weaver, I suppose). There’s nobody in the starting rotation that I trust at this point to pitch well when they take the mound, because who knows which version of the pitcher in question you’re going to get? I’m guardedly hopefully, due to the improvement that Makakilo notes, but for Greinke and Godley especially, anything would have been an improvement from their first starts. Ask me again on May 1.

Turambar: Nope. Like Dano said above every pitcher has given me reason to hope and fear thus far, and not much in the middle. So we could be stuck every game digging out of a 8run hole, or cruising our way to the World Series: neither is likely, but we’ve seen shades of both.

Wesley: Not at all, but Merril Kelly is much better than I thought he would be. The fortunate thing is that there are some reinforcements down in the minors, in the Taylors, Widener and Calrke.

Jack: I probably feel a little less confident in the starting pitching then I did at the beginning of the season. A little discouraging to see Zack be so homer prone so early, and Ray and Godley to continue to exhibit periodic wildness. Those are your front 3, and they need to be very good for this team to have a good rotation, no matter what they get out of Weaver and Kelly going forward.

James: I feel better than I did after the first three games, but not as confident as I did before the season actually started. THe next three weeks or so are fgoing to be really telling. Will the real Robbie Ray please stand up? Which Zack Godley is the one we will see? Sadly, I think it may be the slightly out of control one, in which case there is a problem. The jury is still out on Weaver and Kelly.

Michael: The only starters I feel comfortable with out there are Greinke and Kelly. Ray still has the walk problem and Godley still gets wild with his delivery from time to time, which messes up his mechanics and locations horribly. Weaver needs to be able to avoid the big inning on the mound, in both starts he’s had the one big inning where he was unable to limit the damage after getting to 2 outs. Once Weaver is able to avoid those kind of innings, I think he’ll be fine.

Sean: Yes, but not because of a better second turn through the lineup. The real cause is because of Merrill Kelly, who looks really good so far. An 8 IP, 9 K game against the Red Sox and only giving up one run is amazing. The strikeout numbers are looking good and that will be a key factor to watch this season.

Jon Duplantier made his debut. What do you see his role as this season?

Makakilo: He pitched 3 innings with 9 batters out. And what greatly impressed me was his pitch efficiency (only 33 pitches). I see his roles as long reliever and spot starter.

Wesley: I’m with Makakilo here, I think that’s the most likely role for now. He easily could and should be a regular starter though.

Dano: I’m with M&W too, at least at this point. He might find himself in the starting rotation soon enough, though, depending on how our current starters perform going forward, and I think I’d welcome that.

Turambar: I see him eventually slotting in as a starter this year, especially with how shaky Godley looks and how injuries can and do happen. Before that time though I imagine they’ll work to get him innings out of the pen, which could be frequent since Koch and Yoshi seem to be struggling.

Jack: Mike Hazen said he didn’t go full on rebuild because he doesn’t believe in not trying to put a winning competitive team out there. Fine. If that is the case, then he needs to keep Duplantier on the roster as long man and spot starter and DFA Koch. If he sends Duplantier back to AAA, what it’s really saying is he isn’t going to give Torey the best possible players to win games at the MLB level and that player development is the priority. If that is the case, then why didn’t he make more rebuild moves after he traded Goldy ? It’s inconsistent. One or the other please.

James: I’m surprised to see him up so early. The team needs him to develop as a strong starting pitcher, which means getting his innings up to 120 or so this season. That will be difficult out of the bullpen. At the same time, he has nothing left to prove in AAA. Hopefully, he can remain a long man out of the bullpen and also get a couple starts mixed in throughout the season. The combination together should get him some good MLB development and hopefully also get him stretched out so that he can slide into the rotation once next season rolls around.

Michael: I’m fine with him playing the role of long reliever for now considering the alternatives. However, if they cannot find him a rotation spot they really should stretch him out in AAA and then call him up to pitch in the rotation later in the season. If he pitches in the bullpen all season, he’s probably only going to see 85-90 innings instead of 120-130 since his long term future is as a starter. Either a rotation spot has to open up in Arizona or they have to send him down to Reno.

Sean: If I had to guess, the team will send him down to AAA to go back to starting. My hope is that the team keeps him in the MLB bullpen to face MLB hitters. Considering the sad state of the bullpen, Jon could be a real plus.

What’s the best show currently on TV?

Makakilo: I don’t know because it’s been years since I watched TV or cable TV. Instead I watch shows on the internet. When possible, I most enjoy watching D-Back baseball on the internet.

Wesley: Doom Patrol. They actually have translated Grant Morrison’s legendary run on the comics, that was full of weirdness, into television. If you thought Groot was a weird character, look up Danny the Street. I never thought they’d not only make a television show, but have it be good. Does something on the DC streaming service count as television though?

Dano: Mmmm. Wesley is not wrong about “Doom Patrol”, and the remarkably successful translation of Grant Morrison’s run on an obscure DC title into excellent television. It’s kind of a niche offering, though, and I think one might need to be familiar with Morrison’s run on the comic to fully appreciate it. But, for broader and more general interest, I think it’s gotta be “The Good Place”: Charming, funny, breathtakingly smart, and one of the best ensemble casts I’ve run across in a long, long time.

Makakilo: Dano made great points about The Good Place. It’s more than good!

Wesley: The Good Place is pretty good, and much less niche and weird than Doom Patrol that’s for sure.

Turambar: One Punch Man: Season 2. Mostly serious with that choice, especially with how awesome the 1st season was. Check it out!!!!

Dano: Doom Patrol is pretty fantastic, too, though.

Jack: Ummm...Fox Sports Arizona, Diamondbacks broadcasts of course ! I’ve been slowly working my way through Ozark on Netflix. Good show, but pretty dark. I have to be in the right mood for it.

James: Most of my shows are done and over with. I do really like The Good Place. The rest of what I watch is either from a streaming service or is not currently on the air. I’m a big fan of Lucifer and the show, Instinct. One is moving to Netflix and the other won’t be back until doing a second short season again this summer. Mostly, the only thing I really watch on television is baseball. THat suits me just fine, watching multiple games almost every day.

Michael: Sadly I don’t watch TV that much of any kind outside of baseball and football games.

Sean: South Park.