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SnakePit Round Table: Lows and highs and lows again

It was the worst of weeks... It was the best of weeks... Then it could be the worst of weeks again...

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Write an epitaph for John Ryan Murphy

Jack: He stuck around a lot longer than he should have.

ISH95: Here lies JRM. He never scored.

Wesley: Here lies John Ryan Murphy, great pitch framer and defender, terrible hitter. Stuck around longer than he should have because he had embarrassing pitchers of Mike Hazen.

Makakilo: Here lies JRM who was all most fine,
his 2019 stat ranked third in NL catchers:
a range factor per 9 innings of 10.39.

Steven: He was dfa’d as he hit, too little too late.

Dano: So long, John Ryan. We will miss your offensive contributions. In fact, we’ve been missing them pretty much all year.

Keegan: William Brocius- “Well… bye.” Tombstone

Turambar: JRM… he framed pitches and took valuable playing time away from Carson Kelly. Bye bye.

James: John Ryan Murphy - placeholder for the better player who never arrived until injuries made it so.

Is Taylor Clarke here to stay?

Jack: I believe he has earned at least 3 more starts. There are no off days until June 6th. So he’ll need to stay here and make at least two more starts, May 30th @ Colorado, and then June 4th vs. LAD at home. And most likely he’ll stay around through June 10th to start @Philly as well. Those are three tough starts coming up. He can’t falter though, or they will give Jon Duplantier the spot if he does. JD pitched Friday night and only threw just 65 pitches, and got hit hard. So he’s at least 3 more starts away from being stretched out enough. So I believe Clarke is going to stay at least through the beginning of the next road trip and make that start in Philly. If Clarke navigates those 3 starts and is still looking good, then JD will have to wait for a different slot to open up.

Makakilo: After Saturday’s game, Torey Lovullo said his fastball was effective and “But it was a really, really strong outing because he didn’t have his best secondary stuff and you would have never known it.”

Brooks Baseball shows that when he pitched on 7 May, only 34% of his pitches were fastballs. Although I don’t yet know Saturday’s percentage, if 66% of his pitches were less than his best then maybe the D-backs were very very lucky. Either his best secondary pitches will return or eventually he will be sent down to find them.

ISH95: I mean, I don’t see why not. As far as I know, Duplantier is still on his innings limit, and isn’t really stretched out still regardless, which leaves us with Godley as the other option. In other words, I hope so? I think?

Wesley: I think so. Out of the trio of prospects in AAA, he’s been there the longest, and has had the best results. However, I know Dup and Widener are hungry for the starting pitching spot, and he has three very tough starts ahead of him as Jack said. If he falters, then that spot will end up being Duplantier’s spot to take. Widener has finally adjusted to AAA and may have turned a corner.

Steven: The job is definitely his to take. He’s done enough in both starts and relief appearances to show he has what it takes at the MLB level to stick. However, if he’s not going to get strikeouts, he needs to not walk guys at the rate he’s at because there are plenty of arms ready to go.

Dano: Given how he’s pitched in his first two starts, I’d say yes please! He’s been very good so far, all things considered. And judging by his performance so far, he’s better than the other currently available options.

Keegan: I would imagine so. Who else would they turn to? Zack Godley probably won’t start again this season. Jon Duplantier isn’t stretched out enough. Who knows if Taijuan Walker will be healthy enough this season.

Turambar: Why the hell not? He’s been solid in his starts and until Dup gets more innings under his belt in the minors we got not reason not to start him.

James: At this point, the job is his to lose. If he can survive the next 4 weeks or so, I don’t think he goes anywhere. If he starts getting slapped around, he’ll be looking over his shoulder to see if Duplantier or Widener are creeping up on him. His fate is pretty much in his own hands now though.

What about Kevin Cron?

Jack: That depends on Jake Lamb’s recovery or perhaps Christian Walker’s performance over the next few weeks. I can’t imagine them considering to DFA Walker even if slump continues though, as they’d lose him for sure. So when Lamb is ready to come back, Cron probably gets caught in that crunch. BUT if he rakes for 2 weeks, who knows? Maybe they work out a trade to clear a spot if he looks really good.

Makakilo: Kevin Cron said, “They brought me here to produce runs, so that [his RBI double] was a big situation for us to keep building that lead for Clarke.”

This season in Reno, he had 62 RBIs in 44 games. Intuitively (without having rigorous support), it seems that nearly 1.5 runs per game in Reno translates with some confidence to at least a half run per game for the D-backs! A half run per game would put him just behind Escobar, Peralta, Jones, and Marte; and likely Cron would stay.

ISH95: With Walker’s struggles, Lamb seemingly not near a return, and now Peralta on the List Formerly Known as Disabled, I’d say he is, especially if he keeps up even a fraction of the production he was giving in Reno.

Wesley: With Peralta and Lamb out, and Walker struggling, I don’t see why not. If he is producing at the plate, and Walker continues struggling when Lamb comes back, I’d imagine he stays. Even then, if he’s absolutely raking, than its possible they even make a trade to make room for him.

Steven: I’ve really like what I’ve seen from him in the limited action we’ve seen. Spraying the ball all over the field with power is a good base for any successful player. I still think Walker deserves another month or so worth of at-bats to show if he can stick. If not, go full-time with Cron, he’s proven all he can in AAA.

Dano: We’ve only seen five plate appearances from him so far. Too small a sample size, really. I expect he’ll stick around for a bit, at least, which I’m happy about--Walker kinda sucks just now, Lamb’s probably not back anytime soon, and given the stupid numbers Cron’s put up in Reno, I’m interested in seeing if he can translate that to the big league level. Whether he sticks in the long term, well, I expect we’ll have a better sense of that in a couple of weeks.

Keegan: Not for long. Mike Hazen will break out in a cold sweat with only 2.5 catchers on the roster.

Turambar: Cron, I seldom pray to you, but if you don’t produce runs then to hell with you! Seriously though I think he’ll stick around a while, especially with Lamb no where near returning. Curious to see if he gets time at 3rd or even the outfield. If he keeps producing though maybe he gets that “everyday” tag faster than any of us could have predicted when the season started.

James: If not for Lamb’s setback, combined with Flores hitting the IL for an unknown period of time, I honestly think Cron would still be languishing in Reno and we would still be having daily debates about Murphy being on the roster despite no one outside of Cron looking much better. Peralta hitting the IL only adds to that situation. Once Peralta returns, I think Locastro is the man sent down. That means Cron probably hangs on until either Flores or Lamb returns, regardless of Walker’s recent struggles. I think Walker would have to tank even harder, and for a number of more weeks before the team even began to entertain letting Cron push him out. If/when Flores and/or Lamb return, things are going to get complicated for Cron.

Is the Arizona offense good enough?

Jack: Good enough for what? To finish .500? Yes. To maybe get a Wild Card Slot? Possibly. To win the NL West? Unlikely. To Win the NL Pennant and get to a World Series? Less than 3 % chance.

Makakilo: So far, the offense averaged 5.3 runs per game. However, their consistency is what impressed me most - they scored 5 or more runs in 27 of their 52 games. They never give up - I have such great memories of scoring in late innings!

Yes, building on the foundation of great D-back pitching and defense, the offense is good enough to contend for a wild-card slot. After that, it’s hard to predict what will happen.

ISH95: I agree with Mak and Jack that it’s probably good enough for a Wild Card. I’m pretty sure the Dodgers are too far away for them to be a realistic goal no matter how good the team is.

Wesley: It’s okay enough to sneak in an get the second wild card spot.

Steven: I think this team will ride or die on the fringe guys hitting league average. Guys like Adam Jones, Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed need to pick up the pace because the Dodgers show no signs of slowing down. If not, dump ship and get value out of the guys while you can.

Dano: Judging by performance thus far, hell yes. More that good enough, given what I think most of us expected going into 2019. It’s a bummer when the entire team seems to slump at the same time (cf. the past week, until our arrival in San Francisco), but the run droughts never seem to last very long. As for postseason prospects, I’m not even gonna go there. It’s a long season. The fact that we’re seriously kicking around the idea of reaching the postseason this year, after losing who all we lost during the off-season, pretty much answers the question right there.

That said, my one area of concern is that we’re playing a lot better on the road than we are at home. I’d like to see us do a better job when we’re in our own friendly confines.

Turambar: Good enough for sure to take a crack at the Wild Card, and certainly MILES away from what we thought they would be at this year. Hell, even with Walker in a slump we seem to have just the right mix of bats to keep up consistent run support, even late in games; a far cry from last year’s squad.

James: I think that largely depends on which offense is the real offense. The Diamondbacks just hung 34 runs on San Francisco in three games. But then, it’s San Francisco. They stink this season. I think their starting pitching might be good enough to give the offense a chance to sneak them into the second wild card slot. I still think even that is a stretch though. I still have my doubts about the continued performance of Jones, Dyson, Swihart, Vargas, and Locastro, all of whom are going to get significant ABs between now and the end of the season. That doesn’t even address Walker’s struggles or the “loss” of Flores and Lamb.

How will the team cope without Wilmer Flores and David Peralta?

Jack: I think we are already seeing it. They like Vargas, and he’ll get to play. But he hasn’t taken a walk yet this year in 70 PA, and has just 1 walk in his 103 career PA. So he is net negative if he doesn’t hit .300. And he’s not a .300 hitter. So when Lamb comes back, if he plays some 3rd, the Eduardo Escobar can scoot over to 2b. This is probably the most likely scenario. Lamb at 3rd and Cron at 1st might be some shaky defense, admittedly. As for replacing Peralta, depends on how long he’s out for. Will just have to hope Locastro keeps getting on base and Swihart starts to hit.

ISH95: I don’t feel like Flores is much of a loss, honestly. Peralta is another story. How they cope with it will say a lot about their resilience, since I see him as the driving force behind the energy of the team.

Wesley: I honestly forgot that Flores was even on the team.

Steven: If Peralta is out for any significant length of time, the team will struggle. They’ve done a great job beating up on a pitiful Giants team, but I’m concerned with how they’ll do going forward against actually good pitching. We’ll see!

Makakilo: One additional coping factor: Christian Walker breaking out of his slump.

Dano: Early days, but I’m guardedly hopeful so far. Per ISH, I’m not so worried about the absence of Fez, though his bat had finally been coming around this month, so it’s sad to see that progress interrupted. The Freight Train, on the other hand...he’s kind of the heart and soul of the team, in many respects, so that loss worries me, as much as the offensive production. Other folks seem to be stepping up so far, but how long that’s sustainable is an open question, especially if Peralta’s out longer than just a couple of weeks.

Turambar: Still too early to tell. A lot depends on Walker getting out of his slump, and production from others slotting in to Peralta and Flores position. Escobar will easily slide over to second and if Lamb can come back in any meaningful way then we make actually see offensive improvement. Who the heck knows this early in both their injuries though.

James: Unless this current group of players goes on some sort of insane hot streak and wins 14 of the next 20 games or so, I think we are already seeing what the team is going to do. Locastro and Vargas, along with Cron for the time being, will get their ABs and the team will just hope for the best. If the team does get that hot, I think they will pull the trigger on a bat via trade. If they struggle again like they did before going to San Francisco, they might even move some more of the better pieces, putting even more faith in youth and fill-ins.

How will the team cope with today’s injury to Weaver?

Jack: Really tough to tell. They will be reeling right about now. Even if no TJ Surgery, a IL stint and missed starts seems highly likely. Internal options on 40 man roster not great , name is linked to game log:

  • Taylor Widener (not on 40 man but there is an open spot due to Murphy DFA) has been getting hit very hard, as mentioned in game thread. .329/.397/.642 1.039 OPS against in 10 starts, managing just 41.2 IP. Tough to see him being much help at the moment.
  • Jon Duplantier threw only 65 pitches in his most recent outing, and 60 before that. He’s not stretched out enough, and if he starts, it will more or less be a bullpen game after the 4th, if they’re lucky. A few weeks from now this would be less of an issue presumably
  • Bo Takahashi is on the 40 man roster, and has been on a bit of a run of late with 4 straight good starts, including today. (So on same rotation schedule as Weaver) but he’s pitching in AA Jackson. Is he ready to get MLB outs ?
  • Emilio Vargas currently on MiLB IL, is having a bad season in AA and is not an option.

So only three options from minor league depth, non ideal at the moment, and going back to Godley does not seem like a holy idea either. Mike Hazen had previously indicated they are possibly looking to add a starter from outside the organization. So a trade or a low level signing is also very strong possibility if they don’t feel confident in one of the 40 man options. Especially if this is a TJ situation. They’ll probably opt for a short term stop gap from the minors until they get the MRI back and know for sure what the deal is.

Dano: Too soon to tell, I think. I know that “forearm tightness” is very often a precursor to Tommy John surgery, but honestly, it didn’t look like much during the game. I was put more in mind of whatever caused Greinke to leave his last start, which turned out to be not a very big deal at all. Here’s hoping it’s the same sort of thing for Weaver. If not, however, well...we do have some young arms that we’ve been waiting to see up in the bigs, so now would probably be the time for that. Alternately, isn’t June 1 the date after which we could sign someone who had refused a qualifying offer without having to surrender a draft pick? Dallas Keuchel, or a free agent of that variety, anyone?

ISH95: Hopefully better than I am, honestly. I got the text from KTAR, and I might have uttered an expletive or two at Fan Fusion and got some glares.

Especially after Jack laid out the options we have, they almost are forced to go outside the organization. Keuchel is of course the big name out there, but as nice as that would be, it doesn’t seem to match up with the org’s mindset, unless they get him on a contract for this season only to let him build value. Even then, he won’t be ready to join the team for a couple weeks at most.

Trade seems most likely, to me, but I’ll leave it up to those who are more aware of MLB outside the confines of Phoenix to figure out who and for what.

Wesley: It’s a little to early to tell, and I didn’t see the injury happen. Worst case scenario, the team will likely be forced to go outside the organization. I think we may see Bo Takahashi thrown out there since he’s already on the 40 man, though I can’t really say I can see that being THE long term solution. Although I disagree about Widener to since I think he’s really starting to turn the corner, I don’t think he’s ready to be thrown into the fire just yet. (His last six starts he’s had only one really bad start with seven runs allowed, two with three runs allowed, two with four runs, and his last start was much more inline with what we all expected out of him, with just a run allowed)

Makakilo: I suspect Mike Hazen was previously looking to trade for a starting pitcher. Now, it must be a strong possibility. The Nationals (21-31) are crashing. They may be open to trading former D-back Jeremy Hellickson because:

  • They have fallen out of playoff contention.
  • Hellickson is in the last season of his contract.
  • Hellickson is on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder tendonitis.

The D-backs may want him if his injury is minor and they can improve his pitching.

James: I think it is entirely too early to tell. It will depend on the severity of the injury. However, unless Hazen is still looking to make a move, I would not be surprised if they work with some form of bullpen tandem using Duplantier and Godley. If not that, they may turn to Widener. Widener has been getting abused in Reno this season, but as the season is progressing, there are more and more indications that the atmosphere and juiced balls may be having an out-sized effect on everything in that league. Frankly, none of the options are terribly appealing. Even making a move hurts, since teams will have AZ over a barrel in the negotiations. Tough break, given just how strong Weaver was looking this season.

Who has been the best play-by-play commentator for the D-backs since their inception in 1998? [Question shamelessly stolen from @TheRattleAZ. Check out their podcast!]

Jack: I abstain

ISH95: Greg Schulte, no contest in my mind. No matter who has been on TV, I’ve always preferred him

Wesley: i watch baseball with the sound off, and I find most commentators to be annoying at best.

Steven: Daron Sutton is my choice. Steve is unbearable as a rah-rah team guy and leans heavily on analytics, Schulte is boring and I have no recollection of Thom.

Dano: I’m with Steven--put me down for Sutton as well. I don’t have any animosity toward Steve myself--I suspect the rah-rah thing with the current broadcasts is more a matter of the team and/or the league exerting editorial control over anything that sounds too much like criticism--but I do miss Daron and Gracie calling games. Also, fun fact that I just learned: Daron Sutton is Don Sutton’s son, so baseball is in his blood. Who knew?

Keegan: If we’re talking strictly television, Thom Brennaman and it isn’t even close. He’s one of the best in the business.

ISH95: Looks like everyone else is limiting it to TV, so I’m going to go with Thom. He had a lot of similar qualities to Sutton, but a little more… relaxed.

James: I love Schulte for play-by-play, but I suspect this question is about television broadcasters. Schulte is horrendous at television, he’s just been doing radio for entirely too long to shake that method of broadcasting and it just does not work for television. If we are talking about pure PBP talent, it has to be Brennaman. However, I confess I actually enjoyed Sutton more. Both of them are professional PBP personalities that spoiled this organization’s fan base. Most organizations are lucky to land such talent once. Arizona managed to land premium talent for the booth twice.

[There was one further question, but for reasons of length, due to the late addition of the Weaver issue, that has been carried forward to next weekend’s edition!]