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SnakePit Round Table: Road Warriors

Undefeated in three road series, but questions about the #5 spot abound...

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

We’re returning to what we used to do last year, with a guest contributor each week. Last time, Rockkstarr12 was the only one to mention it, so she’s the guest again this time! If you’d like to take part, speak up in the comments. It’s first-come, first served; questions are sent out on a Saturday, with replies needed by Sunday evening.

A very good road-trip for the D-backs. What stood out for you?

Turambar: The scoring. Apparently our bats just love anywhere but Chase. I’ll have to look it up to confirm, but pretty sure my fellow writers (looking at you specifically Jack) will back me up that our offense produces at a far higher clip on the road.

ISH95: ALL THE HOMERS! I don’t remember any stretch right off the top of my head where the Dbacks (and their opponents) hit so many home runs. Also, Zach Greinke is incredible and we need to build a statue of him in front of the new stadium.

Makakilo: On the road trip (prior to Sunday’s game), three things stood out:

Consistency in scoring.

  • D-back hitters were not shutout in any game.
  • At least two runs were scored every game. At least one run NOT-via-homers was scored every game (albeit two would be great).
  • Ignoring one game when the D-backs hit 8 homers, D-backs had a balance of runs-via-homers (48%) and runs-NOT-via-homer (52%). Per Mike Hazen, when homers are not happening, scoring in other ways provides consistent offense that a playoff-bound team needs.

Higher runs scored per game (RS/G).

  • 6.56 RS/G on the road trip.
  • 5.08 RS/G in 63 games prior to the road trip.

Better defense.

  • Runs allowed per game (RA/G) of 3.22 RA/G on the road trip vs 4.48 RA/G in 63 games prior.
  • Three shutouts in 9 games – that is remarkable!
  • Greinke’s two starts were exciting and remarkable. Zero runs in 13.1 innings.

James: Two things stood out to me. First, this roadtrip, thanks largely to a 13-homer game in Philadelphia, has put a spotlight on just how out of control the home run situation is in baseball right now. There were 55 home runs in baseball the night before last. It’s time for MLB to pull their heads out of the sand and admit that science is really a thing and that the ball is having an out-sized effect on the game.

Second, the Diamondbacks need another starter, and fast. Greinke, Ray, and Kelly are pitching well enough on their own to keep the Diamondbacks within range of a NL wild card berth, but they need help. With Walker and Weaver likely out for the season and Clarke being a guy getting by on unfamiliarity right now, the Diamondbacks are short 1.5 starters for the rotation. They’re going to drop from two games out to five or six games out in a hurry if they cannot find even a serviceable starter.

Jack: All the key points have been hit above. One other thing that stood out to me during this homer happy, run happy road trip, is what that has done to Chase Field Ballpark Factors. The 1 year factor is down to 91 at Baseball Reference. (100 = Neutral, above 100 favors hitters, below 100 favors pitchers) The Runs Park factor at ESPN is now down to .826 (25th in MLB) and the HR Park factor of .800 is 23rd. (same thing, but different scale, over 1 favors hitters, under 1 favors pitchers)

The sample size is still not all that big and they’ve played a lot more on the road than at home so far. I’m not sure if I’ll do the deeper dive update after next homestand or at the all star break. But as the games pile up and the park factor goes down, the indications just get stronger and stronger. Not only is Chase Field no longer a hitters park, it may just be a pitchers park now. (relative to the rest of the league)

Rockkstarr12: Indeed a very good road trip! For me, Zack Greinke’s performance stood out the most. The offense really picked it up as well during this road trip & was outstanding!

Are we any clearer now about our trade deadline situation?

ISH95: I’d say so. This is a team that is going to stick around. Don’t know if they make the playoffs, or, if they do, how far they will go, but they’re going to try.

Makakilo: It’s getting clearer that the D-backs are wild-card contenders.

  • Teams like the Cardinals and the Padres have fallen away from the D-backs in the last 10 games.
  • The only team in the NL with a higher run differential than the D-backs is the Dodgers, who are not contending for a wild-card berth.
  • The D-backs are 2 games out of a NL wild card berth with a lot of games left.

James: At this point, I don’t think it matters what the Diamondbacks record is, they need at least one more starter. Whether they make moves to bolster the roster for a playoff run or not is beside the point. They don’t have enough healthy starters to even limp to the All-Star Game right now. Either they need to bite the bullet and bring up a major question mark (or two) from the minors, or they need to trade for someone who can chew up a decent number of innings every five days.

Jack: Based on all the articles with direct quotes from Hazen, I think it’s better to just wait it out. Every time I prognosticate, the opposite happens. Obviously if they have a chance to pick up a starter that can help them both now and later, they will. It’s an obvious, urgent , pressing need, not just to contend, but just to get through the season. If they were 10 games under .500 maybe they just call up Takahasi or Widener. But as long as they are where they are, I don’t think they’ll go that route. But it’s also possible that no great opportunity presents itself and they stand pat through all star break, doing whatever they have to do to manage with the 40 man roster they have.

Turambar: Sure. We need a starter. Badly. I don’t want Hazen to trade the farm, I’m just asking for an innings eater. Who that might be I don’t know, but we can’t have another Archie/Godley outing like today and hope to continue to compete.

Rockkstarr12: Honestly, I don’t think so. I think we’re “standing by”.

In particular, do you think we need to get another starter after the loss of Duplantier? If so, who?

ISH95: Sunday will be the first time Archie Bradley will start since 2016. Yes. Desperately. Who, heck if I know, but that’s why they pay Hazen the big bucks. Didn’t hate the idea of Leake, to be honest, but he sounds like he is going to cost a lot.

Makakilo: Yes! Leake is not my choice. For me, two opportunities seem promising.

Tanner Roark from the Reds. He is a good choice because:

  • His FIP of 3.3 ranks 8th in the NL (2019).
  • His 2017 and 2018 results at Chase: 14 innings, 3 earned runs, 15 strikeouts, zero homers.
  • “Tanner is a great teammate. He’s a professional.” -- Reds manager David Bell.
  • “He’s a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter that just can come in and anchor our staff.”-- Reds GM Nick Krall.
  • ”He’s been a great story for us and a really good scouting and player development story in general.” -- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.

Ian Kennedy and Scott Barlow from the Royals. This trade is an “out-of-the-box” choice for two reasons:

  • This season Kennedy is in the bullpen, and the D-backs need a starter. My preference would be that he and Zack Godley be back-to-back openers that pitch 5-6 innings instead of a starter. Perhaps Archie Bradley could pitch immediately after them. [Edit - This was written before Sunday’s game with Bradley/Godley as opener/starter. The result seems to throw cold water on this out-of-the-box idea.]
  • My preference would be that instead of the Royals paying part of his very high salary in 2019/2020, the Royals package Kennedy with Scott Barlow, relief pitcher, who would go to the D-backs with Kennedy.

Ian Kennedy is a good choice because:

  • His FIP is 2.06 (2019).
  • He has played for the D-backs, so they know him well.
  • He is open to being a starter or an opener. “I feel I can still start...I love being a starter, but it’s about what helps the team.” -- Ian Kennedy

Scott Barlow is a good choice because:

  • His strikeouts per 9 innings is 12.6.
  • His 4-seam fastball average velocity increased from 90.6 mph last season to 93.8 mph. (Statcast).
  • His 4-seam fastball K% increased from 103% last season to 33.9% (Statcast)
  • He is 26 years old and is under team control through 2024.
  • “I always knew if he [Scott Barlow] was going to be in the bullpen, he was a weapon. He has starter stuff. So if he can bring that to the bullpen, he has more weapons than a normal bullpen guy would have.” – Ian Kennedy

James: As I mentioned above, I think the Diamondbacks need another starter, regardless of their playoff aspirations. I do agree with Makakilo that Tanner Roark is an attractive target. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks will not be the only team looking to add a quality starter at the deadline. Roark’s performance and his ultra-friendly contract are going to make the price to acquire him a steep one. If the Reds play things right, they may just be able to get a team to sacrifice a premium prospect for a three-month Roark rental. The problem with identifying targets is that it is difficult to imagine that the team has much money left to add to the payroll. That rules out bringing in someone like Samardzija, who can at least be league average and eat up innings in bunches. The team already kicked the tires on Mike Leake and it seems the cost was too high. If that’s the case, I’m afraid the team winds up taking a flier on someone else’s retread or possibly James Shields.

Jack: They need another starter. If they are trying to win this year, I’d like to see them try hard to get Bumgarner. Go big or go home. Or if they don’t want to go that route, maybe they can deal from strength, and give up one of their right handed first basemen to Milwaukee to get a project like Freddie Peralta. For some reason the Brewers continue to give a lot of PA to Jesus Aguilar. Milwaukee will need more if they want to make the playoffs. And Peralta may fit the type of guy they like to get, which is good stuff, years of control.

Rockkstarr12: Possibly. Especially if having Archie in that spot doesn’t cut it. Question is who do we go for? Dallas Keuchel has been taken.

Who is having the better season? Ketel Marte or Eduardo Escobar, and why?

ISH95: For me it’s Marte. Not only is he having a great break out season, he is doing it while learning a new position on the fly. To top it off, he isn’t doing bad at all out in center.

Makakilo: These two players are having great seasons hitting the ball. Escobar edges out Marte in two stats (OPS+ of 133 vs 123, and OBP of .350 vs 333).

From a broader perspective, Ketel Marte moved to center field to fill a critical need. He is defending extraordinarily well with an ultimate zone rating per 150 games (UZR/150) of 28.2. His 5 total zone runs in center ranks 3rd in the NL.

Ketel Marte is having the better season than Eduardo Escobar because:

Better defense (UZR/150 of 28.2 in CF vs UZR/150 of -0.8 at 3B).

More homers (19 vs 17).

Jack: I think it’s a push, a dead heat. As Mak points out Escobar has the edge in OPS+ He also has the edge in WPA 1.1 to 0.8. But Marte has the edge in BIS Fielding Runs (+5 to 0+) and positional value (+2 to +1). Overall Marte has 2.6 bWAR and Escobar has 2.3. And in fWAR it’s Marte 2.6 to 2.4

So with all these decimal points flying around, if just talking this year, I say push. Both players have been equally important to the team’s success. Obviously Marte’s age suggests there may yet be another gear for him. AND there is the important factor that Marte’s wOBA and xwOBA are exactly the same while Escobar’s results far exceed the expected results based on peripherals. Click on the “Diff” column header HERE to sort, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Based on those factors it would seem Marte has a better chance to maintain this level. But the results, or performance value, YTD are the same.

Turambar: Marte, for the simple fact he’s learning a new position on the fly AND killing it at the plate.

Rockkstarr12: They are both doing well so it’s really hard for me to choose & you know how much I like Eddie.

Are the balls juiced this year? And does it matter?

ISH95: See above about the home runs. Either they are juiced, or suddenly everyone in baseball is a power hitter, including Jarrod Dyson of all people.

Does it matter? Yes, but not in a negative way. We are going to have to take it into consideration when talking about this era versus others. I don’t think it’s destroying the game like others, but it sure is changing how I look at it. I never wondered what it would be like if every game was played at Coors, but now I know.

Jack: Studies actually suggest they are aerodynamically different , with lower seams, providing less drag, so flying further. I guess “juiced” is just a good enough word to describe it. The issue is if they “un juice” the ball, they will reduce homers and runs, but they won’t increase other types of hits, such as singles, doubles and triples all that much and they won’t reduce strikeouts. So the things that are lamented most, (more K’s than hits, lack of action) won’t really change much.

Rockkstarr12: Humidor, anyone? As someone who grew up with the humidor in Denver, I am used to it so it doesn’t bother me any, nor does it matter to me. As long as we’re hitting, that is what matters.

What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?

ISH95: That’s easy, but it wasn’t exactly by choice. I was driving back from Show Low in one of the worst monsoon storms I’ve ever seen (maybe 100 feet of visibility) going eighty-five down the hill because a fully loaded semi truck was tailgating me so close I couldn’t see his headlights and wouldn’t back off. I seriously thought I was going to drive off the mountain.

Makakilo: A big danger that I knew about was ziplining in Hawaii. I trusted that the safety procedures and precautions (such as regular safety inspections) would prevent harm. They did.

The biggest danger, which I did not know about at the time, was possibly flying on a Boeing 747 max. It’s improved fuel-efficient engines were so big they would have dragged on the ground. So, they moved the engines’ location. That new location made the plane more susceptible to stalling so they added software that would repeatedly push the plane’s nose down based on one sensor’s information. It appears they did not consider the consequences if that one sensor broke and/or sent wrong data. Currently, that plane is grounded by over 50 regulatory agencies world-wide.

Jack: Tackled a machete wielding Taiwanese gangster who had burst into a bar owned by a friend of mine, looking to hack my friend to death. I was 24 years old, the father of one at the time. It wasn’t a smart move. And it required intervention from some “friends” to stop retaliation for what I did. That was pretty much the end of my “badass days for the most part.

Turambar: Probably insisting on driving my pledge buddies on a 24hr scavenger hunt through LA, Vegas and back again. Wouldn’t give myself a break (my car) and outside of almost hitting a plastic truck bed on a pitch black stretch of highway I almost nodded off at the wheel several times. Not my finest hour in car safety.

Rockkstarr12: Rode my bike home from a softball game during a thunderstorm. Lightning struck my tire, I was thrown off my bike into a ditch, & I walked with my bike the rest of the way home (2 miles) taking my chances on getting struck again.