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SnakePit Round Table: Not dead yet...

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In which we look back at an August that certainly went better than expected, and forward to what the 2020 infield might look like

Night Of The Living Dead Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

Review the first month of the post-Greinke era

Dano: Seems like it’s been all right. The entire structure hasn’t collapsed, We won more games than we lost, and it appears that we are on the verge of sweeping the almighty Dodgers in this four-game series, which would amuse and please me to no end. On paper, at least, we still persist as a contender for the second Wild Card spot. Broadly speaking, our trade deadline acquisitions have been performing well. Can’t complain, really. Let’s call it a B+.

Turambar: Solid, slightly above .500, baseball. Which is really saying something with all the new additions and the departure of a HOF pitcher. Honestly I’m impressed with this team both before and after the trade with how we continue to compete despite obviously rebuilding the franchise. B

James: The team is performing better than I thought they would. Frankly, I expected the team to sort of fold after the trade deadline, partly from the lack of Greinke, partly from the auditions of minor leaguers for a spot on the 2020 roster. That the team has played better than .500 and has been mostly competitive since the deadline is encouraging. With the team playing this well while missing three key pitchers along with missing Peralta and Souza, I am left a bit excited to see what the team can do if it comes back healthy next season. I give the month a solid B+.

Jack Solid A. They just had a 16-11 August, when everyone (me included) expected them to fall apart. That’s a pace for 96 wins. Sure, there were some weird twists and turns, losing when we expected them to win, winning when we expected them to lose. But they have played hard and they haven’t given up, even when we did.

Who was the team’s MVP?

Makakilo: Based on FanGraphs’ WAR, the August MVP was Ketel Marte. The surprise in second place was Wilmer Flores. Next season Wilmer Flores could earn the second base position.

Dano: Makakilo’s right, no doubt, based on the metrics. But then, Marte has pretty much been our MVP all year. For August, I think I’d have to go with Eduardo Escobar. He only batted .229 in August, as it turns out, but his OPS was .832 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs.

Turambar: Marte by a mile. This is truly a breakout year for him, and that’s with having to learn and play a whole new position. He’s been incredible in the field and at the plate and would have a real chance at league MVP if our team was in the playoff hunt.

James: This is Kete; Marte’s season. August was no exception. Not only was he the team’s MVP in August, he should finish in the top three for the 2019 NL MVP.

Jack: Archie Bradley. 9 Saves, 1 blown save, pitched in 14 of the 27 games. It wasn’t perfect, but he solidified and stabilized the bullpen. Kevin Ginkel, Andrew Chafin, and Matt Andriese all had lower ERA in similar IP, but it all started with Archie calming things down in the 9th. And his 3.07 ERA and ..208/.283/.377, .661 OPS against are pretty good too.

What about the LVP?

Dano: Cf. next question, below. Jake Lamb, I think. I will not miss him when he’s gone.

Turambar: Like Dano said Lamb has been mostly forgotten this year. That All Star year he had seems light years away…….

James: Sticking with position players and taking into account playing time, I have to go with Jake Lamb. There are a pair of pitchers I would probably rank there right alongside him though.

Jack: I’ll say that Merrill Kelly, (5GS, 25 IP, .985 OPS Against, 6.85 ERA) and Mike Leake (5 GS, 28.2 IP, .960 OPS against, 6.59 ERA) are “co-winners” here. The team was 5-5 in those ten starts, and their combined personal record is 3-4. But their outings put a lot of pressure on the bullpen, averaging just 5 ⅓ IP from guys you need a bit more from.

Should Jake Lamb be non-tendered for 2020?

Wesley: We should hold on to Lamb and let him rebuild value, unless the team thinks it unlikely that he will I think the next season we should hold on to basically everyone we can that we can’t get maximum value over the off-season. I think we could get quite the haul for Ray during the offseason, but Peralta and Lamb will need to rebuild their value

Makakilo: Yes, although trading him would be the best option. Details follow:

Next season Lamb may play about 25% of full time. In his final year of arbitration, he might make $6 million. For the D-backs, that salary is too high for a part-time player.

Let’s compare hitting by Lamb and Escobar:

  • Based on BABIP, they were equally lucky – each month their BABIPs were nearly the same except Lamb had the better (more lucky) BABIP in March/April.
  • For the season, Escobar had the better OPS (.854 vs .709), RBIs (108 vs 19), and HRs (31 vs 5) (Escobar had 3.4 PAs for every Lamb PA).
  • For August, Escobar had the better OPS (.816 vs .553), RBIs (27 vs 6), and HRs (9 vs 2). (Escobar had 1.7 PAs for every Lamb PA).
  • For the season, Lamb had the better OPS vs LHP, but Lamb’s OPS was based on a small sample size of 23 PAs.
  • For the season, Escobar has the better OPS at home games and at away games, first half and second half, and against RHP.
  • Looking ahead, Escobar will generate more runs, which is a big need.

Let’s compare defense at third base by Lamb and Escobar:

  • For 2018, Lamb had the better UZR/150 (3.6 vs 2.3).
  • For 2019, Escobar had the better UZR/150 (positive 1.7 vs negative 21.6)
  • Looking ahead, I prefer Escobar’s consistency year-to-year in defense.

Dano: I think it’s time for him to go. I really don’t want to see him on the roster come 2020...he’s had a couple of stretches, here and there, over the past couple of seasons during which he looked like he might be figuring it out, but, well, nope. He’s a flash in the pan. Fool’s gold. Trading him would certainly be better, but the primary goal has to be him having another home come Spring Training.

Turambar: I’ve written both on my own beercap and in these round tables that our time with Lamb should/is at an end. No I don’t think Escobar will repeat this season’s performance in 2020, but I like his career splits more and think he’ll have a more consistently positive impact going forward. Lamb on the other hand has shown quite clearly to me that he’s unable to figure out consistency in his swing, and that’s been compounded even further by his injuries.

James: My knee-jerk reaction was that they should non-tender him. Then, I refreshed my memory as to who would be available through promotion or free agency to replace him for the modest price of $6-7 million. The big question for me then became whether or not I thought he could stay healthy in 2020. Overall, I think he stays healthy enough to provide at least 300 ABs, if not 400+, and that’s penciling him in as a part-timer to begin with, platooning Walker at first and giving Escobar days off or the ability to shift to second. Since I am not cutting payroll just for the sake of cutting it even more, I tender him but keep my expectations in check. So long as he continues to be a league average player, I don’t think it hurts the team.

Jack: He is making 4.8M. Because of the career HR total, he is still going to get at least 6M or more in arbitration. I don’t see the team being willing to spend 6+M for him to be in the role he’s in now, and it doesn’t look like he will play himself into a more important role any time soon. Serious Non Tender candidate.

Predict the D-backs Opening Day infield and infield bench

Makakilo: My predictions follow:

  • 1B: Christian Walker
  • 2B: Wilmer Flores
  • 3B: Eduardo Escobar
  • SS: Nick Ahmed
  • C: Carson Kelly
  • Infield Bench: Domingo Leyba

Dano: Ditto Makakilo’s list, aside from the bench. Walker’s proved himself capable of performing at the MLB level. Flores started so slow I kinda forgot he existed, but he’s been doing the business since the All-Star Break--1.100 OPS. He should be playing every day. Escobar and Ahmed, of course. Kelly has definitely grown into being a starting catcher we can feel comfortable with. I’d be happy with that infield going out to do the business most every day. As for the bench, I think Ildemaro Vargas has earned the right to stick around. A second bench player would be advisable as well, and that second slot might well be good for Leyba. Unless there’s someone else who would be better that I’m not remembering right now. I’m agnostic about Leyba, really. Maybe Kevin Cron and his very might power-hitting bat? Though I don’t love putting someone on the roster just to serve as a backup first baseman/pinch hitter.

James: I think Makakilo has pretty much nailed the expected starting infield. As for the infield bench:

  • A new catcher to be determined
  • Josh Rojas
  • Jake Lamb

Jack: I have a gut feeling they are going to move Ketel Marte back to 2b for his primary position, and try to do something else with the outfield. So:

  • C-Kelly
  • 1b-Walker
  • 2b-Marte
  • 3b-Escobar
  • SS-Ahmed

I’m 50/50 on whether they will (or should) pick up Wilmer Flores’ 6M option. He has been exactly what was expected, (by most), a good bat with a below average glove, and below average baserunning:

  • +5 Batting runs
  • -3 fielding runs
  • -1 baserunning runs
  • -1 Double Play Runs

That, combined with replacement level runs and positional runs adds up to 0.7 bWAR, 0.8 fWAR in 200 + PA. 6M is a lot of scratch to pay for a part time player producing under 1 WAR. But it’s not crazy either. If they don’t pick up the option, then the bench looks like:

  • Vargas Utility infield (out of options next year). If they pick up Wilmer’s option, then Vargas could be out.
  • Leyba Utility infield (Nothing left to prove in the minors
  • Rojas (Super utility guy who will see time in OF and Infield)
  • Joseph (catcher, has options, will keep bench warm for Varsho)

That leaves 4 roster spots for the outfield, and 13 roster spots for pitchers. It will be fluid for sure

What famous movie have you never seen?

Wesley: There’s a whole bunch of my list of movies to see that I have get to get around to that everyone is surprised by. Some big examples: I’ve yet to actually watch any Indiana Jones movies all the way through. I’ve yet to finish Return of the King. (Side note, this is despite buying tickets for it in theatres three or four times.) I’ve never sat all the way through Top Gun. There’s probably a lot more recent ones I’m forgetting but those are off the top of my head.

Dano: Probably the vast majority of them I haven’t seen. Though, Wes, don’t worry too much about failing to complete “Return of the King”...despite the Oscar nod, I’m pretty sure your time is better spent doing something else. LIke maybe reading the book. As for me, though, the one that I’m most deeply ashamed to admit (and I’m not entirely sure why, honestly, because I haven’t seen the movie) would probably be “Citizen Kane”. I ran across the Rosebud spoiler early in life, and never was able to overcome that. I suspect it doesn’t actually matter all that much, given how widely regarded the film is as one of the best ever made. But there you are. Maybe I’ll get around to it one day.

Makakilo: This question prompted me to read some movie reviews. Thanks to Dano, I looked at Citizen Kane. It is a timeless movie that is truly worth seeing. It is now at the very top of my list of movies to see!

James: I have over 3,200 movies in the house, so this is a tough one for me. I’m fairly certain I never finished Philadelphia. As far as cult films with irrational followings go, I never was able to finish Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Jack: I haven’t seen ANY of the Star Wars movies beyond the first three that came out in the late 70’s early 80’s.