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Place Your Bets 2020: The Reckoning Part 1

Did the SnakePit bettors make it rain, or take the pain, in this year’s COVID-19 abbreviated season?

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Conor McGregor World Press Tour - New York Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

In case you missed it, before the season we continued a long tradition of opening the doors to the SnakePit Casino. There, we gave people $1,500 SnakePit Dollars, and invited them to wager on a series of over/under lines, for D-backs player and team performance this season. We capped each individual bet at $500, so you have to make at least three bets. It’s now time to close the books and see who did what. For each of the twenty bets below, you’ll first get the line drawn by Bet Online. Then, in brackets, the amount wagered over and under by the 18 participating gamblers, rounded to the nearest dollar. Finally, we have the end-of-year number, and whether the tally was over or under the projected line.

  • Diamondbacks - Wins 30.5 (3816-1000) - 25, UNDER
    Well, obviously this didn’t go as people hoped. It was really a season of three parts. If you fell into a coma for three weeks in the middle, you were probably quite satisfied, having seen Arizona go 13-11 to start, and 10-6 to finish. But between those two, the team lost eighteen of twenty. I don’t know about you, but it felt like this was considerably worse a season than 25-35. This line saw more money laid on the over than any other. It didn’t work out well for the punters.
  • Ketel Marte - BA .305 (1750-554) - .287, UNDER
  • Ketel Marte - HR’s 11.5 (1338-1500) - 2, UNDER
  • Ketel Marte - RBI’s 33.5 (131-75) - 17, UNDER
    A pretty disappointing season for last year’s MVP, all round. Even pro-rating his production out to 162 games, you’re at 3.5 bWAR, less than half the 7.2 posted in 2019. Most startling was his lack of power: if you’d had a bet before the season on Tim Locastro having the same number of homers as Ketel, the odds would have been long. But that’s what happened. And after hitting .336 through August 23, Marte batted .206 the rest of the way. Here’s to a rebound next year.
  • Eduardo Escobar - HR’s 12.5 (0-249) - 4, UNDER
  • Eduardo Escobar - RBI’s 42.5 (75-983) - 20, UNDER
    Escobar’s year was, if anything, even more disappointing. He ended up being below replacement level, at -0.8 bWAR, compared to 3.6 bWAR in 2019. This was largely on the back of a 61 OPS+, with all his numbers well off the previous year. Was his weight an issue? It took him 26 games to hit above the Uecker Line, and he was below it as late in the season as Game #55. However, most of the action was on the pessimistic side for Eduardo.
  • Starling Marte - HR’s 8.5 (75-88)- 6, UNDER
  • Starling Marte - RBI’s 22.5 (233-0) - 27, OVER
    These tallies include numbers for both Arizona and Miami, with him being traded at the deadline. Though all told, he hit significantly worse there than here, with his OPS+ dropping from 121 to 89. Overall, he was worth twice as much here, in just five more games. Fun fact: because of the Marlins’ second-half scheduling, he became the first player since Justin Morneau in 2008, to appear in more that a regular season’s worth of games, playing 61 times. You have to go back to Todd Zeile in 1996, to find some who, like Marte, appeared in more games than his teams. But not much interest in him for bettors here.
  • Christian Walker - HR’s 10.5 (375-85) - 7, UNDER
  • Christian Walker - RBI’s 27 (75-191) - 34, OVER
    One of the few offensive players not to have a disappointing year for the D-backs. His OPS was only fractionally down on last year (110 vs. 111). On the other hand, the metrics suggest his defense was nowhere near as good, though those are subject to random variation over even a 162-game season, so I’m reluctant to draw any conclusions. They’re irrelevant for the purposes of this, where he represented a split decision, driving in more runs than expected, just not with the long-ball.
  • Nick Ahmed - HR’s 11.5 (0-3014.33)- 5, UNDER
  • Nick Ahmed - RBI’s 28.5 (250-195) - 29, OVER
    Yeah, projecting 11.5 HR for Nick - that’s 31 for a full season - seems like a mistake by the book makers, and was one on which a number of people pounced like... pouncy things. But he came rather closer to hitting the target, than Ketel did to the same figure. He even managed to cross the line for RBI. Though that proved to be one of the closest of all bets, Ahmed hitting his 28th and 29th RBI in the final game of the season,
  • Carson Kelly - HR’s 7.5 (150-875) - 5, UNDER
    Our catcher was another who wasn’t able to live up to the pre-season hype, though his home-run rate per game wasn’t that far off last season. His horrible start to the season, with just one home-run through the end of August, covering the team’s first 35 games, effectively doomed this to the under. He did hit better down the stretch: .254/.277/.492 in September, and with a BABIP of only .255, there’s hope for next year.
  • Madison Bumgarner - Wins 5 (375-518) - 1, UNDER
  • Madison Bumgarner - Strikeouts 75.5 (75-661)- 30, UNDER
    MadBum got his only win of the season in the final game of the year. Though he pitched better in his last two outings, you’d be hard pushed to argue the results here weren’t a fair reflection of his disappointing performances. The strikeout rate of 6.5 per nine innings, was particularly underwhelming, considering Bumgarner had been at 8.7 for his career before this year. We’ll be expecting rather better going forward, or this could end up being a Tomas-sized disaster of a signing.
  • Robbie Ray - Wins 4 (910-0) - 2, UNDER
  • Robbie Ray - Strikeouts (810-500) 79.5 - 68, UNDER
    Well, at least we don’t have to worry about “Maybe this will be Robbie Ray’s year to put it all together” next season. Only one of those wins came for the D-backs, the other being as a Blue Jay after his trade. He did pitch a bit better for them, but even that 4.79 ERA isn’t going to do his free-agent stock much good. Safe to say, Mike Hazen was never going to make Ray a qualifying offer, so whatever we got for Ray was likely an improvement. Optimism ruled the bets. Optimism was not well-founded.
  • Merrill Kelly - Wins 4.5 (75-674) - 3, UNDER
    The heavy skew towards the under was probably saved by Kelly’s bout of thoracic outlet syndrome. For Merrill had three wins in his first four outings, and was pitching very well. If he had stayed healthy, it seems likely he would have been able to pick up a couple more over what would likely have been another seven or eight starts. Instead, as we discussed earlier this week, his season came to a grinding halt, saving some people their money.
  • Zac Gallen - Wins 2.5 (3526-0) - 3, OVER
    This is likely the line which turned the season into profit overall. The under on Nick Ahmed was about balanced by the under on team wins. It looked highly doubtful, as with a mere nine games left to play Gallen was still stuck on one win, victim of some tough losses and no decisions. But he won his final pair of starts, to squeak over the line and give the SnakePit Casino a black eye.
  • Archie Bradley - Saves 6.5 (1544-250) - 6, UNDER
    On the other hand, Bradley departure for Cincinnati likely cost casino customers money. Bradley got his sixth save in the team’s 22nd game on August 16th, and seemed a shoo-in to get the over. But then our slump hit. There wasn’t another save for Arizona until September 4 - by that point Archie was a Red, and no longer a closer. He remained stuck on six, allowing the house to close out with a win.

That’s the overview. But I’ve already dribbled on for long enough, so I’ll save the individual results and announcement for another installment...