clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

SnakePit Round Table: Look! Baseball!

New, 21 comments

Yes, we have actual games to discuss! Meaningless, they may be, but still. Woo!

A week of games are in the books. Thoughts?

Michael: Small sample size. The team will need to do better at executing pitches and putting at-bats together moving forward given the number of lopsided games this week.

Jack: Most of the damage to the pitching staff have been against players not expected to be on the opening day roster. That said, you would like to see some of the “depth pitching doing a little better. But these are practice games, and spring results mean little. Most importantly, other than Leake’s injury, no major injuries yet.

Steven: Sad they’ve lost more games than they’ve lost but other than that nice to see the regulars get playing time. I’m not too concerned about performance yet, just get through the first couple weeks without injury.

Makakilo: The intensity of spring training sets the tone for the season. In spring training, focus and intensity are more important than wins and losses. I feel optimistic.

Dano: It’s all good, and it’s nice to see something akin to baseball happening again. Our batters are still shaking the rust off, it appears, and our pitchers are, too—the “depth” section of the spring training bullpen has been getting absolutely shelled, it seems—but this is definitely a time when process matters far more than results. I’m guardedly pleased so far.

James: I would like to see more out of the offense. The lack of production from the expected 13 opening day position players is the sort of thing bringing back feelings of the previous two regular seasons. As for getting shelled, the majority of the damage has come against pitchers not expected to contribute in 2020. I am hoping for better results out of Clarke, but then, I am also looking at him exclusively as a bullpen arm. If he ever starts a game again for Arizona during the regular season, I am going to assume something has gone quite wrong.

If Mike Leake isn’t ready, what should the team do?

Michael: Leake is two weeks behind everyone, so they’re better off building him up at a normal pace and putting him on the IL to start the season. Give him a rehab start in Visalia and then activate him when the 5th spot comes up a 3rd time.

Jack: If they are going to tout “competition” so hard, which they have done relentlessly, then they are going to have to honor that or Torey could lose a little credibility in the clubhouse. While Merrill Kelly would appear to have a leg up based on his 2019 performance, if Duplantier clearly out pitches him in spring games, for example, can they justify not giving him the spot ?

Steven: As Jack said, let the competition take its course and have players work hard over the Spring to earn that spot. I don’t think they’ll just hand it to Kelly based on what he did the previous year, but who knows?

Makakilo: The D-backs should put Leake on the IL until he is ready. Whomever pitches instead of Leake, their experience will pay off when they are needed later in the season.

Dano: See how things stand with him as we near opening day….he’ll be back when he’s ready, and should not be rushed. Plenty of other pitchers to have a look at as spring training progresses. And, oddly enough, we do seem to have some starting pitching depth (at the back end, admittedly) going into 2020. Go figure.

James: If Leake starts the season on the IL, I expect Kelly gets the starts. However, if the stint is going to be for more than two outings, three tops, then I would rather the competition be wide open for the spot. There is still plenty of time, but Duplantier has looked good so far and should still have another chance at being a starter. On that note though, I don’t want to see him bouncing all over like last season. A short IL stint, I give to Kelly. A longer one I give to the best starter left.

Do we fancy relocating to Vancouver?

Michael: I would consider changing my allegiance to the Washington Nationals, but probably won’t pull the trigger because that also means having to leave here.

Jack: I hate rain. So no.

Steven: I wouldn’t mind it! I’ve been in Seattle for over 6 months now and would definitely make that trip across the border to see the boys.

Makakilo: I have questions.

  • Would it be legal to blackout Canada games in the United States? If no blackouts, then Yahoo!!
  • Will the games be broadcast in both official languages (English and French)? Hearing part of the game broadcast in French would be fun!
  • Why are $1 and $2 Canadian coins called loonies and toonies?

James: I would still be a fan of the players on the team and likely root for them, but they would not be my favorite by default. I actually would love to spend more time in the Pacific Northwest, so at least the team would be relocating to an area I identify with some.

*Side note for Mak - the $1 coin has a loon on the back, hence loonie. Toonie is simply because it is worth two loonies.

Dano: Hell, yes. I like Canada, and BC in particular. Great bookstores in that part of the world. And great seafood. Reasonably functional health care. And, to be the anti-Jack for a moment, I quite like the rain. So.

Per the loonies thing, loonies are called loonies because they have the image of a loon on them (the Canadians understand that everything is better with animals, including money).

I assume toonies are called what they are called as a bit of droll Canadian wordplay. That’s another thing I like about Canada. They engage in droll wordplay.

Also, I agree that listening to Diamondbacks games being broadcast in French would be nifty.

The Arizona Cardinals and Diamondbacks will both play regular season games in Mexico this year. Which of the big four sports will be first to expand south of the border?

Michael: Either the NBA or NFL. The NFL seems to make the most sense although I won’t discount the international appeal the NBA has.

Jack: I believe expansion will be part of the next CBA, (or concurrent). Derrick Hall hinted that expansion to Mexico or Canada is a real possibility. I think a very interesting question is would a team in Mexico City, for example, be able to attract non-Spanish speaking free agents?

Steven: As much as baseball has a natural fit with an already blossoming baseball scene, I think football makes the most sense for players, as I’m not sure they’d be comfortable being drafted from America into another country. But who knows, maybe football works because of the 1 game a week and a relatively shorter schedule compared with baseball and basketball.

Dano: I honestly think baseball would be the natural one, though I suspect that won’t happen, given how fan support seems to be fading slowly but consistently for the game even in this country. But it seems like the sport that would make the most sense. That said, the NFL has more money than God, and they’re determined to expand internationally (gotta love those London games) and have proven extraordinarily willing to throw money at that project for a number of years running at this point. So very much money. So it might well be football.

Makakilo: NHL is about to add a team in Seattle. My guess is that the NFL wants to expand into London and then Europe, the NBA wants to expand into Asia, leaving MLB as the most likely to expand into Mexico. Compared to Mexico City, Monterrey would be closer to the United States. It’s a commercial, industrial, educational, and transportational hub. Some international companies are based there, meaning it has many young professionals who could attend baseball games. It’s baseball stadium is 30 years old, so a new stadium would need to be built.

James: I would have to guess it would be MLB. Hockey just isn’t a thing south of the border - not really. The NBA seems focused on Europe and Asia. The NFL is laying the groundwork for expanding internationally. However, it looks like they are going to use international sites for a full season of neutral site games, giving those cities a full slate of games but not a dedicated team. That leaves baseball. That makes sense too. Baseball is huge in LAtin America and there have been rumors in the past of MLB considering Mexico City. Security has always been an issue though.

Are Astros hitters being targeted this spring? And should they be?

Michael: Matt Antonelli did a video on that on YouTube and based on who was hit, he believes the Astros aren’t being targeted. Bregman might be the only one who might have been hit on purpose although it was a 3-2 slider that backed up from a Marlins minor leaguer.

Jack: I won’t pay much attention to this unless there is clear evidence of such, or there is an unusually high “on pace” number. For context, here last 5 years MLB team with most HBP batters and Astros last 5 years total:

MLB Leader

  • 2015: Pirates 89
  • 2016: Cubs 96
  • 2017: Pirates 88
  • 2018: Rays 101
  • 2019: Mets 95

Average: 94

Astros:

  • 2015-56
  • 2016-47
  • 2017-70
  • 2018-61
  • 2019-66

Average: 60

So The Astros have averaged 60 HBP the last 5 years and the MLB team leader has averaged 94. I think an uptick is clearly likely...but unless they are looking to be on pace to get hit 100 or more times, it will probably be more of a story than it merits.

Steven: I think retaliation, in general, is stupid, especially for guys on the cusp of MLB rosters. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of young guys get coached up to do it. It’s also Spring, where nothing really matters for established guys.

Makakilo: They are not being targeted, which is as it should be. I agree with the points made by David Schoenfield’s ESPN article of 28 February. Four points:

  • This spring, 6 teams have the most hit batters (including the Astros). With this small sample size, it is impossible to say whether the Astro’s were hit more than any of the six leading teams.
  • Of the 7 hit Astros, Garneau and Diaz were not Astros in 2017 and 2018, and three were low level minor leaguers until this season.
  • Altuve and Bregman were not hit by fastballs.
  • Looking at the pitchers who hit Astro batters, it is unlikely that any were motivated to intentionally hit an Astro.

Dano: I honestly have no idea; I haven’t been paying much attention to the Astros now that actual baseball has started again. For months, it seemed like the only fresh baseball news was the next bullet point in Houston’s slow-motion PR disaster, and it’s honestly nice to have something else baseball-related to think and talk about.

That said, I hope that they aren’t getting thrown at, because that would compound the shame that the Astros brought to the sport with the shame of unsanctioned retaliation. At the same time, however, if some Houston players who were participants in the whole sign-stealing debacle should get pelted with some extra baseballs, it wouldn’t exactly break my heart. You decide to cheat, consequences will inevitably ensue. Buy ticket, take ride.

James: I doubt there has been much in the way of targeting. I would not be surprised to learn that the pitcher on the mound might be less concerned with a pitch inside getting away, but I don’t think specific targeting is happening. I think it is just more aggressive pitching. Given that the Astros are getting plunked largely by offspee breaking pitches, I would say that gives a bit of credence to the unintentional plunking theory.

As for whether or not the Astros should be hit, I think a concerted effort to hit them is counter-productive. The pitcher risks suspension and possibly doing so real damage of a career-ending sort to someone. In exchange, they give the Astros a free base runner to make it easier for the Astros to return to the World Series again in 2020. Also, the Astros have Greinke and Verlander on the mound. Do you really want to go tit-for-tat in HBPs with that pair?

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Michael: Don’t go to college without a plan. Didn’t realize what career paths I wanted to take until I was 24.

Jack: Take better care of your teeth, floss every day and practice overall better dental hygiene. Not that I haven’t made other mistakes in my life, but this is the one I truly regret.

Steven: Less sugary, sodas and less anxiety about things out of your control. Just do your best every day, and be proud of the effort you put in.

Makakilo: You have many weaknesses, but don’t worry excessively. Your most awesome characteristic is your ability to change and improve-yourself year after year after year after year. You can enhance that characteristic by daily meditation.

Dano: Three things spring to mind just now.

  1. You can’t fix other people. You can be there for them, and you can lend your support and your caring and your kindness, but what ultimately happens is up to them, and sometimes people just don’t get better. So try not to take it so hard when certain interpersonal projects don’t work out as you might hope.
  2. Caring for yourself and caring for others isn’t a zero-sum game. Like the air travel instructions suggest, always put your oxygen mask on first, because if you don’t you won’t be any good to anyone. And if someone sets it up as a zero-sum game, they’re probably someone to move away from on the bench there.
  3. Believe it or not, anything can be endured. Just because you can, though, doesn’t mean that you should. Cf. above.

Also, Jack’s points about dental hygiene. Seriously. Brush and floss, for f*cks sake. Jeebus.

James: Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. Don’t put off going to college for 18+ years. Go now and get your naval commission or your PhD in literature, either one. But do it now. It gets much, much harder and more expensive later.