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SnakePit Round Table: Baseball! Yay!

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It’s official. They are going to try and play major-league baseball in 2020...

BASEBALL-KOR-SKOREA-health-virus Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

So, how’s it going?

Turambar: Super pumped for baseball, but worried about the impending lockout after the CBA expires next year. That though will be for another article in another time, for now we finally have something to talk about. So I’ll take it.

Makakilo: I’m thrilled that baseball is back! The shorter season will have unique and interesting aspects. “It’s going to be weird, for sure.” — Nick Ahmed. “...each win or loss could affect the standings much more quickly.” — Nick Ahmed. I anticipate that the Diamondbacks will be contenders.

Recently, I did two new things.

  • I gained insights, energy, and inspiration. Every day I watched Tony Robbins’ The Comeback Challenge on Facebook. His hat said, “Live Lucky.” That’s how I felt to watch for free.
  • I felt isolated-in-a-protective-bubble plus awesome - like walking on the moon! On Thursday and again on Friday, I did Zumba class at my gym! After health screening and hand washing, I exercised wearing an N-95 mask while 10 feet from any person.

Jack: Arizona Hospitals have requested AZDHS to enact Crisis Standards of Care. That’s Triage. So not great as far as our state is concerned. Personally doing fine, except have a pinched nerve in my neck, so grumpy.

Wesley: I’m doing great. Sorta. I’m focusing on the positives in my life, and the things I have actually accomplished in spite of everything. Having someone who loves you for who you are, flaws and all, and always encourages you is really helpful. Who’d have thought that?

There will be an attempt at a 2020 baseball season. How do you think it will go?

Turambar: It’ll be strange to say the very least. Assuming games actually happen I think the use of starting pitching is going to vary wildly and their effectiveness on the mound will vary even more. Honestly I think most pitchers, who’ve had no time to stretch out or face real hitting, are going to be shelled. We’re gonna see some wild score, and the team that gets the most use out of their bats will win.

Makakilo: Much of how it goes cannot be controlled: will record-high COVID cases rise or level-off, will players avoid infections, and will Canada allow the Blue Jays to play in Canada? Perhaps the season will be completed, but not by all 30 teams.

Even if the season is not completed, baseball games will be awesome.

  • Baseball games will help rebuild our country’s morale and spirit.
  • Playing a World Series would be solid evidence that good things do happen, despite out-of-control external forces.
  • It would be a triumph of human endeavor in unfavorable circumstances.

Michael: It will come down to how well teams are able to keep their training facilities clean during the season. I’m not sure if players will be required to wear masks in the locker room to slow the spread, but I think teams will take precautions because a stoppage in play is the worst possible outcome. I think the season can be pulled off without any further hitches if teams can mitigate as many risks as possible.

Jack: I remain skeptical they’ll be able to complete a season, although they have set things up to keep bringing in reinforcements from the rear as players go down. We’ll see.

Wesley: I’m skeptical there won’t be a massive outbreak forcing major stoppages. This season can barely be called a season, and because it’s such a small sample size of games, it will be a total crapshoot.

The D-backs are slated for 31.5 wins by one sports book. Do you take the over or under - presuming the full 60 games get played!

Makakilo: Over!

  • The team improved compared to last season, which had a win percentage of .525 (equivalent to 31.5 wins).
  • In the last three seasons, the Diamondbacks had a winning record in the first month of the season (cumulative April win-loss record was 50-28).
  • The DH will help the Diamondbacks in two ways - give defensive rest days while keeping strong bats, and provide at-bats to Lamb, Cron, and maybe even Yasmany Tomas.
  • Diamondbacks pitching depth is above average, and will make a difference this season because 3 weeks is not enough time for pitchers to build up their innings-per-game.

Michael: I think 31.5 wins is a good baseline, but I’ll take the over and say 32 wins in 2020. I had this team going 87-75 in a full season so using a similar win% I came up with 32.

Turambar: Over, big time. Pitching (as I said above) will be a non factor, but hitting and defense will be key. On paper we should have both covered, especially if K Marte takes another step to being a superstar and if S Marte can provide the bat we all know he can. 35wins seems possible to me, but with this crazy year who knows.

Jack: Both the sim that James is running and Baseball-Reference.com is running had the D-backs over 32 wins through 60 games, so I’ll take the over.

Wesley: I am not going to be a contrarian and pick the under. I’ll go with the over, since my sim, and every other one I’ve looked at has them over.

And what do you have as the over-under on the number of D-backs on the MLB roster who will test positive for COVID-19…

Makakilo: My over-under is 7.5 Diamondbacks on the roster will test positive. My rationale is that each season, teams have an average of 15 non-game injuries (source: Analysis of Non-Game Injuries in Major League baseball by Esquivel, Freehill, Curriere, et al, 19 December 2019). Despite the safety protocols, despite the shortened season, because Arizona is currently a COVID hot-spot, COVID infections will be half of a typical season’s non-game injuries.

Wesley: Arizona is a hot spot, and I expect anywhere between 5 and 15 players testing positive over the course of the season.

Is Rob Manfred the worst commissioner of a major sport?

Michael: It depends on your criteria for how a commissioner should operate, but from my criteria the answer is yes. I equate a sports commissioner as a politician, they’re there to represent the parties that put him in power (owners). My criteria is if the game is growing and the answer is no and Manfred is exacerbating that problem with fixes that create more problems than they solve. I’m sort of conflicted on the free runner rule in extra innings. In principle, I oppose it but also think that extra inning games should not stretch past 11 innings due to player health. If the rule is not going, I’d rather give teams one or two innings to try to score with no advantages then go for the shootout style finish with teams not getting penalized for losing this late in the game like in hockey.

Jack: For now I go with Bud Selig. He gave us the 1994 strike and the hypocrisy of the Steroids era, and the shake-downs of municipalities for stadium money

Makakilo: Rob Manfred is an extraordinary deal-maker. He offers the best hope of making deals with a combative and grudge-holding players’ union. Without Manfred, there would be no possibility of a 2020 season because between 6 and 8 teams did not want a season, and because the players’ union had hard-to-meet demands. For that reason alone, he is a good commissioner, although his efforts to quicken the pace-of-play and embrace technology are worthy.

  • “...Brilliant, creative, and pragmatic enough to make deals. He has a sense of humor and checks his ego at the door.” — Jerry Crasnic, 2015
  • “...Rob was the creative mind behind changing [improving] the labor relationship with its’ players’ association.” — Frank Connelly, 2015
  • “...extremely bright, articulate, and persistent. I Pity the person who’s unprepared or unskillful in dealing with him” — Larry Gibson, 2001

Wesley: He’s not the best by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s definitely not the worst. I’ll leave it at that.

If you were a major-league player, what number would you want to wear, and why?

Makakilo: My preference would be a weird number. To be a ‘weird’ number, a number must be ‘abundant’ without being ‘pseudoperfect’, as well as not being ‘deficient’. Weird says it all! Abundant! Not pseudoperfect! Not deficient! The only weird number from 1 to 100 is 70. My choice is 70!

No Diamondback player has ever worn 70. Pitcher George Kontos wore 70 his entire career. In 2012, he pitched for the Giants, who won the World Series. He pitched 5.1 innings in that series, allowing 4 earned runs.

Michael: Give me #4, since I played 2B for most of my playing career. On the score sheet it would say 4 McDermott 4.

Jack: When I was a kid growing up in NY everyone wanted either #7 (Mickey) or #24 (Willie). But for me it was always #41, Tom Seaver, that I wanted to be like and I always got that number when I could get it.

Wesley: Seven is my lucky number, and I was born on the seventh of May, in eighty-seven. I’m also the youngest of seven children. So obviously I’d go with #7, #77, #87, or #57.