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SnakePit Round Table: And they’re off!

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5% of the way through the season. Or “the first weekend” if you prefer...

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Overall, what do you think of the 2020 version of major-league baseball?

Makakilo: An expression is, “May you live in interesting times.” Here we are - interesting times. Baseball feels fresh and familiar at the same time. There is much to write about. That’s fortunate because writing is what I do. This may be the best season since 2017.

James: Meh. It’s baseball. It isn’t the sort of baseball I would prefer to see, but it’s baseball. The expanded playoffs, the runner on second in extra innings, the fake fans, the DH now in the NL, all of it just feels so unnecessary. The virus is still out of control, though baseball does seem to be starting to get a handle on their testing. Now though, we have at least one case of someone with after-effects already showing up. The odds are truly long that he ends up being the only one. After the ridiculousness between the MLBPA and ownership, I was ready to fully write off this season anyway. So let them odd rules and divisions of play. Let me know when we get back to something closer resembling the “real thing” next season.

Jack: It’s really too early to tell as far as the rule changes are concerned. I’m ok with the DH, don’t like at first blush but understand the need for the extra innings rule. Not just the Dbacks but in watching other games around the league I’ve noticed outfielders are NOT crashing walls. It’s too early to tell of course, but it’s something I’m keeping an eye on. Not so much “hustle”, but are players going to be willing to sell out their bodies for such a season ? Edit: Kole Calhoun crashed a wall today.

Wesley: I have nothing more to offer than “meh”. I HATE the autorunner rule with a passion. I like the NL DH.

Steven: It was very shocking at first, but then reminded me of the many games I had as a youth, with hardly anyone in the stands and most of the on-field sounds being players. I hate pumping in audience noise and the computer generated fans Fox put on their Saturday broadcast.

Isaiah: I’m just happy baseball is back. No matter the safety procedures and new rules put in place, it’s exciting to see America’s pastime return. I have watched plenty of Pacific Coast League baseball, and they institute a runner on second base in extra innings on travel days. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I am a fan of that and the universal designated hitter. Overall, I like this new version at the moment.

Has the lack of fans in attendance impacted your enjoyment at all?

Makakilo: With the AZ SnakePit gameday thread, with Steve Berthiaume talking, and with Bob Brenly talking, my full enjoyment of the game includes plenty of fans.

Jack : I’m coming around to noticing it less. The opening day pre-game intros were painful to watch. Honestly all it did for me was highlight the strangeness and sadness of it all. I even cried a bit. I was having a “Look what they did to my game” moment. (Channeling Vito seeing Sonny in the morgue). My reaction surprised me because initially I was feeling pretty good just seeing and hearing the broadcast teams and how they were handling things.

Wesley: I need to watch actual baseball first and not just clips and highlights, along with boxscores to really pass judgement here.

Steven: My enjoyment has actually improved. Hearing some of the on field interaction between teammates and opponents has been a different aspect I didn’t think I’d care about but it’s

drawing me more to the game. Wish there was an on-field feed instead of Bob and Steve, just a snooze-fest when those two talk.

Isaiah: Not really, I like the sound of the bat when a home run is blasted out of the park. I like the shouts from the dugout. The fan aspect is a special element to any sporting event, but it isn’t taking away my enjoyment of the game itself.

Are you in favor of the expanded post-season?

Makakilo: Yes because expanded playoffs nearly doubled the chances of the D-backs reaching the playoffs. On the other hand, I appreciated what Nolan Arenado said about not wanting to sneak into the playoffs and that he would rather earn it.

James: Not particularly. I mean sure, it increases the chances of Arizona reaching the postseason, assuming they finally figure out how to play again. But I’ve never been a fan of 50% or more of teams making the playoffs in any sport. It dilutes the importance of the regular season too much. If MLB had 32 teams and an even number of divisions in each league, then I might be more on board, though I would still think 16 to be a bit high. At least in that scenario though, the numbers would make a bit more sense to me.

Jack: I’ll tolerate it for 2020. But as James points out it only makes the regular season less meaningful. It’s debatable how meaningful the 2020 season is anyway, so I’m not super worked up about it for now. But I definitely don’t want to see it in 2021. I’ve been digging around. It’s almost unanimous from everyone inside the game I talk to: “Follow the money”. They may or may not be able to get the union on board, but MLB wants this and wants it to stay.

Steven: It just seems like an artificial way to expand the season. Fans won’t be in the stands for the playoffs, and players will get less pay because of it despite having to play more high leverage games in a shorter period of time.

Wesley: My attitude is a “Sure, why not?”

buuuuuut…. I agree with Steven.

Isaiah: I understand why it is this way with everything going on, but I am not a huge supporter of it. In my opinion, there are too many average or below-average teams making the playoffs this season. I like rewarding the best teams in the division and the intensity of the wild card matchups, but that is gone this season.

Three games in, how do the D-backs look?

Jack: Just in case I don’t have time to come back and edit after I’m done writing up the recap for today’s game, I’m shocked at how not ready and un-prepared the team looks. That’s really the last thing I’d expect from this group of players and coaching staff. Edit: 9 walks today. Pitchers gotta start throwing strikes. Hitters need to swing at strikes and take balls . Hopefully last 4 innings of todays game a turning point

Steven: Just about as bad as you could imagine. Pitchers touting “they’ve never felt better” but showing the same results and hitters flailing at every pitch they see. It’s been a nightmare.

Wesley: Terrible, unprepared.

Isaiah: I mentioned in the last round table that my concern surrounds the offense. That has been the case thus far. Outside of Ketel Marte and Kole Calhoun, there hasn’t been a steady producer at the plate. Runs have been hard to come by in the early portion of this season. I was a bit disappointed in Robbie Ray’s start, as well. But overall, the pitching hasn’t led to Arizona’s slow start. The D-backs are struggling to muster any runs.

Makakilo: The third game was such a thrill. It was a worrisome game until the D-backs took a 1-run lead in the eighth. My worries turned to excitement. Then the Padres tied it. The D-backs took a 2-run lead in the ninth. The odor of a hard-fought win was in the air. Happily, the Padres only got one run back. However, without Peralta’s truly amazing catch, the Padres likely would have won the game.

Looking at the D-backs, let’s consider that it’s in the context of, “How did the Padres look?” This season, the Padres are significantly improved. That view was confirmed in today’s post-game interviews:

  • The Padres are a better team than last year. — Zac Gallen
  • The Padres batters were more patient...they have more go-get-em players than before. — Archie Bradley
  • The Padres were tougher...they have better arms...than the last couple years. — David Peralta

Please over-react violently to a small sample size, good or bad.

Makakilo: Based on runs scored (3) and runs allowed (12) in the first two games, the Pythagorean projection of D-back wins is 12 wins in a 60-game season. That would likely be the worst record in baseball. And as a reality check, the D-back win-loss record of 0-2 is consistent with a 12-win season. (As I knew would happen, the small-sample-size over-reaction was shown wrong in game 3, which the D-backs won.)

James: The offense has looked horrible. The defense has not looked terribly good either. Then there is the pitching. Ray did not get out of the fourth inning. Ginkel surrendered as many runs in ⅔ of an inning as he did all of last season. In a 60-game sprint, the Diamondbacks have all but fallen on their faces trying to get out of the blocks. They need to turn it around quickly.

Jack: While the offense has been terrible they’ll come around. But the rotation is already in deep trouble. Madison Bumgarner’s velocity is FOUR MPH slower than last year both on his four seam and his cutter. Yeah, I know he hides the ball well and velocity is overrated, etc, etc. But Bumgarner is NOT Zack Greinke. And Greinke didn’t lose 4 MPH overnight. It was much more gradual. He had time to adapt. This is a disaster for the Dbacks and for Madbum 1 game into a 5 year 85M contract. Add to this Ray’s issues yesterday throwing 97 pitches and not getting out of the 4 th and Gallen today 88 pitches to finish 4, and they are already in deep trouble. (Disclaimer: I’m just following the directions of the question...obviously MB’s velo could and should come back up at least a couple MPH….but if it doesn’t then the above won’t actually be an overreaction)

Steven: Every single player who signed a big extension looked slow and behind the ball in their preparation. Bumgarner was hittable, Nick Ahmed can’t hit his way out of a paper bag, David Peralta looks beefy in a bad way, and Eduardo Escobar was overmatched in each of his 8 PAs.

Wesley: 0-60 you heard it here first.

Isaiah: Wesley’s comment was pretty hilarious, kudos. My overreaction is that Arizona’s lack of offense costs them any chance at the postseason. The three game sample size is all we need to know that its shortened 2020 season will be a disaster.

When you travel from state to state, what changes do you find most striking?

Makakilo: Hawaii waited longer to start reopening and currently has one of the lowest infection rates. Often wearing an N-95 mask, I actively live my life with a few exceptions. That contrasts starkly with how I might live in a high-infection state.

When I close my eyes I can imagine experiencing another state.

  • In Texas, wearing boots and a big silver belt buckle, I imagine myself at a barbeque party where I’m asked to leave, either because I asked for a Beyond Burger or because I wore a mask. As I walk away I notice cows aren’t the worst emitters of gas.
  • In Arizona, wearing a polo shirt and a turquoise bolo tie, I imagine myself eating awesome Mexican food while Mariachis play Mexican music. My table is outdoors. It’s over 100 degrees but it’s a comfortable dry heat! Having recently read the first half of the book Under the Red Sea Sun, I smile knowing that Arizona’s climate is not-at-all bad.

James: Alas, I have not had the opportunity to escape Arizona as recently as I would like. I have considered heading up to Oregon lately, though there are some logistical issues getting in the way. Given the combination of weather, rampant virus spread, and all-around lunacy in the leadership, I find it hard to imagine that going to nearly any other state (save possibly Texas, Florida, or Georgia) could be much worse.

Jack: No interstate travel for me since January of this year. Very simply I want no part of Covid-19 for me or anyone in my family. Original game plan we came up with in March was to stay isolated as much as possible through mid June, figuring we’d want to avoid the hospitals when they were most likely to be crowded, and also figuring doctors would know more about how to treat it and be able to reduce the mortality rate. That part seems to be happening, but obviously hospitals have been pretty full, only recently seeing the numbers in hospitals starting to drop.

I’m 60, my wife is 59. She had Pneumonia last year in July, and AGAIN in late January this year. So we’re not taking any chances with her for sure. I’m less worried about dying for myself then I am about long term after effects and impacts to quality of life. So we’re just going to wait it out til the end of the year and then re evaluate. We are blessed to be able to do so. It’s not easy sometimes. I confess to having some rather lousy days mentally and emotionally. But I quickly remind myself this is NOTHING compared to what many are going through.

Wesley: I haven’t traveled.

Isaiah: I haven’t traveled out of state in a long time. However, I am looking forward to that opportunity in the near future.