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SnakePit Round Table: Previously recorded

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Hope you’re enjoying your long Thanksgiving weekend [* not available outside the United States]

Photo of TECHNICAL and TAPE PLAYER/RECORDER Photo by Nicky J. Sims/Redferns

A few weeks ago, our colleagues over at Bless You Boys, the Detroit Tigers blog, asked for our input into the end of season review. The questions they asked were generally interesting enough that I thought I might as well hijack them for a round table! So I opened them up to the whole staff, and here is the first half. The second will be posted next week.

How do you (and fans in general) feel about how the 2021 season went?

Jack: It was an unmitigated disaster in every sense. From top to bottom the organization performed poorly. The front office and analytics department had bad game plans, shifts, and overall resource allocation. The coaching staff failed miserably to help the players out of slumps and turn around the ship. And so many players underperformed or were injured that it was just a total shipwreck from top to bottom.

Keegan: Our expectations for you were low but holy… We knew they weren’t going to win the division and reaching .500 would be a challenge at the beginning of the season, but being as historically bad as they were was a defeating feeling. It was extremely difficult to remain interested.

Makakilo: In the context of my unshakeable optimism, the painful 2021 season was merely something to learn from on the way to being competitive.

DBacksEurope: The season had written failure all over it from the beginning. In a pre-season prediction I mentioned that this could become a very tough season and it turned out to be even worse. But that didn’t surprise me either. What surprises me is that so many people thought we were not going to be bad. So in that sense I guess the fan base is disappointed.

James: In many ways, I feel this season was the worst ever by the team. Sure, the 2004 team managed to lose 111 games while this one lost “only” 110, but the difference in expectations going into the season made this season feel so much worse. I didn’t expect this team to compete with the Dodgers or Padres (and did not see San Francisco’s success coming), but I expected the team to at least look like they belonged on a Major League field playing against other Major Leaguers. Mike hazen made a number of highly questionable offseason moves. The coaching failed miserably to get the most out of developing players or even to keep the veterans focused on the game. Game plans were all over the place. Opportunities for development were repeatedly squandered. Not one expected starting player from the Opening Day roster played up to expectations, even those with low expectations. Add to that the constant issues the team faced with injuries, and much of this season was simply unwatchable.

What was the best moment of the season? The worst?

Jack: The best: April 25th at Atlanta. Zac Gallen 1 hit, 7 inning shutout in the first game of a doubleheader, and then Madison Bumgarner throwing a 7 inning no hit shutout in the second game.

The Worst : In a season with 17 game and 13 game losing streaks and a MLB record 24 straight road losses, it’s hard to pick one. But I’ll go with the indignity of 22-1 loss to the Dodgers on July 10th. The game was in LA, and the Dodgers only had to come to bat 8 times to put up that score.

Keegan: The best moment of the season for me was unquestionably Tyler Gilbert throwing a no hitter in his first career start. In a season where it seemed like there was too many no hitters, that was still a cool moment.

Makakilo: The best moment of the season was when my prediction for runs scored was the closest, so I won a Carson Kelly bobblehead. What I wrote about Carson Kelly is in this AZ Snake Pit article. And if you liked that, you might like to read the Mind Gym Book Review.

A picture of my remarkable Carson Kelly bobblehead follows:

DBacksEurope: The best moment would obviously be Tyler Gilbert’s No Hitter and one of the games we won against the Dodgers in the final series that would send them eventually to the WC and might have contributed to them overusing any pitcher’s arms. The worst moment was probably when the D-Backs after a long long season finally admitted that putting players out of position wasn’t a good strategy. It looks like people from Harvard need a year to get to that conclusion.

James: There were two great moments in the season. I think Tyler Gilbert throwing the first-ever Arizona no-no at home probably rises to the top, though the double-header in April in which Gallen and Bumgarner combined to throw 14 innings of one-hit shutout baseball was also amazing. It also happened to come before the entire season fell entirely to pieces. It happened early enough in the season to give hope that the Diamondbacks might find a way to at least pretend to be a competitive team. At that time, it made it look like the Diamondbacks might be closer than three years away from being a quality team.

As for the worst, take your pick. Setting the all-time record for consecutive road losses probably ranks at or near the top.However, this team and the people guiding it, did such a poor job in 2021 that there is no shortage of other candidates.

Which player surprised you the most, for better or worse?

Jack: Josh Rojas surprised me. After his first two call ups in 2019 & 2020 it didn’t look like he would hit at all, and he got off to a slow start in 2021. But he found his stroke, and while he might have outperformed his peripherals a bit, and tired at the end of the season, his .264/.341/.411 triple slash was good for a 103 OPS+. Christian Walker’s collapse surprised me. While I didn’t expect him to make the all star team, he was a solidly above average hitter for 2019-2020. (111 & 112 OPS+). He had to go 9 for 18 with 4 doubles and a homer over his final 4 games of the year just to raise his OPS+ to 88. He was bad all year.

Keegan: Pavin Smith going from written off prospect to a respectable MLB regular. He really fatigued towards the end of the season, but proved early on that he could get on base reliably. He’s probably never going to be a traditional slugging first baseman, but I was impressed with his ability to make consistent contact in his first full season in the majors.

Makakilo: When Geraldo Perdomo joined the team in late September, I was impressed by his excellent defense at shortstop, and by his September OPS of .988. At 21 years old, Perdomo was the youngest Diamondback in the Majors.

DBacksEurope: seeing Robbie Ray excel in Toronto has given me serious migraines. The comments from our (now former) pitching coach made my stomach twist. His success has surprised me in a positive way but I only have negative feelings about it so I try to avoid the subject whenever I can although writing this it is obvious I am pretty bad at that.

James: I had moderately high expectations for a few young players (mostly Martin, Bukauskas, Mejia, Varsho, and Rojas) making their Arizona and/or MLB debuts. Most of them were entirely underwhelming. On the other hand, it also turned out that there were a number of injuries involved which may or may not have skewed those results significantly. Still, as an entire group, they abysmally underperformed expectations. As far as “surprise” goes, I’d have to go with Christian Walker. Walker went from being a reliably mediocre first baseman to downright unplayable and it seems to have happened pretty much overnight. That he actually made it to the end of the season is rather amazing.

How did the team do compared to how you predicted they’d do at the start of the season?

Jack: I figured they would be around most of the pre season projections, 72-74 wins, and the downside was more likely than the upside. I just couldn’t see this team competing at all. But even in my most pessimistic nightmares did I imagined 52-110

Keegan: Far worse. I thought they’d be around that 74 mark at the start of the season, ahead of both the Giants and Rockies. That clearly didn’t happen, but that they were so much worse than that was breathtaking. On that note, congrats to the Giants on winning the division when nobody saw that coming.

Makakilo: Preseason predictions:

  • 80 wins. Actual was 52 wins.
  • 4.98 runs scored per game. Actual was 4.19.
  • 4.67 runs allowed per game. Actual was 5.51.

In summary they did worse than predicted in offense, pitching, and fielding.

All Star break predictions:

  • 54 wins. Actual was 52 wins.
  • Varsho competes for D-back MVP. Actual 4 DRS in LF per Fielding Bible, 1-30 Sept OPS & wOBA were slightly above average in Majors.
  • Pavin Smith competes for D-back MVP. Actual 1-30 Sept. OPS & wOBA were slightly above average in Majors.

In September seven players had OPS & wOBA above league average. For the season, two players were excellent fielders (Varsho with 4 DRS in LF and Perdomo with 3 DRS at SS).

DBacksEurope: I had them at 65 wins, still pretty far off lol

James: The optimistic part of me had the team winning 75-77 games, still hoping for a hot streak to carry them to a .500 season. The realist in me went in looking for about 70 wins, which should have been obtainable. The team’s historic collapse obviously put even that low bar out of reach.

Way too early prediction, how do you think they’ll fare in 2022 in terms of W-L?

Jack: Improving 17 wins to 69-93 would be about the best I could hope for. The pitching is very weak.

Keegan: In my opinion, improvement is going to take multiple seasons. I think anything better than 66 wins is a stretch.

Makakilo: Although it’s not a sure thing, there are good reasons to expect the 2022 Diamondbacks to win more than 77 games. For reasons see this AZ Snake Pit article.

DBacksEurope: No way too early prediction possible here since we will be bad in 2022 no matter what. I think Torey needs 70 wins to secure his job and I guess they’ll finish somewhere around 64-70 wins.

James: The rational side of me is hoping the team has enough moxy to fake their way to 63 wins, narrowly avoiding losing 100 games in back-to-back seasons. The more optimistic side of me thinks this team, with the influx of some more young talent from the farm, could potentially get to as high as 67-69 wins. I think 70 wins would have to be seen as a resounding success, which is sad.