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SnakePit Round Table: Could be worse...

Injuries? We got ‘em...

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Which injury is more of a problem: Christian Walker or Tim Locastro?

Jack: That’s a good question. The team is thinner in the outfield, although newcomer Nick Heath had an excellent Diamondbacks debut. But they are still short a legitimate right handed outfielder at the moment. They can cover first base more than adequately with Pavin Smith and Asdrubal Cabrera. So I’d say the Locastro injury is the bigger problem, Heath’s debut notwithstanding.

Makakilo: Tim Locastro’s injury is more of a problem.

  • Surprisingly, this season Locastro’s OPS+ is higher than Walker’s (85 vs 45).
  • Center Field is a harder position to fill than first base.
  • I am most confident in Christian Walker recovering. Christian Walker proved his comeback ability when he came back from being hit in the face with a fastball, with his jaw being wired shut, to achieve a career best season (2019). “He’s as tough a player as you’ll ever meet.” — Buck Showalter

Steven: I think Walker’s injury is the bigger problem. Marte should be returning any day now and in Walker’s case, oblique injuries are usually longer than the normal 10-day absence. The depth will be tested in both cases but I just don’t see Wyatt Mathesien showing enough at the plate to be the everyday guy. They’ve been cautious with Cabrera, giving him days off, but can he play everyday at his old age? Not sure about that.

James: I would say Tim Locastro. The outfield depth was already strained before he got hurt. Also, by going on the IL, he is missing the opportunity to stake his claim on replacing Marte as the primary center fielder. The team has Cabrera, Young, Smith, Matthiessen, and Vogt who can all pitch in at first.

JimL On Opening Day, I’d have said Walker as a starter, with Locastro our theoretical fourth outfielder. But the loss of Marte forced Locastro into an everyday role too. And the drop-off after him in terms of replacements is spectacular. We do have at least some options that can play 1B credibly, but it’s just fortunate the team had traded for Nick Heath. But fairly obviously, I don’t think he’s a long-term solution. I’d lay good odds on him being the player most forgotten when we do the end of season Sporcle.

Madison Bumgarner for Patrick Corbin, straight up. Do you take the deal?

Jack: Ah…recency bias. On the simple basis of Corbin being owed $104M and Bumgarner $78M I’ll say no, I don’t make that deal. Madbum had a good game today. Great to see. Corbin is in trouble, with reduced spin and velocity on his slider he’s no good at all.

Makakilo: I keep Bumgarner! Reasons:

  • Higher floor: Bumgarner is owed less money (see Jack’s numbers, both over 4 years)
  • Better precursors for success: “For me, the physical health and the stuff being there is a good precursor for future success.” — Mike Hazen
  • His poor performance has been a combination of his pitching and defense. “I’ve watched the games that he’s pitched. Moving guys into positions we didn’t have them traditionally on defense has cost us a bit on the pitching side, frankly. He [Bumgarner] hasn’t been immune to that either.” — Mike Hazen
  • Today, his 5 innings with 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 earned run against the Nationals was very encouraging. Especially when he only needed 80 pitches - if left in the game he likely would have achieved a quality start.

Steven: If Corbin’s contract wasn’t as backloaded as it is I’d say yes but he’s due on average $27 million per year. If the money was the same, sure, bring back Corbin. But it’s not, so despite Bumgarner being an absolute zero, I’d still go Madison because at the very least someone would take a chance on an innings eater on a cheapish deal if the D-backs ate a bad contract.

James: Given the contracts, I would not make the deal, though I have more faith in Corbin bouncing back than I do in Bumgarner doing so. I think Corbin might still have one more decent season left in him somewhere. He might also be a decent bullpen arm if he can find his control. As a GM, I would not particularly want either of them. Give me the one that costs less.

Jim: It’s a object lesson that, no matter how bad things might seem, there’s always someone worse out there. Corbin looked as bad as any pitcher I can remember on Thursday night, and I have to wonder if he is tipping his pitches or something. So far, he has faced 40 batters this year, and more than half have reached base (21). That feels beyond the boundaries of statistical vagaries. MadBum’s probably little better, but he is somewhat cheaper.

What has the team’s biggest problem been? Offense, starting pitching or the bullpen?

Jack: Looking at it objectively the team ranked 29th in both RA-9 WAR and FIP based WAR for pitching, registering 0.0 for both. And when broken out by Starters and Relief they rank 27th and 26th respectively. The position players have tallied 1.2 WAR and rank 21st in MLB. They also rank 21st in WPA, (timing of offense)

It’s FELT like Starters/Bullpen/Position players have taken turns being sub par. The rotation issues have boiled down to two guys though, Bumgarner and Kelly. (Once Caleb Smith was sent to the pen after only one start). The Pen has been up and down too, but hard to say the team’s slow start is disproportionately their fault either. The offense has been overly reliant on the long ball and while they’ve been hitting plenty of them their pitchers have given up even more. They haven’t hit well in key situations. So I’ll just say ⅓, ⅓, ⅓ and hope that today was somewhat of a turning point and they can avoid further injuries for now.

Makakilo:

Offense: It’s one step away from being great. Two factors, which I believe are temporary, have lowered the average runs per game to about 4.5. Those factors are injuries and their 24 for 135 with RISP. My preseason prediction of 5 runs per game is unchanged. Before today’s game (in which they hit 2 homers) they were tied for third most homers in the Majors.

Bullpen: I am happy with the bullpen’s performance. My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that this season the bullpen has an ERA of 3.19 through today’s game. More importantly, the bullpen kept the lead in the 8th and 9th innings (6 for 6 in the 8th, and 5 for 6 in the 9th).

Starting Pitching: It’s the biggest problem. Their ERA is 6.25. They pitched an average of 4.77 innings per start, putting extra workload onto the bullpen.

Steven: It’s gotta be the pitching. They aren’t striking anyone out, they’re giving up 1.5 homers per 9, and their ERA is almost a half run over the league average right now. The good news is Zac Gallen is back, and Bumgarner was actually a positive in his start today. Even the guys that have done well, show big warts, with Weaver giving up 2+ HRs/9 and Widener with poor peripherals to support his success so far.

James: THe pitching is the rough part. The offense is struggling too, and it risks spoiling a good outing (see Widener’s last outing). But, I still think the pitching is a bigger issue. There are fewer excuses there. The rotation is not missing two big pieces like the offense is with missing Walker and Marte. The rotation just mostly stinks. This team needs to start making some hard choices with its pitchers.

Jim: Every night, something different, it feels. Right now, it feels as if the bullpen might be unable to protect any lead, and there are hardly any arms down there in which I have confidence. Maybe it will improve when we get Joakim Soria, Tyler Clippard and the curious Chris Devenski back.

The J.B. Bukauskas era begins. How will his year unfold?

Jack: J.B. is a rookie reliever with a history of control problems who had a lights out spring thanks to throwing strikes. If he continues to throw strikes consistently he’ll dominate hitters with his stuff, (although less so in regular season compared to spring training competition). Of course the throwing strikes part is a fairly large “if”, especially once he gets knocked around a few times. We’ll have to see if he has the makeup to come back after getting hit hard to continue to pound the strikes zone and believe in his stuff. It’s unpredictable but I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

Steven: Who honestly knows? We haven’t seen him in 2+ weeks now and whatever flow state he was in could be long gone after not facing MLB hitting. After the start Josh Rojas had, I’m not trusting Spring Training stats outside of an extended sample size. I’d expect him to get ample opportunities to pitch, the fringes of the bullpen has been dreadful.

Makakilo: JB Bukauskis is the youngest Diamondback on the 26 man roster. The JB Bukauskis era could refer to the team getting younger. Next season some older players may be lost to free agency (Cabrera, Devenski, Escobar, Soria, and Vogt).

Although it’s early days, the offense will improve as the year unfolds. Will that be enough for Diamondbacks to finish above 500? Probably not.

James: It won’t take long before he winds up taking his lumps. The real test will be to see how he responds after getting whacked around by some MLB rosters. His stuff is absolutely electric. As long as he continues to trust his stuff, he should be able to throw more strikes. As long as he attempts to do that, I expect that Bukauskas will be the team’s best reliever.

Jim: I’m curious to see how he does; it seems possible he could end up being the team’s closer, if his spring performance is anything to go by…. But Josh Rojas says “Helllo” there, and I want to wait and see how he does in genuine game situations first. I do hope the team still gives him at least a shot of being a starter, rather than permanently assign him to the bullpen. The value of a starting pitcher is always going to be far higher

Legislation was introduced to let the D-backs pay for stadium repairs, effectively through a 9% tax on tickets and concessions. What’s your take?

Jack: I am not well versed in public finance. So I reached out to someone who is a “Land Economist & Economic Development Specialist” who works in the public sphere. I was initially dubious of the reasoning behind using a sales tax on tickets and concession sales as opposed to just adding a surcharge. The article says it has to do with the difference between public and private interest rates and length of terms. So wouldn’t that be a form of public money? Also there is apparently some disagreement over whether this is really just a “TIF’” which I don’t really understand at all.

Makakilo: It could be a win-win deal.

  • Maricopa County and the City of Phoenix keep the economic benefits of hosting the Diamondbacks, while getting a revitalized area around the stadium.
  • Although the Dbacks will be responsible for paying the bonds if the sales tax is insufficient, because the bonds are issued by the Theme Park District, it is possible that the interest paid on the bonds will be free of Arizona taxes and Federal taxes, allowing the Dbacks to pay a lower interest rate.
  • The Dbacks can maintain and renovate the stadium in whatever way makes sense to them. Perhaps the new government entity, “Theme Park District,” will make zoning changes easier so that the Dbacks can build up the area around the stadium.

Steven: Smells bad and continues to push to cost on taxpayers while the team keeps revenues. I sure hope the D-backs got those repairs they so badly needed in 2018 when they sued the county and almost certainly haven’t done since.

James: It feels a bit shady, but I think that has mostly to do with not knowing the full story or all the ins and outs of the finances. It seems to me it would have made more sense to simply add $3-5 to every ticket as a fee to be used for facilities maintenance.

Jim: More public funding for private enterprise, which I am no fan of. I guess it makes some sense to make the people using the facility fund it, but I’d say this kind of thing should have been built in from the very beginning. It’s not as if the costs of facility maintenance are something which suddenly arose in 2015.

What is a phrase you HATE hearing from people?

Jack: “Watch out!”

Makakilo: “Never ever...” For that speaker ‘never’ applies to that instant, and may not apply to the past or the future. Then I wonder whether ‘never ever’ applies only to that instant.

James: “It’s not faiiiiiir!!!”

Jim: Right now, “You need to come back in three weeks for another shot.” Uggggghhhhh….