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SnakePit Round Table: Road Warriors

Three road series = one sweep, one win and a split. Not bad.

On the set of Mad Max 2 Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

A winning road-trip! What happened?

Dano: Before today (Sunday), I’d have attributed it pretty much entirely to the fact that the offense seemed to have packed their bats for this trip. That’s still a big part, but also our starting pitching appears to be righting itself. Fourteen scoreless innings of one-hit ball from Gallen (no surprise) and Bumgarner (big surprise) helped a lot, as did a lot of solid outings by the rest of the staff along the way.

Keegan: We’re witness to one of the best offenses in baseball currently, which is remarkable considering the absences of Ketel Marte and Christian Walker. The entire lineup has collectively shared the burden of replacing that missed production and has done a really nice job of doing so. What really grabbed my attention is how patient the D’backs hitters are in selecting the pitches they want to hit. They’re right there with the Padres and Dodgers at the top of the league in drawing walks. That patience allowed them to come from behind against the Cincinnati Reds multiple times. Then you have to love what Zac Gallen and Madison Bumgarner did to finish off the series in Atlanta. We were spoiled watching that for plenty of seasons whether it was RJ and Schilling or Webb and Haren. Plenty of good things to say and a lot of fun to watch right now.

ISH95: The offense is just going bonkers right now. They’re playing loose, they’re having fun, and it’s showing off. Heck, I almost want to go get a Tictok account just for Escobar and Peralta at this point. Hopefully, what we saw on Sunday is a harbinger of what we could be getting from the pitching going forward. If that’s the case…

Makakilo: Offense improved: Before road trip 4.6 runs per game, during road trip 6.1 runs per game.

Defense/Pitching improved: Before road trip 5.7 runs allowed per game, during road trip 4.0 runs allowed per game.

Sunday’s two consecutive shutout starts of 7 innings could indicate that I was mistaken about starting pitching being the team’s biggest problem. Before those 2 starts, FanGraphs’ team stats showed Diamondbacks’ starter ERA was 5.54 (highest ERA in Majors). After those 2 starts, FanGraphs’ starter ERA was 4.87 (ranking 8th highest ERA in Majors).

Jack: I’ll echo Keegan on the offense. Patience is the key. It sets up all the other success. The starting pitching, which I called out just two days ago, helped enhance my “Anti” reputation ;). What a day Sunday.

James: Mostly, unlike what we have seen in recent years, the Diamondbacks did not play down to weak competition. Patrick Corbin is a dumpster fire right now. Arizona pounded him. The Reds are simply not a good team. The Diamondbacks played them tough and, once the final outs were made, squeaked out a couple of victories against an opponent who will be lucky to have 75 wins on the season. Something is rotten in the State of Georgia. Atlanta’s bats have been having issues for the better part of two weeks now. The Diamondbacks caught them at the right time and sent Gallen and Bumgarner to take care of business, even if it was high school rules ball. Four of Arizona’s wins came against terrible competition. Two of the remaining three came from stellar pitching performances by the two most experienced starters in Arizona’s rotation. It has been fun to watch. If they can keep up that sort of performance against weak teams, the next 18 games should provide them with plenty of opportunity to make some headway above .500.It would do them weel to take advantage too, as right after that, the schedule gets much tougher.

DBacksEurope: I think things just clicked on this road trip. I have to admit that this isn’t an easy accomplishment though. Despite what can be said about the Braves and their struggling offence and pitching, it still is one of the favourite teams to beat and even the Reds went back to winning after getting swept at Chase Field. If you want to play .500 ball this season these are teams you can and should beat when you meet them at the right moment, just like the D-Backs need to be somewhat on a streak. I do think we should not get too excited, because streaks are very baseball-like. I still believe this is a 65 win team, but the latest results do give hope about whether this team might be able to outperform itself and get in a couple of more wins. At least it has made the last few days a lot more fun to watch and maybe they can get in a couple more spectators when the Padres and Rockies stop by.

Is Nick Ahmed broken?

Dano: Maybe, a little bit. He seems to be making a lot more fielding mistakes since he’s been back from the IL, and his bat just isn’t there yet. I wonder if his injury is fully healed, but also whether or not he’s just in his own head a bit too much right now. To be fair, though, I was never really convinced that Ahmed’s so-called “breakout season” offensively in 2019 was actually that, or whether it was more of a fluke. So is he broken, or just reverting to form with his bat? _shrugs_

Keegan: I sure hope not. He’s signed through 2023. I think and hope that he will come around, but honestly I did have some fears that he’d go the Dustin Pedroia knee injury route and never quite be the same. I don’t think it’s going to be that severe though.

ISH95: Was he ever not broken? He’s had one good offensive season, and I feel like the defense has been slowly going down at least for the last season or two. At the end of the day, he’s here to get us to Perdomo, and that’s about it. Now we just need to hope Perdomo gets here quickly.

Makakilo: Sunday, the Braves pitchers tested Nick Ahmed. He passed! With six PAs, four times he hit the ball into the outfield (2 doubles and 2 fly-ball outs), and twice he hit to the infield (one single and one reached on error). Only a couple days prior, Nick Ahmed said the following:

“I feel like I actually figured it out today. I took some really good early work today out on the field. I felt my body move for the first time [since the knee injury] the way I want it to move.” – Nick Ahmed

Jack: Sunday he got an infield hit, and then the next at bat drove a ball into the gap for a double. Hopefully that was the start of a hot streak.

James: I think he was. I also buy into the notion that he himself talked about, with his mechanics being messed up due to compensating for his knee for so long. He started putting in extra work in the cages while they were in Cincinnati. It has shown almost instant results. He’s showing better balance in the box and his approach is starting to look more like it did the previous two years. If he continues to trust the process, he should be fine. Although, the hole that he is in is a deep one, so it might take a good couple of months to see him back where we all like him to be in terms of overall results.

DBacksEurope: I don’t think Nick Ahmed is broken because I am a believer. He is hitting .128 at the moment with a negative OPS. That is too low for Ahmed standards. Ahmed didn’t have a Spring Training and probably wasn’t completely healthy when he started in the lineup again. I am confident he can get back to career average hitting, which is a .230 batting average, but key to his success has always been his health. If injuries start bugging him, his performance might affect him more than others. On the other hand, he has always been admired more for his glove than his bat. Let’s hope his defence returns to his stellar golden glove years. I personally believe that is a bit more important than the bat.

Would you undo the Zac Gallen for Jazz Chisholm trade?

Dano: Good lord, no. Are people actually suggesting that? That sounds nuts to me, especially after his start today.

Keegan: Not at all, and quite honestly I wish more trades were like that. A one-for-one swap where both teams come out feeling like they won. Zac Gallen and Jazz Chisholm are both very special players. I like that Jazz has expressed that he wants to hit a home run off of Gallen. Stuff like that is good for the game of baseball. The Diamondbacks needed an MLB ready starting pitcher more than they needed a middle infielder who was two years away from the big leagues when the trade was made. Both teams should be proud of what they came away with.

ISH95: Nah, we have a potential Cy Young candidate with Gallen. Best of luck to Jazz in Miami, but there is no way I change it at the moment. The Diamondbacks FO did exactly what you were supposed to do: trade from depth to cover areas we don’t have. That’s what happened.

Makakilo: No for three reasons.

  • Zac Gallen proved himself to be the best pitcher in the Diamondbacks rotation, while the talented Jazz Chrisholm includes risk that he may not achieve his potential.
  • Although Jazz Chrisholm hit well so far this season (OPS+ 168), his 30.5% strikeout rate remains much higher than the 23.7% MLB average.
  • In the Majors Jazz Chisholm mostly played second base (where the Diamondbacks have Ketel Marte plus depth) with some shortstop (where the Diamondbacks have Nick Ahmed).

Some quotes from the AZ Snake Pit follow:

“The only obvious flaw in this young man’s game is his propensity to strike out, which he did a whopping 157 times while taking just 43 walks in his 548 PA’s across the three leagues this year.” – Jack Sommers, Jan 31, 2019

“For this trade not to become heavily favored toward the Diamondbacks, it relies on Chisholm’s ability to make consistent contact and limit his strikeouts. If it all comes together, his power and speed will produce in the big leagues.” – Isaiah Burrows, August 20, 2020

“For 2021, ZiPS projects Gallen to be the best pitcher on Arizona’s pitching staff, and the only pitcher projected with an era below 4. Although a 3.74 ERA sounds underwhelming, that’s still a 123 ERA+ and worth 3.6 WAR” – C.Wesley Baier, Jan 6, 2021

“Kid [Jazz Chrisholm] has been having lots of fun and quite some early success this season as well with a 206 OPS+.” – DbacksEurope, Apr 19, 2021

Jack: I wouldn’t undo the trade. But Jazz is doing a lot better than I thought he would. I still maintain the K’s must decrease if he is to sustain any of the success he’s having. But he’s got great tools in every other facet of the game. If he ever gets his K rate below 25% he’ll be a star.

James: I had this conversation online earlier this week. No, I would not undo the trade, despite Chisholm’s recent exploits. Pitchers that can pitch #1/#2 are harder to find than borderline all-star middle infielders. Even if Chisholm is that all-star, Gallen has held his own and continues to provide the Diamondbacks with the sort of pitching that is necessary to lead a rotation.To top it all off, the timelines just worked better for both teams in the trade. Arizona was supremely desperate for at least one, if not two more, MLB-ready starting pitchers when the trade was made.Jazz Chisholm, while a fantastic prospect, was still 1-2 years away and still had significant questions about his swing-and-miss issues. It seems both teams did well in this trade.

DBacksEurope: I would not undo it, because Zac Gallen has been very good thus far and I agree that it is harder to find a good starting pitcher than a good position player. Jazz Chisholm still has a lot to prove and his bat has cooled off considerably in the last week. I think Zac Gallen has set the bar pretty high for Chisholm thus far. However, I have seen Chisholm on a couple of podcasts and I love how he is. I think he is lots of fun to look at and he clearly enjoys the game. I genuinely hope he succeeds at the highest level and takes Zac Gallen deep once, like he has expressed he wants to, as long as it doesn’t cost us a game.

Has Carson Kelly been the team’s MVP so far?

Dano: Yes. He’s definitely been carrying the offense on his back through the early going. It looks like he’s maybe cooling off a bit at the plate now, but others are beginning to step up. I don’t expect him to be the team’s MVP by the time September or October rolls around, but so far, absolutely.

Keegan: It’s difficult to argue that he hasn’t been. I saw a graphic this weekend that he’s right up there with Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez for the highest WAR foot position players. He’ll come back to Earth eventually, but I love watching him set the tone in the lineup right now.

Jack: I’d say that’s a fair statement. I keep going back to his defense. It’s one thing to be hot and knocking some homers and taking all those walks. No doubt he is lengthening the lineup no matter where they put him. But his defense has been really good and it’s night and day from last year. That’s what stands out to me even more. The bat will cool, but if he can maintain this level on defense then he could be the team MVP even if his OPS drops a few hundred points.

Makakilo: Yes because of his offense and defense.

Offensive leaders (Baseball Reference):

  • Andrew Young, 10 PAs, 2 HR, 511 OPS+
  • Ketel Marte, 28 PAs, 2 HR, 263 OPS+
  • Carson Kelly, 62 PAs, 5 HR, 228 OPS+
  • Eduardo Escobar, 93 PAs, 7 HRs, 130 OPS+

Defense: Carson Kelly’s 3 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at catcher ranks 2nd highest in the Majors (The Fielding Bible).

ISH95: I’d say so. He’s been easily the most consistent hitter so far, his defense has been great, and no one really comes to mind as an alternative.

James: I don’t think it is even all that close. With Gallen and Marte both having spent significant time on the IL, Carson Kelly is the standout player. I think Kelly’s 2020 was so bad that many had decided to simply give up on him as a bit of a bust who had one decent season in 2019. The final three weeks of last season, he started to show some life at the plate, but it was too little too late. Jack highlighted Kelly’s improved defense over 2020. It was Kelly’s poor 2020 defense that helped me to chalk 2020 up to being the pandemic year and not giving it much weight. Kelly actually came up as a glove-first catcher who also happened to have enough bat to be a decent hitter. This season, we are seeing more of the Carson Kelly of the past, outside of 2020. He’s never likely to be a Gold Glove winner behind the plate, but he should be just fine when it comes to controlling the running game and managing the pitching staff, the latter of which he has always been known for doing well.

DBacksEurope: I don’t think you can call it any other way since he either gets on base through a base on balls or a single or hits the ball out of the stadium. I see he has been spraying the ball a lot and becomes shift prone. I haven’t looked much more into that but that could be key to his success. He will cool off of course but let’s ride that bat while it is hot.

Can the D-backs climb above .500 this week?

Dano: With two against the Padres and three versus Colorado, I would say yes. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to imagine a split with San Diego, and us taking two of those three against the Rockies. [Jim: There’s actually four vs. Colorado, which makes it tougher to get above .500]

Keegan: I believe that they can. It would be awesome if they did. EBH and I will be at the game Friday night. It’d be nice to go into the weekend above .500 while being in attendance.

Makakilo: Yes. The Diamondbacks have scored 5 runs or more in seven consecutive games. That kind of consistent offense makes it possible.

Jack: They have to go 4-2 to get above .500 this week. They may be catching the Padres at the right time. The Friars’ pitching depth is beat up, and 7 of their last 10 games have been intense battles with the Dodgers. So hopefully a good start to the week in the short two game series sets them on that path. Merrill Kelly needs to keep the momentum going that the team obtained from Bumgarner and Gallen’s fantastic outings.

ISH95: I hope they do. Not rushing off to bet on it, but I hope they do. It’s a good opportunity, especially as I listen to yet another Padres/Dodgers game go to extra innings. Another related thing, if they sweep the two games against the Dads, they’ll move to third in the standings.

James: I think that the Diamondbacks are in a good place right now to get themselves above .500. As Jack pointed out, that would mean going 4-2 over the next six games. Beyond that, I do not think it is beyond the realm of possibility that they could actually go 12-6 over the next 18, before they head to Chavez Ravine to start a rather tough stretch of games.

DBacksEurope: that would be nice, but the Padres just beat the Dodgers in a series and have shown that they have a deep rotation beside all those injured starting pitchers. The Rockies just beat the Phillies and the Astros in their series, so I don’t believe that will be a walk-over either. Besides, Gallen is real, but Mad Bum still has a lot to prove, just like our other starting pitchers.

What’s your “I told you so!” moment?

Dano: When I wrote earlier this year that Bumgarner was done and a sunk cost, and would never throw a remotely confident game in a Diamondbacks uniform. Oops. Heh. Well, I got nuthin’ now.

Keegan: I can’t quite remember. Nothing that stands out in particular.

Makakilo: “Offense: It’s one step away from being great.” — 18 April roundtable

In the last week the Diamondbacks offense has stepped up to greatness! Let’s look how season numbers have improved in the last week:

  • Season average runs-per-game increased from 4.5 to 5.3 (exceeds my preseason prediction of 5 runs per game).
  • Season success with RISP increased from .178 (24 of 135) to .214 (42 of 196).
  • Standing in the race for most homers in the Majors. It increased from tied for third place to stand-alone second place. They are 3 homers ahead of third place, one homer behind first place Reds.

Jack: I didn’t exactly have a great week in this category, unless you count me trash talking my grandkids before the monopoly game that I was gonna kick their butts. (This is an inside family joke,....the 8 year is borderline genius and wins half the time)

James: If sticking to the last week, I don’t really have one. The closest I probably come is firmly standing beside my opinion that Pavin Smith should not be getting significant innings in the outfield, especially in center. However, that was, and still is, a fairly robust branch to step out on. I don’t think there were many claiming he would be or is “just fine” patrolling center. The difference between Smith and Heath is night and day defensively.

DBacksEurope: a couple of years ago I had a lot of predictions in soccer that came out. That was a great feeling but no one cared and now doesn’t remember so it doesn’t matter. Other than that, I am like Jack, I do a lot of trash talking with nephews and my kids when playing games, although a lot of them don’t take it that well, haha!