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SnakePit Round Table: Fear the Walking Dead

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Another injury? Must be a day ending in Y...

Participants in the Sci-fi London Easter Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images

Another week, another slew of injuries. Just bad luck, or something more?

Makakilo: Hamstring injuries account for 3 of the 5 non-pitchers on the Diamondback IL. As a fan with no medical training my comments are not intended as medical advice - they are intended to illustrate the ambiguity and complexity of injury prevention.

A few of the many ideas about how to prevent hamstring injuries follow:

  • In 2002, a study of soccer players showed that exercises at the end of each training session to strengthen hamstrings reduced hamstring injuries.
  • In 2017, Shane Rye said the hamstrings are slave muscles, picking up the slack for the glutes and external hip rotators. Also, he wrote, “Baseball players often have tight hips and glutes from the constant rotation involved with hitting and throwing, and the hamstrings are forced to compensate and become overworked.”
  • In 2018, Nick Jack wrote that strengthening hamstrings was overrated and more important was moving correctly, which can be impacted by poor pelvic stability, poor hip mobility, and weak glutes. My thought is this suggests the possibility of balance training to make it easier to move correctly while executing difficult athletic feats.
  • In 2020, Anne Asher wrote that tight quads can pull the hip out of position and can result in weak and overstretched hamstrings. Perhaps that was consistent with what Nick Jack wrote, “Excessive hamstring flexibility is a great predictor of ACL injuries in sports and one reason why females suffer this injury at a rate 5-8 times more than males due to their hamstring laxity.” This suggests the possibility that strong and flexible quads (which keep the hip in the optimal position) might help prevent hamstring injury.
  • (Wish I could remember where I read it.) One person wondered why batters, when on deck, seem to focus solely on swinging, when they could be warming up the legs and hamstrings to prepare to run. My thought is that some players probably do prepare their muscles to run before each at-bat.

James: I think it is a bit of both. The injuries to Carson Kelly, Calhoun, and Walker feel mostly like they are the bad luck variety. Some of the others may be as well. On the other hand, the team brought on aging veterans to fill key roles. Players like Soria and Cabrera already have a ton of miles on them. Now granted, the team’s injury problems forced Lovullo’s hand on playing Cabrera as an everyday player. At the same time, when I look at the roster, I am unconvinced that playing Cabrera as a normal starter was not part of the plan anyway. While obviously not as defensively gifted, Cabrera reminds me of Eric Chavez - an aging veteran brought on to help steady the infield whose performance was so good that he got placed into the role of everyday starter. Chavez finally walked away because that wasn’t the role he wanted, nor the role his body could handle.

I don’t expect Cabrera to walk away, but I do think the team needs to come to terms with the fact that he is almost certain to be a better, healthier player. I do think the way some players have been used, whether through planning or through forced adaptation of service has contributed to the rash of injuries. I do still think that bad luck has played the bigger part though. I am worried about Gallen and JBB. I hope the team plays the ultra-conservative game with both of them, even if that means we don’t see either one again until July or August. I want those two 100% for next season more than I want them 85+% for this one.

Jack: I think it’s stress. It’s a hidden killer, and causes all sorts of problems. Among the myriad of issues stress causes, one simple one is tense muscles. The stresses placed on the athletes trying to work through their training regimens, and going through all the protocols have probably impacted them just like stress impacts all of us.

Dano: I wonder if part of it isn’t strength and conditioning, especially with the starting pitchers. If I’m not mistaken, now that Weaver is (apparently) hurt, isn’t Bumgarner the only one of our intended starting rotation who hasn’t taken a trip to the IL thus far? It seems unlikely to me that that’s gotta be more than just bad luck.

Which of the latest batch will have the biggest impact? Cabrera, Gallen or Kelly?

Makakilo: So far this season, the Diamondbacks offense exceeded my expectations. With that success, my expectations for homers and hits with RISP may be too high - the Diamondbacks can still win games at less than the current levels.

The Diamondbacks pitching is a problem that could become the weakest link. Therefore, Gallen’s injury will have the most impact.

  • This season, the increased innings compared to last season will stress many pitchers. Therefore, pitchers are valued highly.
  • Gallen is potentially an All-Star or hopefully a Hall-of-Fame pitcher. Although the Diamondbacks may have more starters of that caliber, they may not yet be ready for the Majors.

James: That depends on how long Kelly is out and whether or not Gallen winds up needing surgery. The team has other pitchers and Gallen was only going to go every five games. On the other hand, not only was Kelly one of the best position players, he was the team’s best option at catcher and arguably the only catcher in the entire organization that has any excuse to be making more than one or two starts in a week. Because of the difference in amount of contribution, I think losing Kelly will have a larger impact. Of course, maybe he is back in 15 days or so and picks up where he left off. If that becomes the case, then I worry more about the loss of Gallen.

Jack: Gallen, short, medium, and potentially long term is the correct answer. Kelly will be back soon. Cabrera is a loss, but the truth is he was a major regression candidate. He’s a slightly above league average hitter, and when a league average is way above average for a sting, well, we know what happens next.

But Gallens’ absence is wreaking immediate havoc on the rotation and pitching staff. That’s the short term. He is out at least a month from the date of his injury onset. That’s at least 5-6 starts not going to your best pitcher. And long term, if he ends up needing surgery well that’s clearly the most devastating potential long term impact.

Dano: Gallen, I’d say, because we were depending on him to be a stabilizing (and just plain good) anchor for the starting rotation. Seems like we’re doing broadly okay in terms of offensive production from unexpected sources, but without a functional rotation, we’re in big trouble.

Whom do you trust most and least among the D-backs relievers?

Makakilo: Most trusted is Matt Peacock. As a reliever, he allowed zero ERs in 75% of his appearances. What tipped the balance is he started when needed. As a starter he allowed 2 ER in 5 Innings, although his game score was about average. That appearance as a game starter was why he edged ahead of Alex Young who allowed zero ERs in 76% of his appearances, and Stefan Crichton who allowed zero ERs in 79% of his appearances (not including Sunday’s appearance).

Least trusted is Kevin Ginkel. His name popped into my head, although it’s hard to explain why. One reason is his HR9 was the highest in the bullpen (except exceeded by David Peralta’s appearance in relief).

James: The Diamondbacks’ relief corps is a mess right now. Injuries and ineffectiveness have created such a high rate of turnover that it is hard to really pin down a most trustworthy. I suppose I would have to go with Alex Young or Matt Peacock. Both have been mostly reliable in their roles so far. Honorable mention would go to JBB. The fact that he is now on the shelf with elbow issues makes me a bit hesitant about that. I get that he has been lit up of laste, but I have a hard time believing that his low strand rate (54.8%) and the high opponent BABIP (.433) are even remotely sustainable. As those normalize, he should be fine.

As for least trusted, that would be Yoan López, followed very closely by Kevin Ginkel. If not for the rash of injuries, I wonder if López would have ever sniffed the Arizona roster again.

Jack: Some of my fellow writers might be aware I edited this comment. I’ll let you guess what that might have been. There is no “most trusted” reliever. I trust nobody. The least trusted was a two man race between Devenski and Ginkel. Both have been terrible. Now Devenski is on the 60 day IL and possibly facing surgery and Yoan Lopez is back to give cover to Ginkel. There isn’t any indication from watching them pitch OR from looking at their expected metrics that we should expect improvement. Here is what Lopez and Ginkel have done in 2020-21. Even if you look to xERA or xFIP they are both still well over 5. Pick your poison.

Dano: None of the above, really. If I had to pick, though, I’d probably choose Peacock and probably Caleb Smith, though the latter has definitely gotten knocked around a bit more this month than he did in April.

What do you think is the biggest problem Torey Lovullo currently faces?

Makakilo: Consistency. Consistency of each player’s performance - pitching (starters and relievers), hitting, and defense. In addition, consistency of players in the lineup is hard to achieve with so many injuries.

“It’s just about being consistent. I want to be able to put somebody in tonight and throw them in there again tomorrow and know they’re going to be the same guy.” — Torey Lovullo

James: Personnel. Right now, Lovullo is being asked to field what should probably be a strong AAA team. The team has a number of AAAA players being asked to take on MLB roles. His best players, both on the mound and in the batter’s box have been or are injured, significantly. Going into the season, one of the biggest concerns about the team in general was its MLB-caliber depth. The team being cursed with the injury bug has exposed the lack of depth in spades. When Lovullo’s choices are bad, worse, or dumpster fire, it is hard for any call to be the right call.

Jack: The pitching is just not good enough and probably wasn’t going to be even with a healthy Zac Gallen, Tyler Clippard and Joakim Soria. The bullpen is among the three worst in the National League. The rotation is being held together with duct tape. I posted this in the game preview thread. This is my chart trying to figure out the rotation for the series preview I have to write tomorrow. And as I write this Luke Weaver was just pulled from the game with right shoulder discomfort. e thinks it’s not a big deal, but getting MRI anyway.

On the position player side Ketel Marte will be back soon and as I said above Carson Kelly should not be out too long. So Torey will get a boost there hopefully. While it certainly hurts to see Calhoun, Cabrera and Walker all suffer injuries, the truth is the replacements for them are not doing badly at all, especially Pavin Smith and Josh Rojas. We’ll see how Leyba does replacing Cabrera. I have some data that shows that Torey’s method of mixing and matching has been pretty effective so far, and I think the position player side of things is less problematic for him than the pitching, despite the recent injury spate.

Dano: I fully agree with both James and Jack. Our pitching specifically right now is a dumpster fire thanks to all the injuries, but beyond that, we’ve got too many injuries across the board, and not nearly enough depth to fill the holes in any satisfactory way.

Do you think the A’s will move? If so, where to?

James: There is no way they are staying in the Colosseum. However, unless MLB continues to go to bat for the A’s, I think they eventually wind up getting the Howard Terminal deal done, which would keep them in Oakland. The team and the city have been circling that deal for a decade or so now. Given how close the deal has come to fruition on more than one occasion, it seems like there should be a deal to be made. Now, if MLB is willing to flex its muscles some though, then all bets are off.

San Jose still really wants the A’s and has the money and sponsors to make it happen in very short fashion. It would reignite the battle with the Giants that has cooled since the early 2000s, but MLB has always remained hands-off in those battles. MLB could also use its clout to simply pave the way for the A’s to land in one of a handful of other cities that want a team. Then of course, there is the Vegas/Henderson angle. If MLB and Vegas work together, the A’s could find themselves in one of the most lucrative sporting markets in the league in a big hurry.

Makakilo: Yes, they will move. The city of Oakland allowed their NFL and NBA teams to move rather than build a new stadium. It’s a pattern. A strong sign that Oakland Athletics will move was that in May the MLB announced that they gave permission to move.

My guess is they will move to Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Stars have the goal of bringing a MLB expansion team to Nashville. That support will help secure timely approvals. They started the planning process to build a new stadium - but it’s early enough that the Oakland Athletics can make sure they get what they need. Las Vegas, although geographically closer, probably won’t happen because they built a stadium with the idea of turning it into a MLB ballpark (although the stadium will likely need expansion tiers to be added). In Las Vegas it might be too late for the Oakland Athletics to plan for a redevelopment district around the ballpark.

Jack: I asked a well informed writer and he said “Oakland will do that deal, It’s a no brainer”

Dano: It seems increasingly likely. I would assume that MLB would like to keep the team in the west so they don’t have to rejigger the composition of the divisions, so maybe Portland, OR? Or Vegas, of course, if they have an interest in getting yet another pro sports team.

If Flo from Progressive and Jake from State Farm were to fight to the death, who would win and why?

James: My gut take is that it would be Flo. She’s been shown to be ruthlessly aggressive when the need arises, while Jake, when confronted with a confused and angry spouse, gets flustered and seems to have a first response that is mostly to avoid the confrontation at all costs.

Makakilo: It depends.

  • If the contest is straightforward and depends on expertise, Jake wins. Jake Slate keeps his feathers unruffled and is an expert. He is a real employee of State Farm (although he was recently replaced by an actor).
  • If the contest is ambiguous and anything goes, Flo wins. Flo has more spunk, humor, and relishes putting herself in new situations.

Jack: Flo has a scary evil streak. You can see it in her eyes. Mess with her at your own risk.

Dano: Flo wouldn’t fight fair, so it’s gotta be Flo.