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SnakePit Round Table: Welcome to the ‘Pits

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Can it get worse? And other questions...

Turkmenistan’s “Gateway to Hell” Crater Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images

So, how’s it going…?

James: I’ve had better weeks. On the other hand, I am doing a million times better than the Diamondbacks are over the last six weeks, so I have very little room to complain.

ISH95: Going pretty alright. Promoted a new shift manager at work, so hopefully after a little training, I’ll have a little less work on my plate. Other than that, uneventful.

Makakilo: I am grateful for many things, three follow:

  • I very much enjoy being part of the team of writers for the AZ Snake Pit. I appreciate Jim for making that happen.
  • My friends are awesome.
  • My health is excellent.

Dano: Muddling along. Seventh straight day of 111 degrees or more here in Tucson, and my swamp cooler decided to crap out on Friday, so that’s been fun. On the upside, I’m flying to Gulfport, MS on Wednesday and driving in a one-way rental car up to where therealramona is, and we’re gonna load her cats and her stuff into the vehicle, and then road-trip it back here together. She and the cats were going to fly out, but we decided that, with the heat, it would be safer to transport the cats in a car than to have American Airlines put them in a cargo hold and then possibly let them sit on the tarmac at the airport here on the back end in 110 degree heat. She and I have never done a road trip before and, at the end of it, she will be here with me. So yay!

DBacksEurope: I am happy to read the others are fine and I hope everyone else is doing fine too. I can only complain about things one would consider “futilities” so in general all is well.

Jack: Family and friends all good. Just spent 5 days in Pine country with Dad and his wife, which was awesome. Fathers day at my Son and Daughter in laws today. Business is getting busier. Juggling a lot of balls in the air right now between that and family, including care for Mother and her affairs. Trying to keep our garden alive during this heat wave, and of course Snakepit duties.

Steven: I’m healthy and out of the heat wave in Arizona, so enjoying life. I’ve started hiking more and enjoying the sunshine, which has been a big boost to my overall health.

What are you doing to cope with the 2021 D-backs?

James: I’ll let you know when I actually figure something out. For now, I am doing my best to have a second activity that I am engaged with that can be my primary focus, allowing me to shift this woeful team to the background.

ISH95: Is it a bad look to say avoiding them at all costs? Look, I love the Dbacks, but if they can’t be bothered to win one game a week, I’m going to follow on GameDay.

Makakilo: I’m looking really hard for insights that lead to understanding, celebrating each win, and being happy with each step that shows the team is getting better. In Sunday’s game, I enjoyed, after being down by 7 runs, how close the Diamondbacks came to a walk-off win against the Dodgers.

Dano: Like ISH, I’m mainly GameDaying it, and getting a given day’s particular rancid flavor from the recaps that all my lovely colleagues here write, and trying to check in there. I’ve also developed a sort of weird fascination with the perfect storm of suck that roster deficiencies, untimely injuries, management choices and random chance have created for us. It’s becoming kind of breathtaking to witness, honestly.

DBacksEurope: I am trying to see things from a different point of view. I think it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see how bad a team can be that should not be this bad and how the whole organisation, fanbase and other stakeholders stay relatively calm. I very much enjoyed Preston’s FanPost the other day where he reviewed the worst teams in history and mentioned that this season’s D-Backs don’t fit the others (we are not an expansion team, we are not tanking…). Everything goes wrong. Average hitters have become bad hitters. Average pitchers have become terrible pitchers. I have a feeling that if the Diamondbacks DFA one player, this player is getting a favour because he will probably have a better chance to perform better somewhere else. I dreadfully look at Taijuan’s and Robbie Ray’s stats. I wonder when, if at all, the first player or first staffer steps out of his line and makes a comment or does something he shouldn’t have done. The whole club and team look remarkably complacent and are all behaving in a gentleman’s way. That is all weird and I think it is interesting to see this.

Jack: I’ll be honest, I really look forward to off days on the Diamondbacks calendar. If I wasn’t writing for this site, I’d probably be tuning out quite a bit. I’m amazed by everyone that still watches the team that doesn’t have to watch the team.

Steven: The Suns have been a big reason why I haven’t fallen into the depths of despair like most D-backs fans have. At the same time, I might actually watch more once they get rid of all these players with no future on this team. Let the youngsters play!

Have we reached the bottom yet?

James: I would say mostly yes. Though I do think the team might pull out the picks and shovels and attempt to dig the hole a bit deeper. Caleb Smith throwing six shutout frames against the potent Dodgers amounting to absolutely nothing just goes to show what sort of work the Diamondbacks have to do in order to even start moving in the right direction again. The team just played poor, ugly ball in San Francisco. Now, even when they play good ball, they are facing teams that are just flat-out superior in every way. It’s time for the youth movement to begin in earnest. At least that way, future losses are still part of some sort of development. Also, just maybe, one of the young-uns will surprise us all and give us a silver lining.

ISH95: If you put your mind to it, there is no bottom. Just need a bigger shovel.

Makakilo: Based on the pain I feel watching each Diamondbacks loss, the bottom must be near. When a small part of the solution/fix happens, and the road ahead looks a tint brighter – that marks the bottom.

Dano: No, sadly, I don’t think so. I don’t even know where the bottom is for a team whose pitching staff is in such massive and widespread disarray. Our “best” bullpen arm that hasn’t been pressed into service as a starter sports an ERA north of 5.00. Our pitching staff as a whole has the worst ERA in baseball, and has surrendered 407 runs, also worst in MLB and surpassing the next worst team, the Rockies, by a whopping 35 runs. Our starters have also given up the most runs in the majors, and are second worst in ERA. When both ends of the pitching equation are so incredibly broken that we’re apparently now signing random DFA cast-offs from other teams and plugging them into games on a seemingly daily basis, I honestly don’t think there’s any help coming. I don’t feel like I can even predict when we’re likely to win our next game, much less our next road game.

DBacksEurope: you might think you can’t go worse but there is always a way to surpass our expectations in that regard:

  • Players fighting, on and/or off the field.
  • Our manager getting the sack and a disappointing replacement.
  • The Arizona fanbase turning against its team with boos and chants.
  • Bad blood between players and fans.
  • Ketel Marte getting a severe injury in CF or requesting a trade.
  • TJ for Zac Gallen
  • More personal misery affecting the performance of this team and club in general.

It would give something to write about, but negative vibes could have long-term effects. Just look at the 2020 season: in the end the bad performance was just a prequel to this one despite the club thinking something differently. Last year they clearly missed all the signs of the utter disaster that has become this season.

Jack: DBE hit the nail on the head. Things can always get better, but they can always get worse. I’m sure he made his list before Carson Kelly suffered a fractured wrist last night. In the case of the D-backs, seeing is believing. Let’s start with ONE WIN, shall we ?

Steven: The further down we go, the more threats we’ll see. DBE hit all of the threats in his answer.

What has stood out about the worst month in franchise history?

James: The ugliness of some of the games, especially the last series in San Francisco. The team really looked like the Bad News Bears out there on some nights. The other thing is, this team seems to find a new way to lose on any given night. If it isn’t bad pitching, it’s mental errors in the field, or it is a total lack of offense. Or, maybe, they take a seven run lead and then cough up a go-ahed granny in the eighth inning.

ISH95: The sheer unwatchability of it. There is nothing redeeming about the “baseball” they are playing right now. There is no stand out young pitcher every fifth day, or an all star at the plate who can put one into Fatburger/Lolo’s/Gonzo’s Grill. There’s just… nothing.

Makakilo: In June, Caleb Smith was the Ace of the rotation! In June, only two Diamondbacks starters pitched a game that resulted in a game score (average of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and 538.com methods) of 49.5 or better. In June, Merrill Kelly did it once with 49.6, and Caleb Smith did it three times with 52.6, 60.3, and 69.8.

Dano: The sheer scale of the suckage at this point, honestly. This has stopped being just a dumpster fire, or a train wreck, and feels like it’s achieved the level of an unstoppable natural disaster, like a massive hurricane or an F5 tornado or watching the time lapse of a glacier calving itself into oblivion due to the invisible and slowly corrosive effects that elevated global temperatures have over time on an ice sheet. It’s frankly awesome to witness, in the “looking upon the face of an angry god” sense.

DBacksEurope: Ketel Marte is still out there in CF amassing errors. When do we stop abusing him? That is really the only thing that bothers me at the moment.

Makakilo: Great point by DBacksEurope about Ketel Marte! On 5 June, Ketel Marte had accumulated negative 5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in CF. In the last two weeks, he accumulated an additional negative 5 DRS so that his season total is now negative 10 DRS in CF. Data from The Fielding Bible.

Jack: It’s exposed just how bad the pitching depth always was. No team could suffer 4 out of 5 intended starters getting hurt and not suffer. But the sheer lack of any kind of depth AT ALL beyond those 5 is shocking. Here are the worst ERA+ teams since live ball ERA 1920. Dbacks worst since 1954…..so far.

Steven: Just how awful the pitching has been. I get you’re starting a bunch of young guys, but pitching is pitching. I’m shocked the pitching coach hasn’t been fired yet.

Is Torey Lovullo now a dead man walking?

James: I still would not be shocked to see Lovullo finish out the season. I mean, sure, the team’s record speaks for itself. No one is going to bat an eye if Lovullo gets canned. At the same time, it isn’t like there are better candidates just waiting to fill the void. He still has a crap roster to work with, especially on the pitching side. The roster is only going to get worse before it gets better. I do think that, once the season is over, there is a very good chance Lovullo is gone. This ownership group (especially KK) just don’t seem to have the patience to suffer through and persevere. So, another short-timer will be brought in and then fired when the team doesn’t win in 2 years.

ISH95: I struggle to call the 2022 AL Manager of the Year a dead man walking. He’ll be just fine when his contract is up and goes to a team semi-committed to putting a winning team on the field. Probably the Astros.

Makakilo: No. Three reasons:

  • My view is that Torey Lovullo is a top-10 manager. And despite his frustration at how the Diamondbacks are playing, I am confident his sense of purpose is as strong as ever.
  • The win/loss record was not totally controlled by Torey Lovullo. My view is 11 wins were lost due to injuries and 5 wins were lost due to sequencing of Diamondback hits and opponents’ hits. Note: FanGraph’s Baseruns (BsR) for the Diamondbacks team was the basis of bad sequencing.
  • One question is whether this season has impacted how Torey Lovullo is ranked as a manager. I discovered that Seth Trachtman ranked all 30 managers on September 18, 2020 and again very recently, on June 14, 2021. Seth reduced Torey Lovullo’s rank from 13th best to 17th best. 17th is not even close to the worst in the MLB.

Dano: Good lord, I hope not. I know there are some in our community who disagree, but I don’t see this being Torey’s fault in any meaningful way. Sure, he’s made some boneheaded choices in the course of managing individual games, but when the team has gone 6-40 since the beginning of last month, that’s not the manager’s fault. That’s a clear indication of very deep structural and organizational problems.

DBacksEurope: yes, he is. There is no way Ken Kendrick will allow this to continue. I imagine he got his wealth, like every very rich person (I am not a socialist but I am not blind either), while stepping onto people and working hard to achieve whatever objective. I am sure there were objectives set at the beginning of the season and I don’t believe Torey is meeting any of those objectives at the moment. If Kendrick would allow this to continue, he would show he is complacent with bad performance and I am certain that would attack his personal integrity despite whatever his plans might be with the Diamondbacks.

Torey will get another chance somewhere else and just like Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray he will probably thrive somewhere else. He will learn a lot from this experience but the Diamondbacks will probably never benefit from his learned lessons. But, yeah, he is a dead man walking. I don’t think it is his fault but just like the hitting coaches became the scapegoat, so will Torey become a scapegoat eventually: he won’t see the season out. However, first they will have to oust the pitching coaches, so it might be mid August before Torey is shown the door. Unless, somehow, the team becomes competitive again and starts winning.

Jack: Once again DBE has hit on the key point. I texted a writer friend last night after I got home at 11:55 P.M.:

“I just had a thought leaving the ballpark tonight.....Ken is gonna lose his cool and demand they fire Torey”

I’m shocked he’s lasted this long. I understand why. But it’s still surprising. Perhaps the more interesting question is if they do fire him, who will they replace him with. Will it be an interim manager promoted from within the organization ? That’s usually how it’s done right? If that were the case I’d think the top four candidates would be:

  • Luis Ureta: Current Bench Coach
  • Tony Perezchica: 3rd base coach
  • Chris Cron: Field Coordinator
  • Blake Lalli: Reno Manager

Steven: Is it really Torey’s fault the pitcher can’t pitch and the hitters can’t hit? At some point, you need to change your seasonal expectations with the current talent level. Another point, do the D-backs want to pay another coach along with Torey?

Looking back 20 years, how have you personally changed?

James: I’ve both mellowed and also become more of a stick-in-the-mud. I’m just the polite side of the old man yelling at kids to get off the lawn. I am also far more introverted now than I was 20 years ago. Over the last 20 years, I have come to find peace with the fact that it is okay for me to not particularly enjoy other people being around. I used to fight against my introvertism. Now I fully embrace it.

ISH95: Well,, 20 years ago, I was really obsessed with VeggieTales. Not so much any more. And the amount of time I spend playing with toy swords in the back yard has decreased somewhat

Makakilo: First, three changes: I am in better physical shape with daily exercise and a vegetarian diet. My memory is significantly better and my thinking is clearer. My friends are more awesome

About 20 years ago, I began an adventurous period of my life embracing new & challenging experiences (both personal and professional). As author Bernard Malamud wrote in his book about Roy Hobbs: Iris Gaines: “We have two lives, Roy, the life we learn with and the life we live with after that.” In other words, I learned a lot 20 years ago.

Dano: Wow, nothing like a small, light question to end things off with.

  • I have grown to be a lot kinder, deliberately and consciously, to random strangers who aren’t overtly being jerks.
  • I’ve gotten a lot less confrontational over little things, while also discovering that I now have the confidence to confront people and situations where I feel like it’s actually important, morally or otherwise. And I’ve found that I’m pretty good at having difficult conversations, when 20 years ago I would have just avoided those conversations.
  • I have a lot less patience for people now who I come to believe are fundamentally jerks at their core, and it takes me a lot less time with folks like that before I simply cut bait. At the same time, I have a lot more patience for people I encounter who I think are acting like jerks in a given moment, but who are not fundamentally bad people. So maybe I’ve grown more discerning of nuance, and more trusting of my own perceptions.
  • Oddly enough, I consciously try to obey all local traffic laws now. What’s the point of speeding? I’ll get where I’m going eventually, and if I do my part right beforehand, there should be no particular need to hurry. And that’s weird. I used to speed a lot.

DBacksEurope: I don’t think I have changed that much as a person. I have developed an elephant skin because of many unfriendly encounters in my work as an IT consultant but other than that there isn’t that much difference. Apart from the fact that 20 years ago I was a student and convinced I would conquer the world lmao

Jack: My personality flaws and strengths haven’t changed. I wish I could report that I’ve evolved a great deal in that regard, but I haven’t. I have developed in some other areas though that are a bit difficult to discuss in this forum.