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SnakePit Round Table: Unexpected no-hitter edition

The 2021 season doesn’t feel quite so bad now...

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San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Tyler Gilbert threw a no-hitter!

Makakilo: I tip my hat to the Snake-Pitter who posted the post-game audio of Torey Lovullo, Tyler Gilbert, Daulton Varsho. Three memorable parts:

  • In the dugout between innings Tyler Gilbert talked about non-baseball stuff with Fetters to zone stuff out. The conversation prevented any distracting emotions from happening between the eighth and ninth innings. Also, that conversation confirmed the principle that the time to think is during practice and before the game. During the game it’s time to “just go play.”
  • Knowing his family was in the stands, Tyler Gilbert did not see or look for them. His focus on the game confirmed the principle that great players focus on doing their tasks instead of how people see them.
  • His no hitter was a team effort. After the Diamondbacks scored 5 runs in the first inning, he responded well when he was told, “We need a zero from you.” He gave credit to his teammates, such as when he talked about Pavin Smith’s double play.

Daulton Varsho is awesome. He had two days to remember for a lifetime – on Friday a walk off homer, and on Saturday he caught a no-hitter.

Jack: Destiny. From Nick Piecoro’s recap:

The Padres hit 10 balls at 95 mph or harder, including six at 100 mph or above. All were converted into outs…..The 10 balls at 95 mph or harder are the second-most in a no-hitter since baseball began tracking batted-ball data in 2015. Chicago Cubs right-hander Alec Mills allowed 11 in his no-hitter in September 2020.

Also, Torey’s comment was notable:

“It’s what the game of baseball is all about,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “As long as you have a uniform, as long as you give the right effort, anything is possible.”

Dano: This was a thing of beauty, and, as I think Jim noted somewhere or other, a lasting takeaway for Diamondbacks fans from what has otherwise been a deeply dismal 2021, on par with Randy Johnson’s perfecto in 2004. Brilliant job, kid. Well done.

James: In 2004, it was Randy Johnson’s perfect game which gave the season some sort of meaning. Now, in 2021, it will be Tyler GIlbert’s unlikely no-hitter which will be the remembered highlight of the woeful season. It was fun to watch Gilbert start to creep towards history once the fifth inning rolled around. The efficiency was startling. He became, at least for one night, the poster child for YCPB. Then, once the seventh rolled around, I began to worry that pitch count was going to come into play. The young man was on the cusp of history, but his last start, over two weeks ago, was only 91 pitches. He had 88 pitches under his belt after seven innings. I was concerned Torey Lovullo was going to be put in the position of having to choose to let Gilbert keep pitching at the 105+ pitch mark or to pull him, despite being on the cusp of a no-no. Then, the three-pitch eighth inning happened, including the long, loud out to Peralta against the wall in left field. The look on Gilbert’s face when Peralta converted that out was priceless.

It was also at that point that I started to believe that this might just happen. I think that might be about the point when people on the field and on the stands began to believe as well. The three-pitch inning set the table for Gilbert to go back out for the ninth without fear of Lovullo pulling him before he allowed a hit. At that point, I was wondering if Gilbert might actually up the stakes, and throw himself a Maddux. A couple of fouled pitches spoiled that, but he still managed to complete the no-no. It was a refreshing feeling, seeing the team come together for something so special. His tremendous performance overshadowed what was also a very impressive outing by the team’s offense. I hope Gilbert gets to savour this moment for a bit. It is quite likely going to be the biggest moment of his career.

Steven: Incredible moment in an unforgettable season. Quite the story of Tyler, from minor league Rule 5 Draft to the MLB roster and starting rotation. And now? A piece of baseball history. Watching the game itself I was astounded how every ball was right at defenders. Eliis with a diving stop, Peralta at the wall in left, Ahmed at short, and the last was the icing on the cake with a liner right to Marte in center.

Turambar: With me doing the recap of this game I remember thinking: “meh, he’s starting out fine, but he’ll get shelled in the next inning.” I kept thinking that up until the 6th, at which point I started to believe it was a very real prospect; the no no that is. Lo and behold before I knew it the game was over and I got to both witness and write on a no hitter.

On that note I think I was really struck by just how quickly things went (duh I know) and how surprised I kept on being every time I looked up and the Padres still had a ZERO under the H. Wild.

For such a forgetful season that moment really provided some much needed positivity and hope for the future of this team.

But the same night, Merrill Kelly tested positive for COVID. How much will he be missed, and how will he be replaced?

Makakilo: Merrill Kelly was the workhorse of the rotation with 24 starts. Until Madison Bumgarner (18 starts) recently edged past him, Merrill Kelly’s 51.4 season average game score was the highest on the team for starters with more than one start. The Diamondbacks can’t replace Merrill Kelly, but they will find someone to pitch the games until he returns.

Jack: Back in May Merrill said he was unvaccinated. I don’t know if he later got the shot. He’s a healthy young athlete, so of course his odds of a good outcome are high, but they’d be A LOT higher if he was vaccinated. Matt Herges is most likely unvaccinated as well, (based on the fact he has to wear a mask in the dugout). He’s older of course, so risks are higher. We should all wish the best for both of them.

Dano: It makes me sad to hear, and he will be missed for as long as he is out. He’s been a mainstay all year, just about the only bit of starting rotation glue that has kept this team even remotely together for the last four months. We’re supposed to steer clear of politics as best we can here at the ‘Pit, for valid reasons I think, so I should probably say nothing else in response to this. I will offer, however, that, however healthy he is as a young-ish athlete, and however likely it is that he’ll recover quickly and fully (which I very much hope he does), everyone getting vaccinated is pretty important for the continued health and well-being of us all, so I would hope that the players I root for (and everyone else) would make better life choices. Just sayin’.

James: With as aggressive as the spread of COVID has been in Arizona, it was only a matter of time before one or more Diamondbacks wound up on the COVID-IL, even if they were vaccinated. The delta-variant is showing too much of an ability to break through the defenses to have held out hope to stay completely untouched by the resurging pandemic. Hopefully, Kelly and Herges are the only ones that are impacted and they both enjoy a speedy recovery and can also avoid any long-term side-effects or complications.

Steven: Hope he’s one of the lucky ones with little symptoms. If he was vaccinated, all the better.

Turambar: Get vaccinated. It’s not hard folks. As for how he’ll be missed, yea it’ll be a bummer, but it’ll help us race towards that number 1 pick, so there’s that...

Was that Kole Calhoun’s last game for Arizona? How will you remember the player?

Jack: It would not surprise me to see Kole make it back for the last week or two of the season. I love his enthusiastic, straightforward, candid way of speaking. I expected to see a player in defensive decline, but the eyeballs contradict the numbers. He was fun to watch. He never got untracked offensively this year unfortunately due to the multiple injuries.

Dano: Honestly, Kole never made all that deep an impression on me. Dude seems like a class act, and he’s done some good business for us, but my read on him, fair or not, has always been that he was a rental and a mercenary, and so I shouldn’t get too attached. He’s a good player in many respects and, as noted, he’s done some good business, so I wish him well in his future endeavors. Wouldn’t object to him being on the roster come 2022, either, should that transpire, but it doesn’t seem very likely and I don’t expect it. But how I will remember him? In all candor, this time next year I probably won’t think about him at all. Sad, perhaps, but true.

Makakilo: He made some impressive plays. This season, Kole Calhoun was one of four Diamondbacks who excelled in both defense (1 DRS in right field) and baserunning (1.2% extra bases per PA).

In March of 2021 I wrote:

  • “In the shortened 2020 season, Kole Calhoun raked with 32 RBIs with men on base.”
  • “In 2020, Kole Calhoun’s 11.8% barrels was a career high. FanGraphs’ depth chart [2021] projection is for him to lead the team in homers per PA.”
  • “Nevertheless, if we look at xOBP [for 2019/2020], we see that Pavin Smith and Kole Calhoun were highest with xOBPs of .391 and .390.”

2021 was not the outstanding season at the plate that I anticipated in March.

  • Kole Calhoun had 8 RBIs with men on base compared to 32 in the shortened 2020 season.
  • With the drop to 6.0% barrels, Kole Calhoun did not lead the team in homers per PA.
  • Kole Calhoun’s xOBP was .280 compared to .390 in 2019/2020.

Data from The Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Baseball Reference, and FanGraphs.

James: Like Jack, I would not be shocked to see Calhoun return again before the season ends, hoping to show off that he is healthy and ready for a new contract. I don’t see any scenario where the team picks up his 2022 option. With that being the case, he is going to want to showcase himself for an MLB contract, hoping to avoid the dreaded “minor league with an invite to spring” contract that so many veteran outfielders find themselves staring at. From the team’s side of things, it probably should have been the last they see of him on the field this season. Lovullo already has a lack of sufficient ABs to go around to the prospects trying to establish themselves and to learn how to hit at the MLB level.

Steven: I hope it was, but I wouldn’t put it past Kole to attempt another rehab and return. He certainly gave full effort out there, but approaching 34 years old you need to know your limits before going balls to the wall. Could there be a reunion on a major league minimum deal with Arizona? The team doesn’t have many options out there, especially with rumors of Marte returning to the infield.

Turambar: Yup, he’s toast. It’s sad too, since myself and many others really liked the signing and really liked him as a player. Just wasnt meant to be I guess and his loss just ensures that one of our young kids gets more time to prove his worth.

Which bullpen arms do you think will make the 2022 Opening Day roster?

Jack: Do I have to think about this now while on such a high from tonight’s no hitter?

Taylor Clarke is the only one I think is certain. Joe Mantiply, Noe Ramirez and Matt Peacock seem like decent bets. But everyone in the bullpen is on the bubble. Look for a total overhaul.

Dano: Like Jack, I imagine Clarke and Peacock will be there, at least at the outset. Ramirez, for us, has looked like a sort of genuine article, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him getting a chance come next April. Mantiply I’m on the fence about….I could take or leave him, but he’ll probably do as another lefty bullpen scrub, if needed. Beyond that, though, I dunno….maybe Faria sticks? I hope Jack is right, honestly, in terms of the total overhaul, but given the Diamondbacks’ perennial unwillingness to spend money on bullpen arms, I find it hard to imagine us restocking with proven, competent bullpen help. I think it ultimately depends on what Hazen & Co. manage to find while touring the neighborhood dumpsters on MLB garbage nights in January, February, and March of 2022. Tra la, and good times.

James: I would not be surprised to find that more than half the bullpen is not even in the organization at this point. Taylor Clarke and J.B. Bukauskas both seem likely to me. Caleb Smith will be on the roster. The question is whether or not he will have reclaimed a place in the rotation, or if he too will be out of the bullpen. Matt Peacock probably makes the cut, though that assumes no new arms or fresh surprises come along and bump him to riding the Reno/Phoenix shuttle all season in 2022. No idea beyond that right now.

Makakilo: The possibilities are mind boggling. One player not yet mentioned as a possibility is Tyler Gilbert. The bullpen might include pitchers who have demonstrated they can start but don’t make the opening day rotation. The part of the rotation that seems nearly certain is Bumgarner, Gallen, and Kelly.

Steven: I don’t think any of them have any secured role in next season’s bullpen. Clarke and Ramirez maybe, but I think this entire bullpen will be evaluated and revamped. Not enough dominance, too many blown leads in clutch situations.

Will the 2021 D-backs surpass the 2004 team record for losses?

Jack: It depends on the pitching and that’s too unpredictable at the moment. If Kelly misses more than 1-2 starts or has lingering Covid that would be an issue of course. Bumgarner is on a roll again. Can he sustain the end of year ? Gallen has been up and down. (written Saturday night before his Sunday start). Smith was just bounced from the rotation and Widener is sick but recovering. So we’ll see. The young position players are trending in the right direction, so if the pitching holds up, they’ll come in under 111 losses.

Dano: At this point, I’m going to say no. Now that we’ve got a bunch of players back from the IL whose absence crippled us in May and June, we’re playing borderline respectable ball again. I figure we basically go 4 and 6 for each ten games for the remainder of the season, which should be good enough to get us past 51 wins.

Makakilo: No. At the All-Star break, I updated my projection to 54 wins. I am staying with that projection.

James: I think they will just avoid losing 111. I do think it will come down to the health of the starting pitching. The team was given a massive uplift by Tyler Gilbert last night. He spared the bullpen any work, short of Wendelken warming up in the ninth. I do think the team is likely to need to make at least three bullpen starts over the next two weeks though. If that turns out to be the case, things could snowball out of control in a hurry, unless one of those is Caleb Smith and he throws that start the way he came out of the bullpen two nights ago.If Bumgarner or Gallen hit any further significant slides, that too could change things. However, until the time that happens, I’ll go with the team finishing at 108 losses.

Steven: They’ll come under the record if they don’t shut down their Bumgarner/Gallen and run out more AAA starters and relievers. If they do, I think anything is possible.

[Based off a suggestion by @c8Mills on Twitter] What should the theme song for the 2021 season be?

Jack: I’m a good loser, MerleHaggard

Dano: First off, I think maybe Jack wins this question hands down. Nice one, Jack!

That said, good lord. This one’s actually tough for me, in part because when it comes to music, I’m mainly a lyrics guy, and a bit of a literalist, and no lyrics that I can think of off the top of my head capture the experience of this season (and this year) for me. So I think it needs to be a song with no words.

I just went to YouTube and typed “Yakety Sax dirge” into the search field, and sadly, nothing fitting came up. Because I think Yakety Sax is appropriate, given the unending innovation that the D-Backs have shown in finding new ways to lose games, but losing games is also sad, so I wanted a version that was perhaps in three-quarters time, and perhaps played in a minor key. But apparently such a thing does not exist.

No worries, though, because something more or less equally fitting does: Yakety Sax put behind an aerial drone or police helicopter video involving aerial footage of two llamas that escaped from where they lived and then went running in a confused and possibly panicked fashion around an American suburb. That wasn’t what I was looking for, but it does, I think, fit the bill for the 2021 Diamondbacks. So here you are:

Makakilo: High Hopes, Frank Sinatra.

James: Jack has good taste in music to be able to pull that one out. Since he already went there, I am torn between two others.

  • Loser, by Beck
  • Suicide is Painless, by Johnny Mandel (Instrumental) if for no other reason just how beat-up, sad, and comically bad the team was this season.

Turambar: Winters Bane by Abbath. This season was without hope, without light and mired in darkness. This song hits all those notes.