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Diamondbacks Round Table: Movin’ on up?

Both literally, in the sense of playing in Coors, and figuratively, with a sweep over the Phillies

MLB: San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A 6-1 homestand against teams with playoff aspirations. The best week of the season?

Wesley: No, it’s the worst. GOTTA HAVE THAT NUMBER ONE PICK.

James: It’s tough to argue against the notion when the stretch includes a no-no and a week of solid performances from three members of the youth movement.

Makakilo: At the end of April, after two games against the Rockies, the Diamondbacks had won 8 of their last 10 games. Those wins were against the Reds, Braves, Padres, and Rockies. That was a pretty good week!

In the latest ten games through Friday, the Diamondbacks won 6 of 10 games. Nevertheless, winning 3 of 4 against the Padres, the complete game shutout by Tyler Gilbert, and sweeping the Phillies felt great! Yes, this week engendered positive feelings about the future of the Diamondbacks.

Jack: After two losses in Colorado, (written before today’s game) it already feels like ancient history.

Dano: Nah. It was pretty good, and the no-hitter and the sweep were nifty. But we were actually a good baseball team in April, for the most part. Not so much now.

Steven: Pretty easily. Wins against playoff contenders and just gotta hope the good play from the youngsters keeps up.

Caleb Smith became the second player ejected for foreign substances. What’s your take?

Wesley: I don’t know. I feel like it may have just been what Smith was saying, build-up of sweat, dirt, and rosin, which is perfectly legal. Then again if he was pulling a fast one, he would say the same thing.

James: Derryl Cousins needs to lighten up a bit. He’s the only umpire who has “discovered” any substances on gloves yet. I feel rather confident that this time with Smith will end up being just like last time with Santiago. The results will come back that this was nothing more than a build-up of sweat, dirt, and rosin. Sadly, no public apology will ever make its way to Smith. Not only that, but it meant that Smith’s night ended earlier than it might have, which makes it difficult for Smith to re-earn the team’s trust in his pitching ability.

Makakilo: Caleb Smith did not see it coming; he was surprised and hurt. I hope he can bear it, learn from it, and move on.

Is it possible to have five gloves in the dugout, and switch to a clean glove each inning? After each game, all five gloves would be wiped and dried.

Jack: I tend to believe him and Torey that he wasn’t cheating. But it may not matter. And as James said, everyone will remember the accusation, even if acquitted.

Dano: I honestly have no idea. If the use of foreign substances was as widespread as the reporting that surrounded the unveiling of the new policy would have us believe, then yeah, maybe he got caught using something. Given that he’s only the second player to get ejected since the policy was implemented, though, it seems to me like there’s something weird about the enforcement process. So I dunno.

Steven: I really don’t know how you enforce it on the field in a better way without having a forensic inspector or 4th umpire watch the pitcher throughout the entire game. Just no real way to fix the problem in such a short time frame. Hope they get it right in the offseason.

How concerned are you about Zac Gallen?

James: Only marginally. His numbers have always indicated that there was going to be some regression. I think he is going to need the offseason to work on his changeup, a pitch he used to have a great feel for but has clearly lost confidence in. There will be plenty that claim it is all about sticky substances, but he was already a good minor league pitcher before the Cardinals shipped him to Miami, which is where he began using substances as a matter of normal habit (on the team’s instructions).I think he will be fine. He just needs to get healthy and find his changeup again, two things I think the offseason can help with.

Makakilo: Looking forward to next season, I feel confident he will be in the rotation. My confidence is a lot less that he will be the ace, although that’s what I previously anticipated.

This season the number of starts with a game score of 60 or better (average of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and methods):

  • 10 for Madison Bumgarner
  • 7 for Merrill Kelly
  • 4 for Caleb Smith
  • 4 for Zac Gallen
  • 2 for Luke Weaver
  • 2 for Taylor Widener
  • 1 for Matt Peacock
  • 1 for Tyler Gilbert

Wesley: After Saturday’s start, I’m not particularly worried. Gallen will rebound.

Jack: 7 shutout innings in Coors? That’s the first time any D-backs pitcher has ever done that. Certainly that lessens the concern a great deal. It was interesting that he went almost completely away from changeup and used the knuckle curve so much. It was an in-game, “feel” decision according to Zac and Carson. I still think the changeup is the key long term. So I’m hopeful that we see that pitch re emerge as his best or second best pitch.

Dano: Yeah, after last night—7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K, 96 pitches thrown—I’m thinking he’s gonna be okay. He still seems to have his first inning issues, which I really don’t understand—but lately it seems like he does pretty well once he settles in.

Steven: He sure looked great last night, but it was a weak lineup and they need Gallen to continue to show he’s the top of the rotation pitcher they need him to be.

On the other hand, is Madison Bumgarner “fixed”?

James: I’m still not entirely convinced there was ever anything “broke” about Madison Bumgarner. I think he has reached that point in his career where his stuff just isn’t what it once was, and that is going to lead to games where he gets lit up like a Christmas tree. At the same time, he’s also a veteran pitcher with a ton of experience with getting the very best hitters in the game out. He knows how to pitch and he is clearly making adjustments. That allows him to have good days, ones where he is nearly unhittable. I think we can probably expect a good deal more of rolling the dice, hoping we get more good outings than bad outings. But I don’t think either are going away just yet. Unfortunately, the reality is that the good ones will eventually fall behind. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen for another three seasons.

Makakilo: Yes! In his first seven games after the All-Star break:

  • The Diamondbacks won 5 of the 7 games.
  • His average game score was an amazing 61.7.
  • His HR9 was .77, which if it was a season stat would be his best since 2013.
  • His ERA was 1.93, which if it was a season stat would be his best since 2009
  • His SO/BB ratio was 6.2, which if it was a season stat would be a career best.

From a series preview: Comparing starting pitchers league wide, innings two through seven, in games from 16 July through 8 August. Madison Bumgarner’s .256 wOBA ranked 5th of the 41 pitchers with a minimum of 400 pitches

Wesley: Like James said, I don’t think there was anything wrong with MadBum, I think he just doesn’t have the stuff he used to. I think he’s progressed now to the point where he’s the best he’s going to be with the stuff he has now.

Jack: Every time I think I know where he’s either direction….he heads the other way. So I’m afraid to “Anti” him. I am really happy to see the change up develop. I hope he can keep the feel for that pitch, as it will help him carry forward his transformation to contact pitcher.

Dano: Thinking about Bumgarner, I find myself remembering the first year and change of Greinke after we signed him. Like Bumgarner, he had gotten to the point in his career where he was no longer a power pitcher. Like Bumgarner, he had more than a year of being pretty indifferent as a starter, as I recall. Greinke eventually mastered a new way of pitching, and then he was outstanding, though he wasn’t the Greinke of yore. I’m hoping for the same with Bumgarner.

Steven: Bumgarner has looked fantastic, exactly the guy they wanted when they signed him to the big deal two offseasons ago. Fortunately (or unfortunately for next season’s Dbacks) I don’t see him being on the team if he keeps it up. With the success of the youngsters, they’ll probably want to open up the rotation spot for a young pitcher. It’ll be really interesting what happens with Madison and I’m excited to see it, along with other veterans they have under contract.

Who has been the team’s LEAST Valuable Player this year?

James: Of players still on the roster, Christian Walker or Bryan Holaday. I simply cannot hand that title to any pitcher as the entire pitching staff has essentially been somewhere between mediocre and dumpster fire. Holaday should probably get a pass, simply because he has not been around all year and his biggest negative is that he is eating up a valuable roster slot. That leaves Walker. He has been around all along. He is under-performing by a wide margin. His presence on the roster also makes it difficult for the team to get Varsho his development ABs, since the team cannot simply stick Pavin Smith at 1B. So, Walker is performing poorly and negatively impacting the development of the team’s future. Honourable mention goes to the departed Josh Reddick for many of the same reasons.

Makakilo: First, I looked at two bullpen pitchers (Lopez and Devenski) with a total of 4 blown saves and a blown win. Surprisingly the Diamondbacks won those 5 games. Then I looked at Soria, whose 9 ERs were significant in four losses. But that was balanced by 9 close games with zero earned runs. My answer was not in the bullpen.

Second, I looked at position players. I looked at what their bWAR would be if they played a full season. The least valuable was Domingo Leyba, whose negative 0.5 bWAR in 13 games would be negative 6.2 bWAR in a season.

Wesley: Definitely Walker. He hasn’t been good, and he’s eating up a roster spot that could be used for someone who actually has a long term future with this team. I feel sad for Leyba, because he really needs to be able to play everyday to be successful. I don’t hold that against him.

Jack: Weighing performance vs. expectations and intended role, one can’t really argue against Walker. Not only is he at or near the bottom of virtually every value metric, but he’s the starting first baseman. To have such a black hole of performance in such a key starting position deserves to rank the most damaging. I’ll give honorable mention to Alex Young though. He was intended to be the primary lefty out of the pen, and play a pivotal swing role between both long and short reliever. But he was terrible from the start and never returned to his rather fortunate ways of 2019. Fangraphs ranks him the least valuable pitcher on the team, using either RA-9 or FIP WAR. LINK .

Dano: I’d like to pick a name from our dumpster fire of a bullpen, but I don’t think I can because it hasn’t just been one reliever who’s been a standout villain there. It has been just about everyone. In terms of position players, yeah, I think I concur regarding Walker. Especially given the high hopes we had for him when he won the starting job at first in 2019, the fact that he’s hit all of 12 home runs in his last 510 AB (basically, from the beginning of 2020 to the present), his 2019 power was a fluke. He’s a waste of roster space, and as others have noted, he’s taking away valuable ABs from younger players who could get some development value out of having them instead.

Steven: Gotta be Christian Walker. Taking up 300+ ABs with terrible performance is one of the reasons this team has been as bad as they’ve been. He’s still relatively cheap, but who’s going to want him? Would the D-backs even want him? Pavin Smith and Seth Beer should get all the 1st base ABs going forward, especially if they are going youth focused next season.

What do you have too much of?

James Student debt, social anxiety. Oh, I’m guessing this is supposed to be about things we tend to collect though that have gotten out of hand. For all the non-gamers out there, it would be my shiny math rocks. I have many, many hundreds of RPG dice. Given that there is, in reality, no such thing as too many RPG dice, I would have to say movies, or at least filmed media, since my movie and television collections are combined. I have literally thousands of DVDs and Blu-rays and long ago ran out of space to store them “conveniently”, leading to many boxes being filled with physical media and then shoved into storage lockers and sheds.

Makakilo: Each time I thought of an answer, I realized that it was a downside of something that was a valued and hard-earned upside in my life. Perhaps I have much room for improvement, but is it too much?

Wesley: Chronic pain. It’s something I really struggle with.

Jack: Responsibility. A lot of different people depend on me for a lot of different things. I’ve always embraced responsibility my entire life, and I’ve only just accumulated those responsibilities over the years. Now that I’m at the point in life I’d like to shed some of those, I can’t. There is a beach waiting for me somewhere. As hard as I’ve worked my entire life, I am surprisingly good at doing nothing when given the opportunity. I’m such a damn good vacationer, I’d really like to try it full time.

Dano: Books, probably. I probably have about 1000 books, the majority of which are not mass-market paperbacks, in my 750 square foot apartment. They’re a serious pain in the ass to pack and move, too, when it’s time for moving.