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SnakePit Round Table: You can bet on it...

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Sports betting comes to Arizona...

Caesars Entertainment, Inc. revealed renderings of its new sportsbook, sports bar and broadcast studio. Opening in early 2022, this best-in-class sportsbook will be located at the former Game 7 Grill space outside of Chase Field

Sports betting comes to Arizona in a big way. Do you have any concerns?

Jack: My concerns are threefold

  1. Will this create even more gambling addicts and broken people and homes?
  2. Will this trivialize the drama and community nature of the games themselves?
  3. Does drawing in the gambling industry THIS close create the inevitable scandal of player involvement and thrown games?

I fear the answer to all three questions could be yes.

Makakilo: Jack’s concerns are on-target. My concern is that the nature of the game could change for the worse - I would not enjoy a baseball game if the fan experience was like a horse racing track.

Individual baseball games are less predictable than other sports because:

  • A struggling team can beat a great team on any particular day, even when the statistics show which team is clearly better.
  • Mastering the statistical nuances of baseball is challenging and likely takes years - an effort that casual betters have not done.
  • Last minute lineup changes and weather changes can impact each game.

James: I am sort of on board with the same concerns as Jack, but not as targeted. I think, overall, these are the sorts of concerns that have led to gambling in general being something that has remained restricted to certain locations. There are always going to be real social concerns when an addictive substance/pastime is introduced into a wider segment of the community.

On the other hand, gambling is already pretty easy to come by in Arizona. There are enough reservation casinos that it is not a terribly long drive to one if that is what a person likes. As for betting on sports, that has been around for years now as well. It has just lived exclusively online for those not in Vegas. It hasn’t been hiding and it isn’t like there were any hoops to jump through to participate. With the way online sports gambling is handled, I would expect that to be a bigger issue for sports leagues with regard to keeping the games clean than having a sportsbook on the facility. Online can be done mostly anonymously and from anywhere in the world at any time. I am not terribly worried about players gambling. If they are the sort to do that, that door has already been open to them for a very long time.

Dano: I think it’s kinda gross and I regret that there’s now gonna be a whole new variety of annoying and monotonous advertisements that will intrude when I’m watching a Diamondbacks game, and creep out of the commercial breaks and into the commentary that our broadcast team will be doing. Beyond that, I fully expect that Jack’s concerns may come to pass, but I don’t see myself losing a lot of sleep over it. People are gonna do what they’re gonna do, and capitalism is capitalism, and this all is just part of the ticket we’ve bought as a society, and, well, you buy the ticket, you take the ride.

Steven: You’re already seeing a massive influx of gambling advertisements and this will no doubt bring an increase on those going forward. I think it’s a disgusting industry that preys on the poor and uneducated and any concerns will be shrugged off as being an “entertainment industry”. As you can tell, I’m not a fan.

What positives do you think the changes might bring?

Jack: For me, none. It will mean more money for ownership, but will that be plowed back into the team ? Will there be financial benefits that help the D-backs relative to other teams, thus allowing a better product on the field ? I doubt any of that happens. For those that like to gamble on the games, this will be more convenient.

Makakilo: If I remember correctly, the Diamondbacks owners don’t take cash out of the team’s operating income. Perhaps betting income will be spent on the team - 50% on salaries and 50% on stadium improvements.

James: I enjoy spending an afternoon watching sports, eating wings, and drinking adult beverages. That’s pretty much the point of sports bars. A sportsbook is a convenient way for me to make a series of small wagers on the games so I have a legitimate rooting interest in the numerous games I am watching. If I win, my day is pretty much paid for. If I lose, it isn’t as though it cost me much to have 8 hours of engaging entertainment. So personally, there will be some convenience. I will not be forced to have those afternoons in Mexico. Outside of that, I see little changing. The owners will get to pocket even more money while crying poor when it comes to facility maintenance and payroll. The gambling sponsors will be all over the place, the way beer sponsors already are. In fives years, this will likely be much ado about nothing.

Dano: None that I can think of. Ken Kendrick will get richer. Given the tight-fisted nature of that gentleman in his ownership role, I believe it is pretty naive to actually expect him to put any significant amount of the gambling revenue he receives back into improving either the roster or the facilities at Chase. But hey, I suppose I could be wrong.

Steven: I guess more tax money for social institutions but knowing how the world works it’ll be siphoned off with some unsuspecting loophole.

Is this a better or worse team than the 2004 Diamondbacks?

Jack: The current Diamondbacks have a team total of -19.4 WAR, which is a half win better than the Baltimore Orioles who are -19.9 . The 2004 team ended up with -24.9 WAR and were last in MLB. The next worst team had -19.4 WAR. So the 2004 D-backs had a whopping 5.5 negative WAR more than #29. And that’s WITH Randy Johnson having a Cy Young caliber season. So using WAR instead of actual wins and losses, one could say 2004 was worse. The 2004 offense was worse than the current version, posting a 77 OPS+ , compared to 87 in 2021. But the opposite is true of the pitching...they had a 92 ERA+ in 2004, and this year ERA+ is only 81. BUT…..as bad as the defense has been this year, (The team has allowed 79 unearned runs), the 2004 team had a whopping 105 unearned runs ! They had a .977 fldg% compared to 2021’s .984 fldg %

Basically the 2004 position players were much worse, both in hitting and defense, as the depth behind the aging veterans that got traded and/or injured was much worse, but the 2021 pitching staff is much worse than the 2004 version.

So just shoot me now.

Makakilo: Instead of comparing overall results - which were strikingly bad - let’s focus on players worth watching. Although the 2004 team had Randy Johnson, the 2021 team has emerging stars.

  • Position players: Daulton Varsho (a spectacular catch in the outfield plus 4 RBIs in Saturday’s game! ), Carson Kelly, Ketel Marte, and Josh Rojas.
  • Pitchers: Tyler Gilbert (5.1 innibs with 2 ERs in Sunday’s game), Matt Peacock, Brett de Geus, and JB Bukauskas.

James: Overall, I think the 2004 team was worse. If not for Randy Johnson, that team might well have lost 116 games. That team also had fewer issues it could at least somewhat reliably pin on injuries. This team seems to get a pass for some of the injuries. Early in the season, the injury bug bit the team hard. But the lack of even remotely serviceable replacements is not something that can be excused or ignored. This is a truly bad team. It does, however, have a bit more of a solid core to work from moving forward than 2004 did.

Dano: Honestly, I couldn’t say, as I hadn’t moved back to Arizona yet and so I wasn’t following the Diamondbacks particularly closely back. This is far and away the worst team the Diamondbacks have fielded since I moved back in 2005, to be sure.

Steven: The early season was truly awful, but I’ve watched more games in August and September to get a look at the young players. They’re still very very bad.

Who will be the main 1B next year for Arizona? Christian Walker, Pavin Smith or Seth Beer?

Jack: Pavin Smith. Beer will be the DH. Walker will be gone.

James: From Jack’s fingertips to Mike Hazen’s brain.

Makakilo: In the 29 August roundtable, I expressed my view that Christian Walker’s defense at first base was outstanding and that he could be breaking out of his batting slump. I was mistaken because since then his hitting was less than I hoped (despite 2 hits on Sunday). Nevertheless, he is too talented to be released. If he is gone, it will be via trade.

Dano: I haven’t seen nearly enough of Beer to have a sense of what he’s capable of in terms of fielding a position. That said, assuming the DH does not come to the National League next year, I could see Beer settling in at first, with Smith manning left or right field, because Smith has been doing that through much of 2021 and has been reasonably competent at it. If the DH does come, though, I’d go with Jack’s prediction also. In any event, I can’t imagine Walker being on the roster in 2022.

Steven: I hope Beer shows out in these last games and Spring Training to take the job. He’s been a breath of fresh air with his power output.

What’s the biggest reason the team is so bad in one-run games? [8-27 going into Saturday]

Jack: The biggest (but not only) reason is the bullpen

In high leverage situations in innings 1 thru 6, MLB avg wOBA is .312, and from innings 7 onwards, it’s .309. Here is how the D-backs rate and rank :

  • wOBA in High leverage, innings 1 thru 6: Hitters .288 (24th), Pitchers against .312 (17th)
  • wOBA in High leverage, innings 7 thru x: Hitters .282 (25th), Pitchers against .382 (29th)

As you can see, innings 1 thru 6, the wOBA deficit in high leverage is .024 but innings 7 on it’s a whopping .100 and the increase to that deficit is almost ALL on the bullpen.

James: The bullpen is just terrible, and that’s putting it mildly. The offense’s inability to score reliably has contributed as well, but it largely comes down to the bullpen and its utter inability to close things out at the end of games.

Makakilo: For the season, 1-run losses were caused by starting pitching 41%, bullpen 37%, lack of offense 18%, and defense 4%. See the following table:

Looking at time periods:

  • 1 April to 10 June: 50% was starting pitching (25% each bullpen and lack of offense)
  • 11June to 5 August: 60% was bullpen (20% each starting pitching and lack of offense)
  • 6 August to 11 September: 60% was starting pitching (20% each bullpen and defense)

In the last month, my counts indicated the bullpen and the offense were less significant than starting pitching in 1-run losses. Nevertheless, Jack’s stats in late-inning high-leverage situations made me curious about the bullpen impact in close games. Links to two of my AZ Snake Pit articles follow:

Dano: I find Mak’s insights about how starting pitching has contributed to our dismal performance in these games to be intriguing, and those insights have definitely complicated my own thinking about this, but overall I have to agree with Jack that it’s mainly on the bullpen. There are other factors, certainly, and to a certain extent the whole team is to blame for them, but the bullpen is the most guilty culprit overall, I’m pretty sure.

Steven: The bullpen, no doubt about it. OPS against by inning is as follows

  • 7th - .869
  • 8th - .884
  • 9th - .805
  • Extra Innings - .928

Until this organization invests in the bullpen, expect more of the same.

It’s 20 years since 9/11. What is your take on the events of that day, and what happened in the years since?

Jack: There is nothing notable or unique about my take on 9/11. I had the same emotions and reactions as most of the country. However I will use this space to repeat something I tweeted Saturday morning:

I mourn the souls lost on 911 and the horror of those events. Since June of 2021, at least 54,000 people have died of Covid-19. Well over 90% of those deaths have occurred among unvaccinated people. That’s 50,000 preventable deaths in the last 3 months, IOW, TWENTY 9/11 ‘s IN JUST 90+ DAYS !!

THINK!

Makakilo: 9/11 was an event that shocked me and changed my view of the world. Prior to that event, I failed to accept the truth that the United States cannot separate itself from the evil of the world. Following 9/11 the United States spent 20 years fighting the battle against evil on evil’s home ground.

Another shocking event was the COVID pandemic. Some people failed to accept the truth that COVID kills people. Deaths were higher because some people were not vaccinated and did not wear masks. It’s not just deaths from COVID, but it’s deaths from COVID patients filling hospitals (including a local hospital on Oahu which recently added a tent for patients and received FEMA nurses) and thereby they denied care to non-COVID patients. For example, a local nurse told me that the number of heart attack patients went down by a lot - making me wonder whether heart attack victims are afraid to get possibly life-saving care from hospitals.

James: I think what stands out to me the most is the loss of so many tiny conveniences and simple pleasure. Before 9/11, it was so much easier to live a laissez faire life. Free range parenting wasn’t a term or an unpopular type of parenting, it was simply parenting. The kids were sent out into the world and told to be home before the lights came on. They figured out the rest for themselves. Young children playing at the park by themselves was not a reason for concern and to call the police, it was a typical occurrence. Being 12 and owning a bicycle meant being able to ride all the way across town to visit friends or family, or to go check out a cool collection of mathoms somewhere. Just be home before the lights came on and don’t spoil your dinner.

Although the world was already, very slowly but surely, slipping towards a culture of ultra-caution, 9/11 rapidly accelerated that on so many levels. Ever since 9/11, the world in general, but especially here in the U.S. has become one that lives in a culture of fear. That culture is ingrained in the everyday practices in school, starting in pre-school. The world has become so terribly afraid, and not necessarily of the right things. The world pre-9/11 was not much different than it is now, though now, only 20 years later, we have all sorts of advanced technology to make life easier. Yet, despite all those advances, life 20 years and two days ago was much simpler than it is now. I do miss it.

Dano: I lived in northern Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and once I knew what was going on I took the stairs up to the roof of my apartment building and I saw with my own eyes the second tower burning. By the time I got up there, the first tower had already fallen. I didn’t leave the city, even for a day, for several months after that, so the experience for me isn’t just that day, but the sad and excruciating and remarkable and sometimes inspiring aftermath as the city and its inhabitants adapted to the changed reality that settled upon us.

As for the twenty years since, I have been increasingly demoralized and frankly disgusted by the way the memory of that day has slowly been appropriated as an ugly nativist and nationalist rallying cry and used as a deliberately divisive and similarly ugly rhetorical tool by certain segments of our politicized society. I won’t say more on that because we’re encouraged to avoid politics here at the Snakepit, but with a question like this, my answer is always going to be politically inflected. So there you are. Cheers.