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SnakePit Round Table: Prediction Edition

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In which the SnakePit writers gaze into their crystal balls.

Futurists The Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

105 losses for the D-backs this year: Over or under, and why?

DBacksEurope: right now (before the final game against the Mariners) the D-Backs have 26 games remaining and are on 91 losses. Basically, if the D-Backs go .500 the rest of the way we end up below 105 losses. Looking at the remaining schedule I don’t see any reason how the D-Backs can go .500. With Sunday’s game remaining:

  • 4 games left against the Mariners
  • 2 games against the Rangers
  • 3 games against the Astros - league leader
  • 6 games against the Dodgers - league leader
  • 4 games against the Braves - league leader
  • 3 games against the Giants - league leader
  • 3 games against the Rockies

The D-Backs are below league average in almost any category, so: we will end with over 105 losses.

Jack: Thanks to DBE for putting the schedule up. With a 45-92 record heading into Sunday they are on pace for 53-109, so I don’t quite get the 105 over/under. The Best I can see them doing is going 10-15 the rest of the way to get to 55-107. So I”m definitely taking the over. The good news I guess is that I think they’ll manage to avoid setting a new franchise worst record as I don’t think they’ll go 5-20.

Dano: Per Jack, thanks for giving us the rest of the schedule right there, DBE. I definitely take the over as well. Even bad teams can have a good night once in awhile, so I am allowing that we will win a game in every remaining series against the winning teams, and that we will split with Texas and take two of three from the Rockies. That gets me to 10-15, which is where Jack arrived by undoubtedly a deeper scientific method, for 55-107. And I do feel that I’m being optimistic there.

Makakilo: Between 106 and 110 losses, based on my prediction of 54 wins at the All-Star break. Let’s look at some of the reasons for the season’s result.

Starting pitching did not break the Diamondbacks, albeit that they used 16 different starters. This AZ Snake Pit article, which is scheduled to post Tuesday, argues that more important were the bullpen and offense.

  • Successful teams have above average bullpens (with rare exceptions like the Astros). The Diamondbacks relief pitching was significantly below average. Their negative 1.0 fWAR and negative 9.8 WAA ranked last in the Majors.
  • Successful teams have an offense that scores runs so that when the starter leaves the game their team is ahead. This season for the Diamondbacks it happened in 39 of 134 games (29%). Only 4 teams had a lower percentage. One reason for runners left on base was the Diamondbacks had 277 hits with RISP out of 1181 opportunities (.235). That statistic suggests missed opportunities for RBIs.

An additional contributing cause was the Diamondbacks used playing time to evaluate & develop minor league players. While they developed their mastery at the highest level, mistakes are expected and may be a necessary part of their acquiring mastery.

ISH95: Even before DBE did the heavy lifting and broke down the schedule, I was going to take the Over, but holy crap that’s going to be a tough schedule for the Diamondbacks. With that schedule, I think 112 is still in play.

James: That’s an easy one for me. And yes, thank go to DBE for breaking out the schedule. I’m writing this Monday morning, so the team already sits at 93 losses. I see 16 more losses on the schedule, if things go about as expected. So that’s an easy over on the 105. I think 110 losses is still a real possibility, especially if the starting pitching slips even a smidgen.

Should the D-backs extend Torey Lovullo? And, separately, will they?

DBacksEurope: Torey Lovullo has been given a real bad team. In the pre-season predictions I said we would end up with 62 wins and we have been able to be even worse. In another round table we were allowed to adjust our predictions and I adjusted to 50 wins. I think that even that number will be tough to achieve. Every off-season signing has been a failure (be it performance, injury or both) and I don’t think that is Torey’s fault. The team has committed a lot of errors, but maybe that has to do more with the absence of Dave McKay than the presence of Torey Lovullo. I am not sure if Torey is able to mend this team to better performance, it looks like he is not able to when I look at the Pythagorean W-L of this team, but it’s not like the Diamondbacks will be a much better team next year, so another year of Torey won’t do any harm. With all the negative performances, Torey has been really formidable with his post-game comments. Therefore, I think he deserves and should be given a contract extension for another year. I am not sure he will be given a contract extension, because Ken Kendrick has been very complacent and he shouldn’t be. It is his team and his GM has told him twice he expected the team to be competitive and they are absolutely not. He should shake things up a bit after yet another disappointing, and this time horrible, season.

On a personal note: I don’t really care. It has been a horrible season and I won’t be bothered if Torey and Hazen would get the sack. Last season was bad, the final stretch the season before was very bad and all off-season signings the D-Backs have done these past seasons have been bad. I don’t have much confidence in this FO nor in the manager.

Jack: Should and Will. Question framed perfectly, but I must abstain from the Should portion of the question. Regarding the Will, My gut tells me ownership pushes (or has already pushed) Hazen to make a change and he’s resisting. There is likely some real drama going on around this already. Ultimately I think they WILL make a change.

Dano: I think they should extend him; as DBE rightly notes, Torey has had a crap team to work with, once the tsunami of pitcher injuries hit us in May. The woeful lack of depth that was revealed by the injuries to both pitchers and position players is in no way his fault, and I think that very much wound up being the primary culprit in the team’s dismal performance this year. Sadly, however, I find Jack’s insights persuasive. At the end of the day it’s much easier from a PR perspective to fire one guy than it is to lay off the entire roster, and in situations like this one seems to be, the one who gets the ax tends to be the manager.

Makakilo: Two comments:

  • My view is that the Diamondbacks will do a mini-rebuild in 2020. There are four core position players (see AZ Snake Pit article), and two sustainable core starters in the rotation (Madison Bumgarner, and Zac Gallen). That leaves flexibility in 20 spots in the 26 man roster. With a goal of sustainability, many of those spots will be filled from the Diamondbacks farm system. With less experienced players, Torey Lovullo’s style of coaching will be extremely effective. He should be extended.
  • Torey Lovullo has the support of Mike Hazen and Derrick Hall. In June, Mike Hazen said,“I still feel like Torey is the right person to lead these guys and right this ship and get us back to where we need to go.” At the end of July, Derrick Hall said, “I still have a lot of confidence in Torey,” and he, “...made the right moves this season and perhaps he just hasn’t had the right roster, or the players just have not performed to their expectations.” With support from these two people, Torey Lovullo will be extended.

ISH95: Should they? No. I am incredibly frustrated seeing Diamondbacks managers get scape goated for poorly built and rebuilding teams and let go, then go on to do well wherever they land next. Stability is good. Let him and Hazen rebuild, keep a consistent tone on the dugout, and go from there.

Will they? I don’t think so. Based on past history, I’m sure Hall and Kendrick are itching for a change, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lovullo wanted out too at this point. I imagine there will be a new manager next season.

James: I probably should abstain from the SHOULD portion as Jack did, but since I have previously answered this question in other threads, it would be kind of pointless. Yes, I do believe they should extend Lovullo for 1-2 seasons. If he is able to stick to the plan and we see improvement as the talent begins to arrive, then you extend him again at the end and let him lead the team through the next expected competitive window. I honestly don’t see a better option available that will be as well-positioned as Lovullo is now to make an impact. There are a few names I would love to see get a shot at managing. I just don’t see why in the world they would come here. The front office gave Lovullo a crap team and he has toed the company line the entire way. He has been dauntless in sticking to the organization’s philosophies and executing the plan given to him, even when we as fans have been screaming at him to stop. That sort of loyalty is not a common thing in the world of sports. So yes, I would extend him for those two years as a reward for taking all the fire he has for the last two seasons, giving the front office and even some players cover.

WILL the team extend him? I don’t think this organization has the PR chops to spin extending him rather than making him pay the price for a 100+ loss season. Sadly, I think he is on his way out and knows it. I have serious doubts about whether or not this team can do better than Lovullo with this particular group of players at this particular point in time.

MLB and the union began negotiations on a new CBA. Will there be a lockout next year?

DBacksEurope: I sure hope there won’t be one and I think both MLB and the union are aware that after a shortened 2020 baseball a lockout will not help the sport in general. I am confident both parties will be aware of that and they will probably reach an agreement before next season starts. Every time a CBA expires there is a lot of doomsday thinking and both parties start power politics and I have no reason to believe that next year’s CBA will be much more difficult to reach than any other.

Jack: I’ll stick with my past opinions on this. There is going to be a delay to getting a new deal done. They will not get there before the current deal expires. But there will be enormous pressure on all parties to get it done before it’s too late to delay the start of the season. The Best case scenario in my view is they strike a deal in early January and there is a highly compressed off season, but they manage to start spring training on time. The middle case is it takes them until March to figure it out, and the season doesn’t start until sometime in May.

The worst case is they lose half the season or there is no baseball at all in 2022. As hard as it may be to imagine, there is definitely a non-zero chance of that happening. Here is how I handicap these possible outcomes:

  • Deal by January, season starts on time: 50%
  • Deal by March, season starts in May: 30%
  • Lose half or all of 2022 season: 20%

Dano: I’m betting that yes, there will be a lockout next year that at the very least delays the start of the season by a month or so. I am just kinda going with my gut here, but my sense for awhile has been that Manfred has not been winning over players’ hearts and minds. The different “pace of play” changes he’s been implementing in recent years haven’t been particularly popular and have provoked audible grumbling at times. Then there’s the whole “sticky substances” thing (though that seems like much ado about nothing at this point, given how few suspensions have been handed out for what was supposed to be a widespread problem), which was pretty controversial, at least at the outset. Overall, though, I think I’ve just had a growing sense that the vibe between players and management has been bad for awhile, and has been getting a little bit worse year by year. I could easily be entirely wrong about all that, and I hope that I am, but yeah, I’m expecting a work stoppage in 2022.

Makakilo: Yes. Both sides seem to insist on major changes in the CBA. Both sides seem to want to paint the other side as a black hat. My strong view is that the season will start late. It must be very difficult to put aside bias and animosity and negotiate a worthy CBA.

ISH95: I’ve thought there would be a lock out since the moment this CBA was signed. There is just so much bad blood between Ownership and the Union, and the general consensus seemed to be the Union got the short end of the stick last time around. Since then, they effectively had a lock out last season, when the commissioner’s office basically refused to negotiate on the length of the season, it seems all but guaranteed to me that this is going to be a no holds barred grudge match.

If I had to make a guess, I’d say that it’s going to drag on and they’ll end up with an approx. 60 game season, just for the irony of things.

James: I’m somewhat in the same boat as Jack. I think the motivation to get back to “normal” baseball is high and next season would be the first normal season since 2019. I think the deadline for signing off on a new deal and still getting a full season in will be pushed back a few times. The two sides will grudgingly allow play to go into very late October if they have to, maybe even into early-November - anything to get 162 games in.Alas, even with a late start, I’m not sold they get there. Here’s my handicapping:

  • Late start: 15%
  • Shortened season: 45%
  • Lockout: 40%

For me, lockout is becoming more and more likely by the day.

Can the Giants hold off the Dodgers down the stretch?

DBacksEurope: It is a very exciting race. Both teams are very, very close to each other when I look at OPS+ and ERA+, so all my love and credit to Gabe Keppler who seems to have mended a good team of ageing players that all have seen great comebacks after a couple of down seasons.

I think that in the end the Dodgers will take the NL West though and here is my reasoning:

  • I think their schedule is a bit easier, with 6 games left against a team called the D-Backs
  • The Dodgers have used 61 different hitters (one more than the D-Backs) and 39 different pitchers (just like the D-Backs) and are still top of the MLB. That proves to me that they have a deeper system they can use and are willing to use. It will help them in the long run.
  • When compared to the Giants, the only “position” where the Dodgers were worse is the bullpen, but I think that with the return of Corey Knebel they have a great reinforcement in that part, so they are closing the gap there too.
  • In the last 10, last 20 and last 30 the Dodgers have a better record than the Giants, so they are pushing incredibly hard already: the Dodgers have the momentum. Their Pythagorean W-L is also the best in the entire MLB (90-45).

Jack: No. The Dodgers have too much pitching. They have a 2.18 ERA since August 1. The question now is can they be stopped from getting back to the world series. The teams with the best chance to stop them in order:

  1. Team Covid
  2. Cincinnati Reds (excellent starting pitching…..surprise Cinderella team vibe)
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. San Francisco Giants
  5. Atlanta Braves

Dano: Just to be contrarian, I’m gonna say yes, the Giants will hold them off, barely. Primarily I’m basing that on my own assessment of their respective schedules down the stretch. Los Angeles faces us six more times, yes, to the Giants’ three, but San Francisco also gets six against Colorado, versus LA’s three. In terms of non-division teams, San Francisco has to face Atlanta, but to offset that they have three against the Cubs, who are on a steep downward trajectory at this point. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has to face both St. Louis and Cincinnati, neither of which is a pushover by any means.

ISH95: Nope. The Giants are fading and the Dodgers are surging at just the right time, just like they seem to always do. I do think it will take the Dodgers until the last week of the season to finally pass them for the final time, however,

Makakilo: Yes, the Giants will stay with the Dodgers down the stretch.

Although Jack is correct that since 1 August the Dodgers had the better rotation (2.11 ERA vs 3.54), my view is that their rotation will not be enough to pull the Dodgers ahead of the Giants. Dodger Max Scherzer’s “nagging hamstring injury” may limit his innings. On the other hand the Giants’ Alex Woods is on the COVID IL and it’s not known when he will return. The areas that will keep the teams close follow:

  • Bullpen. For the season, the Giants bullpen had a better WAA (+2.7 vs negative 0.3). About a quarter of the gap happened since 1 August - the Giants bullpen continues to be better in WAA. A counter argument could be made that since 1 August the Giants and Dodgers relief pitchers had similar ERAs (2.31 and 2.25). And on Saturday the Giants played a bullpen game against the Dodgers and lost. My view is the Giants have a slight edge.
  • Runners left on base without scoring. For the season the Giants left 59 fewer (925 vs 984) runners left on base. The gap was reduced by 17 runners in the last 10 days, nevertheless my view is that the Giants have a slight edge.

James: The Giants managed to come out of the weekend series still a game out in front. Now the Giants go to Colorado while the Dodgers go St. Louis. This is going to be a big week for the race to win the NL West. If Scherzer’s hamstring issue is not major, I don’t see the Dodgers slowing down. We should probably get an answer on that this afternoon, as he is slated to start today. The Giants have been fading of late. It seems as though the marathon season is starting to take its toll. I would prefer to see the Giants hold off the Dodgers, especially since the Giants simply are not as equipped to advance via the wild card as other teams. I don’t see it happening though.

Who will win the World Series?

DBacksEurope: I think it will be an AL East vs NL West meeting again. Again, the team that enters the play-offs hottest is most likely to reach furthest. I am looking here at the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. I am not so high on the Chicago White Sox: maybe next year.

Despite the asterisk on the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers did win that one, I don’t believe in teams repeating a World Series win, so that would exclude the Dodgers. I am not that impressed by the Rays starting pitching and not that impressed by the Yankees reliever corps, so that would leave me with … the Giants? Yeah, why not: San Francisco Giants.

Jack: I think the Rays will figure it out. They get past the Dodgers and win it all.

Dano: I always root for the underdog, so I’m going to go with the Cincinnati Reds, should they happen to survive the September gauntlet and retain their tenuous hold on the second NL wild-card berth. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll put my money (figuratively, of course) behind Tampa.

ISH95: Sigh… I think it’s going to be the Dodgers. They’re the best team, they have fantastic pitching, and despite the challenges they’ve faced, they still have better depth than everyone else in the league. They’re a dynastic along the lines of the early 00’s Yankees, folks, and that’s just something we all will need to come to terms with.

Makakilo: Rays. In games through Saturday, they were in a 3-way tie for the best record in baseball. Their Elo rating is the second highest in baseball (538.com). Similar to the Giants, their bullpen is very strong (although the Giants rotation is better than the Rays’ rotation). While I expected my pick to be out-of-the-box thinking, I’m in good company because Jack picked the Rays!

James: At this point my favourite team to root for is, “Anyone but the Dodgers”. The problem is, they might be the best-prepared team to win it all, even coming through the gauntlet that is the Wild Card bracket. My heart tells me to go with the Rays coming out of the AL. If that happens, I’m hoping they have what it takes to win it all. The Yankees have been on an absolute tear of late though, so it isn’t going to be as easy as it once looked for them.I’m going to go with LAD vs TBR, with the Rays winning in six (I hope).

What’s the biggest change in the world you expect in the rest of your lifetime?

DBacksEurope: probably the conversion of the energy resources we will use. Whether the consumption of fossil fuels really influences climate change or not, I am certain there will be some kind of movement that pushes us to a change in the energy resources we use, also because of pollution levels in general. You see it starting already and I don’t know in which direction it will push us, but I guess this will be the biggest change we will see. The same with the production of plastics: I am certain that something will change here.

Jack: As you all know, I’m a stickler for context. The rest of my lifetime is a very context heavy question. I turn 62 in October. The Social Security Administration is counting on me kicking the bucket when I’m 83 in 2042. My Maternal Grandfather lived to 101, and my Mom and Dad are still alive at ages 87 & 89. But they all lived healthier lives than I have. So I guess I’ll have to go with SSA. Some of what is below may not be fully in effect by 2042, but well on it’s way.

The impacts of climate change are already here, and are only going to get more intense by the time I die. It doesn’t matter if you believe climate change is due to human behavior or not. The reality is climate change is real and is here already regardless of the true cause. A USA centric view, we will see mass migration towards the northern part of the United States. Locally here in Arizona property prices are going to collapse due to water shortages. South Florida, the Gulf Coast, and most of the Eastern Seaboard are going to have ever increasing flooding and storms. The hellscape we are seeing with wild fires in California and throughout the west make many regions unlivable. The upper midwest, and great lakes regions become the most popular migration sites in the USA. Many cities in Europe and Asia become uninhabitable due to the same reasons, but they have fewer migration options, creating incredible strains in relocating populations. Russia emerges as the single largest power in the world, as the melting of Arctic Ice opens up the sea routes north of Siberia year round, making it possible for that country to project power like never before. Canada also begins to emerge as a much larger and significant economic power, but are unlikely to take a strong military stance in world affairs. Under the weight of corruption and totalitarianism, and also the effects of climate change ravaging their coastal economies, China does NOT sustain their push towards the #1 world power as many have expected.

Dano: I find all of Jack’s detailed extrapolations from current conditions to be eminently plausible, so yeah, what he said. I would add that all of the displacement of populations due to escalating environmental impacts bring with it massive political upheaval that will likely lead to increased civil unrest and political violence and, in some places, escalation of cross-border tensions between neighboring countries. It seems likely to me that such increased political and social unrest will ultimately culminate in the failure of at least several heretofore relatively stable nation states, and quite probably the total collapse of what we have become accustomed to thinking of as “civil society,” in regions across the globe, including parts of the United States. I may not live to see all that, and honestly I kinda hope I don’t, and I also hope that I’m wrong, but that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it, I’m afraid.

Makakilo: Wow - look at those insights from DBE, Jack, and Dano! My addition to the list of biggest changes follows:

It becomes cheaper to replace products than maintain them when two trends collide: years of progressively making products with cheaper materials requiring more frequent maintenance WITH the trend of lower availability (with higher cost) of maintenance providers.

On a personal note, yearly maintenance of my electric car is less than 10% of what I spent to maintain my gasoline car. Eventually (maybe 8 years from now) the battery will need to be replaced. That will be a big expense (perhaps as much as I paid for the car). I might buy a newer electric car instead of replacing the battery.

By 2045 (I plan to be alive for more than 24 years), Hawaii plans to reach 100% renewable energy. By 2045, the Hawaii sea level is projected to rise by 1 foot - not enough to close the Oahu airport. Scientists are unsure whether rainfall in Hawaii will decrease from current levels, but expect intermittent droughts.

ISH95: At least one major world power catastrophically fails, dramatically and instantly altering the world power structure, hastening some of the trends Jack mentioned.

James: Nothing as major as the big world events that have already happened. I am old enough that I remember a time before the digital age and a time when U.S. exceptionalism was not entirely just egos and big mouths. So, while I think the biggest changes during my life are behind me, I also believe that some of the upcoming changes that I might get to see may eventually pay off in ways far exceeding anything I experienced, save possibly for the development of the modern PC). Among those changes, the one that ranks highly would be the U.S. adopting universal healthcare, even if it becomes a nationalized system, though I don’t think that the country adopts that particular approach. I also expect Putin to be displaced before I die. As for China, I think that the world is finally starting to stand up and take a keener notice of what China has been doing with their expansion through Oceania and that sanctions and so forth will follow, significantly slowing China’s attempts to become the dominant world power.

Most importantly for me though is, my education may actually pay off enough to land me a decent job in academia abroad, perhaps northern England, in which case I will be packing up the family and starting fresh in a new place, which will be a whole new world for me and for my family. Hard to get bigger than that on a personal level.

Jim. I’m going to go with the confirmation of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. What that form will take, I don’t know. It could be a long way off e.g. detecting radio signals from a distant civilization, or it might be considerably more dramatic. I just finished the Showtime series UFO, and that was thoroughly convincing that something is going on. What, is harder to say.

On a more human level, I think we’ll see a melding of consciousness and technology to the point the border effectively vanishes. What impact that might have, I don’t know. But simply looking at how radically different life is compared to 30 years ago, in terms of connectivity, I think it’ll be equally unrecognizable in another 30.

On the other hand, I think the impact of climate change is over-rated. Humanity will adapt and survive, it always does. Parts of Earth may become less habitable, but - and I’m going out on a limb here - I predict that people may move from the bits that sink under water. :) Jack is right about a shift in global power, certainly. Britain managed to cope with losing its #1 spot. So will America. Indeed, it may be for the best, allowing it to focus internally.