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SnakePit Round Table: 74 wins it is

Could have gone better... Could definitely have gone worse...

Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Kayla Wolf/Getty Images

Critique your pre-season prediction.

Michael: +6 over my preseason prediction. You can thank Christian Walker, Daulton Varsho, and Merrill Kelly the most for that. I didn’t think they were going to be a dumpster fire entering this season, and they certainly weren’t.

Wesley: I was a little too optimistic at 81-81 but really I don’t think that they were that far off from my expectations, if you look at their Pythag W-L which out them at 77-85. Take away the bullpen blow-ups and they’re not that far off .500.

Makakilo: Based on spring training results, I predicted 765.4 runs scored (actual was 702 runs scored) and 736.9 runs allowed (actual was 740 runs allowed), with a season total of 80 wins. My feeling is that if ten critical moments had been different (a play made, a better at-bat, a bad pitch avoided) the Diamondbacks would have won 80 games instead of 74. With those extra 6 wins, perhaps their record in 1-run games would have been 23-23 instead of 17-29.

  • Total runs allowed was on target, although starting pitchers (Gallen, Kelly, Bumgarner, and Davies) were better than predicted while relief pitchers were worse. Although less impact than I predicted, arguably pitching added 8 wins compared to last season.
  • Excellent defense (56 DRS ranked sixth best in the Majors per The Fielding Bible) was arguably responsible for 6 wins as predicted (every 10 runs is about 1 win per Baseball Reference).
  • Total runs scored was less than predicted, although Walker, Varsho, and McCarthy hit much better than predicted. Nevertheless, compared to last season, offense was arguably responsible for 8 additional wins.

Spencer: Well. I was mostly wrong. Oh well. Marte and CKelly did not have massive years. But Varsho did. And Gallen most definitely took the next step. We did miss the playoffs, and we made San Francisco (not San Diego) sweat about 4th place.

James: I eventually settled on 70 games, so I was simply wrong. Frankly, I didn’t think the organization had the chutzpah to commit to playing the youth more. The fact that they did changed many things, including their ability to start winning more games.

DBacksEurope: I predicted 70 wins so I was a bit off. I hadn’t expected the D-Backs to be better than the Rockies, so that was one mistake but I think the question marks I pointed out were indeed question marks. The difference maker for me was the rotation, where we had two strong pitchers unlike just one like I had expected.

ISH95: Let’s just focus on the part where I said I’d be thrilled with 72 wins… cause they did, and I am.

Other than that, whiffed pretty hard lol

Steven: Walker and Varsho are All-Star talents while Ketel Marte is allergic to even years. It remains to be seen if they will be standout talents fro years to come but still, good foundation blocks. On the pitching side, Gallen proved he’s an top of the rotation pitcher, and while Merrill Kelly fell a bit to end the year, he’s the guy the D-backs expected when they signed Bumgarner. The young guys are showing their stuff, but they’re still unproven at this level and the back half of the rotation is a huge question mark. Still, they played excellent baseball this year and dumped the older guys, giving at-bats to guys who deserve a chance like Jake McCarthy and Stone Garrett.

How do you feel about the 2022 season generally?

Michael: I feel more confident about the starting lineup and rotation, but the bullpen was only marginally better than 2021. The reality is while the team has some exciting pieces, there are still some gaping holes on the roster. Hazen is no closer to being out of the woods than he was a year ago, although the 2022 improvement bought him another year.

Wesley: Like Michael, I am much more confident in the lineup and rotation. Yes there are some gaping holes in the team’s roster, but I don’t think they’re that far off from contention. Next season could easily see them make the playoffs, if they can somewhat fill those holes and show continued improvement.

Makakilo: In general, I feel good. This season the Diamondbacks were at mount 500 after game 46 - I had hoped for optimistic possibilities. By the All-Star break I lowered my sights to 72 wins.

This AZ Snake Pit article described what I wanted to see in the second half of the season. Except for lacking a breakout season by David Peralta, everything happened that I wanted to see! I saw three starting pitchers with successful debuts; I saw Corbin Carroll’s impressive debut; I saw the best defense in the Majors; I saw breakout seasons from Daulton Varsho and Zac Gallen; I saw two statistics improve (involving runners left in scoring position and allowing balls in play).

For more details see this AZ Snake Pit article which will likely post on Tuesday.

Spencer: I feel very good about the season as a whole. Sure we missed the playoffs. And 74 wins isn’t exactly something to write home about in a vacuum. The bullpen was horrendous. But we won 22 MORE games in a single season. You can’t be upset about that. Rookies not only made their debuts, but in relatively limited time, they made up for the failings of veterans. I think what impressed me the most was how often the team looked horrible, then completely changed mid-season (early season defensive woes that resolved to make us a solid-good defensive team again, Mak’s noted second half changes, etc.) That’s what my hope for the future is based on in addition to the ever strengthening farm.

James: I think 2022 needs to be seen as a rousing success. The team added 22 wins to their total from the previous season and finally started getting contributions from the farm system. That said, I do think they missed on the opportunity to get even more youth development underway. They still have some work to do when it comes to parting with dead weight.

DBacksEurope: This team, from time to time, played good baseball and in general games were close, that is a good sign. But the Diamondbacks came from very far in 2021 and couldn’t do much worse. Anything less than 70 wins would have left a couple of heads on the table to be cut off, so let us not cry victory yet. They basically accomplished expectations, but we saw that the weaknesses were indeed weaknesses and that there is potential in this team, that is why we all look back to 2022 with a positive feeling because there weren’t really any negative or shocking surprises.

ISH95: Thrilled with the result, like I said above. This was a team that on paper that did very little to improve, but they got improvements from some players and strong performance from some young rookies to make a big difference in the win/loss record.

However, at the risk of answering a future round table question, the bar goes up a lot next season. .500 needs to be the minimum, in my opinion.

Steven: It was a surprise to be sure. The rebuild is in motion, and we’re seeing the fruits of that labor with young guys taking big leaps. Expectations are reset now and the spotlight is on these guys to push toward competing now vs in the future.

What was the best thing to come out of it?

Michael: Corbin Carroll

Wesley: Aside from Carroll, I’d say Jake McCarthy. He’s been a nice surprise now that he’s been given the opportunity and essentially ran with it. The progression of our starting pitching prospects has been great too. Really just the youth movement the team is going through right now.

Makakilo: Third base has been an issue for a long time. Trading for Emmanuel Rivera addressed that issue, so he is the best thing to happen this season. For more details see this AZ Snake Pit article.

Looking longer term, I liked the acquisition of minor league catcher Christian Cerda.

Honorable mention goes to Jake McCarthy, who was voted rookie of the year by the Arizona Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Spencer: Higher expectations for the leadership. Individual players deserve their laurels, but as Michael noted before, Hazen & Co. should still feel the burn of the hot seat in 2023, but with expectations that the 2023 version of the team has a final two weeks more in line with the 2022 Brewers and Phillies. Legit progress has been shown; now build on it.

James: Corbin Carroll

DBacksEurope: Zac Gallen. We all might think Corbin Carroll or other youngsters was the best thing, but, be honest, Zac Gallen stepping up and playing without injuries and showing Cy Young qualities from time to time going on that 40+ innings tear was definitely the best news we got all season. He is showing some real strong potential to lead this team the next couple of years. Extend the kid and show fans and MLB that way that the Snakes mean serious business.

ISH95: I’ve got to go with Gallen as well. We’ve been waiting for a season where he was able to play the entire year since the trade, and when we finally got one, it was everything we were hoping for and more. An ace is invaluable for a mid market team like us.

Steven: The outfield is set for years and the young guys coming up have massive stuff, we’ll see if it can stick on the MLB team.

And the worst?

Michael: The bullpen

Wesley: Definitely the bullpen.

Makakilo: The bullpen closers acquired for this season.

Spencer: Higher expectations for the leadership…. Yeah same overall answer. But this is a two headed beast. With the hotter seat, Hazen may feel like he needs to be aggressive rather than wait out the natural development. This article from Jack is what worries me. Hazen has a horrible history finding relievers (bolstered by the fact his first season found 2 diamonds in the rough - Rodney and Yoshi). He has at best a mediocre trade history (yay Marte x2 and Rojas and Rivera but ugh Weaver, Marte giveaway and Robbie Ray). With this new aggressive behavior, these issues could ruin the wonderful thing this team has going.

James: I’m going to buck the trend here. I’m going to go with infield development. Just kidding. The bullpen was the worst - by far.

DBacksEurope: Well, obviously the bullpen, but that means that this season again shows that Hazen’s biggest problem is his free agent signings. That is a huge problem, because this season’s free agent class is rather weak for the Diamondbacks unless we really think they are a possible pretender to sign, for example, Edwin Diaz. So Hazen said his off-season work would start last Thursday? I hope he started his off-season work two months ago. Ketel Marte was a big deception too, by the way, not the offensive leader we had expected him to be and even a liability defensively, a worrisome thing, although he might get away with it since 2B isn’t a really strong position in the MLB these years.

ISH95: I wish I had something else to add, but yeah, it’s the bullpen.

Steven: Hazen losing his wife is so heartbreaking. I can’t imagine trying to work through a tragedy like that.

What narratives are you watching this postseason?

Michael: Part of me wonders what happens if Toronto makes the World Series. The other is rooting for a rematch of last year’s World Series.

Wesley: Pretty much any team without a WS title (Mariners, Padres, Brewers, Rays) or a lengthy title drought (Guardians or Blue Jays) I have interest in them succeeding, with the exception of the Padres. I’m also looking forward to seeing if Pujols, Molina, Wainwright and the Cardinals go out with a bang, or a whimper. Finally, I’m curious to see how Judge follows up his season in the post-season. Will anyone pitch to him?

Makakilo: How well do former Diamondbacks play?

Spencer: I don’t mind most of the AL field (...Not you NYY), so one of them winning it all would be cool - Mariners and Rays probably my top choices, with Toronto and Cleveland next, the Astros are fine as well for me. For the NL side, I love the emotions behind Pujols winning one more championship before retiring, so I’ll set aside my vitriol for the Cardinals organization and Yadi for a month. And it would be cool to have Atlanta win a back-to-back for the first time in 20+ years.

James: I’ll likely look for former Diamondbacks in the box scores. Other than that, I’m just along for the ride for now. Let’s see what happens later in the postseason. If the World Series is Astros vs Dodgers again, that is going to be some good popcorn viewing. Also, I will actually be rooting for the Astros, so that will raise some eyebrows.

DBacksEurope: No special feelings: I just hope the Dodgers and Yankees will encounter some fierce competition as the teams to beat to have us enjoy some exciting moments along the way.

ISH95: Now that Goldy has gone home, I’m the world’s biggest Mariner’s fan.

Steven: Who will beat the Dodgers?

As we head towards Halloween: what is the worst candy?

Michael: Lollipops. Candy Corn is the second worst.

Wesley: Bottlecaps. Wax fangs and lips.

Makakilo: Buttered popcorn flavored jelly beans.

Spencer: I have next to zero sweet tooth (despite the fact that I am writing this on Saturday morning with a piece of cake for breakfast). So pretty much all candy is a no-go for me. But I really disliked both Bottlecaps and jelly beans as a child. Along with Twizzlers (?) - those red rubbery things that you could use as a straw.

James: Despite being a massive chocaholic, I actually do not have much of a sweet tooth. So, I guess I will be boring and stick with candy corn. I don’t get why that stuff is so damn popular, or why they even continue to make it.

DBacksEurope: I never had jelly beans until not that long ago when an aunt of my wife gave a little bag to the kids. I thought “oh, how cute they like, must be good…”...yuck.

ISH95: those weird strawberry hard candies