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SnakePit Round Table: Oh, no! We suck again!

That is, at least, the last we will see of LA until September.

Florida, Miami, Everglades National Park, whirlpool vortex Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Wanna take part in next week’s Round Table?

Half the fun of these is seeing the answers readers provide in the comments. So, if you’re interested in taking part, just answer one or more of this week’s questions. Whichever non-SnakePit writer gets the most “recs” on their comment, will be invited to formally take part in next week’s edition! So, come and have a go, if you think you’re good enough! :) This one should have had answers by ChuckJohnson56, but he never submitted anything in time...

So, how’s it going?

Spencer: It’s going well. I’ve had a busy three weeks capped by visits from friends with a Phoenix vacation in the middle. I’ll take seeing old friends and family over anything else!

Makakilo: An excerpt from 17 April roundtable: “I’m filled with gratitude and appreciation for my friends, my opportunities, my health, and my life.”

Life continues to surprise me.

  • Twice I won a free guest pass to my gym by correctly answering a health-related question just before a class started. My happiness increased when I gave them to a friend who has visitors this week.
  • I made new friends while doing Blue Zone walks. Thursday they told me about a restaurant that only serves vegan Indian dosa crepes! I look forward to a culinary adventure!

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.”― Mark Twain

Dano: We’ve had a very stressful week dealing with the sudden emergence of a psycho neighbor, but we’ve been getting through it. The school year is finally over, which is awesome, and we get the keys to our new place on Wednesday, so the psycho neighbor thing should soon be beyond us. So better days are ahead, and are in fact close at hand.

Jack: Family all good. Busy with several jobs No complaints on a personal level.

James: The semester has finally ended. I managed to somehow pull it off - kind of. Now, I’m looking forward to a few days in the next two weeks or so where I can simply veg, maybe do some reading and writing that isn’t school related. Despite high winds and all sorts of blowing dust to aggravate allergies and bring on sinusitis, everyone here seems to be managing well. I’ll take the small victories where I can find them.

Jim: Rolling along steadily. Heading up state next weekend to look around some places, hopefully escape the heat a bit. Just started reading Firestarter by Stephen King, after seeing the new adaptation.

Why do the D-backs struggle so much against the Dodgers?

Spencer: I want to say it’s mostly mental; that they know the Dodgers are the best team in baseball and simply can’t play. But I don’t think that’s it. I think they are genuinely just that much better than we are. They have former MVPs struggling - we have Nick Ahmed on the IL again… Haves versus the have nots.

Makakilo: Why I am encouraged by this season’s games against the Dodgers:

  • The Dodgers are a talented team with great depth.
  • Most games (7 of 10) against the Dodgers were decided by 2 runs or less.

Dano: I’m with Spencer. The Dodgers are a vastly better baseball team than we are. This is unsurprising, because they have assembled the best team money can buy. And like Mak says, it’s worth appreciating that we’ve been playing them close more often than not. We haven’t enjoyed having the Dodgers games on the TV, but we won’t always be playing LA. This too shall pass.

Jack: The gulf between the two teams permeates every aspect of the organizations. It culminates in the results on the field, but it’s top to bottom in every imaginable way. Of course the ability to have such a large payroll and pay the best talent is the biggest thing. But it’s not only that.

James: Jack pretty much hit the nail on the head. The Dodgers are simply a better organization in every possible way (save for their crap-tastic fans). They have deep pockets and a front office that knows how to utilize those pockets, not just on the field, but in every aspect of operations.

Jim: The Dodgers are ruthless at finding and exploiting opponents’ weaknesses, and the D-backs have no shortage of those to exploit. But simply compare the starting lineups this afternoon. It’s quite remarkable Arizona only lost four games this series…

How concerned are you about the starting pitching’s regression?

Spencer: Not at all. Kelly has rebounded nicely from his dud. Madbum is still having his best season in Sedona Red. Castellanos is generally keeping us in games. Davies the same. Gallen I’d like to see be better, but we have to remember he is still very young career-wise, and while he has pitched in parts of 4 seasons, one was his rookie year, one covid shortened, and one his first experience with injuries. So he’s essentially just going through his sophomore slump. Unfortunate, but if this is his “slump,” I’m a very happy camper.

What we’ve seen the last couple weeks is the actual Stromm Effect. It’s safe to say at this point the April weather made a lot of pitchers look far better than they actually are. But as the entire league is regressing as normal, the Diamondbacks’ rotation is still above average. This is progress.

Makakilo: After putting games into groups of 7 (last group was 6 games), I observed the following:

  • Offense (runs scored per game) is continuously improving as the season progresses!
  • Runs allowed per game increased in the last 13 games.
  • If I exclude two blowout losses to the Dodgers, recent runs scored is about equal to runs allowed. That comparison gives me confidence that the Diamondbacks have real chances to end the season having scaled mount 500.

For details, see the following graph.

Dano: Like Spencer, not at all. Our starters had been performing well above expectations, and they were bound to come back down to earth. They haven’t been horrible, aside from the occasional really bad start, and per Makakilo, our offense is gradually starting to do its job better, so most games remain competitive throughout, which is mainly what I hope for during the long baseball season.

Jack: Not surprised. Teams go through hold and cold stretches. Did we really think that being the 2nd best rotation in MLB was sustainable ? So far nobody is hurt, so that’s good.

James: I never expected the level of performance they have managed to date, so I am not terribly concerned that they are finally regressing to the mean. The rotation has managed to stay healthy, which is a major plus. Despite that though, this team is still dumping too many innings on the bullpen. It’s a good thing the roster limitation deadline was moved back to mid-June. Otherwise, this team was going to be in real trouble.

Jim: It was a little weird how they all seemed to regress at the same time. Like James, I’m perhaps more concerned about the duration. Over the past dozen starts, they have averaged only 4.8 innings, which has put a heavy load on an already taxed bullpen. Not many off days to recharge either.

With Pavin Smith hitting better, who’s now your biggest concern?

Spencer: Daulton Varsho because of the injury? David Peralta obliterating his tiny trade value? Ahmed’s entire body?

It’s probably Varsho just because I don’t know what the injury truly is yet. But for active guys? Maybe the fact that both Thomas and Beer seem to have hit massive brick walls? Logically I know this is normal, but emotionally it hurts and worries me.

Makakilo: Although I am concerned with Daulton Varsho’s injury, it’s likely he will quickly return.

My biggest concern is for Nick Ahmed after reading this AZ Snake Pit article. It’s sad that his career may end this season for two reasons:

  • His continued shoulder problem (“Ramping up activity again, throwing and hitting, I still notice it.”).
  • Long term fatigue from COVID (two weeks after catching COVID, light baseball activity left him exhausted and fatigued and unable to do light baseball activity the next day).

Whether or not he can play in 2023, the Diamondbacks must pay him $10.38 Million (about 10% of their player salaries).

Dano: I feel bad for Nick Ahmed, but I think I’ve gotten to the point with him, sadly, where I expect him to be injured or less than 100% pretty much always. I suppose I, too, am most concerned about the continued development and current difficulties that we’re seeing from the young kids we’re seeing emerge from the minor leagues–Beer, Thomas, et al. As Spencer notes, some of this is normal. That said, we’ve had difficulties for years with getting prospects to clear the final hurdles to achieve some sustained MLB success, to a degree that suggests systemic problems in our player development process.

Jack: Varsho pinch hit Sunday, and hopefully is recovered. On Saturday he couldn’t even raise his hand above his head. The biggest concern has to be Nick Ahmed right now.

James: I worry a bit about Nick Ahmed. Geraldo Perdomo is not ready to be the everyday SS, at least not yet anyway. Perdomo and Ahmed are also the only two capable SS in the system above A+ ball. Beyond that, I am a bit worried that Thomas is getting into his own head some. He needs to let the game come to him and stop trying to do so much at the plate. Also, I will not stop worrying about Smith until they get him off the grass and back over to first or DH.

Jim: I’m a bit concerned about Merrill Kelly. Over his past four starts he has allowed 17 earned runs in 17 innings, had a K:BB of just 13:11 and not recorded an out after the fifth inning. I know the blow-up against the Dodgers is a factor, and his 1.22 ERA was never sustainable. But I miss the Merrill Kelly who was team MVP.

The D-backs have an easier schedule coming up. What would you call a success?

Spencer: In an ideal world, we’d be able to go .600+ in June. But I’ll temper that and say a success is 2 games over .500 in June, and 2+ games over .500 for the season by the trade deadline. Hopefully that keeps us from making dumb buy moves at the deadline, but also ensures SIGNIFICANT growth on last season.

Makakilo: After the Dodgers series, the Diamondbacks play 16 games against teams under 500. Optimistically, the Diamondbacks will win 13 of those 16 games (7 wins against the Reds and 6 wins out of 9 games for the others.

Dano: Looking at the schedule for June, I think I’d be happy if we go 14-11 next month. I also think that’s doable, and we could conceivably do better than that.

Jack: .500 would be a success. Can’t have them going way over .500 and fooling themselves into making dumb moves later. ;) But you don’t want them getting their tails kicked by the soft underbelly of the league.

James: If they can finish the month of June as a .500 team, that would be a major success in my book. While more than that would certainly be nice, I expect fatigue to start playing a part, as well as some continued regression by the starting rotation.

Jim: Finish June above .500. Health will play a big part in that. They’ve been fortunate there with their rotation - especially compared to last year. Only three starts so far have been needed from outside of the top five. On the current position player front, Carson Kelly is the only real loss (sorry, Ahmed!). Given the team’s lack of depth, fingers crossed it continues.

What is the most interesting statistic you know? [Baseball or not, up to you!]

Spencer: idk if it is a stat per se (it’s not), but in college I took a class on cultural and individual memory. We learned that many people will forget a piece of information specifically but remember how to find it: i.e. few subjects remembered that an ostrich’s egg is larger than its brain, but they could find the exact Google link on a different computer (no purple previously clicked on to help) in seconds to show someone the new bird fact they “knew.” Same class also had a fascinating research study on how Nazi Germany is remembered by German families generation-to-generation. That’s a much more in depth explanation, but was really fun to learn about!

Makakilo: In the US, life expectancy at birth peaked in 2014 (78.9 years per CDC Division of Vital Statistics). This study concluded that the US life expectancy at birth fell from 78.86 years in 2019, to 76.99 years in 2020, and to 76.47 in 2021. Caveat: “Life expectancy was calculated for 2019 and 2020 and estimated for 2021 using a previously validated modeling method.” Data was from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Dano: I was going to mention the whole “humans only use 10% of their brain” thing, but it turns out, unsurprisingly really, that this is emphatically false. So I suppose it would be that if one is dealt a pair of aces (the absolute best starting hand) in Texas Hold’em, one has only a 30% of winning the hand at a nine-person table if everyone stays in for the flop. If you manage to drive out everyone but one other player pre-flop, your odds of winning the hand go up to 85%. It’s a very instructive contrast that underscores how much Hold’em is a game of betting wherein the cards are almost incidental.’’

Jack: At one point Pablo Escobar’s Cartel earned $420M per week and controlled 80% of the world’s cocaine market.

James: I’m drawing a blank on anything at this point other than leaning on the old sage himself to provide me with one of the best statistical nuggets of all-time with regard to baseball. “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” (Yogi Berra)

Jim: Gary Numan is 13 days older than Gary Oldman.