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SnakePit Round Table: Over .500 and overachieving

Well, this is a pleasant surprise...

The Master - Season 1 Photo by: Herb Ball/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Are the Diamondbacks good now?

James: They have been good the last two weeks. I wouldn’t say that makes them a good team though. They have entirely too many holes and are still having too many issues with their offense for them to be a “good” team. Eventually, the starting pitching is going to regress. When that happens, this team is in real trouble (again).

Wesley: Is a .500 team “good”? My prediction for the season was a .500 team, and they definitely seem like they are. I agree with James’ assessment though.

Jack: Can’t I just enjoy the recent play? Oh wait….my role is Cheerios Pisser in Chief, so of course I’ll state that the team is likely to regress in the win column. But there is indeed a vibe in that clubhouse that they’re not going to let things spiral out of control, even during the lean times. Their rest of season projection is 60-75, which would land them at 74-88. That’s better than my pre season projection of 64-68 wins. And that would be a 22 game improvement over 2022. Can they exceed that? I’m pretty greedy as a fan, always wanting and expecting more. If they get to the end of May at or above .500 then my hopes and expectations will certainly rise.

Spencer: Uh. No. Not in a full team sense. Starting pitching is good. Certain batters are good. But overall the team is not good, just average; as a .500 record suggests.

Turambar: They’re not “good” but they’re certainly improved and at the very least they’re decent. I can see a vague chance at the Wild Card, yet the thing I care more about is we at least have a team that’s worth watching over 162 games. Thank God.

Makakilo: It depends on how you look at it.

First, let’s look at the season as a whole through 7 May. Against a strong schedule of opponents, the Diamondbacks offense has been worse than expected, and the Diamondbacks pitching/defense has been better. They are on-pace to win 81 games this season.

Second, let’s group each 7 games. The following table shows two things:

  • The offense is continuously getting better and has almost reached their potential.
  • After the first 7 games, pitching/defense has been awesome.

ISH95: They’re good enough. In its current form, this team isn’t going to challenge the Dodgers on a consistent basis, and frankly I don’t see them bothering any of the wild card teams either. The offense is inconsistent at best, the bullpen is shaky, and I’m not sure what the real defense is. If they can hover around .500 for the rest of this season, and actually be capable of playing spoiler in September, I’ll be happy.

Dano: Far better than I was expecting, honestly. But no, I’m in agreement with just about everyone else, they’re not a good team, yet. I’m mainly just happy that they’re fun to watch again, and just about every game it seems like they have a chance to win. 2021 was a long, brutal year for Diamondbacks baseball. This year, so far, has been much better.

Steven: They’re a fine baseball team. They have obvious blemishes and strong spots on their team, but their future success is based on the bullpen and offense improving.

What has powered the team’s improvement?

James: Starting pitching and starting pitching.

Jack: Mostly starting pitching. But a power/homerun surge and much improved defense are certainly contributing too.

Spencer: Starting pitching if we’re talking 2021 versus 2022. But if we’re talking 2022 only, I’ll say Daulton Varsho and Pavin Smith’s bats. And vastly improved defense from that first week.

Turambar: Starting pitching. Big time. It feels like each game that we always have a chance to either get a lead or keep a lead, and that’s a huge difference over 2021.

Makakilo: The Diamondbacks’ starting pitchers have 2.8 Wins Above Average(WAA), ranking first in the Majors. Position players ranking high in WAA are Daulton Varsho in center field, Christian Walker at first base, and Pavin Smith in right field.

ISH95: Well, I wish I had something original to add, but it’s the starting pitching. Gallen is back to 2019 form, Merrill Kelly has gotten even better, and while he will never live up to the contract, MadBum has been more than serviceable. All hail Brent Strom!

Dano: Yep, the starting rotation. It’s too bad that coaches aren’t eligible for MVP consideration, because Brent Strom has made a world of difference so far.

Wesley: Starting pitching, as everyone else has said. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Steven: Defense and starting pitching. You can’t win games if you can’t score runs, but you can give those guys more opportunities to come back if you hold them to less than 3 runs.

Who has been the team’s MVP so far?

James: Probably Merrill Kelly. He’s leading the charge with regard to the strong starting pitching. He’s also pitching deeper into games, which is giving the bullpen some much-needed rest, especially with the bullpen depth concerns. Kelly keeps the Arizona bats in the game, even when they are collectively hitting under .200.

Jack: Can’t argue with James. Kelly has 1.6 Wins Above Average and 1.9 WAR. Both numbers lead not only the Diamondbacks, but all of MLB ! The next best on the team is Daulton Varsho, with 0.8 WAA, 1.2 WAR. That’s actually 3rd best among all MLB CF behind only Mike Trout and Byron Buxton. So he’s a strong honorable mention.

Spencer: Merrill Kelly. Shout out to Varsho/MadBum/Gallen though. They would be the MVPs in any other season.

Turambar: MK yo. Did my last recap for one of Kelly’s starts and I finally got to see just how calm and in control he is for his starts. That kind of starting pitching is invaluable.

Makakilo: Consider that before Sunday’s game Zac Gallen had a season average game score (average of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and 538.com methods) of 65.05 which was a smidgen ahead of Kelly’s 64.94. UPDATE: After Sunday’s game, Gallen’s average game score increased to 67.17. There are plenty of games left for Zac Gallen to pull further ahead.

ISH95: Merrill Kelly. The guy has just been phenomenal, pitching deep and effectively into games, every one of his starts feels winnable, and as Jack points out, he’s doing it better than pretty much anyone else in the game right now.

Dano: There seems to be an awful lot of unanimity in our answers this week, but I’m happy to keep that going. Merrill Kelly, hands down.

Wesley: Merrill Kelly as everyone else has said.

Steven: I’m actually going to say Daulton Varsho. He’s been fantastic in the field and the most consistent hitter in a wasteland.

Any areas that still concern you?

James: The offense continues to be a very big concern. Bullpen depth is worrisome, especially if the team cannot get any sort of positive production out of some of the newer arms joining the mix. The starting pitching simply cannot remain this good all season long. Regression is inevitable. That’s worrisome since the team hasn’t yet shown it can cope with that change.

Jack: Catching. The collapse of Carson Kelly’s bat looks to be endemic. His early season line, 60 PA .105/.150/.123/ -21 wRC+ is bad enough. He has just one double to his name, He hasn’t barrelled a ball all year. Over the last 12 calendar months, in 333 PA he has a .581 OPS, 59 wRC+. On top of that, his defense has been very mediocre and now he’s injured again. The status of his left side tightness is undetermined as of this writing. But it sounds like an oblique injury.

Jose Herrera is 3 for 25 without an extra base hit. It’s early in his career of course, but while he’s a good defensive catcher he doesn’t have enough glove to make up for zero offense.

I don’t really want them to move Varsho out of Centerfield, where he’s performing so well, but he may be forced behind the plate, which probably won’t be great defensively.

The Minor league “depth”, with Grayson Greiner, Dominic Miroglio and Juan Graterol is not good.

The DBacks rank 29th in MLB Catcher WAA (-0.8)

Spencer: I worry about everything; it’s a constant state of mind. The Offense and Bullpen are both worrisome, but honestly my biggest worry is the Starting Pitching. When it inevitably regresses, I’m worried about the effect it will have on the team and the fanbase. If the offense hasn’t turned it around by then (Marte, Kelly, Beer, Peralta, Thomas [hopefully]), I think the morale could tumble drastically. If that happens, we could see another May/June 2021 happen and the fans will leave. If THAT happens, Kendrick/Hall could feel the need to “make changes” and fire Hazen & Co. which I think is a mistake at this point. The actual Hazen-legacy is only just starting to write itself; I don’t want to see that legacy written on other teams…

Makakilo: Jack is on- target that the team is better if Daulton Varsho can continue in center field and he serves as third catcher. My choice is promote Juan Centeno from the minors until Carson Kelly returns. He has experience in the Majors. His .971 OPS in AA impressed me more than Juan Graterol’s .655 OPS in Reno.

ISH95: I worry about how this team is going to react to the next cold streak. Will they be able to pull together and get back to winning, or are they one sweep away from being a lottery team for the rest of the season?

Dano: Mainly I worry about the aspects of the team that have been problematic for a long time and still don’t seem to be getting better. The difficulty our young players seem to have, pretty much across the board, transitioning from Reno to the big league team probably tops the list for me. While I’m much less worried about our young pitchers transitioning–Strom really has been a godsend–I remain very concerned about our position players. With a young team full of developing talent, we need coaches who have the skill sets to help the kids successfully make that last step from the high minors to the major league club.

Wesley: The offense is my main concern, and as Jack said, catching seems to be an issue. I’d imagine they’ll be playing Alex Thomas in center and shift Varsho back to catcher while Carson Kelly is on the IL.

Steven: The bullpen continues to scare me. It’s just a lot of precision/soft stuff that depends on the contact being weak. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem to be sustainable and the early results show that.

What’s your take on MadBum vs. Bellino?

James: Both of them should have known better. Bellino clearly goaded Bumgarner into reacting, so I place the primary blame on him. But, Bumgarner shouldn’t have taken the bait. Still, it was some next level unprofessional for Bellino to do what he did.

Wesley: MadBum is gonna MadBum, what was Bellino doing massaging his hand while staring at him with bedroom eyes? It’s very obvious that Bellino was goading MadBum into a reaction. Bumgarner should know better, but Bellino needs to act like a professional. I’m over it, and find the whole thing hilarious.

Jack: I’m over it.

Spencer: It made me really angry at first. But I’m with Jack. It’s done. MadBum wasn’t even fined to my knowledge, so it is what it is. Umps gonna ump.

Makakilo: It is what it is. It reminded me of the umpire scene from the movie The Naked Gun. This morning, I watched that scene again and laughed a lot.

ISH95: I’m tired of people placing the blame on Bumgarner, and as of writing I just posted a couple of comments to that point, but I’m also over it. We won the game, MLB did hand out some form of discipline. Now go make fun of the situation in PYWs :)

Dano: Like Jack and ISH, I’m so over it. Tempest in a teacup, and we won the game anyway, and #robotumpiresnow, etc., etc.

Steven: Like Bumgarner said, I feel bad for Corbin Martin, who know has to wait a bit before being recalled in Reno despite doing his job.

You have 5 minutes to prepare before an assassin breaks into your house with the intention to kill you. You can not exit your house. What is your strategy to survive?

James: Probably grab a sword and then wait by the door to get the first strike.

Wesley: Hide above the laundry room in the attic, wait for guy to come in, drop on him. That’d hurt. either that or the ol’ sock full of pennies. Or a baseball bat. Or just accept that an assassin is going to kill me. I’m a very large man so I am not all that worried

Spencer: I’d open my upstairs window and kick out the screen so he THINKS I fled. Then I’d go hide with my dog in his cubby under the stairs.

Makakilo: I’d immediately call 911. Then I’d call my neighbor who owns several guns. As I wait I would strategically pour jars of tacks and marbles on my floors.

And let’s address not being able to exit the house. What about getting in my car and crashing through the garage door? It would be an awesome scene in a movie…

ISH95: What is my strategy to survive? You’re asking the wrong question Jim. That assassin is trapped in here with me, and I’m crazy! There are only two windows and a door in this apartment and my hobbies are sharpening my chef’s knife and cooking on cast iron. 5 minutes under a broiler and those skillets are going to be heavy and 500 degrees, and I can attest that you’ll have lost seemingly a quart of blood before you even realize one of those knives have cut you. What’s *your* exit strategy Mr. Assassin?

Dano: First, hustle the cats into either the bathroom or the bedroom closet. Second, kill the circuit breakers. Then break glassware and crockery all over the floor, and tip over furniture to further obstruct the assassin’s movement through the dark interior. Hunker down in one of the apartment’s dead end areas with the kitchen knives and a bludgeon, and listen, and wait.