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SnakePit Round Table: Whither the rotation?

June has had its issues so far...

Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Wanna take part in next week’s Round Table?

Chuck was our guest participant this week, after a slight communications delay! But we’re open to anyone else, 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! Come and have a go, if you think you’re good enough! :)

Who has the best long-term future? Daulton Varsho, Pavin Smith or Alek Thomas?

Chuck: With the Dbacks or in general, because I think it’s a different answer. If just Dbacks then Thomas providing he stays healthy. Probably limited to LF because of the short arm but can run and has shown some power progression this year. Overall I’d take Varsho, even if he leaves here for whatever reason he won’t have trouble finding a job because of his versatility.

Justin: Yeah, I will agree with that. I think overall career wise Varsho will have the better career.

Spencer: Thomas. His speed and bat are excellent. And unlike Varsho, he won’t have anything pulling him down with extra use. Catching is hard and takes it’s toll on the body. Center can too (see Marte, K.) but Thomas is a natural one. My biggest question is whether or not his best years come in Arizona..

Jack: I may interpret this question a little differently. Does long term future = value from here forward ? By virtue of the simple fact that Thomas is 3 years younger than Varsho, and Varsho is already starting to get beat up a bit, I’d have to say Thomas.

Wesley: It appears the ‘Pit will continue to reject any positive future for Pavin Smith. Which says a lot about his value going forward that he’s an afterthought.

This is a tough one, especially if you’re looking at it from here forward. As Jack said, Varsho already had some wear and tear on him between roaming the outfield and wearing the tools of ignorance occasionally, and he’s under less control. Thomas is by far the safest bet out of the three.

Justin: I honestly would love to see Pavin and a good career. Thomas as well, but Pavin it would be almost “sticking it to people.”

Makakilo: Looking at three factors, Alek Thomas has the best long-term future, with Daulton Varsho in close second place.

  • Age: Alek Thomas is youngest (22 vs 25 & 26). All three are young enough to have a long future.
  • Demonstrated Offense in the Majors: This season through 3 June, Alek Thomas’s .350 wOBA and 122 wRC+ are best. Daulton Varsho’s .337 OBA and 113 wRC+ are a close second.
  • Demonstrated Defense in the Majors. Daulton Varsho is best. This season, his 2 DRS in CF is awesome. Alek Thomas’s negative 1 DRS in CF is second place because CF is a high value position! In addition, Daulton Varsho’s versatility to play catcher adds to his defensive value.

Dano: I was going to go with Thomas, but Chuck makes a persuasive case for Varsho. Thomas is off to a nice start on his MLB career, but Varsho’s already proven that he can stick at this level. So yeah, Varsho probably. Ask me again next year, and the answer might be different, of course..

Steven: Pavin, just because I think he’ll always be given opportunities to prove his 1st round selection and won’t be as expensive as the other two. Could easily see a Brandon Belt-like career from him where he’s just good enough to start every day but not good enough to demand a large contract. Compare that with Varsho and Thomas, who look like young stars. Young stars get paid. Unfortunately this is an Arizona franchise with Ken Kendrick at the helm.

Humberto Castellanos: genuine injury or not? And does he have a path back to a rotation spot?

Chuck: My mother always used to say there’s no such thing as coincidence but when it comes to sports I think we all know better (wink, wink). Sure, why not? Seems to have a good arm so probably will hang around until they find a better option.

Justin: I dunno. Hes been decent but…to me he is a AAAA filler.

Spencer: Rest IL stint to take a breather and find himself again. Like LAD does so effectively. But no, I don’t see him taking that rotation spot back for long. I see his role the rest of 2022 being similar to Gilbert/Martin: spot starts in Phoenix and/or bullpen stints with some Reno thrown in. And after the deadline, the true rookies will take starts from them all as well (pending the number of starters we sell).

Jack: The 2-3 MPH velocity spike in the first couple innings of his last start was highly suspicious. He chalked it up to mechanics tweaks, using his lower half more, etc. I remain unconvinced he wasn’t going max effort, knowing his rotation spot was on the line. Or maybe the mechanics tweaks caused injury ? Or maybe there is no real injury, just some typical pitcher soreness and as Spencer says, it’s a “Rest” IL stint. It’s all speculation. Regardless we see these smoke and mirrors types come up all the time, fool hitters for a few starts, or get lucky with BABIP, or Homers, but over time if the stuff isn’t good enough or they don’t have special “plus” command, it just doesn’t hold up.

Makakilo: Baseball Savant shows Humberto Castellanos as below average in just about everything; exceptions are 73rd percentile in BB%, 57th percentile in Barrel%, and 54th percentile in hard hit %. In that light, this season’s game scores look pretty good; I give Strom a lot of credit. My guess is his injury is genuine but minor. Nevertheless, he needs to be at 100% to pitch as well as he has.

Wesley: I don’t see him sticking in the rotation long term. I don’t think the injury isn’t genuine, but I am assuming it is minor.

Dano: Assuming the injury (or “injury”) isn’t serious, I expect he’ll probably be plugged back into the fifth spot until and only until someone better comes along.

Steven: He’s one of those guys you always want to replace. Just a guy eating up innings at a below average rate. Helpful sure, but young guys will always get the opportunity over him.

Which of our remaining starting pitchers concerns you most?

Chuck: Gallen. No, seriously. Hear me out. We all know managing a pitching staff isn’t Torey’s strong suit. Maybe that’s part of the reason why they talked Strom out of retirement. They have to take the gloves off this kid; if they think he’s a legit #1 then pitch him like it, he shouldn’t have a pitch count, trust him when he says he feels good. Because if you don’t he’ll continue to have these little injuries and will walk the first chance he gets.

Justin: Gallen. I really don’t care about Madbum at this point and Merrill Kelly is just a workhorse until we get to the point where he is no longer needed. And at that point, hell probably be retired or in another organization. That said, I am a Kelly fan.

Spencer: MKelly. His contract is reasonable but not if he’s going to be a 6+ ERA pitcher like he’s been since April. I have faith he can somewhat right the ship, but we’ve seen this all before and he’s getting older. I don’t worry about MadBum because I hope we can trade him this year (I don’t care if it’s for money savings or with a medium depth prospect to get younger value back), and Davies is just another Throwback Thursday DBack player you forgot about. MKelly May go down in the same vein as Ahmed and that saddens me.

Jack: The starting pitchers that concern me most are not on the active roster. We all should be looking towards the next wave of starters that will need to be here full time starting in 2023 and 2024. So far, the list of starting pitching prospects have not shown enough yet to make one feel confident in the future rotation. Corbin Martin has looked good in his last two starts and they have to be getting close to wanting to take an extended look at him in the rotation, if he’s up to it.

Wesley: I’m with Jack on this, none of our starters in the minors have shown enough to warrant any confidence.. The inflated scoring environment in Reno, Amarillo, and Visalia are not at all conducive to developing confidence in a pitcher, or just developing a pitcher in general.

Makakilo: Merrill Kelly. Baseball Savant shows Merrill Kelly as above average in just about everything. His last five game scores (average of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs and 538.com methods) were 41.6, 9.5, 45.3, 38.0 and 44.3. For a pitcher with his talent, a streak of five below-average game-scores makes me concerned.

“I’m luke warm on extending Merrill Kelly because he is 33 years old.” – Makakilo, 3 April Roundtable

Dano: None of them, really. They are all pretty much known quantities at this point, I think, aside from Gallen. Finally he seems to be healthy, and showing us what he can do, and it’s looked pretty darn good so far this season. The rest of them are just keeping rotation slots warm for our prospects who are getting close (?) to MLB-ready. So I suppose I, too, am with Jack, as the chart above doesn’t seem to have much in the way of encouraging numbers.

Steven: Bumgarner. Mostly because I’m not a fan of the way he goes about things on the field and the impact that has on young pitchers like Gallen. I’d trade him the second someone wanted to take his contract.

The first managerial casualty of 2022 was the Philliies Joe Girardi. Justified?

Chuck: Jack and I have a mutual friend who’s a 30 year MLB writing veteran and a former

Spink Award nominee. We sat in a coffee shop near Scottsdale Stadium and he spent 40 minutes detailing the circumstances why Girardi left New York. It was his decision because he got tired of dealing with the politics of the job. Just based on that conversation I think this was a mutual decision too. I do know Girardi was frustrated with the roster which he felt hindered some of the in-game decisions he wanted to make and couldn’t.

Justin: -shrugs shoulders-

Spencer: Mimics Justin.

Jack: I don’t think Girardi is all that great a manager, but the issues in Philadelphia are mostly about roster construction. A bunch of DH’s in the outfield, all of whom are underperforming at the plate, except for Harper. And he needs Tommy John surgery. A really lousy bullpen, for a long time now. That team was going nowhere from the get go, and I never understood the pre season love. Dave Dombrowski has had success in the past building “win now” rosters. But not this time around. He’ll be out after the season is over too probably.

Wesley: Philadelphia’s roster is constructed horribly, and I don’t see any manager improving their defense, or their awful bullpen. Other than that all I can say is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Makakilo: It was not justified for two reasons:

  • My view is the Phillies hugely want to win this season. 538.com gives them a 34% chance of making the playoffs. Will the new manager increase the chances? No.
  • Jack is on target that their bullpen is weak - for example their team’s blown saves were 31%. WIll the new manager’s decisions reduce the blown save percentage - probably not. A more productive move would be to trade for a better closer.

Dano: I honestly have no idea….haven’t really spent much time paying attention to the Phillies in recent years, mainly because there’s been no reason to. Still isn’t, but I suspect it’s not Girardi’s fault. That team has been floundering for years now.

Steven: Too much talent and salary commitments to be under .500 for that long. Over $325 million for a 2nd and 3rd place finish (106-109) isn’t going to cut it. Dombrowski better figure it out or he’s next too.

Which MLB team this year is the biggest surprise?

Chuck: Dbacks are the obvious answer. Angels too. On the negative side a little surprised at the Mariners and White Sox, thought they’d be a lot better.

Justin: I would say us and the Braves. For completely opposite reasons.

Spencer: Detroit but it isn’t their fault. Injuries have decimated the pitching staff. We should all take note. The strength of their rebuild is on arms with a few high end bats. But in 2022 they’ve lost ERod, Mize, Manning, Pineda and Turnball. Not to mention Riley Green and Austin Meadows. This could’ve been their coming out year (especially with Chicago flailing again), but instead a lot of youth and experience is wasting a year. It’s still early, but I’m beginning to smell the Philly stench on them.

Jack: I’d have to say the Yankees. I thought they would be good this year, and improved from last year due to better pitching and defense. I even tried to tell some upset Yankee fans on Twitter to feel good about the moves they made (and didn’t make,i.e. Correa). But I didn’t expect them to be THIS good. (37-15) I was right about the pitching and defense though. Last year their defense had -41 rDRS, worst in the AL, this year they are +20 so far, 5th in the AL. At least partly because of the better defense they have an astounding 139 ERA+, compared to last year’s 115, which was already pretty good. The offense has been better than expected, mostly due to health….so far and of course Judge have an insane season.

Wesley: I am going to go with the Braves being so awful considering how good they were last year. The Dbacks improvement isn’t that big of a surprise to me, the team was very unlucky, and the numbers are just regressing to the mean at this point. After all, I did think they’d have a .500 season.

The Yankees are a surprise from just how good their rotation is. I don’t think anyone thought they would have one of the best starting rotations in the league.

Makakilo: The Blue Jays. Although they are 30-21, and they won 8 of their last 10 games, what surprises me is they are in third place in their Division behind the Yankees and the Rays. UPDATE: they are now 31-21, and moved up to second place in their Division.

In the 3 April round table I expected them to win the World Series. Highlights of what I wrote follow:

  • In the off-season, they signed 12 free agents, and traded for third baseman Matt Chapman (3X gold Glove, 2X Platinum glove, Wilson defensive player of the year), and Matt Chapman is ranked #83 in MLB.com’s Top 100 Players Right Now.
  • One of many returning players worth noting is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (48 homers last season with Silver Slugger award; finished second for the AL MVP behind Ohtani) . He is ranked #8 in MLB.com’s Top 100 Players Right Now.
  • Shortstop Bo Bichett and center fielder George Springer are ranked #32 and #33 in MLB.com’s Top 100 Players Right Now.
  • Three of their starting pitchers (Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, and Jose Berrios) were first round draft picks, as were two starting pitchers (Nate Pearson, and Anthony Kay) in AAA. Kevin Gausman is ranked #74 and Jose Berrios #97 in MLB.com’s Top 100 Players Right Now

Dano: For me I actually think maybe Washington. I knew that their contention window had mostly closed, but it wasn’t my sense that they’d gone into a full rebuild, and their club has good bones. I didn’t expect them to be basement dwellers in the NL East at this point. Or the entire NL East to be so bad this year, aside from the Mets.

Steven: Both New York teams. The Mets are really, really good on both sides but the Yankees are just incredible. 140 ERA+ from the whole staff and lead the league in hitting with 118 wRC+ backed by 79 homers. Just incredible what happens when you actually go out and pay players.

What are we living in the golden age of?

Chuck: Snowflakes? I think we’re lost as a society. As advanced as we are we seem to be going backwards and I don’t see the train pulling into the station anytime soon. I’m scared for my daughter, like really scared.

Spencer: Information Sharing. Nearly everyone in the US has a smartphone with connection to the internet. They can tweet their mind or lunch plate. Or they can look up a medical journal or read an opinion article. I’m only 28, but I have vivid memories of the library encyclopedia section and the response from teachers “I’ll have to look into it and find out.” Neither of those things exists much anymore.

Justin: I am 36, and agree with Spencer. I did love growing up watching technology advance from wall mounted phones, to what we have now. From Atari, original Nintendo, N64, to Sega, to PS2 and now what we have currently. When I first got a cellphone it was a flip phone and I wasnt allowed to text, because it cost (I think it was) .35c a message. Now, I pay 55$ a month for unlimited talk, text and data with Cricket. I liked seeing the next thing that comes out, which I guess still exists, but maybe not in the ways it did.

Jack: Mass Shootings. Of the 30 “deadliest” mass shootings (10 or more fatalities) since 1949 recorded on This Wikipedia Page , 9 of them, or 30% have happened in the last 4 years. There are other causes of death with higher total fatality numbers, but few if any more traumatic, unnecessary, and damaging to the psyche of our people. The level of barbarism we are willing to accept in this country is a disgrace. How many school children slaughtered at their desks is it going to take ?

Wesley:There’s a couple ways I can answer that question. We are living in an age of rapid, exponential change as a result of increasing technological advancement, which in combination with this age of unrestrained capitalism and consumerism, has promulgated a world with complete information overload no matter where you go or what you’re doing.

If you wanted an answer to that question in the geopolitical, as well historical sense, I imagine that historians in the future will point out that it was all laid out in Aleksandr Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics, and it’s the playbook that Putin’s FSB has used to manipulate the current world order.

Makakilo: Water. The current situation will look like a golden age of water as global demand rises, and as climate changes impact water globally. The future adequacy of water is complex with changes in geographical supply and use; therefore it is unlikely that corrective actions will happen before a crisis hits.

A 2016 study concluded that seasonal fluctuations cause water scarcity for at least one month a year for two thirds of the global population. And it concluded that half a billion people experience severe water scarcity all year round.

Half of Chile’s population lives in severe water scarcity due to a 13-year drought. For details see this article. Water is their biggest economic, social, and environmental problem.

One possible impact of a water crisis will be changes in food produced based on water required. Based on a November 2015 study and a 2016 report, liters of water needed per gram of protein produced:

  • 19 L/g lentils.
  • 21 L/g grains.
  • 23 L/g mealworms.
  • 29 L/g eggs.
  • 34 L/g chickens.
  • 57 L/g pork.
  • 62 L/g sheep.
  • 112 L/g beef.

Dano: Willful and malicious idiocy as a conscious life choice.

Jim: Well, not quite the answers I was expecting, but I’ll let them stand and take the L. Lesson learned. Next week, we’ll go back to “What’s your favorite aquatic mammal?” SnakePit rules will be fully applied in the comments.