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SnakePit Round Table: Two, three, BREAK!

We look back at the first half of the season, forward to the second and offer helpful travel trips.

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European Breakdance Championship in Magdeburg Photo by Matthias Bein/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you are interested in taking part in a round table alongside the regular writers, like this week’s guest Xerostomia, just answer one or more of the questions in the comments. I’ll select one respondee, and send them the questions so they can join in next weekend!

An early round table this week, because of the draft kicking off this evening. There will, naturally be full coverage of that in due course, steered by Michael and James. But for now, have this!

Overall, what do you think of the team’s first half?

Spencer: I was the optimist who suggested a winning season. So personally, I have been disheartened by the first half record and play. That said, overall I think they have done surprisingly well. The rotation has had some epic highs for the year. Parts of the offense have been electric at times. We don’t talk about the bullpen. But I’m mostly just encouraged for next season rather than the second half of 2022.

Jack: I didn’t expect any more winning over the first half then they’ve accomplished so far. And my estimated range of 2022 win total (64-68) is still in play due to a very difficult September/October schedule.

More importantly for me is the development of young players at the major league level. On the position player side that’s been a mixed bag, with some success and some failure. On the pitching side the team hasn’t yet given the opportunity at the MLB level for any of the top pitching prospects. I don’t know what they’re waiting for.

Justin: After last season, I was pleasantly surprised, in all honesty. It feels very dtrage to say that about a 39-50 team but on July 15 last year we were 26-66. I don’t remember what my estimated win range was, I think it was 70-72.

Xerostomia: I think my romanticism with baseball is that despite any pre-season predictions, every team starts with a clean slate, and thus optimism is high. The Dbacks obliged by having a pretty good start of the season. The Doyers Dodgers kicking our butt repetitively (beat us 8 times in a row in a 14 day span), basically has resulted in where we are (11 games below 0.500 before the start of the Padres series).

Thus, as all Dbacks fans are obligated to do, just pretend that the Dodgers don’t exist and then we have a Dbacks team that is slightly below average but flawed in several areas, that can be entertaining. Thus, I choose to think that the 1st half of the season from a win-loss stand point was pretty good (my how low our expectations have become). It was not asked, but I think 30-43 the second half of the season is what I expect, resulting in a 69 win team. If we get some ‘boost’ from Carroll, maybe Henry and Martin, I think 73 wins is still achievable.

DBacksEurope: Very good. If you expected more, then I am of the opinion that you haven’t been really realistic. I have them at 70 wins this season and I think that is a very achievable goal. Diamondbacks have been surprised and disappointed and that is what comes and goes with a team like this.

Makakilo: This season, breaking above 500 seems out of reach. Although I predicted 80 wins in this AZ Snake Pit article, perhaps 74 wins would be more realistic.

  • The Diamondbacks missed an opportunity to again break above 500 in early June. On May 29, Makakilo wrote, “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.” What actually happened was 7 wins, leaving me disappointed.
  • Through Friday, the D-back season RS/G was slightly worse than the league average (4.19 vs 4.33) and their RA/G was slightly worse than the league average (4.79 vs 4.33).

For the second half of the season, a new mindset is needed – build around a strong core and improve relief pitching.

The D-backs have a history of strong defense: This season they have a strong core to build around at first base (Christian Walker with 12 DRS) and center field. Alek Thomas has 3 DRS in center field and Daulton Varsho has 3 DRS in CF, 4 DRS in left field, and 2 DRS in right field.

This season the D-backs have a core of strong batters (Ketel Marte with 135 OPS+, Christian Walker with 121 OPS+, Josh Rojas with 112 OPS+, and David Peralta with 103 OPS+). As for other batters, this AZ Snake Pit article talks about D-back batters improving as they get more plate appearances. For batters, there is no adequate substitute for experience in the Majors.

Starting pitching results have improved with Brent Strom’s excellent coaching. Kelly, Gallen, and Davies have average game scores above 50. My view is that Gilbert and Keuchel have great potential to contribute as starters this season.

Relief pitching will improve. It is ranked last in Wins Above Average (WAA). Let’s look at 3 relief pitchers whose results will likely improve in the second half of the season.

Joe Mantiply:

  • 94.7% got-the-job-done in 19 games through 21 May
  • 66.7% got-the-job-done in 18 games from 22 May to 15 July.

Kyle Nelson:

  • 93.3% got-the-job-done in 15 games through 21 May
  • 77.8% got-the-job-done in 18 games from 22 May to 15 July.

Noe Ramirez:

  • 84.2% got-the-job-done in 19 games through 21 May
  • 76.2% got-the-job-done in 21 games from 22 May to 15 July.

Wesley: Honestly, this team is doing roughly what I had expected, which was somewhere in between how bad they were last year, and .500ish. I still think this team is a .500 team by the time the season is over. I think all of the younger players on the team will improve as the season goes on.

Dano: Broadly it has gone the way I expected it to. When our rotation was overperforming at the start of the season, I will admit that I got suckered into trying on the idea that we actually had it in us to be a better team, and so I have spent some time being rather disappointed as our starting rotation settled back into being what they are. I wish we’d have seen more playing time given to our MLB-ready (or nearly ready) prospects, and I wish we’d just flush the back end of our bullpen and try something new there, but then I kinda always wish that. I think I predicted 73 wins, and as of now we’re in line for about 70.

Who should close for the D-backs in the second half?

Spencer: Luis Frias and JB Bukauskas should be given the chance. It’s not like anyone currently in the pen has wowed us thus far(I’m a firm believer Mantiply will get traded and worry he continues his regression into a bad pitcher if not). So why not try out a young gun and let them learn what it’s like?

Jack: Joe Mantiply needs a break. Give him some real time off, an extra week, let his arm recover, and then let him close, and leave it up to everyone else to get the ball to him. If they can.

Xerostomia: Melancon is our closer with 12/14 which results in a 0.857 success rate which is actually pretty good for a closer. If he sustains that rate with more opportunities that would be very good. He is here next year as well, and I want him to be successful, because that means the Dbacks are winning games. For whatever reason he is having issues with holds in the high leverage situations, resulting in losses. With regards to the future, I have no idea, but it seems that everyone wants to convert starters to relievers all the time, so I have no doubt that we will have plenty to choose from over the next couple years.

Justin: Who should close? Frias or JB or someone. Who will Toerrey stick with? Melancon.

DBacksEurope: We have dropped other closers in the past for less, so I think there is no reason to stick to Melancon other than money. Some (Jack, James?) have made arguments in the past to put Weaver in that role. Maybe that is an idea.

Makakilo: Mark Melancon for two reasons:

  • For a closer, most important is his save %. As Xerostomia pointed out, his save percentage is high (85.7%).
  • His got-the-job-done % is consistently good :70.6 % in 17 games through 17 May and 72.2% in 18 games since then.

Wesley: Honestly I think the team should just put literally whomever from AAA that hasn’t gotten a real chance and see who sticks. Mantiply is fine as a closer if he’s given a little bit of break, as Jack said.

Dano: I would like to see us plug different folks from AAA into that role, and see how they do/who sticks. Frias? Sure, give him a try. Bukauskas? Okay. Luke Weaver, even? Why not? Mainly, though, audition arm after arm after arm and see who wins the job.

What do you want to see in the second half?

Spencer: Let the Kids Play. I don’t want to push guys if they genuinely aren’t ready, but for several, it’s time. Use the final couple months to showcase what next year can look like. Guys like Henry (and maaaaaaaaaaybe Carroll - I lean toward giving him like 10 MLB abs in October and letting Opening Day 2023 be his “real” debut) should get their chance to taste the bigs. Other guys like Widener, Martin, Frias, JBB should get every chance to stick in the bigs. For some, perhaps it’s a last chance as they get passed by others during the offseason, but they all deserve at least one more shot at making Sedona Red their jersey color.

Most likely those two months are going to be rough with all the youth. But as it stands, they are just as likely to be rough with the current roster too… And we just might surprise ourselves with a stronger finish with better talent on the field. Just saying.

Jack: At least one or two of the organization’s top pitching prospects getting consistent innings in MLB. I’d like to see the team continue to open up additional playing time in the outfield for younger players. That means they need to execute a trade of David Peralta. He’s been a good Diamondback for a long time. This article written by Nick Piecoro was really good. These are human beings, and I know it will be hard for him and his family personally. But for the future of the organization, it’s time. They need to move on and figure out their outfield configuration for 2023.

Xerostomia: I want to see the team hit better. I want Thomas, Perdomo, McCarthy and even Varsho to be spraying balls all over the field. Once on base, I want them to be running wild, stealing bases, and annoying the opposing pitcher and defense. Carroll will likely be of that mold as well. That is 4-5 long term starters with speed. Don’t be afraid to bunt for base hits, hit against the shift, and improve the line drive rates.

I want to be done with Keuchel, and make a definitive decision if you want Davies on the team next year. If he is not part of the future, then trade him for anything, but open up 2 roster spots, and let Martin, and Henry at the very least, start every five days, regardless of outcomes, but let them hit 80-100 pitches. It would be hard to believe they could be any worse than Keuchel. I want Frias stretched out. Before relegating him to the bullpen, he needs to be given some more chances showing off his 100MPH fastball. Miami took a gamble with Luzardo, after the A’s gave up on him, and had he not gotten injured, forearm strain, (but no TJS yet), he has TOR potential written all over him. If Strom is the magician we all believe he is, I want these young pitchers under his direct tutelage ASAP.

Justin: I like the let the kids play, idea.

DBacksEurope: I’d like to see the makings of a couple of very good players. On the one hand Gallen and Marte will have to become dominators. Prospects need to show off their talent. It’s all mediocrity in Arizona now. Everyone wants to see a star. I think the patient Arizona fans deserve that and I think the FO owes it to the them.

Makakilo: Per my previous answer, I want to see the Diamondbacks build around a strong core of players.

I want to see Corbin Carroll in the Majors because I liked what I saw in Saturday’s All-Stars Future Game. In the first inning, he hit a double (his speed impressed me). An excellent catcher threw him out at third when the NL attempted a double steal on a breaking ball. In the second inning, he walked on 5 pitches showing he is a patient batter. On a single up the middle, he took an extra base to arrive at third base. That’s all I saw because Crow Armstrong took his place at the start of the fourth inning.

Wesley: It should be completely unsurprising that I’m going to say let the kids play. It’s only been my philosophy my entire time on the ‘Pit.

Dano: I’m definitely on team Let the Kids Play.

Predict who the D-backs take with the second pick in the draft?

Spencer: Jackson Holliday.

Jack: If Druw Jones is available, they’ll take him. If not, they’ll take Jackson Holliday.

Xerostomia: Hazen has consistently selected players with excellent bat to ball skills, and has not worried as much about defensive positioning. Despite Smith not living up to expectations, I agree with that philosophy. I posted this in the other thread, but I will regurgitate what Keith Law says in that “it is much easier to teach a player to hit the ball harder, than it is to teach a player how to hit the ball”. Thus, though there is a great genetic pedigree with Jones, I think he takes Johnson or Lee because they are the best 2 hitters in the draft. If Jones and Green are ‘having trouble’ hitting the ball in high school, sure maybe in the next 5 years our minor league system can make them all star hitters, but I don’t like those odds. Other than Carroll, who in the last 5-8 years have the Dbacks developed into a great hitter?

Justin: I am probably (ok, I am) the only person on the Pit knowledgeable in Hockey. I like the Coyotes’ 2 picks in the top 11 selections. The Dbacks draft? I’ll just go with whatever James’ favorite is.

DBacksEurope: Druw Jones. His father hails from Curaçao and played for the Kingdom of The Netherlands team so there is some sentimental argument as well.

Makakilo: The top prospects have performance risks such as re-injury (Lee), below-average defense (Holliday & Johnson), or can’t hit pitches in specific locations (Johnson). Looking at how often the baseball is put in play compared to frequency of swings, commentary (not stats) leads me to believe the best are Druw Jones and Jackson Holliday. My prediction matches Jack’s but possibly for different reasons.

Wesley. I think Jack is right on this one. I really like Johnson, and that’s who I’d prefer, but I am expecting Jones if he’s available, or Holliday if he isn’t.

Dano: [shrugs]

What will you be watching of the ASG events, and why?

Spencer: No. Tuesdays are trivia nights for me, so I’ll be leading Spencer’s Spicy Guesses into a hopefully not last place finish for the HR Derby. And on Wednesday, I’ll be joining a Zoom meeting with the family to go over logistics for a cousin’s wedding in Chicago at the end of October.

Jack: I’ll probably watch at least some of the HR derby, and the All Star game itself as well. I can’t guarantee I’ll watch ALL of either. I’ll also try to tune into Carroll’s at bats in the futures game if I can figure out how to watch on Peacock.

Xerostomia: July 17, 1979, my parents tell me they are going out for a movie. I’m like, awesome, I get the TV to myself and can stay up late (I am not a teenager, yet). I start watching the pre-game celebrations to the all star game, and cheer when they introduce Gary Carter, Larry Parrish, and Steve Rodgers (yes it was him, lol). My parents come back and tell me I am to watch the movie with them. I’m waffling, I want to watch the game, but I rarely see movies in the theater, so I ‘reluctantly’ go. The movie was Moonraker, and I was immediately hooked. Though pre-pubertal, Lois Chiles, and Corinne Cléry did stimulate a response in me. Gadgets, cars, spys, wow, and now you tell me that there are 10 Bond movies prior to this? Thank god the VCR boom was about to start, as I likely recorded (from TV) and watched all those movies dozens of times over the next decade(s).

Oh sorry all star game, ya, I’ll watch. Every year it brings me back to this memory.

Justin: I am off on Tuesday, due to my every 6 months glaucoma checkup, so I might watch it just to have something to do. The ASG isn’t very important to me, and really never has. I used to watch it all the time in the early 2000’s but I would be on summer vacation, so….

DBacksEurope: the events start at European unfriendly times so I will only watch the announcement of the players and the rest of the pre-game events the day after. The home run derby I will leave for whatever it is.

Makakilo: No. Perhaps if Christian Walker was playing I’d watch to see whether his play conferred honor on the Diamondbacks.

Wesley: I have zero interest in the All Star Game.

Dano: I’ll probably watch at least some of the Home Run Derby because it’s stupid but it can be kinda fun. The only way I will watch the ASG itself is if I have the wherewithal on Tuesday night to make it down to the Guy Fieri venue at Chase, where some Snake Pit folks are apparently convening. We shall see.

What’s something anyone visiting your location for the first time absolutely be aware of?

Spencer: Columbus, Ohio. On the bad side, drivers in Columbus are among the worst in the country, but you really don’t have to worry about getting pulled over yourself.

On the good side, there are a TON of cool little places hidden in fun neighborhoods outside the downtown area. You should experience as many of them as you can. I personally recommend The Book Loft (32 room bookstore), a Bier Garten called Planks (which I have raved about in the past, I know), and North Market (a Costco-sized building that rents floor space to small businesses so you can conceivable go as a one-stop shopping experience and still get mom & pop goods).

Jack: Whenever I have visitors come here to Arizona for the first time I hand them a water bottle and chapstick when I pick them up at the airport and tell them to use both, a lot. I tell them if their mouth starts to feel dry or lips get chapped, they’re already dehydrated.

Xerostomia: I think Jack nailed it. Water. We lose so much fluid so quickly, through our breath, and sweat (evaporates so quickly), that people do not realize how quickly one can get dehydrated. I was working on my car a few months back, maybe 1.5 hours in the garage, and I know I lost a couple of Kg. That is 2 liters of water in a matter of hours. People like to hike when they visit, so I non stop barrage them about water intake. Oh, and don’t go towards any rattle sounds.

Justin: I don’t think Phoenix has a mountain in the immediate vicinity that has the elevation that Mount Lemmon (spelled correctly) has, at 9,000 feet. It is great to go up there for a day trip during the summer. A lot of good all year round hiking trails, etc. Even if you just want to go up and have a picnic and just be in nature it is great. Saturday’s high on MT Lemmon is 80*, Tucson will be 107*.

I highly recommend going to the Desert Museum. Whenever relatives from CT visit, that is the first place they want to visit. It’s kind of a living museum. I will have to admit, it is probably more fun for them, because I could just wander around the desert in Marana at dawn/dusk and see some animals lol

DBacksEurope: I was at the train station the other day, waiting for my high velocity train to Barcelona when an American woman asked me for the train to Seville. I helped her out, explaining how things worked at the train station and what to pay attention to because most things are not clear. If you’d visit Spain, be aware that most people don’t know English and directions and instructions, everywhere, are never clear. And, although Madrid is a bit “faster” than the rest of the country, having patience is definitely a virtue in this country.

Now to finish the story…when I was in my train I wondered why she picked me out of all the people that were waiting for their trains. And then I looked down at the t-shirt I was wearing that had a huge American flag on it with the lettering U.S.A. above it. I guess that is why she approached me!

Makakilo: When you ask for directions, it can be helpful to ask how street names are spelled. Also you need to know what a few words/phrases mean:

  • “makai” means towards ocean.
  • “mauka” means towards mountains.
  • “windward” means towards East (where wind frequently comes from).
  • “leeward” means towards West (frequent wind direction).
  • On Oahu, “go in town” means Honolulu, even if you pass another town.
  • On Oahu, “in the country” means the West side of the Island.
  • “mahalo” means thank you.

Wesley: Aside from the very obvious thing about water and staying hydrated, I’m gonna go with watching your step and leaving the wildlife alone. We have six species of rattlesnake in the Tucson area, in addition to Coral Snakes (so seven different venomous snakes). There’s also many animals that aren’t fatal, but really, really hurt if they decide to sting or bite you, and can cause a medically significant bite. If you’re unlucky to have a heart condition, or an allergy, the risk of fatality goes way up. Tarantula hawk wasps, Giant Desert Centipedes, and bark scorpions are all great examples.. Maricopa Harvester Ants are another; they hurt only a little less than a bullet ant. Gila Monsters are my favorite example, just thanks to this quote:

“I have never been called to attend a case of Gila monster bite, and I don’t want to be. I think a man who is fool enough to get bitten by a Gila monster ought to die. The creature is so sluggish and slow of movement that the victim of its bite is compelled to help largely in order to get bitten.”
–Dr. Ward, Arizona Graphic, September 23, 1899

Translation: You gotta be really foolish and go out of your way to get bitten by a Gila Monster.

Really my point with all these animals is that you’re very foolish to messing around with the wildlife in the Arizona Desert,and I didn’t even get into things like Peccaries/Javelina which can be quite aggressive, or skunks, which we have four different species of and I don’t think I need to elaborate on further.

Dano: Yup, hydration. That, and do your best not to eat at chain restaurants in Tucson. There’s a lot of really good food here, some that’s even world-class. It’s a waste not to take advantage of it.