Diamondbacks: 74 wins
That’s obviously a huge improvement (22 games on last season), but is also well above the pre-season line offered by sports books, which sat at 661⁄2 wins. Getting in on that action would have been wise. It is slightly ahead of their Pythagorean pace, which has them at 72 wins, but does not feel unsustainably so. A good part of it is the team being better in those one-run games. They’re exactly at .500 there, having gone 12-12. If Arizona had continued to play at last season’s 10-31 pace, they’d be 6-18 there, six games worse. Their overall mark would thus be a much less satisfactory 31-50, on pace only for 62 wins. The second half does have a lot of divisional games, so we’ll see how that works out.
Mark Melancon: 12 losses
That would still be a figure for relief losses in a season not surpassed since the seventies, when Gene Garber went 6-16 for the 1979 Braves. But Melancon no longer has the most losses on the D-backs (Madison Bumgarner has eight), and it has actually been more than a month since his last L. That came on June 4, at which point he was on pace for eighteen losses. Since then has been very solid, even if he is saveless (his last one being even further back, on June 3). Mark has gone 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA over ten innings, with a 6:2 K:BB ratio, and a 2.42 FIP. Small sample size, so I can’t say I feel comfortable with him coming in yet. However, there’s no longer quite the same sickening sense of dread I felt in April and May.
Christian Walker: 42 home-runs
Christian is the fifth player in team history to have hit more than 20 runs over the first 81 games of the season. To see how likely he is to match that in the second half, here are the previous players who matched or bettered his tally, along with their totals for each half of the year.
- Luis Gonzalez, 2001: 32/25
- Steve Finley, 2000: 24/11
- Mark Reynolds, 2009: 23/21
- Jay Bell, 1999: 22/16
- Matt Williams, 1999: 21/14
All of them experienced a fall-off, hitting between two and thirteen fewer home-runs in the second half of the season, so I’d bet against Walker reaching 42. You have to go all the way down to =15th on the first-half list to find a player who hit more home-runs in the second half. The most recent such was Eduardo Escobar, who hit 17 homers followed by 18. Four players have hit more than 20 in the second half: two are listed above (Gonzo + Special K), plus Chris Young’s 21 in 2007, after 11 in the first half. The all-time leader is, of course, J.D. Martinez, who hit 26 home-runs in only 62 games, after coming over at the 2017 trade-deadline.
Strom covered many topics, and I’m running into word count issues. He gave some great insights into Joe Mantiply’s breakout, Mark Melancon improvement, Keynan Middleton’s stuff, & what Zac Gallen is working on etc. If you never listen to these audios, THIS is the one to listen to. But the best part of the discussion for me was regarding pitcher development and the minor league environments. So I’m focusing on that here.
Pitcher development timelines
“Sometimes the timelines that we place on players is incorrect. It’s on there time when they’re going to be ready, not when we think they’re going to be ready. You see this often when you have a prospect who’s throwing 96 and you’re all excited about him and then you become defeated or down when he doesn’t quite make it in your time frame, i.e. a year in AA, a year in AAA he should be there. And they hit a speed bump or take a step backward.”
How to decide when and who to break in a new pitchers, what boxes need to be checked?
“We monitor a great deal. One of the ones that is a big one for me is the ability to throw something other than your fastball when you’re behind in the count. Something off speed. These major league hitters hunt, they’re like sharks smelling blood in the water. When they sense that a young guy cannot throw something off speed over the plate. they really start to hunt the fastball, and then they start to hunt it in certain locations. We monitor guys that can throw a 2-1 change or a slider, something over the plate.
The ERA’s in Reno or Amarillo, they’re not important to me. What’s important to me is those peripheral type things, like pitching ahead in the count, what can you throw when you’re behind in the count. What can you go to 3-2. Do you always default back to the fastball for fear of walking somebody.”
He followed with a great anecdote about Daryl Kile and how he was struggling in AAA and how he assured him things would be better in the Astrodome with better defense behind.
“What you find out when you have pitchers that pitch in Reno and Amarillo you find out who can withstand. I think we’re seeing with our young pitchers up there now, the Henry’s ...when they give up a homerun for example, do they come back into the strike zone r do they start to dance away from the strike zone. Do you get a walk immediately following the homerun, or do you get strike one again.”
He talked about the various metrics the front office provides and the tracking they’re doing and how happy he is with a lot of the improvements from the guys both in AA and AAA.
Does playing in 3 extreme hitters leagues/parks make it more challenging to develop pitching?
“What doesn’t kill me is going to make me stronger.”
Paraphrasing some long anecdotes, if you can hit in a pitchers environment you can hit in the majors, and and if you pitch in a hitters environment you can pitch in the majors.
He also gave some fascinating info on how the higher altitude environments impact the statcast readings even on things like the “carry” or hop you get on a fastball.
“You realize when you look at 12 inches of carry in Reno, might play at 17 inches here in the desert”