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SnakePit Round Table: Playing better, or better playing?

The departure of Melancon as closer, Soto’s suspension and concerts from hell are also discussed...

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If you are interested in taking part in a round table alongside the regular writers, like Nik this week, 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!

Mark Melancon lost the regular closer’s job, replaced by a “committee”. Is it the right move?

Jack: Certainly. While Melancon seems to have settled down of late, there is no reason to just hand him all the highest leverage outings in tie and save situations. Matchups are the way to go with THIS bullpen.

Michael: Yes, although I’m not necessarily sold they have a great closer candidate on the roster anyway.

Makakilo: My perspective would be, “What is best considering next season,” because Melancon’s contract runs through 2023 with a mutual option for 2024. Compared to the alternatives, I trust that making the announcement will positively impact the mindset and mental attitude of Melancon this season and next season.

James: The move is long overdue. Now it is time to see if they have any internal candidates among the youth movement to start giving high leverage relief opportunities to.

Spencer: I don’t mind it. Although I agree with Michael, there’s no one really better suited for the role on the roster. I did think if the team simply relegated him to either an explicit save situation or middle relief when he really needs work, he’d be better. His biggest issues came in tie situations or other high leverage, non-save situations. But I understand the business need to have him provide more innings than than scenario provides.

Steven: It’s a pointed indictment of how they view Melancon and what they’re going for this season. The FO knows their job is on the line here, so they can’t afford to have any self-induced losses thanks to an aging bullpen piece. He’s sunk cost at this point and I would love for them to get off the contract to open that spot for one of their pitching prospects to get MLB experience. Maybe some analytic minded organization will take a look at his FIP and trade for him in the off-season.

Nik: Well they certainly waited long enough. I think it’s the right move for sure and unfortunately we’re still gonna be stuck with him for awhile. MAYBE we have a younger internal candidate for the future but for at least the rest of this year and all of next, we’re gonna be answering this question.

Justin: Long overdue. They waited too long. I think maybe the price tag might have something to do with it.

Wesley: This is long overdue, Melancon should have lost the job a month ago. Hopefully we can find a long term candidate by going by committee.

It was reported Corbin Carroll will be called up in September to play the corner outfield. Thoughts?

Jack: I get the sense it could be even sooner than that. Team is making a big PR push and Steve Gilbert has a big profile coming out.

Michael: Once we reach the point where Carroll won’t exhaust his rookie eligibility, keep an eye on him. The team has a lot to gain, from a draft standpoint, if Carroll is still eligible for the award next year and he finishes in the Top 3. There’s no upside to call him up before then.

Makakilo: I very much would enjoy seeing Corbin Carroll in the Majors. Three reasons:

  • He is a top prospect in baseball (ranked second by MLB pipeline and third by FanGraphs).
  • He runs amazingly fast. In a game thread Jim posted a video of his inside the park home run when he ran past home plate standing up.
  • I was impressed by his performance in the All-Star Futures Game. See a part of this AZ Snake Pit article.

James: It will give Arizona fans something to be excited about during the month of September, especially if he is one of the fortunate few to hit the ground running.

Spencer: Bring him up! After the rookie eligibility deadline has past and he can still qualify for the draft compensation. There’s no reason to rush it given the reward to delay it. Plus he’s in his first full season of professional ball. Whether it’s September, October, or April, I am VERY excited to see him patrolling the outfield.

Steven: I hope Hazen and company get greedy and give us all what we want despite the obvious advantages to holding him back. Paying a couple million extra in arbitration to gain an extra year of control on the top prospect in the game is a no-brainer. It should be an exciting end of season regardless!

Nik: I’m excited for it, and I’ll be happy to see him up here doing well, but I can’t help but feel like maybe they should wait. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on the hype train for awhile now and I WANT him up with the big club, but we also know that ownership won’t pay the money to keep him around once he gets expensive. I’ll be happy either way but maybe happier to keep him around that extra year.

Justin: I can’t wait to see him up. Bring him up.

Wesley: Like Jack said, it really sounds like the team could be calling him up sooner than expected. This is probably the most excited I’ve been for a player’s MLB debut since Goldschmidt.

Christian Walker excepted, who are the best and worst defenders on the team?

Jack: Daulton Varsho is the best defender this year, with Ketel Marte being the worst, (although he’s been better lately)

Michael: Daulton Varsho for the best, Ketel Marte for the worst if we’re talking about the regular starters. Otherwise the worst defender on the team is Seth Beer and it’s not even close.

Makakilo: Daulton Varsho is the best defender in the outfield. Two reasons follow:

  • On 26 July, I wrote that Daulton Varsho and Alek Thomas were key to the Diamondbacks’ DRS in center field ranking 4th to 6th in the Majors. (The Fielding Bible).
  • Since 24 July, Daulton Varsho played the large majority of innings in right field. The Diamondbacks’ DRS in right field increased from 1 to 6 DRS. The team now ranks in a tie for 6th to 8th best in right field.

For context, two additional observations:

  • The Diamondbacks ranking in overall defensive DRS increased from 20th at All-Star break, to 14th on 24 July, to 11th on 12 August. I like that trend!
  • Although I know the question excluded Walker, for the season he has best in DRS at first base.

My two views of the worst defender follow:

  • Daulton Varsho was the worst defender at catcher with negative 3 DRS in 175 innings, just a little worse than Jose Herrera with negative 3 DRS in 346.2 innings. However, as a backup or emergency catcher he adds a lot of value at catcher.
  • My expectations for Ketel Marte’s defense at second base were at the All-Star level. His actual negative 7 DRS at second base was the most disappointing.

James: Daulton Varsho has been the best defensive talent on the team this season. Yes, Walker has more OAA, but he is also playing first base. The two of them are head and shoulders above the rest of the team this year. Among the rest of the regular starters, Ketel Marte has been the worst defensively, even worse than Rojas at third base.

Spencer: No reason to buck the trend, Varsho good, Marte bad.

Steven: I love watching Thomas in CF, the way he glides to catches in his first year as a MLBer is astounding. The D-backs have a tough question to ask with Carroll coming up and Thomas playing well out there. They’ve even had Carroll take 20 starts in various corner outfield positions this season. On the flip side, I’ve been disappointed in Perdomo at shortstop. He looked tentative to start the season, but his command of the field has been better as he’s gotten more comfortable. The team has a real question about who will start everyday next season with Ahmed healthy.

Nik: Sure I’ll go along with Varsho as the best, and Marte as the worst. Tough to blame Marte though with as much as this FO has screwed him.

Justin: Has anyone mentioned Varsho and Marte, yet?

Wesley: I don’t think I can add anything to this that hasn’t been already said. Varsho is by far the best non-Walker, and Marte has been the worst.

The D-backs are above .500 in the second half. Playing better or weak opposition?

Jack: Both. But that’s where it starts. At least beat the weaker teams consistently and build up to being able to take on the better teams.

Michael: They’re definitely beating up on weak competition. Series wins against the Nationals, Giants, Rockies, and Pirates at home. Nationals and Pirates will be choosing between Dylan Crews and Max Clark in next year’s draft unless they get screwed in the lottery. The Rockies have the worst road record in baseball this season at 18-36. They also caught the Giants when they’ve been the most depleted and were struggling just to field a starting infield. When they went up against two teams that figure to be in the playoff picture on the road, they went 1-5. Winning the series they’re supposed to at home is a start.

Makakilo: The answer is both. This season has provided me with glimpses of next season. For more details see this AZ Snake Pit article scheduled to post Tuesday.

James: As others have pointed out, it seems to be a healthy combination of both. Hopefully, last night’s issues with the offense are just a fleeting blip brought about by jetlag. This team has finally started playing more inspired ball. It would be nice to see them keep it up the rest of the way, even if they have issues putting up wins once they hit the final stretch of the schedule where things get awfully difficult again.

Spencer: I lean toward the weaker opponents overall. It’s a little of both, but even against the weak opponents, there have been times the team looks overmatched and bad defensively again. I hope this can change soon, because if not, September is going to be really hard to watch.

Steven: They’ve faced two potential playoff teams, Atlanta and Cleveland, and they went 1-5 against them on the road. 10-4 against the rest of the non-playoff teams is great, but we’re about to see what they’re made of to end the season.

Nik: Both, with a healthy dose of luck thrown in the mix, both on the field and the timing of when they’ve played certain teams.

Justin: I lean towards “weak opposition”

Wesley: I think it’s both. Yes we are in a stretch against some of the weakest competition, but we are are seeing guys finally find their sea legs at the major league level. We are definitely seeming glimpses at the future.

Fernando Tatis Jr is suspended for 80 games. How badly does that hurt the Padres?

Jack: They were counting on a boost from him, and now they’re not going to get it. They are by no means a lock for a wild card at this point, deadline trades notwithstanding. Long term, Tatis injuries, and now his suspension really have to make the Padres brass sweat that massive contract. It could end up being a colossal bust.

Michael: It prevents him from coming back this year and there is going to be a point where the organization will have to have a heart-to-heart talk with his maturity issues and poor decision making. Fracturing a wrist in a motorcycle crash with a slow rehab followed by a PED suspension just a year after signing a $340MM extension. The Padres cannot afford for him to be reckless with his life after investing that much money on him.

Makakilo: This season, the suspension of Tatis Jr. reduced the Padres’ odds of winning a wild-card entry into the playoffs and very much harmed their chances of winning in the playoffs. Making that harm more egregious was that the Padres went ALL-IN, spending prospects and dollars at the trade deadline to put together a winning team. Preller made a statement that indicated the team was very much surprised by the suspension. Jack and Michael are on-target that the Padres are likely worried about the massive contract they gave him.

James: The lack of Tatis returning makes Preller’s all-in gamble even dicier than it started out. He needs to hit the ground running next season when he returns and then he needs to stay healthy for the duration of the season. Anything less than helping his team reach the World Series and some heads will roll. If he can do that though, his transgressions will eventually be mostly forgiven, so long as he does not have a second incident.

Spencer: I don’t entirely buy the Padres’ story that they were shocked to find out. They were extremely motivated to land Soto and Bell, then were forced to give away two other first basemen and a ton of cash. I’ll never know their actual motivations, but the addition of Bell to the Soto deal (and subsequent Hosmer deal) makes me think they anticipated something else going wrong with Tatis and shot their shot early. This season, his loss is going to hurt; massively. They have good enough odds at the wild card still, but he would have made them a favorite. In future years, they should be worried about other issues, but if he can stay on the field, they won’t care all that much.

Steven: Tatis’ is an MVP level talent, so losing him is a massive loss. This suspension could lead to job losses for Preller. You can’t be a top 5 total payroll team, make a generational trade for a superstar, and now perform worse than before. Heads will roll.

Nik: Padres gonna Padre.

Wesley: I am a believer in the theory that the Padres knew this was coming and acquired Soto and Bell for that reason. This definitely hurts the Padres

If band names were literal, what would be the best or worst concert to attend?

Jack: In this age of Covid and Monkey Pox I’d say Kiss would have to be the worst to attend in a literal world.

Makakilo: The Monotones, a six-member doo-wop vocal group from the 50s, would compete for worst.

James: I like Jack’s answer better than mine, probably because I prefer their music. I’m going to go with Slaughter though. I cannot imagine that being the sort of show I would particularly enjoy.

Spencer: Walk the Moon as best. Provided they provide the oxygen suits. If not, it’s got an argument for worst as well.

Nik: Led Zeppelin for worst, OH THE HUMANITY! Best, I’m thinking A Day to Remember

Wesley: I’m just gonna go ahead and say the the punk bands ‘Diarrhea Planet’ or ‘Napalm Death’ are worse than ‘Kiss’ Jack. For the ladies, I think ‘Vulvectomy’ would be up there as the worst.

In terms of things I actually listen to, I’ll have to go with Massive Attack or Iron Maiden.