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Snake Bytes, 01/18: Bye-bye, J.B.

Probably the last time I’ll need to look up how to spell “Bukauskas”...

Arizona Diamondbacks Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Team news

I think 2020 was the last time they had one? Obviously, COVID played a part in the last two years, but the lack of an event this year is a but disappointing, especially with the buzz which built around the young team in the second half of last season. It's possible that the presence of the World Baseball Classic at Chase in March is involved in the decision.

[Lookout Landing] Mariners claim RHP J.B. Bukauskas from Arizona - Health is obviously the biggest concern for Bukauskas; scouts have hated his high-effort delivery for years (the dreaded “inverted W”) and predicted a move to the bullpen, where his role now seems to be firmly entrenched. It will be interesting to see if the Mariners try to overhaul Bukauskas’s mechanics at all, or what piqued their curiosity about Bukauskas, who, on paper, maybe hasn’t always exhibited the kind of control the Mariners like in their pitchers. Part of that is he is heavily slider-dependent as his plus pitch—a whiff rate of 43% in 2021—and sliders are designed to end up out of the zone, so he needs to get bites on the slider or risk falling behind in counts. But when the slider is working, he can get righties chasing after it:

[Arizona Sports] Diamondbacks' Mike Hazen shares vision for rotation, wants competition - How about moving young starters into bullpen roles after last season’s struggles to hold onto leads? Hazen said he feels that can be a one-way road. “My biggest concern with moving especially a young pitcher to a bullpen role at the beginning of the season is I feel like you’re making a decision on that pitcher’s season,” Hazen said. “I’m not ruling it out. But I think if you do, there’s really no going back in the other direction or you are increasing the risk of injury to the player, unless you’re able to send him down for a month to a month and a half and build him all the way back up. Still not in love with the idea."

[SI] 5 Greatest Closer Seasons in Diamondbacks History - Often overlooked by D-backs fans is how strongly [Kim] bounced back the very next year. Manager Bob Brenly once again leaned heavily on him, getting 84 innings from the whirling submariner. All he did was put up a 223 ERA+, tied for 3rd best in franchise history and racked up the highest WAR total ever by a Diamondback reliever. In addition to his 42 save chances he was also asked to work in 30 non save situations, and 21 times called upon to record more than three outs. He allowed just 7-34 inherited runners to score. The combination of his whopping WAR and WPA (Win Percentage Added) are unmatched in franchise history.

And, elsewhere...

[Yahoo] Power ranking MLB rule changes for 2023: Will pitch timer, shift limitations or new schedule be most noticeable? - [The pitch clock] is unquestionably the most seismic change coming in 2023 — though it could be dwarfed by an automated ball-strike system that could reach the majors in some form in future seasons. Pitchers — and more hitters than you might realize — will be forced to adjust career-spanning habits and rituals. Even your favorite broadcasters might have to alter their routines with less dead air to fill. Still, the goal is an admirable one. And if the outcome matches the minor-league experiments, it would be a boon for baseball to pack the same amount of action into a more easily consumed package.

[FOX] 2024 MLB free agents: Who are the best non-Shohei Ohtani hitters available? - If the D-backs progress this year, and are looking to fill roster holes in free-agency next winter, who could be available? Interestingly, the article highlights 3B Matt Chapman: maybe that one-year deal for Evan Longoria makes sense... “We’re talking about one of the best defensive third basemen on earth who is a lock to give you 25-plus dingers and has been one of the more durable infielders in baseball during his career. In a lot of ways, he’s a third base version of Dansby Swanson with a much longer track record of hitting for real power and legitimate MVP-candidate upside as recently as 2019. “

[CBS8] Could Shohei Ohtani be MLB’s first $500 million man? - This speculation about big money deals comes with a few caveats. The main one for Shohei Ohtani is: Can he stay healthy? Because while Ohtani has been incredible to watch the past two seasons, he had some health issues before 2021, and his injuries in 2018-2020 prevented him from showing off his true power and potential. Ohtani was limited to only 12 games on the pitching side, and in those three seasons, his total home run mark was only 47. So will those past injuries prevent Ohtani from becoming the first $500 million player? Perhaps. But it’s also possible that an MLB team may say, “Who cares! He’ll bring crowds to the seats. Let’s pay him whatever he wants.”

The Lair

Rating: C+
Dir: Neil Marshall
Star: Charlotte Kirk, Jonathan Howard, Jamie Bamber, Leon Ockenden

There is a tendency for directors married to actresses to make them their heroines. This perhaps started with Renny Harlin and Geena Davis, but the most famous example is probably Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich (she was previously married to Luc Besson too). It seems that Marshall and Kirk may be heading that way, with her starring in his last two movies. First there was witch-pic The Reckoning, and now this, which blends elements from a number of genre films. Not the least of which are Marshall’s own Dog Soldiers and The Descent. However, you can also throw in Predator, Aliens and perhaps even Starship Troopers. The result is, obviously, derivative as hell - yet I can’t deny, I enjoyed it.

Pilot Capt. Kate Sinclair (Kirk) is shot down in hostile Afghani territory. While being pursued by insurgents, she stumbles across and takes refuge an abandoned underground base left over from the Soviet occupation in the eighties. What’s inside turns out to be very aggressive and unpleasant, and Sinclair barely escapes with her life. She finds refuge in a nearby allied base commanded by Major Roy Finch (Bamber), and her tales of Soviet engineered monstrosities meet with understandable scepticism. Until night falls, and the creatures emerge from their laur and go on the offensive. The next day, Capt. Sinclair and the survivors decide they need to go back to the Russian base and plant enough C4 to reduce it and its inhabitants to their constituent atoms.

Recently, Marshall he has honed his skills more in television; of particular note, a couple of episodes from Game of Thrones, including the spectacular “Blackwater”. He seems to have put the experience to good use here, with a fine eye for the fight sequences between the soldiers and the creatures. There are a lot of practical effects, and the Resident Evil franchise is another clear influence. I do wish the creatures’ talents had been further illustrated: for instance there’s one point where Sinclair is grabbed by a monster’s multiple tongues. I kept expecting this feature to return later; it never does.

There are, unfortunately, too many holes for this to be a classic, with a heroine whose behaviour falls short of logical, or even making sense. I get the “no man left behind” thing, but dragging all your comrades back into danger, in order to rescue one person, is very different from going in alone (as Ripley does, to rescue Newt, at the end of Aliens). Some of the accents here are flat-out terrible: Bamber’s Southern drawl is the worst - were there no actual actors available from South of the Mason-Dixon line? - but Ockenden’s Welsh isn’t convincing either. I’m also impressed by the way Sinclair’s hair and make-up remain pristine through the entire movie, regardless of what grubby underground trench she has had to crawl through: I guess being the director’s wife has its benefits... As an entertaining B-movie though, I’ve no complaints, and if this couple want to continue down the Anderson/Jovovich road in future, I’ll be fine with that.