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SnakePit Round Table: And, so, it ends...

Well, that was quite the ride, wasn’t it?

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World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Five Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The D-backs fell short in the World Series. What went wrong?

Justin: I would like to preface my answer by saying, (I believe Jim mentioned this somewhere) I am a lot less disappointed in the WS loss than I thought I would be. Your team just lost the World Series, and you are looking forward to what the next couple of years bring? My best friend texted me after game 5 to see how I was doing. Lol

Now back to your regularly scheduled answer… I think they just ran out of gas. I don’t know. I think not having a 4th starter hurt, but there was the bullpen game against the Phillies, so what do I know.

Sam: Lots of stories we could tell: Paul Sewald finally turned back into a pumpkin. The rest of the world, including the broadcast crew assigned to their games, stopped doubting them. They kept pitching to Corey Seager. The Rangers were unstoppable on the road this postseason — and just looking at their opponents, you can see why:

  • Rays
  • Orioles
  • Astros
  • Diamondbacks

Keegan: Not blowing that first save would have changed the dynamic of the entire series. Team would have had a ton of confidence coming back to Chase Field up 2-0. I’d argue they would have won the Pfaadt start to go up 3-0. That’s what happened in one of the infinite universes, along with the others where the D’Backs don’t make the postseason or World Series altogether. The bunting and “small ball” also got out of hand in my opinion. Having Moreno bunt with no outs and runners on first and second in Game 5 is flat out moronic. Sorry not sorry, fight me.

DBacksEurope: I agree absolutely 100% with Keegan. After the first 2-3 games they got overmatched.

Spencer: I think the magic ran out. Sewald’s blown save felt like the sign in real time. Game 2 was fun but after watching the next three, definitely feels like an anomaly. Not being able to win at Chase Field with those crowds shows me the same. They tried. They overachieved. I’m ecstatic. But it still hurts because I know they could’ve beaten Texas. Instead they ended up having one of the more embarrassing World Series showings in recent memory (blowing saves, Gold Glovers booting the ball, nearly out scoring the Rangers but losing, etc). C’est la vie.

I don’t intend to be highly negative by saying they had an embarrassing showing. Just that they ran out of the magic. If they hadn’t had to treat half of September like postseason baseball, I thoroughly believe we’d be celebrating a World Series win right now. But I also think that September play is what the youth needed to show they way they did in October. It’s a circular logic that I’m glad we got out of the way in 2023 so outstandingly. Bring me 2024 baseball!

Dano: Yeah, what Justin said, basically, with a dollop of Keegan and Spencer as well. As for why, or why I think so? Games 1, 3, and 5 were all games that we easily could have won, and maybe should have won. Sewald doesn’t walk Taveras to lead off the bottom of the ninth, or doesn’t pitch to Seager? Quite possibly a different outcome. We actually managed any respectable run support for Pfaadt? Quite possibly a different outcome. Ditto for Gallen’s second start. Even Game 4 we could have won, maybe, if not for that disastrous error by Christian Walker that led to five unearned runs, which was more than the Rangers’ final margin of victory.

But we couldn’t, in the last week of an unexpectedly long season, do any of those things. Roster depth, compared to the Rangers? Sure, that too. Salary disparity? Certainly. But going into 2023, we were viewing the season differently than the ownership in Texas was. They spent a lot of $$$ on a gamble that they would get to the postseason. We did not, and not unreasonably back in January, or last November. And yet, it came down to those three games, and we ust couldn’t get it done. Pretty much a textbook definition of “out of gas.”

Makakilo: Four things went wrong, in order of importance:

The Diamondbacks needed an additional pitcher in the rotation. The need would have been for two additional pitchers in the rotation, except Brandon Pfaadt stepped up his game just in time for the playoffs. Reasons for that shortfall:

  • Madison Bumgarner lost his effectiveness (In April, his last four games averaged just over 4 innings with an ERA of 10.26.
  • Zack Davies lost his effectiveness (In September, his last 5 games averaged 4 innings with an ERA of 7.20.
  • Mike Hazen failed to add to the rotation despite many attempts (“We were buying. I chased every starting pitcher on the free agent market.” - Mike Hazen, November 2023)

In games 3 and 5 of the World Series, the Diamondbacks bats went cold. These two games starkly contrasted with how impressively they scored runs in the other three games.

In the World Series, Paul Sewald’s results were bad (6 ER in 2 IP). In the playoffs, especially the championship series, Paul Sewald was an awesome closer.

Corey Seager played unbelievable baseball. In the World Series, his 20.8% cWPA was huge. He was the Rangers’ MVP.

Steven: Timely hitting, and the normally nails bullpen stumbled. On the first point, over the last 3 games they finished 5 for 24 with RiSP. And for a team that normally doesn’t hit many homers, it slims your margin for error tremendously. Game 2 was fools gold as they really didn’t do much of anything against the “normal” bullpen.

And our bullpen just unraveled. Game 1 was a shock, and unfortunately they never recovered. The bullpen game didn’t help, as it meant guaranteed innings on an already overworked bullpen. They finished 2nd in innings to Texas, but the Rangers had multiple starters going multiple innings while the D-backs had a bunch of one-inning guys pitching multiple games in a row.

What’s your abiding memory of the 2023 playoffs?

Justin: Just about everything. The Thomas home run. Recapping the first game against Milwaukee. It’s been fun. Unfortunately, there is some negative memories with some…visitors.

Sam: It’s really hard to pick, there were so many great moments. Here’s my top 10:

  • 10. Ketel Martel’s walkoff 1-out bases loaded single in NLCS Game 3, with shades of Luis Gonzalez.
  • 9. Evan Longoria lunging to his left to start a double play to kill a Brewers rally that started with the bases loaded and nobody out.
  • 8. Kevin Ginkel getting both Turner and Harper to fly out with two on in the 7th and then striking out the side in dominant fashion (no foul balls even) in the 8th of NLCS Game 7.
  • 7. Zac Gallen taking a perfect game into the 5th and a no-hitter into the 7th of World Series Game 5.
  • 6. Merrill Kelly’s dominant performance in World Series Game 2, shutting down the high-powered Rangers offense to the tune of 1 ER in 7 innings.
  • 5. Brandon Pfaadt doing what Gallen and Kelly couldn’t do the previous two games and shutting down the Phillies over 5 ⅔ shutout innings in Game 3 of the NLCS.
  • 4. Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, the personification of coastal media bias, declaring he would retire if the Diamondbacks won Games 6 and 7 in the NLCS, and then exactly that happening.
  • 3. The bottom of the 8th of NLCS Game 4, featuring both the Thomas home run off Kimbrel to tie it and Moreno’s RBI single off Alvarado to take the lead.
  • 2. Ambushing Kershaw and knocking him out after just ⅓ of an inning, setting the tone for the NLDS.
  • 1. The four homer inning off Lance Lynn, capped by Moreno re-hitting his the very next pitch for another home run after a review showed his first one went foul.

I would pay money for someone to put together a mashup video of those 10 moments, or a similar list that we collectively decide on.

Justin: That was a great list!

Keegan: Just overall pride of what they were able to accomplish. Sweeping LAD was no easy task, and winning two in a row in Philly to advance to the World Series was arguably more improbable. They did great, have a bright future, but Hazen and the front office have more work to do to make this team a legitimate contender.

DBacksEurope: In a positive way I will remember the NLCS, which was an awesome series. Now that the off-season has set in, I wonder if the Diamondbacks are able to repeat in the coming years the success they have had this year. I don’t think so, because we don’t have that “dynasty aura” the Dodgers, Braves and Astros have (had). This team has too many flaws, basically we still lack the smasher other teams had (where were you Christian Walker) and the pitching corps was too thin.

Spencer: Sam’s list is great. I also would like that video! For me, I will always remember October 24: NLCS Game 7. I recapped it so it’s etched in there anyway. But the whole day my world was on fire with people wishing us luck and my excitement just kept building even during the game. Then the actual game happened and it lived up to every outlandish expectation I could’ve wanted.

I disagree with DBE’s assessment of the future though. I think present day reality is muddying how you remember the start of each of those dynasties: LA had to drastically overpay to get free agents to sign there and had some rough years taking on other teams horrid contracts to get the players their shiny development team wanted, Atlanta and San Diego were vaunted with prospects (look at one of those teams now…), and Houston was the team coming off multiple 100 loss seasons with a bunch of nobodies who’d proven nothing at core positions. I’d add Tampa as well since they are without a doubt a dynasty of the 2010s, and even they took a solid 4-5 years of success to rinse off the first decade-plus of awful play. Arizona might go the way of the Cubs, but I wouldn’t bet against Hazen at this point.

Dano: Agreed, on Sam’s list. Fantastic. And the #1 on that list is certainly the baseball moment that I will most remember. Beyond that, I was just constantly struck by how many visitors from other sites and other fan bases stopped by the SnakePit, and how remarkable and deeply weird most of those visitors seemed to find it that we’ve got such a great community here.

To be sure, there were the types of visitors as well that Justin mentions (I didn’t see a lot of that until Game 5 against Texas, and I deleted a bunch of ugly comments in the GDT that evening) but in my experience, the unpleasant visitors were the outliers, and it was really cool for to me to get a sense of what the ‘Pit looks like from outside. I’m proud of all of us for that, for what we’ve built here.

Not only did the Diamondbacks team expand the fanbase through their magical journey through the postseason, but so did the SnakePit, I think. The number of comments all the way through the different stages about “Wow, you guys really aren’t dicks over here, I’ll be rooting for your team next year when you aren’t playing us” was, well, substantial. And really nice to see.

Makakilo: For the World Series, I was at Chase Field for games 3 and 4 (two different locations behind the third base dugout). In game 4, the fans were wonderful beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. Although the Diamondbacks lost, the experience felt like winning. That game will always be my best baseball memory.

Steven: The Dodgers sweep will stay with me for a long time, including any victories we may have on them next year. Going into Philly down 3-2 and taking the next two was incredible as well.

Ketel Marte as playoff MVP seems legit. But who else deserves a mention?

Justin: Gurriel and Moreno form the offensive side. SP Ill give it to Merrill Kelly and RP Ginkel.

Sam: Well, Gabriel Moreno played a huge role in all of my top three moments, so he’s gotta make the list just on a WPA basis alone. As for other strong collective performances, Ginkel throwing 11 ⅔ shutout innings throughout the postseason should also be up there. People double-take when they see that 0.00 ERA given how much he played.

Keegan: Once again, Brandon Pfaadt. He didn’t even look remotely close to the pitcher he was in the regular season. If he can continue on that trajectory, it should make Hazen’s work going forward much easier.

DBacksEurope: Of all position players: Gabriel Moreno. Pitching wise I’ll give credits to Kevin Ginkel. I liked Ryan Thompson too. Kelly did fine after struggling at the beginning of the playoffs. I reckon Pfaadt, but in my opinion his outings were too short to consider him something close to MVP.

Spencer: Merrill Kelly, Brandon Pfaadt and Kevin Ginkel with a shout out to Gabriel Moreno as a catcher. Those three pitchers covered Gallen’s inability to get outs for two weeks while also having the best permorformances possible on the biggest stage. And Moreno caught them all. The depth of this postseason run hinged on the pitching as the offense sort of disappeared for the final 12 games with a couple standout games randomly thrown in; Gabi was a huge part of that.

Dano: Yeah, Kelly, Pfaadt, Ginkel, Moreno. Thompson as well, and really the entire bullpen right up until the WS itself.

Makakilo: For batters who deserve mention, the following table shows a few metrics (Data from Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant).

For pitchers who deserve mention, the following table shows cWPA for the playoffs (data from Baseball Reference).

Steven: Kevin Ginkel was nails all postseason long, in a way we haven’t seen from a D-backs reliever since…Brad Ziegler? Sewald has the closers job locked in, but after that performance, I’m willing to take arguments for that to change. Also shoutout Sewald, I know it didn’t finish the way we all would’ve wanted, but he was about as good as you could expect.

Whose performance was most underwhelming?

Justin: Christian Walker and I was hoping Gallen would be more of an ace.

Sam: They went 0-4 in Gallen’s last four starts in the NLCS and WS, and he allowed multiple runs in both of his previous starts that they won, too. He only showed his ace potential in the first six innings of Game 5 of the World Series, then unraveled in three straight batters. As much as I’d like to say Miguel Castro, we trusted Gallen with much more.

Keegan: Prior to his last start I would have said Zac Gallen, but given his performance in Game 5 of the World Series my finger points to Christian Walker. He wasn’t the dominating presence in the middle of the lineup opposing teams had to work around.

DBacksEurope: Gallen wasn’t the ace we thought he would be and a WS winner needed him to be. Christian Walker was terrible. Sewald will probably top Kim in our memory now.

Spencer: Gallen, Walker and Sewald. Gallen ended strong but his middle was bleh. Not bad but what I expected of Pfaadt, not The Milk Man. Walker looked gassed by the end and really needed a break. Sewald was a September MVP and had his moments in October too. But man when we needed him the most he really faltered. I don’t want him traded for it, but my trust is certainly shaken.

Dano: Yeah, Walker. Gallen was disappointing, too, until that last start.

Makakilo: Despite only hitting one home run in the playoffs, Christian Walker’s wOBA with RISP improved from .316 in regular season to .343 in playoffs. Although his performance in the Championship Series and the World Series were negative in terms of cWPA, his playoff performance (all playoff series) had strong points including batting with RISP and some very impressive defensive plays. Perhaps his bobbled play (error) was due to trying to do too much (rushing to execute a double play when out at first was the only play).

Perhaps my expectations for Zac Gallen were too high. His second World Series start was a potential no hitter. It was everything I could hope for, but in the end it fell short of zero earned runs. Because I strongly believe Zac Gallen will pitch better, his performance was most underwhelming.

Steven: D-backs 3rd baseman were terrible all postseason long. Defensively they were great, but we’ve seen pitchers hit better than the performance they put on. Longoria for me looks like he needs to retire. Flailing at everything and striking out over 39% of the time while producing nothing of value in the other 60% of your at-bats is just an impossible hole to overcome.

What one thing do the D-backs need to address most this winter?

Justin: A legit SP behind Gallen, Kelly and Pfaadt.

Sam: I’m going to go a different direction and suggest they sign Moreno to an extension like they did with Carroll. I guess I have more faith than most that they can get the likes of Lawler, Jameson, Troy, and Henry to step up to fill other needs at the moment.

Keegan: Not one, but two starting pitchers. Having bullpen games in the postseason is flat out embarrassing.

DBacksEurope: The Free Agency market is rather weak, so if they wish to make a splash, I’d sign Matt Chapman because, except for a few years of Eduardo Escobar, that position has been a weak spot on this team for decades now. Extend Gallen and Moreno. And find some depth in starting pitching, the Wade Miley kind of pitchers.

Spencer: Avoid the proven failures of signing “that one player.” To do this: Do NOT, under any circumstances, pay Matt Chapman more than $12M a year to man 3B. He’d need a massive late career surge to justify the amount of money he will get this winter. Arizona can’t afford to be the team that pays it. His 2022 and 2023 second half stats are awful and he provides less power than you think. His defense is still great, but that’s a player closer to Ahmed than Goldy money… if you’re going higher than $12M AAV, make it a pitcher and make it one you trust in the postseason (i.e. don’t be Philly and overpay for Taijuan Walker only to have him warm the bench all postseason despite playing 13 games!)

Dano: There’s a new fanpost up right now that touches on this, but if I only had to pick one, I think I’d have to agree with DBE. For the love of all that is holy, third base has been a black hole of suck for the Diamondbacks, with the brief Escobar exception, for a decade or more. Come on, people. I dunno if Chapman is the answer, but we definitely need an answer that’s better than “Um, Rojas/Longoria/Rivera, maybe, oh, now we traded away Rojas for Jace,, so….um….?” in 2024.

Makakilo: Add a quality pitcher to the rotation.

Steven: They have plenty of young starters waiting in the high levels of the minors that they don’t need to go out and pay over-inflated prices in order to fill but like catcher was a problem that they solved last off-season, 3rd base and LF needs to be addressed and no more stopgap band-aids. I think they match up well with the Pirates if they wanted another prospect for prospect trade.

What’s a song so terrible you can’t believe it’s popular?

Sam: That World Cup song that just goes “World Cu-u-up, World Cu-u-up…” I’m not even going to Google it to find out what it’s really called.

Keegan: I don’t listen to shitty music, so I can’t really tell you.

DBacksEurope: Basically every cheap cover of a song that was hugely popular in the past and gets to enjoy success because they are just covering it. Some “nothing else matters”-song from a few years back comes back to my mind.

Dano: I’m not sure how to answer this question, because lille Keegan, I don’t tend to listen to music that seems to me to be terrible. So I will take a different angle here, and mention a song that, despite it not being targeted toward me, or anything like what I have tended to listen to ever, nevertheless somehow got my attention and that I became really quite fond of, for no reason that I can offer or explain. That would be Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold,” of all things. I’m fairly certain that, empirically, it’s a pretty terrible song. I am aware that, for a while at least, it was very, very popular. But I still like it, and I still honestly don’t know why.