Arizona remains top of the NL West. Does this feel sustainable?
Keegan: Does top of the division feel sustainable? Probably not. A chance at a wild card? Possibly, but I even say that with reservations. It took a 9-to-0 victory last night to get their run differential to a break even point. The Dodgers and Padres are underperforming and still not far behind. Regardless, this is undoubtedly a competitive team that doesn’t feel hopeless which is a drastic improvement over recent seasons. The front office obviously sees that and feels a sense of urgency to build on the early momentum with the decision to cut Madison Bumgarner loose which was absolutely the right decision. That sends a message to the players that the front office is willing to make decisions that favor results on the field over money tied up in dead contracts.
Makakilo: It’s been fun to amaze my friends by bragging that the Diamondbacks are in first place in their Division. Nevertheless, after a pause, I tell them it probably won’t last until the end of the season because the Padres and the Dodgers are among the best teams in the Majors.
More fun than bragging is to realize that the chances of earning a wild card berth are real. I tip my hat to Jim McLennan who wrote that the odds likely exceed 40% for teams who start the season with the win-loss record of the Diamondbacks.
Let’s look at a second perspective. Let’s compare this season’s win-loss record to 2017, when the Diamondbacks earned a wild-card berth.
- Through the first 22 games, the Diamondbacks’ 12-10 record is just a little short of 2017’s record of 14-8. Despite falling short, please note they played 4 series with the Dodgers and Padres.
- Happily, the next two series are against the Royals (5-17) and the Rockies (6-17). If the Diamondbacks win 5 of their next 7 games (not unreasonable) they will be on track to match the 93 wins from 2017.
ISH95: I’m not sure? On the one hand, this doesn’t seem like a good enough team to win a division just yet, but on the other, neither of the Dodgers or Padres do either? This is the most mortal the Dodgers have been in years, possibly since McCourt sold the team. With a bit of luck, I think they could pull it off. I’m still not betting the family farm on it, though.
Spencer: Why not? San Diego may finally be putting everything together, but they also have a LOT of ego in that clubhouse and they have yet to find a way to truly make it gel. Los Angeles is… um, good? I don’t want to discount them because they are LA and have unlimited resources for mid/early season upgrades if they want to go that route. But this Arizona team has the feel of something special too. Realistically, I expect us to regress and end up with the 2nd/3rd Wild Card position (hopefully not just out). But my optimism will be sky-high if we can pull out a series split against SD and then have a great week against KC and COL. One of my biggest fears is that this team ends up playing to its opponents skill level rather than its own this season. If that happens, we’ll miss the playoffs entirely.
Dano: No, probably not, but that’s fine. We’re already better this year than I had expected going in. If the Doyers keep sucking and San Diego keeps underperforming in terms of their perceived roster quality, then who knows? We could. But I don’t think that’s likely–both of those teams should be better than their current records reflect, and I expect both of them will begin getting results going forward that will be more in line with preseason expectations. But whatever, it’s a whole lot of fun, however long it lasts.
Steven: It’s kind of a shock they’re where they are today at the top of the division. They haven’t played particularly well - especially pitching-wise, but the team just battles and strings together runs. It’s an enjoyable team but unless the pitching turns a sharp corner, the offense won’t be able to recover. Until then, enjoy the ride and competitive play!
DBacksEurope: They could be somewhat competitors, but are probably not real contenders. Keegan already mentioned the Pythagorean record (indirectly) and I still think we miss a couple of real impact bats. Besides, the bullpen and starting rotation miss a couple of good 1-2-3 pitchers. On the other hand, you have to take advantage of a Dodger and Padres team that don’t look as strong as before and the Diamondbacks are doing exactly that, so kudos to the team.
Ben: The pessimist in me says no. I think the D-Backs will be in contention throughout the season, but there are some holes that will need to be filled to try and win this division. I agree though that both the Padres and Dodgers look beatable for the first time in what feels like forever. I think it will come down to how well the D-Backs play against the lesser competition. To date, they have played almost exclusively “contenders” regardless of their current records. The only series they’ve lost coincidentally comes against the only team that doesn’t fall into that category in the Marlins. You have to take advantage of those games and that will be an interesting dynamic to watch over the rest of the season.
Wesley: I think we need to go back and look at the expectations we had before the season started, because if I told you that the Diamondbacks would come out of the toughest stretch of the season, with a winning record and tied with the Dodgers for first place, you’d be either ecstatic or you’d be in complete disbelief. The optimist in me thinks that the Dbacks can stay in contention, at least on paper, especially now that the Diamondbacks have an easier stretch of opponents ahead, and with the likelyhood the young players will improve further.. The pessimist in me says “That’s a wrap folks, better luck next year, since its all downhill from here!!” but that isn’t exactly a realistic take either. The realist in me says it’s still too early to really predict anything, especially based on just 14% of a season, and not even a full month yet. If the team is below .500 after this stretch of games featuring the last place Royals, Rockies, Nationals, and As… then the season and our playoff hopes are definitely done.
What position on the team concerns you most?
Keegan: Beginning of the season was the pitching staff and I’ll stick with that. A large overlooked portion of the team’s success has been the performance of the pitching staff outside of MadBum. Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly give the team a chance to win every single time they take the mound. Andrew Chafin has been reliable at the back end of the pen. My concern is that an injury or a little bit of regression causes this team to struggle, so hopefully guys like Tommy Henry, Brandon Pfaadt, Ryne Nelson, and Drey Jameson can show some MLB staying power to ease those concerns.
Makakilo: Although the rotation is not a big concern, it’s an unpredictable wildcard because it’s likely that for at least a couple months the rotation will include three pitchers with little experience (less than 10 games started in the Majors prior to this season). In my report card article, I gave the Diamondbacks a C on the rotation because it would be about the same as last season. Perhaps that prediction was wrong. With Zach Davies injured and the DFA of Bumgarner, the rotation is different – and optimistically better than last season.
When Mike Hazen explained the DFA of Madison Bumgarner, he explained they wanted to wait longer because there is no realistic possibility of acquiring a starting pitcher in the next couple months. Maybe that sounds like a dire comment, but it’s very encouraging that the Diamondbacks would consider acquiring a pitcher for their rotation – albeit it requires faith and hope that if the right opportunity happens, the Diamondbacks will find the money despite not receiving their contractual payment(s) for cable broadcasting of their games. Truly, it would be a small miracle. But miracles happen.
ISH95: So one day, this group of about ten athletes walks into Scott Boras’s office. Boras meets them by the door, introduces himself, and they all shake hands. Boras says, “Before I can represent you, I have to know what you do as a group.” They briefly talk amongst themselves before a leader, tall man with an impressive mustache wearing a cowboy hat and a sheriff’s badge replies, “maybe it’s best if we just show you…”
Next thing Boras knows, pandemonium breaks out. There are guys throwing wild pitches, home runs are flying, out of nowhere, there are a bunch of baserunners and they are all just doing laps all around the office. Two of the athletes start constructing a scoreboard right there on his desk, and the visiting team’s score just keeps going up, and up, and up. Meanwhile, the guy with the cowboy hat is just throwing pitch after pitch at the wall until his whole arm just falls off right where he’s standing! Then he just starts throwing with his other arm! Another guy is running around the room at nearly 100 MPH but he has absolutely no control and is just plowing through anyone who happens to be in his way. Off in the corner there is an older guy with a walker babbling on about how he used to be a great closer, but a couple younger guys just shoved him out of the way.
So much is happening and Scott Boras has no idea where to look. He’s never seen such a poor display of baseball ability in his career. It’s frankly just nauseating and disgusting. Finally he’s able to make himself heard over the commotion and screams, “WHAT DO YOU CALL THIS DISASTER?!” From a broken pile, the man with the mustache, now without any arms left, replies…
Jim: I feel some context for this may be helpful.
I am irrationally proud of this— ISH95 (@imstillhungry95) April 23, 2023
Spencer: What a story ISH, what a story. You painted a moving picture with words. The pitching bothers me too. While I am a fan of living/dying by the young arms in the rotation, there isn’t a single bullpen arm I trust coming out right now. Mantiply and Chafin have looked pretty good, and McGough has been solid recently too, but it’s still April… Remember second half Mantiply in 2022? Remember early Melancon 2022?! Good news, for once, we actually have names in Reno that I trust almost as much to take the mound in case of injury/ineffectiveness (that’s not to say I WANT them pitching, just that I don’t think the cliff is nearly as big as it has been recently).
Sad shout out to the struggles of McCarthy/Thomas/Gurriel. Pavin has been a nice salve for their issues, but if it persists too much longer, I will be itching for a Fletcher/Canzone cameo…
Dano: Yeah, the bullpen, probably–beautifully imagined, ISH! I think I’m fine with the rotation–it’ll certainly be an adventure from time to time, and having so many rookie starters may well bite us in the posterior, but I prefer to give the kids time to start finding their way in the big leagues. Bullpen is better than last year, but it still has that found-object-art-installation vibe, and who knows when or if a stiff wind will come along and blow it all down.
Steven: Outside of Gallen, the pitchers have been awful. You can’t expect to win many games giving up 5 runs a game and without a dependable bullpen. For all the new faces in the bullpen it’s the same results. At some point, you’ll need to invest long term at the position right?
DBacksEurope: Steven sums up my thoughts.
Ben: The easy answer is the bullpen. I have little trust in any of the arms coming out of there at the moment, but it’s also one that can be the most easily addressed through trades or promotions. There are a few areas on the offense that give me some pause - especially the Pavin Smith/Jake McCarthy/Alek Thomas trio - but the team has been able to paper over their struggles so far.
Wesley: The Bullpen is the easy and obvious answer, but I think Ben is right about some of the offensive struggles being a mildly concerning, especially our league worst walk rate.
The Bumgarner era ends. What are your thoughts?
Keegan: Absolutely the right call, no doubt about it. I think Hazen’s media interview was very telling in that he said he felt a sense of urgency with the team’s performance. You make that move because it’s addition by subtraction. Every time Madison took the mound I was expecting a loss, and you can’t let that drag on for too long. I’m hoping that it’s also a future warning to the front office that they need to be very selective with who they hand out free agent contracts to. The writing was on the wall with Madison towards the end of his time in San Francisco. When signing a starting pitcher on the wrong side of 30, you better be confident that they are willing to adapt their game as their stuff diminishes. Zack Greinke was able to do that. Madison Bumgarner was not.
Makakilo: Two comments follow:
I liked Mike Hazen’s comments about the importance of having a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency drives actions that can lead to success. My view is that Kim Ng, GM of the Marlins, has a similar sense of urgency. My explanation will likely post on Tuesday.
Uncharacteristically, when he was acquired, my December 2019 comments were largely negative with very light positives. Despite my natural optimism, sometimes my opinion differs and I have the cajones to tell it like I see it. My opinion of signing Bumgarner was spot on. Here is a link to the December 2019 AZ Snake Pit article.
- no chance the Diamondbacks would want to sign Bumgarner
- loss of draft pick
- traded away better pitcher in Greinke
- reasoning for signing Bumgarner was not immediately clear
- maybe they can make Bumgarner better
- Eno Sarris wrote that Bumgarner was biggest competitor in baseball
- flexibility to trade Patrick Corbin for center fielder
- flexibility with younger pitchers
ISH95: I’m not really sure what else can be said at this point. It needed to be done. It probably should have been done last year, and it definitely should not have happened in the first place. Now it’s time to see what the kids can do.
Spencer: Let’s move on. No sense crying over spilt milk right? We collectively let Yasmany leave our consciousness most of the time, ditto Greinke’s remaining money. Let’s do the same thing and focus on the future. Hopefully that’s another youthful extension or two and a free agency and/or trading splash. Ohtani anyone? Burnes? Chapman? There are options to consider moving forward that can help bring us all the success we so desperately want!
Dano: Good riddance.
Steven: A welcome surprise. I honestly expected them to roll him out there for another 30 starts but they finally believed in sunk cost and realized he was a negative out there. That was Part 1, but now let’s see what Pfaadt can do at the MLB level, regardless of how Henry does. Go all in, and don’t have ass this.
DBacksEurope: We had some discussions on this. My take is that I was happy when they signed him and now I am happy he is gone. Didn’t expect the front office to take the decision they made, but they did, so it looks like this season they are more committed to winning than before and that is good.
Ben: I was a little surprised to see how quickly and dispassionately the entire organization seemed to cut bait on him. It was a little over a week ago that Torey was giving Bumgarner the tacit approval to stay in the rotation, but that almost immediately shifted after that last disastrous start in St Louis. Honestly, given my lack of confidence in the bullpen, I would have been willing to give him a shot there as a multi-inning/mopup option as a final alternative before cutting him, but the FO either didn’t think it was worth it or Bumgarner himself vetoed the idea.
Wesley: There’s video evidence of me saying that “Ownership isn’t going to just DFA & release Madbum, and definitely not any time soon” on the most recent episode of Baby Backs Banter. Although I was aiming for a reverse jinx, I still was extremely surprised to see them actually do it.
How long will Zac Gallen’s scoreless streak last?
Keegan: Very good chance we will see him break his own team record set last season. He is dialed in right now.
Makakilo: Last season, his scoreless streak was 44.1 innings. This season’s Diamondbacks are better; their defense (16 DRS per The Fielding Bible) is second best in the Majors. My over/under is 50.5 innings.
ISH95: 60+. Let’s make history.
Wesley: Jumping in here purely to say that If he falls short of that mark ISH95, I want you to know that it is PERSONALLY your fault because you jinxed him saying that.
ISH95: Add it to my tab :)
Spencer: His next start is against KC. Their offense is 28th in runs/game. After that, it’s shaping up to be the Texas Rangers. Their offense is currently 2nd in runs/game. I love Zac. I think he’s excellent. I think he’ll meet Torey’s “give me 21 outs” on April 26th against the Royals. But I’m not sure about Texas. So I’ll say he makes it through another 10.2 innings before allowing a run to score. That gets him through an anemic lineup and once through a juggernaut lineup. His streak would end at 32.1
Dano: I have no idea. Spencer’s guess seems the most plausible of the above, though I am truly charmed by the more exuberant optimism of others. I’d say 30-35 myself.
Steven: He’s on a roll, but all it takes is one bad pitch. I think it’s done next outing.
DBacksEurope: Who knows?
Ben: I’ll be that person and piggyback off of Spencer’s excellent deduction to settle at 34 scoreless innings.
Wesley: I’m gonna predict that it ends against the Royals just because I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than assume that they’ll roll over so easily. Even another 10 or so innings is probably an unrealistic expectation to have. However, the Royals have really only two above average hitters so far in Vinnie Pasquantino and Bobby Witt Jr(by wRC+), with a third in Matt Duffy who is the definition of small sample size syndrome. MJ Melendez is likely an above average hitters long term, but he’s had bad luck so far, with a super low Batting Average On Balls In Play. If I was gonna predict a hitter to get hot against us, it’s him.
Should Geraldo Perdomo be the everyday shortstop?
Keegan: Well… by as early as next season he very well might be! He’s been highly impressive this season and has blossomed into a respectable every day player. I’m fine with him platooning with Ahmed for this final season before taking over the reins full time next year.
Makakilo: Yes. Let’s quickly compare the two players. Note defensive runs saved only included shortstop.
ISH95: Back when we looked at the potential Opening Day Roster in December, I said that I thought that Perdomo would/should be the starter on Opening Day. I’m going to stick with that and still say he should be the starter. The Age of Ahmed is at an end. The Age of Perdomo has begun.
Spencer: I certainly don’t see a better option on the active roster… I’m a big Perdomo fan, but I’m not confident he’ll be the everyday SS for long, if ever. The platoon we have going with Ahmed and Perdomo is working well. And Perdomo’s ability to hit with RISP is incredible. That’s a potent weapon to have on the bench as a pinch-hitter. Plus, there’s a 6’1 190lb shadow waiting to make his mark this summer or next. If everything progresses the way it’s trending currently, Hazen and company could have another “good problem” on their hands very soon.
Dano: Yes. I doubt he will be….we’re still paying Ahmed a fair amount of $$$, and I imagine that there will be an inclination to use him because we’re paying him. But I would much rather see Perdomo in the lineup for any given game than I would Ahmed. No offense, Nick.
Steven: Shoutout Nick Ahmed for coming back and making this a competition, but Perdomo deserves all the at-bats he can get after his offseason work has translated into regular season results. Thankfully there are a number of teams that could use him - the Dodgers, Cleveland, Angels, Boston, and even more teams that are still in the running.
DBacksEurope: Well, I think Nick Ahmed has looked good too, but he will be gone after this season and the way Perdomo is playing he should be given the job while he is hot, so, yeah, Perdomo should be the everyday shortstop no matter how much I love Nick Ahmed.
Ben: It’s great to have the platoon to take advantage of any splits that might exist against an individual pitcher, but I’m all in on Geraldo at this point. I think his combination of speed, above-average defense, and age/skill ceiling puts him over Ahmed at this point in my mind. At the same time, it wouldn’t shock me if they try to parlay Ahmed into a trade that can help with other areas.
Wesley: I clearly predicted the demise of Nick Ahmed too early, and for that I’m glad he’s proven me wrong. Now that’s been said and is out of the way, Perdomo should be the everyday shortstop going forward. The only thing else I can add to the discussion is that with the way Jordan Lawler and Ryan Bliss have hit in Amarillo so far, it won’t be long before we will need to make some moves to make room for them to play everyday. That doesn’t even get into our options in AAA. On a side note, Perdomo and Bliss together would be the best defensive SS/2B combo in the league RIGHT NOW, and probably in Dback history.
What has been discontinued, but you miss like hell and you wish was still available?
Keegan: Lemon flavored jolly ranchers. One of the best candies out there that weirdly makes a reappearance every now and then.
Makakilo: Perhaps I miss like hell products that last more than 5 years before breaking. When my washing machine with a ten year warranty started leaking oil, the repair person explained to me that it is not honored on Oahu. Therefore I bought a new washing machine. Fortunately it was on special and the oil did not stain the tile. When I find competent and trustworthy repair people I save their contact information as more valuable than gold bars.
ISH95: The Oakland A’s /rimshot
Spencer: Pre-Disney Star Wars… I was at Half-Priced Books yesterday with my brother and I found a first edition copy of a novel from before the dark times of the Sequel Trilogy and I was ecstatic (like a 29-year-old man legit squealed in a bookstore - nobody found it odd…)! I only need four more to complete my collection (plus a few others if I can find the rare copy that was published right before Disney put their stupid yellow “Legends’’ banner on the cover).
Yes I know I can still find the copies, and if I get desperate I can just buy the money-grabbing versions Disney is releasing. And yes, from most accounts, Favereau is going to be using pre-Disney stories in the way Marvel uses comics as inspiration for their movies/tv shows, but it’s not the same. I miss the characters, I miss the continuation of their stories and the reader’s connection to characters built through decades of different brains publishing their story using the same characters. That is what is missing now. Even dynamic Disney characters, or ones who change over the course of multiple entries (lol still waiting on this one Mr. Mouse), don’t feel as organic because the changes are decided by one or two people’s preferences, not 7 different authors telling unique stories. And no offense to the minds that be at Lucasfilm, but they are no GRRM or Tolkien.
Dano: Plenty of things, but the first one that pops to mind is lime Starbursts. Dunno how many people remember those, as they were replaced by cherry in the usual candy aisle pack within the first couple of years.
Wesley: Nerds blizzards were the thing I was salty about forever, but I’m still mad about the Tucson Sidewinders leaving town and becoming the El Paso Chihuahuas, and the AAA affiliate becoming the Reno Aces. A good smart ownership would have put more effort into keeping an affiliate in Tucson to keep building the Dbacks Fanbase.. afterall a 1/7th of Arizona’s Population lives in the Tucson metro area.
Spider-man comics that actually have an actual adult Peter Parker. Marvel are this
Ben: There are definitely some products I miss from my childhood (late 90s and early 00s), but I suspect a lot of that connection is a result of nostalgia glasses/childhood taste buds rather than a genuinely good product. I remember very vividly the first time I had Coco Puffs as a child, but I sincerely doubt they would be as tasty as an adult.
Wesley: Gonna have to disagree mildly with you Ben, at leadt I’ve made a nerd blizzard since then lby getting a blizzard with zero mix ins, then adding Nerds and mixing them in at home, and it lives up to memory! Though to be fair that applies to everything else.