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SnakePit Round Table: Over .500!

I think it’s safe to say, 2023 has surpassed expectations so far!

(FILES)-AUSTRALIA OUT- This file photo d Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images

Ten games in: what do you think so far?

Spencer: I’m giddy with excitement. I think this team could be very dangerous all season. And will only get better with time/experience/promotions. That said, I also expect them to be fairly streaky in the early going. But enough bats have game changing skills that those streaks will get less problematic with MLB experience.

DBacksEurope: What’s up, amigos? Checking in from Morocco. Couldn’t see a live game except a couple of innings but watched the summaries and read the recaps here, so I could get some of the positive outcomes of the series we played. I am still somewhat skeptical because the starting rotation is a mess, pitchers walk way too many batters and we got some wins with just a few clutch hits. Doesn’t look like something you can build on but we have to be happy with what we’ve seen so far.

Justin: I like it. In the preseason prediction article, I said I was thinking we would go 4-6 during this 10 game stretch and we already have 5 wins with one game left to play today. Don’t forget we were what 2 outs away from winning in SD?

Something I thought was interesting that was posted by the AZ Snakepit twitter account last night (Saturday), “The win GUARANTEES the D-backs their best winning percentage for a season against the Dodgers since 2019. Yes, even if they lose every remaining game against LA…”

James: The rotation is in bigger trouble than I feared and the bullpen is still a wreck. That said, the offense is actually performing better than expected and the team has managed to play more or less .500 ball against two of the better teams in the NL. So, while I think the team has a very long way to go before they are actually competitive, I like the trajectory. If they are able to fix some of the problems without regression elsewhere, this team should be poised for some lovely success going forward.

ISH95: I see a lot of positives. The offense has, mostly, been holding their own against some of the best pitching staffs in the league. While the bullpen has hardly been elite, I’m not sure I’d classify them as a wreck like James does. We’re getting better than last year so far, and since a league average bullpen probably get us a wild card spot, I’m okay with it for now.

The rotation is concerning me. Gallen is struggling to adapt to the pitch clock, Bumgarner and Davies are who we thought they are. But five days from now, either Pfaadt or Jameson will be starting and that’s a good first step

Makakilo: This season’s Diamondbacks are an exciting team! Although my opinion about the rotation is still in flux, three points follow:

In the pre-season, I wrote that the offense needs an OBP of at least .3245 to compete. After a slow start, the following table shows they exceeded that level (and against two excellent teams). That is cause for great optimism. Data from Baseball Savant and Baseball Reference.

The following table shows that every pitcher in the bullpen is awesome in the measures that I wrote about in the preseason. Perhaps this is the best bullpen that the Diamondbacks have had in many years! Data from Baseball Reference.

The Diamondbacks defense is outstanding. So far, they are in a tie for 2nd-4th best defense in the Majors per The Fielding Bible. Through 8 April, their 4 DRS at shortstop is the best in the Majors.

Wesley: This is the most exciting team that the Dbacks have put together in the last decade. I’m extremely impressed with the defensive ability, baserunning, and offensive style of play by the team so far. The bullpen not being a total dumpster fire has also been enjoyable. Watching the game today, I’m really impressed when we are teeing off on the Dodgers.

Dano: I’m quite happy with us at this point, especially after the last three games. Per Justin, I would have been pretty happy with a 4-6 start against Los Angeles and San DIego to begin the year, and here we are, quite possibly alone at the top of the division depending on the outcome of the San Diego/Atlanta game this evening. The rotation is concerning, the bats have impressed a lot as they’ve started to wake up, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier with how the bullpen has performed thus far. Overall, I feel like this weekend I’ve watched this team play like the best possible versions of themselves. They are obviously not going to be able to sustain that, but when this team is firing on all cylinders, we’re actually really damn good. Haven’t been able to say, or even think, that in some time.

Ben: This is by far the most fun team I’ve watched for the D-Backs in recent memory. The pessimist in me says that this level of play probably won’t happen across a full 162-game season, but the team is dynamic and a pleasure to watch. My father, noted D-Back lover and baseball fanatic, has raved about how much fun they are to watch with the combination of speed and dynamism. There are definitely some cracks that are getting papered over - especially on the pitching side - but it’s too early to get a sense of what’s real and what’s a Sonoran mirage. Regardless of where they end up, this is going to be an incredibly fun season and a team that should (Hazen fingers crossed) get better with promotions and/or roster changes.

Who has impressed most so far?

Spencer: Drey Jameson. He was my pick for the rotation spot, and he’s showing why in the bullpen. Honorable mention goes to both Evan Longoria and Jake McCarthy whom I have been hard on in the recent past. Both have started to come alive and impressed me. I remain somewhat skeptical of Longo and Pavin just got called up to replace Lewis.

DBacksEurope: Jameson was great but his FIP suggests regression will come. I think Ahmed has looked solid and Rojas and Carroll are looking good too.

Justin: Yeah, Jameson and I’m going to say Carroll as well.

James: I’m torn between two players, so I’m just going to pick them both. As already stated by others, Jameson has been very impressive coming out of the bullpen. I like that he still shows that competitive fire, even though he’s not starting. While so many like to mistakenly compare his situation to what Archie Bradley went through, the one thing that stands out to me in this is that Jameson still looks fired up to be pitching at the MLB level, regardless of the capacity, whereas when Bradley first moved to the bullpen, he looked a bit deflated.

The second player is Corbin Carroll. Yes, we all knew he had the tools to be an impact player. The franchise just handed him a lucrative long-term deal. Depending on the list, he’s one of the top two to five prospects in the game. However, plenty of amazing prospects have been a bust, or at least stumbled hard out of the gate. Carroll does not seem to be having that difficulty. While his overall batting numbers are lower than where we want them to be, he’s showing signs of adapting. Like the rest of the team, he is having a hard time taking walks right now. Once that gets sorted, his batting profile should increase significantly. It’s nice to see the young rookies having early success.

ISH95: The obvious answers have been taken, so I’m going to throw out Perdomo. Kid has been on fire to start the season. In one of the roster prediction articles, I said that he would win the starting SS job out of Spring Training. I wasn’t right about the timing, but he is trying to make up for lost time

Makakilo: Although I enjoyed Gabriel Moreno throwing out runners, and Corbin Carroll’s speed, my choice for most impressive was between Geraldo Perdomo and Evan Longoria. Geraldo Perdomo’s 321 OPS+ was awesome especially in the context that so far his defense has earned +3 DRS at shortstop per The Fielding Bible. And yet Evan Longoria was involved in many successes in high leverage situations. In high leverage situations his sOPS+ was 552 in games through 8 April per Baseball Reference.

My final choice for most impressive was Geraldo Perdomo.

Wesley: I’ve definitely been most impressed by Geraldo Perdomo. He finally looks like the player prospect evaluators and scouts thought he was. I’ve been impressed with Jameson’s performance out of the bullpen, and just about everything Carroll does, but Perdomo really stands out to me, probably because our expectations have been set extremely low. He’s a MUCH better player than he’s shown in the big leagues in the past, and it’s really good to see him actually comfortable in MLB game. He’s come a long way from the overmatched rookie he was when he was called up the first time.

Moreno’s cannon of an arm has also been a very pleasant surprise. I knew he was excellent at throwing out baserunners and had a very strong throwing arm, but seeing it in action is an eye opener.

Dano: Yes, Jameson and Carroll, but my thinking is more in line with Mak, Wesley and ISH….Perdomo genuinely seems to figured out how to hit, which is really exciting. And Moreno’s arm has been lovely to see, especially in contrast to how we’ve been stealing with impunity against LA this weekend especially. And his bat seems to be coming around as well, and he’s beginning to seem like the real deal in that part of his game as well.

Ben: First, can we just bask in the fact that there are at least half a dozen, if not more, perfectly plausible answers to this question? We haven’t had a plethora of impressive players on the roster in several years if not almost a decade. Aside from that absolute blessing from the baseball gods, I would say Moreno has impressed me the most so far. He has absolutely stepped up into an almost impossible spot between the trade and then the Kelly injury. It would have been completely understandable - if disappointing - if he had started out slowly in any single aspect of the game, but he’s come out firing on all cylinders and looks like he’s ready to relegate Kelly to the backup role he probably merits.

Which of our starting pitchers concerns you most?

Spencer: Merrill Kelly. He’s looked shakier than I anticipated despite the WBC interfering with his ramp up. I’ve always been wary of him this year because of his age, his impressive 2022 workload, and the WBC appearance (results only adding to this), but I did expect his first half to be fairly reminiscent of 2022. Thus far, it has not lived up to that. Without him backing Gallen up, we’re really going to need Nelson/Jameson/Pfaadt/Henry to step up their rookie game.

DBacksEurope: All of them, except for Bumgarner because we already know he is done. I have to add that many pitchers in the league seem to struggle more than usual; that pitch clock is probably costing more time to adapt than expected.

Justin: I am going to go with Kelly. Wasn’t Gallen also struggling with the pitch clock messing with his rhythm.

James: My feelings are similar to those of DBE. I already expected Bumgarner and Davies to be dumpster fires. They haven’t failed to realize those expectations. As of this writing, Ryne Nelson has only had one outing. It wasn’t great, but I’ll take it from my #5 who is still learning the ropes. It was a serviceable start with some flashes of things to be excited about if they improve. Gallen’s struggles with the pace will continue to worry me until I see some progress on that front. The team needs him to be the ace he is capable of being if it is going to be a better than .500 team. Merrill Kelly’s struggles worry me the most. Part of it is his age. However, since he isn’t a power pitcher, I suspect he still has a few seasons left in the tank. But, he simply isn’t as sharp or as confident on the mound as he was in 2022. I still somewhat fear that 2022 is going to wind up being Kelly’s career-best season. The Diamondbacks need more like it. If he is a bit fatigued or just simply not fully wound yet, then the team needs to find the rest schedule to get him right. Arizona needs him to be someone that will go 180+ innings, not bow out after 150 on the season.

ISH95: I’m going to go with Gallen. If he can’t figure out the pitch clock, it is going to be a very long season for all of us. Bumgarner is probably my number two concern. Not for anything in his control, but for how long they’re going to let him stay in the rotation.

Wesley: Gonna have to agree with the Gallen/Kelly worries, since we were really counting on both to be good this year. Madbum concerns me with just how long of a leash he’s been given, and I worry that he’ll be left in the rotation for too long while being ineffective. However, if Gallen can’t figure it out, that’s a real blow to our chances at being competitive.

Makakilo: After only up-to-two starts for each pitcher, and because they faced great batters (Padres and Dodgers), their performances could change dramatically as the season unfolds. It’s unclear which pitcher concerns me most.

It’s unclear whether Bumgarner is lucky or unlucky to have an ERA of 7.27.

  • He was lucky because he left the game in the fifth inning against the Dodgers with bases loaded; Drey Jameson did not allow any inherited runners to score.
  • He was unlucky because 5 of his 7 earned runs happened in one unlucky inning.

Dano: Bum and Davies are, as others have noted, what we expected them to be. Ryne Nelson has been less sharp and impressive than he was in September, but he’s young, and I am reasonably confident he will figure it out. So I suppose that leaves Gallen and Kelly, but honestly, I’m not terribly concerned about either of them. Kelly’s preparation for the season was messed up by his participation in the WBC, so he’s still working up to being game-ready, but I’m confident he’ll get there. As for Gallen, it does seem like the pitch clock is messing him up, and I guess he’ll either figure it out or he won’t. Might take him awhile, given his track record in the past of being driven to distraction by pitching with runners on base, but I’m choosing to believe that he will get there before too much longer.

Ben: I would echo a lot of what’s above: Bumgarner truly looks lost out there and I wonder if/when Torey has a discussion with him and they try him out in the bullpen; the Gallen/Kelly combo has me worried with their inconsistency; and Davies was expected to at the very least eat some innings for a relatively young rotation. Even so, two starts apiece is still too small a sample size to take much of anything substantial away - even more so when you take into account two very good offenses in San Diego and LA.

How will the team replace Zach Davies?

Spencer: Realistically I expect Henry to be recalled since he provides some lefty insurance for when MadBum needs to be replaced. But I’d like to see them make Jameson a starter and recall a bullpen arm. Hendrix maybe if Davies needs a 60-day stay? Maybe make Jameson the starter, recall Henry and piggy-back the two of them until Jameson is back up to starting length, then re-option Henry for a true bullpen guy?

DBacksEurope: Is he out? With all due respect to Davies, I wish nobody harm, but, man, that is such a beautiful in your face for Mike Hazen. Didn’t we already mention multiple times here that Davies’ spot should have been given to one of our youngsters? I like what Spencer mentioned about calling up Henry, looks like the most logical thing to happen now. I still keep on mentioning Pfaadt though, although he was blown up in his first game in the PCL so the Diamondbacks probably have their argument to not call him up now, but he pitched fine again in his second game. I’d call Pfaadt up as soon as possible, no need to Bomber Harris him in the PCL. But: not going to happen with this front office.

Justin: It will probably be Henry. Who would I want? Pfaadt.

James: I fully expect Henry to be called up. How things shake out after that, I think some of that will depend on Bumgarner, some will depend on the schedule. They could just slot Henry into the rotation and be done. Or, they might try sliding Jameson back into the rotation at some point and let Henry take Jameson’s spot in the bullpen, even if it takes a couple of starts to make it work because of rest and performance issues. I do wish Pfaadt had come out and shoved in his first outing of the season, keeping the pressure on the front office to finally promote him. I do sincerely believe that they are now wasting bullets down in Reno.

ISH95: If they’re going to do it, now is the time to put Jameson back in the starting rotation. If they wait much longer, it will be too dangerous to his arm to get him stretched back out. Hazen already said he didn’t want to consign one of the prospects to the bullpen for the season so early, plus Jameson is one of “our 13 best pitchers” so in thinking bullpen game with Jameson as the opener to start stretching him back out.

Wesley: I would like to see Drey Jameson slotted into the rotation, or Pfaadt called up. Not much I can add that hasn’t already been said. Torey Lovullo just announced that Jameson would be slotted into Davies spot in the rotation, and I think that’s the best case scenario for us.

Makakilo: Wesley is correct. Torey Lovullo stated that Drey Jameson will join the rotation.

The Diamondbacks selected Peter Solomon from AAA Reno. Likely, he would be a long reliever to replace Drey Jameson because in September of 2021, for the Astros he pitched three games with 3 or 4 innings pitched in each game. In spring training, he pitched a total of 6.2 innings over 3 games with an ERA of 1.35.

On Sunday, Peter Solomon pitched 2 innings of relief. He struck out 1 batter out of 11, and the batters whiffed 4 times in 43 pitches.

Also on Sunday, the Diamondbacks acquired relief pitcher Jose Ruiz from the White Sox. His statistics are in the following table:

Dano: Yep, it’s Jameson, which I’m perfectly happy with. My only concern with that move is that he’s proven to be invaluable in his bullpen role over the first ten games, and I don’t think that Peter Solomon, who is supposed to be the new long guy, will match up. Two garbage-time innings this afternoon, and he gave up 3 ER on three hits and two walks. To be fair, it was the guy’s first time on a major-league mound since 2021, and he didn’t have a lot of experience in that first stint, so maybe he will settle in. But solid long relief feels like it will be key for us, at least until Gallen and Kelly get closer to being right.

Ben: I mean, the hope is that Jameson, the named replacement, will do substantially better than just replace Davies through two rough starts, but I think the bigger concern will be how the other bullpen arms slot in after Peter Solomon comes in to replace Drey. It’s still early and I’m plus-minus on how much weight to add to the idea that bullpen pitchers like knowing their “roles,” but given how inconsistent the bullpen has been at times *McGough* *McGough* further destabilizing it with changes isn’t my favorite notion even if there isn’t much of a realistic option. I think the better question will be what happens to Jameson once Davies comes off the IL? And for that, I truly do not know what will happen.

How is the NL West shaping up?

Spencer: For now it looks mighty bleh all around. But both LAD and SD are missing key pieces (Lux, Rojas, Musgrove among others), so they’ll end up at the top as health permits with AZ behind them. Then SF and finally COL I think.

DBacksEurope: So far the Dodgers have been less impressive, as expected, the Padres have been less impressive, as not expected, while the Rockies have been better than expected. The Diamondbacks and Giants are probably in the line of expectations. Looks like the Dodgers won’t run away with the division this year, which is always a good thing.

Justin: I am hoping for a 3 team race. I would expect us to be more contenders for the wildcard rather than the division itself…unless something drastic happens.

James: It is still early days, but I think the division is shaping up about as expected. The Dodgers are still the team to beat, despite what injuries have done to them. San Diego is having its struggles, but they are still missing talent on the field. The Diamondbacks are currently exceeding expectations against those two teams, but I also think that as the season progresses and things start to balance out, Arizona will still be the firm favourites for third in the division.I do think the Giants are only one or two moves away from blowing up that theory entirely. Then there is Colorado. Hey, at least they play in a beautiful stadium.

ISH95: Short term, better than expected. I didn’t really foresee waking up on Easter Morning to the Diamondbacks being tied for first!! All in all though, the division seems to be pretty much what we thought it was going to be.

Wesley: I did not expect to have the team in first place in the NL West at the end of Easter Day. I do think we’ve been lucky in terms of injuries vs the Dodgers and Padres who have had some key injuries and being able to walk away with a 6-4(!) record despite that horrid run differential in that first series. It eally feels like the D’Backs stand a chance at competing for the NL West.

Makakilo: My sincere hope is that the Diamondbacks compete for a wild card berth.

Secondarily, they have a real chance to finish the season ahead of the Giants. In the first 8 games, Giants pitching has allowed an average of 5 runs a game, with a minimum of 3 runs allowed in every game. Giants’ pitching, especially relief pitching, will sink the Giants.

Dano: Los Angeles seems to be a lesser version of the team they’ve been in recent years. San Diego has a terrifying lineup, but they don’t seem to be crazy dominant thus far, though that could change, and change quickly. We have played them both, and played them pretty tight. I don’t think we contend this year, but it begins to look like we will at least be in the conversation in the NL West. Our ceiling is probably third place this year, but given how well we’ve started off against LA especially, who knows?

Ben: I think it could be a really fun division to watch all year honestly. It’s been a hot minute since the Dodgers were underdogs in the division or the league, the Padres have a chip on their shoulder to prove all that money was worth something, the Giants are still reeling from the whirlwind that was their offseason, and the Rockies are…present. Competitively, this still seems like a three-team race between the D-Backs, Padres, and Dodgers, but maybe I have my Snakepit goggles on at the moment. I won’t go so far as to say the D-Backs could win the division, but a second-place finish isn’t out of the realm of possibility and I think third-place is a reasonable expectation given the early results.

You’ve been murdered. What fictional detective would you want to solve the case?

Spencer: This is so vague. How was I murdered? Was I a victim of opportunity? Was it part of a serial case? Are we talking violently? Mundanely? What was the method? With such a lack of information, I guess I’m going to pick the BAU from peak Criminal Minds (Season 6ish 2010). And I better have been the victim that makes the murderer start devolving.

DBacksEurope: I’ll pick Steven Seagal from the 80s and 90s. Too many people died in Holmes’ and Poirot’s adventures before they’d kidnap the killer. Steven Seagal is maybe a bit unconventional here as a detective and not a real one, if you push me, but you at least know that he doesn’t stop until he finds the one responsible between all the hundreds of other criminals he kills before getting the mastermind. On top of that innocent people usually don’t die during his relentless quests. But am I supposing here that I am getting killed by some kind of a big mob boss? That was probably a mistake because I am such an honest man.

James: As someone who has devoured detective stories for decades, this one is difficult to answer for me. I can’t help but overthink it. So, I’m just going to drop the first name that comes to mind that isn’t Holmes or Poirot - Harry Dresden. At least, if he is investigating my murder, it means I am living in a world of magic and fairies, and I rather like that idea. Otherwise, I’d probably be partial to Detective William Murdoch of the Murdoch Mysteries. Honorable mention goes to Charlie Chan.

ISH95: Harry Dresden is a good choice, though for the last few books (the most recent novella excluded) Butcher seems to have forgotten Dresden is actually a detective.

For me. Ms. Marple.

Makakilo: Nero Wolfe. Hopefully, my murder happens at a baseball game (it would be fun if the motive was that my imagination & optimism were beyond enduring) and Ken Kendricks decides to hire Nero Wolfe (at an outrageous fee) because SnakePit writers are part of the Diamondbacks’ family. While solving the case, man-of-action Archie eats a meal at Chase, while Nero can’t bear to hear Archie tell him about that meal. Key to solving the case is finding a beautiful woman of mystery who suddenly disappeared, but left behind her bandana.

Wesley: Jessica Fletcher or Hercule Poirot would get the job done, but I’m gonna go with Batman. Not any of the movie versions of Batman though, since they are all far from the “World’s greatest detective” that he is in the comics. Or Detective Conan for the people out the who prefer manga and anime over Western Media.

Dano: I tend to read a lot of police procedural series, which tend to be location-dependent, so I suppose it would depend where I was murdered. If I were killed out in the Yorkshire countryside, I would hope DCI Alan Banks (Peter Robinson) would bring my killer to justice. If I were murdered in Vermont, Joe Gunther (Archer Mayor) and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation would have me covered. If it happens here in southern Arizona, I suppose I would hope to get Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady (JA Jance) solving the crime.

Ben: I’ve never been a big detective/mystery fan so I’ll just go with an obvious answer of Poirot even if he would probably spend more time lecturing than actually solving. I’m much more interested in the circumstances surrounding my death a la Spencer’s questions. Knowing my luck, I’d be killed in some bizarre, almost comical way instead of something heroic.