Another week in first, as the schedule softens. Thoughts at the end of the first month?
Justin: I would say better than expected easily. Just looked at who we face in May, really only 3 games against Pittsburgh (!!!) will be against a tough team right now.
Makakilo: The Diamondbacks continuing in first place in the NL West is a source of joy and good feelings. The Diamondbacks are exceeding my optimistic expectations. That’s more than OK - success feels much better than being right in my expectations.
Almost certainly, this is a season for the Diamondbacks to go an extra mile to reach the playoffs. Nevertheless, sustainability remains a high priority, so the extra mile should be less than trading away the best prospects for half-season rentals as might happen in an “all-in” approach. An exception is if the Diamondbacks negotiate an extension on their acquired player so it is much more than a half-season rental.
ISH95: I think Derek Montilla is going to look great with purple hair. I think that the Dodgers and Padres are pretty flawed. I think that the Dbacks are too, but simultaneously less and more than we expected. Finally I think the Diamondbacks magic number is 134 as of Saturday night.
Spencer: I’m pleased. Worried because of the youth, but I’d rather be watching the future than other teams’ pasts. I’m still worried this team will play to its opponents skill…
Wesley: I think any Dbacks fan would be ecstatic with the performance of the team so far. I’m beginning to think that perhaps we tempered our expectations a little too much preseason. The team isn’t even firing on all cylinders, so I’m hopeful that the team can improve and play even better going forward,
Steven: Just a competitive, well coached team that never gives up. They’re flawed, in some glaring and non-glaring ways, but it’s an exciting group that plays hard and doesn’t strike out. I’m excited to see if it’s an early season mirage or if the success will continue.
Ben: I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a D-Backs fan that would be displeased with the overall results thus far. There are plenty of worries to be had around the edges - especially with the pitching and the sheer amount of youth on the team - but they’ve been remarkably competitive and have shown an impressive maturity for their youth. It’s been a fun team to watch this year so far and I’m hoping they can keep it up as long as they can!
Dano: Very pleased, and pleasantly surprised. This isn’t going to be an easy year, but it’s already leaps and bounds better than the last few, and the improvement we’ve seen is sustainable. Plenty of concerns, still, but we’re moving in the right direction.
James: Pleasantly surprised to see the team doing so well, despite the terrible choice of starting the season with both Bumgarner and Davies in the rotation. Melancon’s injury, while unfortunate to be sure, has been addition by subtraction. It sure would be nice if the arms coming in to fill the bullpen from Reno made it difficult for Melancon to work his way back into the mix. But, for now, I shall enjoy the modest success the team is experiencing. While I do think that finishing a game or two above .500 is sustainable, I do not think the team has much of a chance to finish atop the division unless there are some very big breakouts or catastrophic injuries that come into play.
If the All-Star game was held today, how many D-backs past Zac Gallen would appear?
Justin: I think Perdomo or Carroll. They are 1 and 2 in offensive WAR and total WAR, OPS and OPS+. Perdomo is #2 behind Moreno in defensive WAR. I can actually see Moreno too, a little. Pitching wise, I think Castro or Chafin might get a little talk but not enough.
I am going with Perdomo. Because why not.
Edit- I wrote the above BEFORE Saturday’s game….
Makakilo: Four additional Diamondbacks are worthy of appearing in the All-Star game if it was held today.
- Corbin Carroll would generate fan interest because of his speed and power (his speed-power metric ranked #3 in the NL per Baseball Reference). Unfortunately, if it was held today, he might skip it so that his knee “contusion” has time to heal.
- Geraldo Perdomo. On 29 April, he had 3 hits (4 RBIs) in 5 PAs. Prior to that excellent game, through 28 April, his batting average and wOBA ranked best among qualified shortstops in the Majors per the Baseball Savant leaderboard. His slugging (SLG) ranked second best among shortstops in the Majors. His 11.24 RE24 ranked 4th best among all players in the NL per Baseball Reference. And shortstop defense is vitally important. Geraldo Perdomo’s defense is outstanding. His 2 DRS at shortstop ranked 6th best in the Majors per The Fielding Bible.
- Jose Ruiz. Relief pitchers with All-Star potential are often overlooked. Jose Ruiz deserves serious consideration. Jose Ruiz pitched 6 innings in his latest 5 appearances. He allowed zero earned runs, 3 hits, zero walks, and struck out 6 batters. The following deeper stats show that after a slump at the start of the season he bounced back to pitching very well. For details see this AZ Snake Pit article.
- Gabriel Moreno. As he keeps gaining experience and improves his batting (his expected stats from Statcast are better than his actual stats), Gabriel Moreno will soon reach the All-Star game. He is outstanding in throwing out runners. For details see this AZ Snake Pit article which is likely to post on Tuesday.
ISH95: I feel confident in saying that Gallen will be the only Dbacks representative in the actual All Star Game. Seems like that kind of season where the team does well, but the players won’t get recognition. Carroll probably has the best chance of any.
Spencer: I could definitely see Gallen, Carroll and Moreno in the conversation come July. But I expect Gallen is the only one to actually make it.
Wesley: As of today, Perdomo. He leads the team in fWAR, and has been the most valuable position player so far. I think it’s still a little too early to be naming All-Stars. I think Carroll and Moreno will be in the conversations come July, but a lot can change between then and now with all the players discussed. Ruiz could turn back into a pumpkin and be bad enough to erase any positive value he’s accrued so far. That applies to every player; look at Juan Soto on the Padres. You’d think he’d return to form by now, but he’s been terrible in about a season’s worth of ABs now. Is he going to stay terrible or will he return to being the guy he was for the Nationals? I honestly don’t know but my point is that a lot can change in a couple months.I think we’ll have a better idea at the end of May.
Steven: 0. It’s a star driven event. The team is just too new to the general public to garner any other recognition than the best pitcher. Even then, are we really expecting Gallen to be voted on by the fans?
Ben: I think Perdomo has the best chance based on statistics, but it would likely come down to the manager selecting him rather than being a fan selection. That being said, it’s also possible that Corbin could garner enough media attention to get some votes from the fans that pay close attention.
Dano: Yeah, it’s only gonna be Gallen, most likely. Carroll seems possible, because he’s actually received some positive coverage beyond the local baseball press, and while Perdomo and Moreno feel deserving to us, nobody else in the country even knows who these guys are at this point.
James: Going by performance, it is hard to argue against Perdomo, or even Carroll. I also don’t expect that either one will get an invite this year. Although, if Carroll shakes off the thumping his knee took last night, then he might still find a way to put himself on the ASG map by finding yet another gear and putting himself far out in front of the rest of the pack for ROY. If that happens, he might squeeze out an invite. Being a corner OF without 40 HR power makes it tough though.
When will Brandon Pfaadt make his debut?
Justin: * sigh * it happens when it happens. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.
Makakilo: Based on spring training results, Brandon Pfaadt would have been my choice to start the season in the rotation. With the DFA of Madison Bumgarner, and with Drey Jameson’s need to adjust to be more of a pitcher and less of a power thrower, perhaps Brandon Pfaadt’s debut will happen sooner than expected. My hope would be that it happens in May.
The following table shows my latest comparison (data through game on 30 April from Baseball Reference and MLB.com). Not included was Jameson’s AAA start on 29 April (6 ER in 4 IP) because it was assumed he was changing his pitching style to rely less on power throwing.
ISH95: Probably in a day ending in “y” beyond that though, I’ve kind of stopped guessing. It would seem logical that he’d be coming up soon, if Lovullo actually wants a fifth starter. But there are other options.
Spencer: I will stick with my guesstimate of June. I think that gives the rest of the arms a very solid chance to solidify themselves. It also would be the first of a potential wave of debuts in August/September if injuries (or the unnecessary worry about innings limits) happen: Walston, Jarvis, Cecconi all spring to mind. Next Spring could be fascinating in Spring Training.
Wesley: I’m going to go with my birthday next Sunday. Just because.
Steven: I think it’s coming this coming week. Wednesday lines up with Pfaadt’s projected starts and the team desperately needs to find answers for the back end of their rotation. Nelson has struggled, Jameson is already in Reno, and Tommy Henry looks replacement level. You need to determine how external you need to look for upgrades. I’m not expecting them to go after a star pitcher like Ohtani, but could you talk ownership into a Marcus Stroman rental if you’re still winning the NL West in July?
Ben: Everyone else’s guesses are just as good as mine. And if you have some kind of future-telling ability, you are utterly wasting it on predicting when a certain pitcher is going to debut. If I had to put down a guess though, I would guess late May or early June. The longer they wait though, the greater the temptation will be to wait and limit his innings to try and put him in line to compete for some of the end-of-year awards in 2024. I think that’s unlikely considering the FO keeps pounding the drum of “win now” even if their actions don’t always echo that philosophy.
Dano: My understanding has been that service time manipulation has been part of what has kept him in Reno thus far, and later in the year has generally been the expectation. If we are serious about trying to win now, though, I gotta believe it’s going to come sooner than that, if for no other reason than because Ryne Nelson continues to demonstrate that he’s not really ready for a big league rotation spot yet. Even if Nelson continues to stick around, we still need a fifth starter to fill out the rotation, and unless Drey Jameson is gonna be brought back pretty much right after he got to Reno, I think the next guy up has to be Pfaadt.
James: I’m going to tentatively and hopefully settle on Pfaadt making his MLB debut next week when his normal day comes around. If he doesn’t debut then, then I would expect it to take another injury or the month of June to roll through before Pfaadt has any chance of sniffing the bigs.
The Suns are going back onto over-the-air television. Will and should the D-backs follow?
Justin: I think that would be nice. I remember we used to do that in the early days of the franchise. Some broadcasts would be on whatever local channel it was. Back when WGN and TBS carried Cubs/White Sox/Braves games. I used to be able to flip through 3 games. I doubt that type of thing would happen now, though but it was some nice memories.
ISH95: yes they should, and really I don’t see why they wouldn’t. It’s not like there is a better option. I don’t see anyone else starting an RSN given everything those are currently going through. Put them on broadcast TV, and then stream them on MLB.tv without blackouts.
Spencer: As someone who isn’t in the regional blackout area, I really have no preference. So long as MLB.tv still shows the broadcast, I’m happy. If they do switch, I do have some personal hopes for on-screen changes (change the visible scorecard to take as minimal space as possible, and contemplate some announcers who know more about the modern sport of baseball), but even if nothing changes in that regard, I will be happy.
Makakilo: The Suns announced the intention to do just that this fall. I love the idea of non-exclusive distribution of Diamondbacks games with no blackouts. That could include over-the-air TV, and streaming in a variety of ways (MLB TV, Apple TV, Facebook, YouTube…). The biggest obstacle is waiting for regional sports networks to let go of their restrictions on distribution, either due to contract expiration or decisions in bankruptcy court.
Wesley: They absolutely should. I think the switch to having all their games paywalled essentially has hurt the long term growth of the fanbase. I don’t expect it to stay that way, but even having a few games each month would be a significant improvement. Makakilo’s suggestion I think would be the best solution. If MLB got rid of all blackouts, MLB.TV would instantly look a lot more appealing to most baseball fans. I have held off on getting a subscription, even when I could afford it, because there’s ZERO reason to get it if you can’t even watch your local team’s games. Or you live in Iowa and can’t watch half of all MLB games due to weird black out restrictions.
Steven: Will they? I think there’s absolutely 0 chance our cheapskate of an owner would willingly give up the excess money they would receive from a RSN like Sinclair. Even with a $75 million yearly payment thanks to that 20 year/$1.5 billion deal, they still complain of their stadium, and have explored relocation from Chase Field - whether by a new publicly funded stadium or moving to Las Vegas and have been in the lower 3rd of payrolls in each of the last 4 years.
Should they? Like the Suns, in the long run they’ll be better for it, especially as the team continues to improve and becomes more exciting. Baseball complains of an aging audience, yet does nothing to actually gain them. Give people more affordable options to watch the team, including more mobile friendly options, and enjoy more people talking about the team. Or keep it locked down behind high paywalls and complain when no one comes to your games.
Ben: As one of the out-of-town writers, I don’t really have a strong preference so long as I can still stream them on MLB.tv (thanks parents). I suspect it will come down to money like so many other decisions today. I have absolutely no idea what goes into that kind of switch technologically, physically, or financially.
Dano: I would love to see that happen, but I seriously doubt that it would, because $$$, live Steven says.
James: Frankly, with as many games as they play, the Diamondbacks should never have left OTA television. That said, it will make it far more difficult for people not living in the valley to watch them live. With the team clearly in a financial bind, I sort of doubt that the Diamondbacks will accept an OTA deal. However, MLB may not give them much choice. MLB isn’t going to carry Bally’s water forever. The Diamondbacks need to find a permanent solution. How soon they do that will largely be determined by how long MLB lets them poke about looking for a solution. I seriously doubt Ken Kendrick will go with OTA viewing for any longer than he is absolutely forced to.
Which MLB teams are the biggest surprises and disappointments so far?
Justin: I’ll say Pittsburgh being 18-8, tied with the Braves for the second best record in the Majors is surprising…
ISH95: Pittsburgh is the biggest surprise, I agree. The biggest disappointment is the A’s. Not because any of this is unexpected, it’s just depressing
Spencer: Biggest surprise is Pittsburgh. I’m happy for them. I don’t think it will last, but it’s nice to see some good coming from that city. Disappointment is the Cardinals. They play in a weak division (theoretically), and they have multiple legit MVP candidates in their infield, with a strong group of solid regulars pretty much everywhere else. Yet they suck. Poor Goldy and Arenado have been misused and abused by clubs their entire careers…
Makakilo: Let’s compare the win-loss record for the 5 highest-payroll teams (Mets,Yankees, Padres, Phillies, Dodgers) with the 5 lowest-payroll teams (Athletics, Orioles, Rays, Pirates, Reds) (Payrolls per Spotrac).
- 74-65 for highest-payroll teams.
- 78-60 for the lowest-payroll teams.
Excluding the Athletics, who are likely moving to Las Vegas, through 29 April, the win-loss record for the 4 lowest-payroll teams was an unbelievable 73-37.
How did the lowest-payroll teams find such amazing success? Fully exploring that question could be an entire article similar to How Teams Made Their Active Rosters. A few oversimplified explanations follow:
- The Rays (23-5 with payroll of $73.9 Million) were master traders.
- The Pirates (20-8 with payroll of $75.6 Million) acquired veterans on short term deals to fill in holes in their young core.
- The Orioles (18-9 with payroll of $64.9 Million) acquired hidden gems, especially via waivers and the rule-5 draft.
Makakilo: If you don’t mind, I will share a second answer to the same question… Surprisingly for the Diamondbacks, and disappointingly for Paul Goldschmidt, this season’s Diamondbacks are better than the Cardinals.
- In games through 29 April, the Diamondbacks have a better win-loss record (16-12 vs 10-18).
- The Diamondbacks are projected at 82 wins vs the Cardinals 79 wins (538.com).
- The Diamondbacks have a 32% chance at the playoffs vs 21% for the Cardinals(538.com).
- As of 24 April, the Diamondbacks’ Power Ranking of 17 was higher than the Cardinals’ Power Ranking of 20 (The Athletic).
- In games through 29 April, the Diamondbacks have a higher Wins Above Average (WAA) for starting pitching, relief pitching, and every position on the field except first base (Paul Goldschmidt), center field, and DH (Baseball Reference).
Wesley: I was a believer in Baltimore’s farm system, so I’m not really all that surprised that their farm is paying dividends. The Pirates are slightly more surprising, didn’t really think they’d contend. What really has surprised me is just how good the Rays have been. 23-5 is a ridiculous start to a season. Biggest disappointment is probably the Dodgers or Padres. We’re in first place as of right now, and they’re not. Not what most pundits would have predicted. The white sox are also notably bad.
Steven: Pittsburgh and Baltimore for the long-shots, I can’t believe their playing as well as they both are. The Pirates seem more real than the Orioles as their offense is built upon getting on base, and taking extra bases. The real answer is the Rays - top offense and a top-5 pitching staff. The Rays just continue to deserve better than the funding that ownership group gives them. Imagine their player development backed with the payroll of any of the teams in their division. They may be unstoppable.
Ben: Yeah, I defy anyone who is even the most diehard Pittsburgh fan to not be surprised by the performance of the Pirates thus far and I don’t think it’s particularly close. There’s like a 0.01% chance you would have predicted they would have the second-best record in baseball a month into the season. In my opinion, the Cardinals and Padres are probably tied for biggest disappointments for very different reasons. The Cardinals (annoyingly) are perennially good if not great and then save their best performances for the playoffs, but have looked lethargic and dispirited to this point in the season. Meanwhile, the Padres backed-up several dump trucks worth of cash to sign everyone under the sun and nearly all of them have disappointed - none more than Juan Soto who has not lived up to his own lofty expectations.
Dano: Pittsburgh on the up side, obviously–I’m sorry, but nobody could have predicted this start from them. On the down side, I would probably have to say St. Louis….they seem to be genuinely kinda bad through the first month.
James: Like many others, I did not anticipate Pittsburgh getting off to this strong of a start. I also am somewhat surprised by Tampa Bay. Yes, I expected Tampa to once again field a very good team. But the way in which they are going about tearing through the rest of baseball is a very new approach for them. As for disappointments, I would have to say it is a toss-up between the Cardinals and the Red Sox. Both teams have entirely too much talent to be at the bottom of their divisions. On the other hand, there is Oakland, who I fully expected to struggle, but not nearly to the extent that they are. Their utter failure of fielding a team with more than maybe a dozen MLB caliber players is only slightly less surprising to me than the Pirates continuing to find ways to eek out wins.
Without saying what the category is, what are your top five?
Justin: New England clam chowder, linguine with white clam sauce, white queso chicken enchilada casserole, penne alla vodka, blue ribbon chili
Spencer: 1) Gel 2) Fountain 3) Ballpoint 4) Felt Tip 5) Quill
Makakilo: Pickleball, zumba class, kick-boxing class, gardening, walking along lagoons at Ko’Olina Beach Park.
- Blood on the Tracks
- Live From Folsom Prison
- Straight outta Lynnwood
Wesley: Ketchup, American style bologna, calf’s liver, honeycomb tripe, traditional cold cut beef tongue
- Grand Canyon
Dano: 1) Sleeping; 2) Reading for pleasure; 3) Catching up on my gaming backlog; 4) Writing; 5) Possibly watching “General Hospital” when it’s airing.
- Peter O’Toole
- Humphrey Bogart
- Harrison Ford
- Heath Ledger
- Clive Owen
- Run Lola Run
- Shaun of the Dead
- My Fair Lady
- Ms. 45