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SnakePit Round Table: R stranded ISP

The D-backs went 3-3 this week. But there was definitely room for improvement in some categories...

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MLB: MAY 21 Diamondbacks at Pirates Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How big a concern are the team’s struggles with runners in scoring position?

Makakilo: In summary, it’s a concern because the Diamondbacks are getting a lot of PAs with RISP, but are only increasing their expected runs scored by an average amount. Because it’s a lot of PAs, improved results with RISP would be awesome.

Observations follow:

  • Through 26 May they had the third most PAs with RISP (542) in the Majors. Batting with RISP is especially important to the D-backs.
  • What hurt most was that for PAs with RISP, their .277 BABIP ranked low (24th) in the Majors. Often, low BABIP bounces back!
  • Nevertheless, it’s great that their 17 home runs with RISP ranked 9th in the Majors.
  • Their .321 wOBA with RISP ranked average (15th) in the Majors. Perhaps their wOBA is an indication that they increased their expected runs scored by an average amount.

James: The struggles have been a real issue of late, costing the team at least two victories in the last week. That said, I’m not terribly concerned about it - yet. The spell of problems is still not terribly long and the sample size is only starting to become anything significant. Sequencing is everything in the sport of baseball. Pitchers who can scatter hits and who can strand runners are the ones that are going to have success. So far over the last two weeks or so, the team has run into pitchers who have been executing. It is spells of plate appearances like these that drive so many fans to calling for more big boppers in the lineup. In today’s game, it is much easier to score by putting the ball into the seats than it is to string together multiple hits in an inning. That isn’t Arizona’s game though. And frankly, I don’t want it to become their game. Getting on base and creating pressure and havoc while dancing around just off the bag is a viable way to play the game. Using OBP, speed, and smart base running is how a team burns through an opposition’s starter and bullpen faster.

Makakilo: James, great point about OBP and smart base running!

Ben: It’s definitely a concern, but there are plenty of other issues bedeviling the team that need to be resolved if they want to take the next step in competitiveness. As a team, the offense is right in the middle of the NL for several categories. And that’s also including players like Jake McCarthy who are definitely dragging the overall averages down a good bit as he continues to struggle. Surprisingly, they are actually in the top five for slugging percentage and runs scored. What is concerning is the number of regulars who are struggling with RISP - especially Christian Walker - who’s hitting a measly .150/.229/.317 slash line in those situations and is the normal four-hole hitter. Evan Longoria and Ketel Marte aren’t much better either with .154/.207/.269 and .205/.209/.205 slash lines respectively. If those three can take a step forward, it would make a substantial difference in the health of the offense.

Dano: Agree with Mak, James makes a great point. I haven’t been worried myself, mainly because we are continuing to win more games than we lose, and also because this is a young team and a young lineup, and some bad streakiness is going to crop up from time to time. It’s gonna happen with more experienced teams as well. It’s been less than ideal lately, but I think it’ll be fine.

Top pitching prospect Brandon Pfaadt has been sent down. What are your thoughts?

Makakilo: The best environment for him to improve is the Majors, so I’m concerned that Reno will not support his continued improvement.

On the other hand, three of his five starts allowed 5 earned runs or more, so perhaps he needs to pitch in the minors so he can better focus on specific improvements.

James: We all knew it was coming. If either one of Davies or Bumgarner had managed to not fall from the rotation, Pfaadt would still be waiting to make his MLB debut. Frankly, I have less than zero faith that, on the whole, Davies will perform any better. HE may have a few outings here and there where he looks good and gets a bit deeper than some of Pfaadt’s outings, but I have serious doubts those will be typical outings. The team needs depth for the rotation, I’m just not sure Zach Davies actually provides what I would classify as quality depth. He’s the sort of pitcher who has just barely enough to be a viable MLB pitcher while also not having enough to belong on a competitive team’s 26-man roster.

If we were the Royals or A’s, I wouldn’t mind Davies in the rotation as much. BUt this team is trying to force open its competitive window a season early. With that being the case, they need better than Davies. I fully believe that, over the course of a full season, Pfaadt would be the superior pitcher. My concern regarding Pfaadt is that he is currently at the AAAA stage of his development. He has already demonstrated he is too good to get much out of pitching in the PCL. Last season, he reached a level of success rarely achieved by any pitcher in the PCL in the last two decades. He followed that up by putting up another string of solid starts this season. HIs biggest issue has been the long ball. That will never change. He’s a flyball pitcher. What’s worse is, he’s a flyball pitcher being sent to one of the worst leagues and one of the worst park in that league for gopher balls.

For Pfaadt, home run suppression is going to come from strikeouts and late movement that takes the ball an inch or two down the barrel of the bat, making hitters just miss the sweet spot.My concern is that he will have less movement in Reno and that the long ball will continue to plague him there. That will neither be good for his confidence or for evaluators making the decision as to when he sure return to the rotation. But then, if he goes back down and picks up where he left off in the PCL, he’s still not getting much better, he’s just biding his time. The only place Pfaadt is going to get markedly better is in the MLB rotation, facing a complete lineup of MLB hitters for every start, some of which will come in environments where being a flyball pitcher is not nearly as dangerous as it is in Reno.

I question how much more real development he can get from pitching in AAA. If he is just biding his time, it means he is wasting his bullets in Reno, bullets that he only has so many of. If, at the end of the day, Pfaadt is a better pitcher of the course of a full season than Davies, then he should be in the rotation and Davies should be elsewhere. This is one of the many reasons I never cared for bringing Davies back. Davies is not a quality enough pitcher to be in a competitive rotation and he has no options left that allow him to be stowed away in AAA.

Ben: It’s the classic conundrum for good-not-great teams like the D-Backs: balancing the development of high-end prospects in the long-term while not sacrificing the short-term results at the major league level. I’m still supremely confident that Pfaadt will be a successful starter at some point, but it’s difficult to justify throwing (pun intended) him out there every five days when his longest outing to date was 5.1 IP against Pittsburgh. It essentially boils down to a pseudo bullpen game every outing, which hurts the team’s overall health and performance. But I also won’t pretend that I’m not disappointed to see it considering his potential and the flashes of excellence he displayed at times. Moreover, you have to get a more accurate sense of what you have in players like Drey Jameson and Zach Davies as we continue to move towards the Trade Deadline and the team continues to perform at a higher level than in past years.

Dano: I had to recap that mess of a start on Friday, and as much as I was hoping for him to succeed right out of the gate, I’m glad he’s been sent down. He’s been painful to watch. To a substantial extent, I do agree with Makakilo regarding the best place to improve being the majors for young players who’ve reached a certain point in their development, but I’m not sure Pfaadt is quite there yet. Also, I have worried from time to time about players who’ve been called up, had serious troubles, and been left up too long to struggle and have their confidence damaged if not shattered. I genuinely think that happened to some of our young starting prospects during May and June of the disastrous 2021 season. I wouldn’t want to see that happen to Pfaadt.

What are you hoping for from the return of Zach Davies?

Makakilo: I hope he keeps the Diamondbacks in the game and gives the offense chances to win games. I will be very happy if he exceeds that expectation.

James: My big hope is that he finds a way to chew up innings in a relatively stress-free manner while keeping the team in games. If he can keep his ERA under 4.75 while averaging an even 5.0 innings per start or more, he’ll be at the height of my expectations for him. I’m also hoping that he finally figures out how to stay healthy, something that has honestly never been his strong suit. He simply manages to avoid major injuries.

Justin: Yeah, my thoughts are the same as Kilo’s.

Ben: I mean, I’m hoping for a return to a 2019-version of Davies when he was a reliable number four starter for Milwaukee, but that seems extraordinarily unlikely. If he can return to his 2022 numbers, that would be OK, but ultimately dissatisfying given the potential that some of the other starters represent. I think the best-case scenario would be eating up innings and keeping the team within striking distance to provide the rotation with some additional stability.

Dano: Not much. Best case scenario I see for him taking up a rotation spot is that he pitches well enough to not become Rodeo Clown 2.0, and maybe winds up being somebody we can move at the trade deadline to get us a decent bullpen arm down the stretch.

Does the stadium situation in Milwaukee have any relevance for the Diamondbacks?

Makakilo: Arizona is very different than Wisconsin for several reasons.

  • Wisconsin has a budget surplus of $7 Billion over their 2-year cycle. Arizona has a budget surplus of only $1.8 Billion. In January of 2023, Arizona’s new governor (Katie Hobbs) proposed many new programs (and one-time payments to existing programs) that leave no surplus that could be allocated to the Diamondbacks’ stadium repair and renovation.
  • The Wisconsin governor proposed budgeting $290 Million to repair the Brewers’ stadium. It is unlikely that the Arizona governor is an ally of the Diamondbacks.
  • It appears that the Arizona legislature was lukewarm to the Diamondbacks. My confidence is very low that the Arizona legislature would ever approve $290 Million for repairs and renovations to Chase Field. Nevertheless, the Arizona legislature is very agreeable that the Diamondbacks could add 9% to the existing sales tax for purchases by their fans. My view is that the Diamondbacks know they could achieve almost the same result by increasing their prices. Perhaps their main problem with the extra tax is the Diamondbacks are proud to lead the Majors in their affordability and don’t want their customer satisfaction to change.

James: I do think that, because of age and market, there is some relevance there. On the other hand, Milwaukee has enjoyed about a decade of being a competitive team, whereas Arizona has been mostly a cellar-dweller over that period of time. MLB seems to care a great deal less when crappy teams play in crappy venues. MLB also knows that Arizona is not about to fork over any further funds for stadium renovations and that the A’s have recently claimed Arizona’s back-up plan in the Vegas area. I think it is only a matter of time before Kendrick and Hall get pressure from Manfred’s office to do something about conditions at Chase. I also think that the A’s, Brewers, and Rays will all garner much more attention over the next five years, giving Kendrick enough time to come up with a new Plan-B.

Ben: Yeah, as others have mentioned, there’s definitely some crossover between the two situations, but I worry there isn’t enough to find a workable solution. It’s also worth noting that the D-Backs have substantially more distance from their next media market competitor than the Brewers, which one would think would give them even more revenue. We’ve all had to watch the ongoing drama with the Coyotes seemingly never-ending quest for a home in the Phoenix area. While I’m doubtful it would come to that for the D-Backs, I don’t know if the political will exists in sufficient quantities to invest in the much-needed renovations to Chase. At the same time, I’m doubtful that the D-Backs would move to another city given the inevitable expansion plans MLB has for places like Nashville or Portland.

Dano: I honestly have no idea about this. As a moral or ethical position, I don’t think any team owned by billionaires or consortia of billionaires has any business receiving a dime of public money for this sort of thing, but, well, I also believe that people should try to be nice and kind and considerate to each other most of the time. It seems like Ben makes a good point about Vegas being off the table as a relocation venue, along with Nashville and Portland….by the time the point where Kendrick threatens to move the team somewhere else, most of the other desirable somewhere elses may well be taken.

Which are the best + worst City Connect uniforms, and why? [Thanks Spencer!]

Makakilo: Best was the Boston Red Sox because I love their extra-bright yellow jerseys. The light blue trim and hat are good while allowing the bright-yellow to shine.

Worst was the Colorado Rockies. The attempt to represent the skyline of their mountains is lame. The colors of green and white are boring.

James: There are a number of city connect uniforms I just don’t care much for, The Dodgers and Cubs are among them. I’m not really much of a fan of the Giants or Astros either. The Dodgers’ uniforms look like the idea was just mailed in.On the other hand, I really like Arizona, COlorado, and the Chicago White Sox. I would probably like Colorado the most if they hadn’t chosen that forest green colour.

Ben: I don’t know if I can definitively say which are the best and worst considering my utter lack of fashion sense and colorblindness, but I definitely have preferences among them. I would probably put the Dodgers version down at the bottom given the utter lack of creativity they represent IMO - even if I appreciate the outreach towards the Spanish-speaking population in the LA-area. I hate to say it, but the Nats’ uniforms are one of my personal favorites, but I - like many others - am a sucker for the cherry blossoms and they look very different from the rest of the City Connect uniforms.

Dano: I have never heard any explanation of what the whole City Connect foolishness is for, but I think the whole thing is kind of stupid. None of them look good to me. The worst (and most hilarious) is probably Colorado’s, because they basically are dressing up disguised as their state’s license plates.

If you had to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning what would it be?

Makakilo: A never-boring and always-delightful breakfast would be kiwi fruit, apple slices, and almonds with a cup of Hawaiian-grown coffee.

Justin: That sounds good Kilo! I am not a big breakfast eater, but I suppose a breakfast taco or burrito. Scrambled eggs, pieces of bacon or ham, cheese, etc. I love sausage too.

James: I spent the better part of two years having essentially the same thing for breakfast every morning. The breakfast was a banana and a cup of coffee. It works for me and I enjoy it. If I have my preference though, which would also include having the time and energy to later get some additional exercise beyond what I do now, I’m going for the Full English. It’s enough food to fill me up until it is time for dinner and presents enough variety in one meal that, if I somehow tire of one component, I am still left with plenty of food to get through the day if I choose to skip that one particular facet of the meal.

Ben: I have made the same smoothie for breakfast every day for the better part of the last six years. I throw in spinach, frozen berries, peanut butter (Costco brand), old-fashioned oats, and oat milk. I find it pretty satisfying and makes me feel like I’ve already started on my daily fruits and vegetables needs. But if I could have anything, regardless of budget or calories, I would definitely be tempted by a breakfast burrito - especially from Tania’s 33 in Tucson!

Dano: Easy. Two eggs scrambled, sausage patties, hash browns, rye toast, OJ and coffee at Frank’s here in Tucson. Best breakfast spot in Tucson, hands down, and reasonably priced as well. They also make their own hot sauce, which is the bomb.