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SnakePit Round Table: Hey now, are you an All-Star?

Multiple D-backs in the All-Star Game? A very real possibility...

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MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at San Francisco Giants Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Final call: who’ll represent Arizona at the ASG, and will Corbin Carroll start?

Makakilo: Corbin Carroll and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will represent the Diamondbacks in the outfield. With Corbin Carroll competing for MVP, it’s easy to imagine him starting.

Rob Thompson, Manager for the NL All-Stars, will pick the pitchers for the NL.

Sam: Carroll, Gurriel, Gallen, Kelly. Four is a good number of All Stars for a team leading a tough division. Carroll will start.

Spencer: Carroll, Gallen and Kelly will make the team. Maaaaaybe Perdomo. Carroll will start. Gurriel is slumping too hard to win the vote or get chosen by players/managers.

Wesley: Carrol, Gallen, M. Kelly, and then maybe Gurriel and Perdomo. Some combo of the above.

ISH95: I think everyone else covered it pretty well lol

Dano: I’m thinking Gallen, Merrill, and Carroll as well (who will be starting, if there’s any justice) but likely not Gurriel. Like Spencer, I tend to think that Gurriel is slumping too much to make it, but who knows what the voters will decide?

Zach Davies. Why?

Sam: Because it’s better for Pfaadt to continue to develop in AAA than get shelled in MLB as he did in his first start. And depth — injuries happen, and we’ve been fortunate thus far that the only injury among the starters was to Davies himself. Finally, keeping Davies is also downstream of releasing Bumgarner — you don’t usually have the option of willingly letting go of 40% of your opening day starting rotation. And with the trade market looking so unfriendly to buyers, getting a better starter there for a reasonable price is not guaranteed. If and when they do, if everyone else remains healthy, I expect they’ll release Davies (or just throw him into the deal for free, essentially).

Makakilo: He was signed expecting his pitching results would stay the same. He slumped and now the hope is that his pitching will improve. Two stats that show this season is worse than last season:

  • Above-average game scores fell from more than half his starts to a quarter of his starts.
  • His ERA rose from 4.09 to 7.82.

Three reasons he might turn it around:

  • This season his FIP got better (improved from 4.83 to 4.20).
  • Perhaps he was unlucky (his BABIP rose dramatically from .258 to .370).
  • His changeup continues to be his pitch with the highest whiff rate (37.3%), despite its’ RV/100 pitches changing from best to worst among his pitch types. And to add context looking at all his pitches his .093 whiffs per pitch is not good enough to fit in the D-backs’ bullpen.

Spencer: I don’t really know. Neither Davies nor Ryne Nelson is an arm I want starting right now. But I’d take both of them in the bullpen over Kyle Nelson and Joe Mantiply right now (only slight sarcasm there). I don’t see getting either/both replaced until the trade deadline though. Nelson had a very nice Sunday though.

Wesley: I have no idea why Zach Davies. What we’ve gotten is what we all expected. The real question is why is he still on the roster when he’s been essentially a slightly luckier version of Madbum. Give the spot to Pfaadt, or heck, give Cecconi, Walston, or even Jarvis a shot… the result aren’t going to be that much worse than Davies. I would actually be okay with Davis and Nelson being moved to the bullpen like Spencer suggested, though I can’t imagine Davies will improve that much as a reliever.

ISH95: He is clearly benefiting from the team being gunshy of going back to three rookies in the rotation after what happened when they cut Bumgarner. Unless something truly catastrophic happens, he’ll be there until the trade deadline.

Dano: Because we were not expecting, nor did we have any plan for, actually finding ourselves competing plausibly to win the NL West this year. He was seen, I expect, as an acceptable placeholder (along with the rodeo clown) while we slowly brought up our young starters and let them get acclimated to pitching in the majors. Davies, to my mind, had a place and had value on the roster of a team at that stage of its development. Not so much, though, on a team that is playing as well and as consistently well as we have been.

Joe Mantiply was a 2022 All-Star. Now… not so much. What happened?

Makakilo: Joe Mantiply is back from two minor injuries. He pitches with the same strengths that got him into the All-Star game. One strength is that this season his 0.57 walks per 9 innings is the second best among relief pitchers in the Majors with at least 10 innings pitched.

What is one way he could improve his results? Change his mix of pitches. Examples:

  • More sinkers against left-handed batters.
  • Less sinkers against right-handed batters.
  • Don’t repeat the same pitch more than two times per at-bat, especially if that pitch will cross the plate near the center of the strike zone.

For more details, see this AZ Snake Pit article scheduled to post Tuesday.

Sam: Just another reminder that relief pitching is volatile! A single good half season on its own is not very predictive going forward.

Spencer: I’m sure the injuries don’t help. But I just don’t think he’s very good. If he were a starter, we’d have been asking this question a LONG time ago given the small sample size he had of successful innings. He got hot, we rode that into the ground and now he’s back to being a player we should have traded a year ago.

Wesley: I’m surprised Mantiply has had the success he’s had. I think Spencer is right that he was never all that good, he was just lucky to be hot at the right time. Tyler Gilbert is not a terrible comparison in that regard.

ISH95: Before 2021, he had no track record of really anything, good or otherwise. He has a grand total of 120 IP in his career, with an ERA+ of 103. I’d go so far as to say he was only even an all star last year because they had to pick someone from the team. Plus, like Sam said, relievers are just too volatile.

Dano: I am very much in the “he wasn’t all that great to begin with” camp, though he performed fantastically during the first half of last year. That was legit, but he has since reverted to the mean. The fact that we used him so much last year, and that we’ve been dumping multi-innings outings on him since he returned from his most recent IL stint, hasn’t helped. Time will tell, but I am concerned that the overuse last year especially may have broken him.

Which D-backs are likely to be gone by the trade deadline?

Sam: Davies, if they can find a starter to trade for and everyone remains healthy, as I wrote above. Otherwise, maybe another outfielder if they can get good controllable return value like they did for Varsho, but that seems unlikely for a deadline move.

Makakilo: I’ll start with a quote from Grant Brisbee, a writer with a sense of humor.

“Evvvvvveerrrrrryyyyy team is going to want another starter. Some of them might want two.” – Grant Brisbee, 23 June 2023.

The acquisition needed most is a starting pitcher. Because many teams have the same need, instead of likely, it’s a possibility.

Recently, Jim Bowden wrote about 5 trade ideas. One of his ideas was for the Diamondbacks to acquire Cardinal Jack Flaherty. I don’t like it. What bothers me the most is that this season he rarely completed 6 innings (6 of his 15 starts). His 4.95 ERA is worse than the 4.28 average in the Majors. At the end of this season he will be a free agent.

The starting pitcher who is barely good enough is Cardinal Jordan Montgomery, per my comment to this AZ Snake Pit article. He completed at least 6 innings in 8 of his 15 starts. His ERA was 3.69. At the end of this season he will be a free agent.

Two possible trades are 1) acquire a starting pitcher in the last year (or maybe two) of his contract, and 2) acquire a young Majors-ready starting pitcher with years of control.

Who would be gone depends on the acquisition and the needs of the other team. Although there are many possibilities, I would not trade away any core players.

Spencer: I hope Davies. I could easily see one of RNelson/Jameson/Pfaadt in a bigger move. Maybe Deyvision De Los Santos, again in a bigger move (but convincing a team to value him enough for that deal will be HARD). Most likely, I expect some of our OF “depth” pieces to go (Fletcher, Canzone and/or Pavin, etc).

An under the radar trade piece with some helium value could be Ryan Bliss too. If they trade him, the FO believes in some combo of Rojas/Perdomo/Lawlar/Marte/Alexander for the foreseeable future.

Wesley: I hope Davies, as other have said. Flaherty isn’t a terrible suggestion for a trade target, and I’m honestly expecting the Dbacks to target someone similar. I would think the dbacks are most likely to tap into their outfield surplus.

Dano: I share everyone else’s hope that Davies will be gone at the deadline. Pavin Smith as well, perhaps, and honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing Nick Ahmed go. Likely some of our nearly MLB-ready outfield prospects, if we can land an acceptable replacement starter.

Apart from the D-backs, what teams are over-achieving most in your eyes?

Sam: Understanding “over-achieving” as “achieving better than was previously expected”, you can look at the difference between preseason and current forecasts for win totals, which handles difficulties with strength of schedule. Fangraphs has a nice “delta” feature to see those changes (although you can’t sort on them). Here’s the top 5 in MLB:

  • Orioles: 75.7 → 87.6 wins, +11.9
  • Rays: 85.7 → 97.1 wins, +11.5
  • Diamondbacks: 78.4 → 88.1 wins, +9.7
  • Reds: 70.3 → 79.6 wins, +9.3
  • Rangers: 81.9 → 90.5 wins, +8.6

I think that pretty much accords with the narratives that have been developing.

Makakilo: The Marlins. After consecutive seasons with 95 losses and 93 losses, the Marlins have a winning record and are likely to play in the postseason. For details on how GM Kim Ng made that happen, see this AZ Snake Pit article.

  • Marlins: 80.5 → 86.2 wins, +5.7 wins (current forecast vs preseason forecast), with hat tip to Sam.

Spencer: Marlins, Reds and Giants are my biggest surprises. I didn’t buy the Giants offseason moves. Mostly I was right, but I was wrong on their youthful depth making it up. They have more than done that. Miami I didn’t expect to be able to compete with their division. But Arraez is holding their offense together and the NYM/PHI problems are helping. The Reds are just astounding. They could be very VERY good as soon as next season if their pitching takes the step forward it should.

Sam: Yep, the Marlins are the sixth team on that list. The Braves at +5.6 and Giants at +5.2 are next, then the Dodgers at +3.5 and Cubs at +3.0 have also overperformed.

Dano: For the record, I am persuaded at this point that the Diamondbacks are not a team that’s “over-achieving”, because I understand that term to connote a team that’s performing substantially better than they should be given their roster and talent level. So teams that are over-achieving right now, in my entirely subjective perception, are the Marlins and likely the Giants. The Pirates were, too, until they weren’t. The Reds as well, certainly, if one views the the tear that they’ve been on recently as anything other than a somewhat extended hot streak that will dissipate in short order and be entirely forgotten a month from now, which is what I expect.

What’s your attitude to extreme adventures like visiting the Titanic wreck?

Sam: This story was catnip for today’s news media — I was surprised how much attention was given to the clearly hopeless rescue efforts, but then I remembered how much attention the lost Malaysian Airlines flight got. In any case, a broader trend has been people with means chasing experiences rather than possessions, with predictable consequences like overcrowding at the most famous National Parks, on Everest and the Appalachian Trail. This produced the economic incentive for a company like Oceangate to try to cut costs to make such an experience available to a bigger market, and as many predicted when seeing their designs, deadly consequences.

My attitude? I don’t have much interest in Experiences™ that just become things to brag about to friends or on social media. Even on a smaller scale, I don’t want to exacerbate these trends, both because high demand drives prices up, and tragedies of the commons abound where there aren’t price mechanisms. I actually could use some advice from you all here — my wife and I will tentatively be bringing her parents to Grand Canyon and other National Parks in the American West in the first half of December this year. What should we visit that isn’t well-advertised and overcrowded?

Makakilo: Extreme adventures make sense if the person is pursuing their lifelong passion (such as astronauts or mountain climbers or doctors-without-borders) or the person is on a quest (such as Indiana Jones). On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to risk your life to “see” the Titanic. The internet has raw footage of the Titanic, which can be watched safely with a beverage of your choice.

Spencer: Their money, their time, their choice. Personally, I would’ve done some better research before going, but you do you. I saw an article (not confident how accurate it was so I’m not going to link) that said the cheapest part of the sub is the only part found intact - it was a $30 Xbox controller. That inspires so many questions about safety and the science behind the situation to me.

The weird focus we all put on it was strange in a good way though. Lives are lives, regardless of who they are. I wish I saw more of this effort in my day job from the average American.

Wesley: Well. I don’t have a whole lot of kind words to say about that submarine. A cheap, corner-cutting billionaire used discounted, cheaper materials, on top of cutting corners with safety in basically every other way possible. The surface is hazardous enough, but the ocean floor is even more hazardous to human life than the Low Earth orbit. A stress microfracture thinner than a human hair was likely all it took for it to instantly implode, snuffing out their life quicker than a blink of an eye. I think video game graphics these days have gotten good enough to satisfy anyone’s need for adventure.

Dano: I’m afraid that I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for the folks who expired on the Titan. They bought their ticket, they paid their quarter of a million dollars apiece, and they took their ride. Wealthy amateurs who don’t actually have any skills to be helpful on an expedition like that, who are only invited along because of the money they spend to secure a seat, should really do their homework as to whether their tour guides and the vehicles and equipment and whatnot are appropriately safe and reliable. These folks either didn’t, or they did and decided that it was worth the risk. They rolled the dice, and they lost.

Beyond that, while I don’t deny that it seems like it would be a really cool experience to see some of that stuff with my own eyes rather than on a YouTube video or whatever, the risk and expense seem pretty foolishly extreme to me. No thanks.

Jim: I actually get the idea of valuing experiences over things. Mrs. S and I have more or less come to an agreement that for birthdays, etc. we don’t get each other “things”, which will largely just clutter up SnakePit Towers and use up valuable space that should be used for cat toys. But our idea of “experiences” is, say, going to see Depeche Mode in Vegas this December. I do not feel this should be life-threatening. Indeed, the closer I find I get to death, the keener I am to avoid it!