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AZ SnakePit Round Table: (Almost!) All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

Even after today, we’re still tied for most wins in the National League

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

How about those D-backs, eh?

Makakilo: Wow! Tied for first Place in the NL West. Wow! Leader for NL Wild-Card. Wow! Beat the Braves in the first game of the series. Wow! Six game winning streak. Wow! Playing exciting baseball.

My pre-season prediction of 86.6 wins may not have been optimistic enough! I’m very excited about the realistic possibility of the Diamondbacks playing in the post-season.

James: I’m slowly coming around to the notion this team might be a borderline playoff competitor come September.

Wesley: I put out an optimistic prediction, and a pessimistic prediction before the season, and honestly, I’m amazed that even optimistic prediction of 87 wins might have been too low. The team is well on their way to a 95 win season if they continue to play as well as they have. I have hedged my expectations throughout the season, and I’m still hesitant to fully embrace them as a contender. That said they look really good, and they have the potential to get better this season as our younger players become further acclimated to the major leagues. Then again, we just lost the last two games, and today’s game was thanks to a grand slam in the top of the 9th. Same problems as always.

Dano: I’m starting to take very seriously the idea that we will see Diamondbacks baseball at least a little ways into October, beyond that stub of regular season games over those first three days. Tons can go wrong to take that off the table, but I think it’s unmistakable that we are vastly improved over last year.

Jim: I think the series against Atlanta was a very good bellwether of where the team stands. They’re much better than expected, but still sit a little short of being a top-tier team. You’d be hard pushed to look at the series as a whole and not think that the team probably is at least one starting pitcher and a reliable bullpen arm away from being a total package with World Series potential. Mind you, that’s an awful lot more than I expected to be saying, two months into the season.

What has propelled the recent surge?

Makakilo: Comparing the 6 game winning streak to the 6 games preceding, two things caught my attention about the streak:

  • OBP. While the D-back pitchers kept the opponents off the bases (OBP reduced from .300 to .295), the D-back batters got on base more often (OBP increased from .286 to .316).
  • Expected Runs. The D-back batters’ expected runs scored broke out - wOBA increased from .295 to .329, while opponents batters’ expected runs increased much less (wOBA increased from .284 to .297).

James: A combination of Carroll playing like a leading ROY candidate, Zac Gallen pitching like a leading Cy Young candidate, the new schedule, and no small amount of good luck.

Dano: According to this afternoon’s broadcast, our pitching has actually had a lot to do with it. In May, apparently our team ERA dropped by a nearly a full run. So there’s that. In addition, Gallen and Kelly’s performance, Tommy Henry settling in as a pretty solid #3 starter, and the top-to-bottom performance of our lineup, though we’ve certainly had some dry spells on offense.

Jim: I think it’s contributions from all over the diamond. We don’t have one “obvious” superstar, but we’ve got better than average production, one way or another, out of just about every spot. I think the team’s ability to win games started by pitchers not named Gallen and Kelly has been particularly impressive. That’s less to do with the pitching than the offense having a good night: probably not a sustainable tactic, but those wins aren’t going away any time soon!

All-Star voting opened. Which D-backs should make the NL roster?

Makakilo: In summary, my All-Stars would be Zac Gallen, Corbin Carroll, Geraldo Perdomo, Andrew Chafin (who pulled ahead of Jose Ruiz), and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (who pulled ahead of Gabriel Moreno). Details follow:

On 30 April, in the AZ Snake Pit Roundtable, looking beyond Zac Gallen, my comments were about Corbin Carroll, Geraldo Perdomo, Jose Ruiz, and Gabriel Moreno.

Today, I’m even more enthusiastic about Corbin Carroll who has recovered from bumping his knee and Geraldo Perdomo who is emerging from his slump.

In the bullpen, Andrew Chafin has pulled ahead of Jose Ruiz. A few stats for Andrew Chafin follow:

  • 2.55 FIP (31st best relief pitcher per FanGraphs)
  • 0.360 Strikeouts Per Batter Faced (> .25 is great)
  • 0.168 Whiffs Per Pitch (>.13 is great)
  • 0.223 Balls-In-Play Per Strike (<.265 is great)

Today, the two NL leaders in Win Probability Added (WPA) are Diamondbacks. Number one and two were Corbin Carroll with 2.3 WPA, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. with 2.1 WPA.

Today, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s 147 OPS+ is the highest on the Diamondbacks. Of the position players, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has pulled ahead of Gabriel Moreno.

For more details about the batting strength of Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Corbin Carroll, and Geraldo Perdomo see this AZ Snake Pit article which will likely post Tuesday. Two additional points from that article:

  • Emmanuel Rivera is batting very well, albeit he is under-the-radar. Hopefully, his under-the-radar success will continue.
  • Christian Walker’s batting results with RISP will likely improve soon. That improvement will be noticed!

James: Zac Gallen, then probably Corbin Carroll, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Geraldo Perdomo. All but Gallen have a tough row to hoe though.

Dano: I’ll go with James’s list. All are deserving, unlikely they all get there. But whatever, the All-Star game is a popularity/name recognition contest anyway.

Jim: Gurriell and Carroll certainly seem to have a shot, but I’d not go any further than that. If I had to pick one of them, I’d go with Gurriell, because Corbin is going to have many more chances to play in the All-Star Game. Perdomo has now been ruthlessly exposed as a BABIP mirage, and has only hit .157 (11-for-70) over the past month.

Why do you think crowds at Chase remain barely unchanged on 2022?

James: It is summer, in Arizona. The stadium needs a great deal of work. The team was epically bad for two consecutive seasons and not even the Suns get an instant bounceback, the Snakes will have to keep doing better for longer to get some bandwagon fans. Fewer people are into large crowds anymore. The economy is rough right now. This is an Arizona sports team. That means they are always living on the raggedy edge of sucking.Despite performances, the team does not yet have any star power. The list goes on.

Makakilo: Comparing the first 30 games of each season (2022 and 2023), average attendance per game at Chase increased by 433 people (from 19,366 to 19,799 per Baseball Reference). That’s only a 2% increase.

Reasons for greater fan interest and attendance include that the Diamondbacks are seriously contending for the postseason, it’s fun to watch speedster Corbin Carroll contend for the rookie-of-the-year award, Chase prices are a great bargain, and people are starting to worry less about being in a big crowd.

“We had some unbelievable fan support for these three games [against the Braves].” – Torey Lovullo, postgame interview on 4 June

Perhaps a huge increase in Diamondbacks fans is largely unseen. Diamondbacks could be joining the group of teams that have large and powerful groups of fans who stream games or watch games on cable.

“In 2022, there were also 13 clubs [baseball teams] that didn’t just beat all cable programming during their primetime games — their RSNs also beat all competing primetime programming, period, including the major broadcast networks.” – David Adler,

Dano: Good question. Partly covid hangover in terms of people’s habits about how happy they are spending time with crowds of strangers, I would guess. Partly lack of faith in this team, which has sucked and disappointed pretty consistently for years now. I expect that, should we keep this going, fans will start to come back.

Jim: Interestingly, this weekend’s series at Chase has proved a huge hit, with 96,399 across the three games. That’s the biggest crowd, excluding home openers, for a series since the pre-pandemic times. I don’t recall Atlanta being such a big draw in the last couple of seasons. I do think fans have been fooled by the team previously, and so are a little shy about committing to support of them. See also: the rest of Arizona sport.

A judge ruled Bally need to pay the D-backs as agreed. Does it move things forward?

Makakilo: Yes!

An all-out war is taking place between MLB and Diamond Sports Group (and its subsidiary Bally Sports Group). Each of them wants the broadcast and streaming rights for all 30 MLB teams.

  • A representative of DSG/BSG met with Rob Manfred and unsuccessfully attempted to purchase direct-to-consumer baseball streaming rights for all 30 teams (likely huge money needed to purchase).
  • In January, Rob Manfred unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the broadcast rights to 14 teams from DSG/BSG.

A major milestone happened when Bally Sports Group lost its streaming rights to Padres games after not making its’ contractual payment (and notifying MLB that it would never make that payment). I was extremely happy when MLB streamed the Padres games without any blackouts!

In the latest battle maneuver, Bally Sports Group asked for bankruptcy law protection to lower its’ payments for broadcasting games of four baseball teams (apparently DSG/BSG intended to keep the payments unchanged (for now) for 9 other teams after losing the Padres rights). Their request failed. The judge ruled they must make the full payments in the course of business (or else teams can “walk away” from their contracts). Two factors in that decision may have been:

  • After entering bankruptcy, Bally Sports Group said they had “significant liquidity.” That seems like an understatement because DSG/BSG attempted to purchase the streaming rights to all 30 MLB teams.
  • Rob Manfred said that MLB will backstop any money [at least 80% of expected contract payment] not paid by DSG/BSG if MLB takes over the broadcast rights. My view is that his statement proved that the payments are reasonable [and needed to prevent financial disruption of teams].

James: By default, it sort of does. The ruling was the necessary ingredient for any movement on that front. No one was going to speak up until it was issued. I’m not sure just how far it moves things along, but it was a necessary step.

Dano: Um, yeah, I think so. Dunno what “moving things forward” actually means in this situation. Diamond Sports Group now has some decisions to make, though, and if they wind up choosing to do what they did with their contractual obligations to the Padres, my assumption would be that MLB will take over Diamondbacks broadcasting rights, with all the benefits for fans that seem to come from that. I have no idea if that’s actually the ideal outcome, but I would guess that a judge requiring them to pay what they’ve agreed to pay will pave the way for them simply defaulting on their contract, because DSG seems to suck that way. For good or ill.

Jim: I think it’s good for the team, obviously. Whether Bally decide to pay up, or cut their losses and hand rights back to MLB remains to be seen. The latter will likely open the doors to a San Diego like scenario, where fans can buy an MLB.TV package for $20 bucks a month. That would certainly be of appeal to me, and lead me to watch more games due to ease of availability - my current set-up requires moderate effort, rather than simply flicking a switch. However, I suspect that would lead to a drop in income for the team, even though MLB have said they will ensure teams get at least 80 cents on the dollar of their contracts. That could affect the team’s ability to add salary at the trade deadline.

You can permanently change the price of one item to $1. What is it?

Makakilo: Pocket size book with the Constitution of the United States of America and the Declaration of Independence.

James: So many things come to mind. The one that looms largest right now has a massive knock-on effect though, and in a good way. Apply the price fix to a gallon of gas.

Wesley: Changing the price of gas like that would have a massive effect on the world. Let’s take that one step further and apply it to fusion energy. I want super cheap limitless energy that crashes the global economy!

Dano: Let’s stay modest and baseball-focused here and say (a) tickets for nosebleed seats, (b) well beers, or (c) basic Diamondbacks Dogs at Chase Field. Any one of those would certainly persuade some fans to return to the ballpark, and any one of those would substantially reduce the cost to fans of attending a game and enjoying the concessions.

Jim: I like all of those ideas very much. Will all the charitable endeavors taken care of, I’m going to go entirely selfish and go with 16 oz. prime rib steaks.