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SnakePit Round Table: Unstoppable (almost)

5-1 against winning teams this week. That’ll do, D-backs. That’ll do...

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The D-backs are back in a playoff spot, two weeks after their season was being written off. Discuss.

James: Some may have written them off. The slumping occurred as much due to sequencing as anything. Carroll’s 55-game slump featured unsustainably low BABIP. Leaving as many runners stranded as they did was not going to last either. That said, it has also been a major plus to get reliable starting from the likes of PFaadt and some better bullpen results as well, bolstered in many ways by the arrival of Sewald. I still think that this team is a borderline Wild Card candidate. They squandered part of the cushy part of their schedule, so now they need to step up in one of the tougher parts of the schedule. If they can go slightly over .500 for the final 33 games, they’ll be playing meaningful baseball in October.

Spencer: It’s amazing how volatile young talent can be isn’t it? My expectations remain extremely high for the future of this core (2019 and beyond draftees/acquisitions). But development doesn’t stop on Debut Day. It still surprises me a fanbase that reaped the benefits of Paul Goldschmidt for years, watched his work ethic and listened to his ethos of constantly working to get better failed to ingrain that into their fandom… Sports is perhaps the only career where you can “fairly” judge adults under 25 as if they should be the best at what they do.

Makakilo: My thoughts follow:

The Diamondbacks are largely in control of their destiny for two reasons.

  • In their remaining games, the Diamondbacks play the teams contending with them for second and third wild-cards (Cubs, Reds, and Giants). The Diamondbacks remaining games include:

7 games with the Cubs

1 games with the Reds (0 after Sunday)

2 games with the Giants.

  • Setting aside the games between wild card contenders, it’s encouraging that only 6 of their other 22 games are against first place teams

6 games vs Division #1s (Leaders)

10 games vs Division #5s

6 games vs Division #3/4

The chances of being a wild card are about 50% (49% and 54% per two websites). But what if they play a three-game wild-card series with all three games in Milwaukee, Chicago or Philadelphia? I’d very much rather see a game at Chase.

With that in mind, I purchased tickets behind the third base dugout for the last two regular season games at Chase. Also, I have airline and hotel reservations. One or two wins in those games could possibly be needed for the Diamondbacks to reach the playoffs. The Diamondbacks will need my cheering! I am very much up for the challenge!

Spencer: Kilo that’s awesome! Enjoy the games!

DBacksEurope: I guess it is a thing of good streaks and bad streaks, but since this team doesn’t have an impressive batting lineup nor do they have a reliable bullpen and an inconsistent starting pitching rotation, it all comes down to relying on those who are the best on this team: Gallen, Kelly, Marte, Carroll and a bit of Christian Walker. If they falter, then the team has a steep hill to climb.

Wesley: I said it the entire time while they were slumping, and I’ll say it again now: this is a young team that is still learning and growing. They’re in control of their own destiny. They are going to have to keep doing what they’ve been doing the last two weeks, which is plugging away taking two of three, or three of four. They will need to sweep one or two series or what they’ve been doing may not be enough.

Ben: They were due for a regression back to their own mean. One of the unsung heroes of this team has been Gabriel Moreno. It’s obviously extremely early, but the returns of the Varsho trade have been excellent and decidedly in favor of the D-Backs. If Moreno can continue to be the spark plug he’s been, it will go a long way towards deepening the lineup and improving the team as a whole.

Dano: I think it’s cool. I’m still not holding my breath for us to make it all the way there, but as others have noted for weeks now, watching competitive baseball that matters this late into the season is a rare pleasure that hasn’t been available to Diamondbacks fans in quite some time. Good, also, to see that, after an extended period of collective adversity, this young team has managed to find a way to climb up out of their collective slump. Good teams learn to do that. Seems like our kiddos just had their first lesson, and passed it with flying colors.

What are the keys to them sustaining their postseason push?

James: They need Gallen, Kelly, Pfaadt, Cecconi, Jarvis, and Sewald all to continue to perform. They need Carroll’s dynamic play to continue. They need to play aggressive, fundamentally sound baseball, pouring on pressure at as many opportunities as possible to try and force the other side to make mistakes. Basically, they need to play like they did in early-May.

Spencer: They must stay aggressive and play carefree baseball. Pressure can be a great motivator. But this team has shown us their best abilities come out when they don’t let that pressure take over.

Makakilo: Pitching and batting – each needs to continue to be excellent in most games. The Diamondbacks need to make routine plays, while they “keep winning the inch,” while taking advantage of any opportunities that their opponents give them. And when they are behind, they need to play with their fullest effort (like they did Saturday) to “answer back.”

DBacksEurope: Gallen and Kelly need to be stellar and we need to hope that one of the 3 other pitchers in the rotation, each time their turn is up, at least one pitches the team to a win. It’s the only way to overcome hitting issues on any day and to avoid certain relievers.

Wesley: They need to take it one game at a time and remember it’s just a game. As I said in my previous answer, they’re going to have to keep taking series after series, winning at least two out of three games or three out of four. They’re going to need to do better than that against the Yankees, White Sox, and Mets in those upcoming series. The series against the Giants is a must win. They have to take both games.

Ben: Beyond the obvious ones of scoring more runs than their opponents, I think it’s the small aspects that will keep the momentum going. When this team has executed the fundamentals: taking the extra base, picking up on signs, and covering bases, they have been most successful. I want to see them continue to be aggressive on the basepaths too. It’s not only inherently entertaining to watch as a fan, but they can take advantage of their speed and force their opponents into mistakes.

Dano: Starters need to keep doing their jobs well. Offense needs to keep piling on, every game, no matter what the score is. Getting Pfaadt his first win on Friday if, as we have seen not infrequently in the past, we’d gotten that five-spot in the fourth and then the offense had said, “Well, we did our part,” and then just peaced out, isn’t gonna work. They need to continue to do more in those situations.

What elements of the team concern you most?

James: The bullpen, especially if they continue to use openers and play in a number of consecutive close contests.

Spencer: Yeah the bullpen mostly. The offense and it’s streakiness, but the bullpen causes me more ulcers.

Makakilo: The bullpen. As an example, the bullpen made Saturday’s game full of unexpected twists and turns. The Diamondbacks almost won!

The bullpens’ negative 3.7 Wins Above Average ranked 26th out of 30 teams, which is the lowest rank of any position on the Diamondbacks.

DBacksEurope: This FO’s ineptitude to build a viable rotation and bullpen ever since 2018. The presence of Brent Strom shows that the problem might not be the coaches.

Wesley: The bullpen is the obvious answer. It will always be a concern in my opinion.

Ben: It’s still pitching writ large. Somewhere between two-thirds and half (depending on your definition of a starter/opener)of the team’s current “rotation” is comprised of players that are in their first full season in the big leagues. That creates a lot of question marks and uncertainty. To be fair, it also allows for separation between those that will be part of future rotations and those that will be jettisoned to the bullpen, but that’s a future problem. The starters have stabilized in this recent stretch of success while the bullpen has continued its rollercoaster behavior (see Saturday’s game for an obvious example). Until this team can figure out its pitching situation, it’s difficult to see sustained success, but I’ve been proven wrong before by this team.

Dano: Bullpen, same as it ever was.

Matt McLain or Corbin Carroll for Rookie of the Year? And why is the answer Corbin Carroll?

James: Carroll. He’s been doing as much or more for a larger portion of the season. His slump hurt his overall numbers compared to the league, but that’s the nature of baseball. Carroll hiit the skids and still managed to right himself and get back at it. That say far more than any other candidate who has a strong stretch but not for long enough to ever hit the skids.

Spencer: Carroll and it ain’t close. McLain is cool. He’s very good at times. He’s not been among the best players in the sport the majority of the year.

It shouldn’t make a difference, but I think it might: there is zero chance Carroll is traded this winter but McLain could be used to fill holes on the Reds’ roster. ROY should just be the best new player (still Carroll), but giving the award to a guy who may be traded a few weeks later might hold a few voters back too.

DBacksEurope: Carroll was an All Star this season and McLain wasn’t, that is one argument. Another one is that McLain has a .789 OPS on the road, which is fine, but not as strong as his home .978 in a hitter’s park. His BABIP is .386. Carroll might have slowed down after the All Star break, but the last two weeks he has been terrific again. I am confident he will maintain his current averages and win Rookie of the Year.

Makakilo: The answer is Corbin Carroll based on full season results. Two highlights:

  • Corbin Carroll’s stolen bases add more fan excitement (40 vs 14).

Sunday update: 40 stolen bases!

  • Corbin Carroll was better in clutch situations, when his performance made a difference (positive .46 vs negative .53).

After the season-to-date table, I will address recent results:

Table data from Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and

After the All-Star break, Matt McLain had a higher OPS, but the difference is largely because his BABIP was 20% higher. It is unlikely that the difference in BABIPs can be sustained (data from Baseball Savant).

  • After ASB OPS: Matt McLain .868 OPS, Corbin Carroll .788 OPS.
  • After ASB BABIP: Matt McLain .363 BABIP, Corbin Carroll .301 BABIP.

In the last two weeks (through Saturday per Baseball Savant), Matt McLain hit more homers, but Corbin Carroll had a higher OPS.

  • Two Week Home Runs: Matt McLain 4 HR, Corbin Carroll 1 HR.
  • Two Week OPS: Matt McLain .903 OPS, Corbin Carroll 1.000 OPS.
  • Two week BABIP: Matt McLain .333 BABIP, Corbin Carroll .378 BABIP.

Wesley: Can’t add much to when Mak laid it all. It should go to Carroll. Both should see some regression the coming month, with McLain falling back to Earth and Carroll returning closer to the form he shower earlier in the season. Their overall rate stats are very similar (see Ben’s answer below) so Carroll is going to have to pull ahead via his counting stats. If Carroll can make it go 30 homeruns and 50 stolen bases, I think he’s a shoe in. Stolen bases are the one are where Carroll is clearly better than McLain. Both have been caught stealing five times, Corbin has 25 more stolen bases than Mclain.

Ben: It’s not quite a slam dunk case for Carroll as it was earlier in the year, but it’s hard to see a scenario in which McLain catches up to him down the stretch (barring injury or another extreme slump) *furiously knocking on surrounding wooden surfaces.* Their slash lines are eerily similar: .294/.361/.512 (.873 OPS) for McLain versus .279/.361/.515 (.876 OPS), but Corbin’s extra playing time, counting stats, and slightly younger age should comfortably put him above McLain. As has been said before, baseball writers love round numbers and the fact that Corbin hit the 20+ HR/40+ SB threshold bodes well for him - and he still has an outside shot at 50 SB for the year.

Dano: What Mak said, with tables ‘n’ stuff. But to Ben’s point, yeah, it’s not the slam dunk that it seemed like it was back in, say, May. I hope that us winding up being better at the end of the season than Cincinnati will contribute to voters selecting him over McLain.

How much will Shohei Ohtani’s torn ACL cost him?

James: Quite possibly as much as $100 million. Teams are going to pay less for a one-way player. The teams willing to take the gamble and risk letting him continue as a two-way player, resuming in late 2024 or the beginning of 2025 will have an advantage over those only willing to let him play as a position player but offering up money.

Spencer: A ton. Instead of having proven himself to be capable of being worth 2 MVP salaries, he may find some suitors who don’t trust he can still pitch at all again… I think James’ $100m estimate may be conservative. He’s not likely to get $500m as just a batter. And teams that want him as a pitcher as well may offer fewer years to hedge against more injuries and later in life ineffectiveness.

DBacksEurope: I think James’ average is about right. MLBTR just released their assessment of the free agent power rankings and argue that he is younger than Aaron Judge, providing excellent batting stats and is probably quite capable of playing a corner outfield position if he isn’t able to pitch. That puts him close to $400MM. Maybe the remaining $100-200MM will have to be provided by a team that is willing to put some risk money + a ton of escalators/bonuses if Ohtani is able to stay on the mound. I think the Angels might have a seat at the table again, but I don’t see the Diamondbacks entering the restaurant. I thought Ohtani’s off-season was going to be interesting, but this UCL thing certainly provides even more juice.

Makakilo: The largest free agent contract in history was Aaron Judge at $360 Million.for 9 years. My prediction is that Ohtani will sign for between $360 and $400 Million.

This is the MLBTR article that DBacksEurope mentioned.

Wesley: 100 million, easily. On the positive side, the Dbacks actually could stand a chance at signing Ohtani now? Despite the fact he likely won’t pitch next year, he’d still be an upgrade at DH and would improve the rotation the following year. I would be more than okay with the Dbacks making a serious competitive offer in spite of the injury.

Ben: It will cost him more money than I or likely this entire round table will ever have in our lifetimes - combined. I think the more interesting side of the story than the lost money will be the new suitors that will emerge as Wes mentioned above. I disagree with Wes slightly though that the D-Backs will make a serious offer to Ohtani - at least not one that he’ll genuinely consider for very long. I would guess that the injury will allow for other teams to enter the Ohtani-stakes that would otherwise have stayed on the sideline. For example, the Cubs and the Padres both rank near the bottom of the league for combined OPS from their DHs (.644 and .657, which ranks 30th and 28th respectively). While they both are in the top-10 for 2024 payrolls, it wouldn’t shock me if they gambled on a competitive offer when they might have stayed out previously. It will be an interesting, exhausting process that will almost certainly exclude the D-Backs.

Dano: A lot, I would expect, in the short term, anyway. Dunno how superstar sports contracts work, but it seems like maybe the best choice for Ohtani would be to avoid some massive, multi-year deal this off-season, and instead opt for a one- or two-year gig that gets him a massive salary increase but allows him to revisit the long-term market once he’s proven that he’s healthy again, and the ACL issues are behind him. Of course, the risk there is that, if the ACL issues wind up not being behind him, he’s probably left a lot of money on the table on a gamble that would fail to pay off. Risk/reward. Dunno.

What, due to experience, do you know not to mess with?

James: My body sending me signals that something isn’t right.

Spencer: Snapping turtles (ow my lip). Bagels (ow my throat). Eosinophilic Esophagitus (ugh my throat). Pain Medications (terrifying).

DBacksEurope: Dogs. They are like the Diamondbacks’ bullpen: you never know what is going to happen.

Makakilo: Don’t mess with a cat that does not want a trip to the vet. Last week that visit included the back of my left hand getting clawed (which was better than being scratched). The bleeding was out of proportion to the wound, which was minor. My wound is almost healed. Happily, upon its return the cat was very affectionate.

Wesley: I don’t go camping alone anymore. Jim and ISH95 know why.

Ben: After getting shin splints training for my first (and to date only) marathon, I know to avoid running on consecutive days. I’ve also started to avoid dairy on the off chance I have some kind of lactose intolerance.

Dano: Extreme weather, per my answer last week as well as other, less dramatic experiences. Believe the NWS, people. Seriously. They may wind up being wrong, sometimes, but a lot of time they’re right, and listening to them can save your life.

Also, ditto what James said.

Jim: Just to back up Makakilo, do not mess with a cat that does not want anything. We have a Bengal kitten,still less than six months old. A couple of days ago, we thought she was doing some kind of happy dance in the living-room, only to realize she had somehow managed to get her collar wedged in her jaw like a gag. It took the combined efforts of Mrs. S and I to hold her down so we could free her, and trying to grab hold of her was basically like jamming your hand repeatedly into a blender with teeth. We’re all much better now...