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SnakePit Round Table: Further Down the Spiral

Another week, ANOTHER Nine Inch Nails reference...

Galeria Canalejas... Photo by Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images

Welp. So, whaddya got about those Diamondbacks?

Spencer: They are certainly still an MLB baseball team…

DBacksEurope: Shocked to see they are having such a bad streak for a prolonged time. I did think it remained to be seen whether they would be able to keep steam an entire season long. I had expected to see them battle for the playoffs but they are slowly dropping out. If they continue to play like this even .500 might become a mountain to climb again and I hadn’t expected that after their strong start.

James: Their record is now where I more or less expected it to be from the beginning of the season. The team leading the NL West was always too good to remain true in this environment. I do think the team did well to stay the course, regardless of what fans of the team think about Mike Hazen’s approach.

Makakilo: The possibility of reaching the playoffs was so real. Now it’s nearly gone. Despite my glimmer of hope, I feel bad. Two reasons follow:

  • The team is very talented and their mindsets are winning. Frequent losing is challenging them to their cores. Can they stay strong?.
  • I always keep my promises to myself. I promised myself that when the Diamondbacks reached the playoffs, I would attend at least one of their playoff games (like I did the last time they reached the playoffs). I am sad to wait another year.

Ben: I think the most encouraging part of this extended slump, drought, skid, or whatever you want to call it is that the players still seem to be engaged and putting the effort forward. Of course, that’s extraordinarily subjective. There isn’t any meaningful way to quantify effort or mental engagement, but that has been my leading impression recently. Personally, I credit Torey for keeping this group in that mindset. This kind of extended losing can become contagious and spiral into unprofessionalism very easily, but I have yet to see that kind of behavior from this team - which is even more impressive given the youth of the roster. There are plenty of legitimate questions to ask about his long-term viability with this team, but I’m going to credit him for maintaining that kind of mental focus through the most difficult stretch of the season.

Dano: They are not a good baseball team right now. I’m certainly surprised by just how bad it’s gotten, but I honestly didn’t expect them to sustain their level of play from the first half of the year for the entire season, or even for as long as they did. I think Ben makes a good point, though–they’re still fighting, which is worth something. But good lord it sucks to watch them right now.

What did you think of the trade deadline moves?

Spencer: I think they were fine. And just that. Sewald needs to be Ziegler for me to feel comfortable about the move, but I have faith. I really liked the Chafin move; he can’t pitch in Phoenix. I’m glad to see the last of him. He lets too many inherited runners score and lets too many on base. I’m surprised he came back to the team honestly… Pham and Peterson are fine, placeholder names I’ll only need to remember for Sporcle quizzes, like Calhoun/Castillo/Pennington.

DBacksEurope: I was disappointed. I think they gave up quite some depth for a 35-year old reliever who doesn’t have much of a track record and who will be only here for the remaining 2 months and next year. And the Diamondbacks didn’t address their main issue, which is the rotation although I did mention that the return of Merrill Kelly is probably the biggest reinforcement the Diamondbacks could think of. But while I can easily criticise Hazen for not getting a starter, the series against Mariners, Giants and Twins have shown that the current problem is the offence. I don’t envy the FO not the manager: it seems there is always something wrong.

James: While many disagree with my take on the value of talent given up, I think it was a mostly fair trade deadline for the Diamondbacks. I would have skipped on trading for Pham, but the return for Pham was not one to break the system so I am inclined to let it slide. There are some who hate the Peterson deal, but he’s really nothing more than a direct Rojas replacement for a massive lottery ticket that may or may not pay off in 2028 at the soonest. It would have been nice to get a controllable starter, but the price was clearly more than was reasonable for the Diamondbacks to be shelling out in what is still a developmental year.

Makakilo: The obvious best move was adding Paul Seward as closer for this season and next season. On a relative basis, potentially it could be worth 10 wins a season. Impressive!

The more subtle best move was replacing Josh Rojas with Jace Peterson for this season and next season. Peterson is a better hitter and with his excellent defense at third base, instead of being a utility player he could platoon at third with Emmanuel Rivera. Hat tip to Jeremy Young for his comment to this AZ Snake Pit article.

Ben: I think they were mostly fine. I’ll say that I’m a little confused why Sewald became a priority over other roster spots, but he’s been quite good for the Mariners and the price was reasonable for that kind of talent and team control. I can also echo everyone else who bemoans the decision not to acquire a starter, but the ones that were traded either didn’t match with the D-Backs timeline or were beyond their price range.

Dano: Well, this afternoon was the first time I saw Sewald throw a pitch, and the first pitch I saw him throw went over the right field wall at Target Field. So I can’t say I’m thrilled. Peterson seems fine–an upgrade in many respects from Rojas, though I do and will continue to miss his energy and antics in the dugout and on the bases. But if the moves were intended to strengthen us for contending down the stretch this year, early indicators suggestion to me that that was a fail.

How about the lack of a new starting pitcher?

Spencer: At the price set this year, not trading for a starter is the best move they made. The AAA arms deserve their shot and are all probably good enough to not need a 4-5 guy who cost solid prospects like Montgomery. I’d like to see a winter move for a controllable arm now though, because not all the AAA arms are going to be starters long term.

DBacksEurope: Terrible. And if the Diamondbacks don’t make a big splash this off-season, we will probably head into 24 with the same problem. I would have kept the depth the Diamondbacks gave up for Sewald to get an ace in the rotation. But since Sewald will be here for just one more year…is Hazen going to go all-in next year? If he pulls off a Philly it might work, but it’s not like the Diamondbacks will head into 24 as a team to be feared. Gallen and Kelly are not even close to what Johnson and Schilling were, in my opinion.

James: While I would have loved to see Arizona land multiple years of a quality starter somehow, the reality is that sort of talent just wasn’t there to be had at anything even remotely resembling a reasonable price. Sure, maybe they could have traded for the likes of someone like Eduardo Rodriguez or better, but the cost likely would have cleaned out Arizona’s farm, which is vital to the team having even the remotest of chances of success in 2024, 2025, or, 2026, perhaps longer. Sure, Rodrigues would have helped the team somewhat this year and in those years as well. But who else would be left on the team beyond Carroll and Moreno? The answer is no one. I want to be aggressive striving for success this season, but I don’t want to sacrifice the entire future of this team to do it. There is absolutely something to be said for staying the course.

Makakilo: Although starting pitching was a huge need (8 metrics were all below average, which should not be surprising), the trade might have required trading prospects plus a player currently in the Majors; that trade likely would have meant reconstruction of the team this season and next – quite a high price.

The Diamondbacks need to keep alert to opportunities:

Ben: I’ll characterize it as disappointing but not surprising. There weren’t as many starters that moved as I would have expected at the beginning of the trade season, but I think sellers were asking for unrealistic returns for controllable starters. In my opinion, while the rotation has been inconsistent for the D-Backs based on any number of metrics or opinions, it wasn’t worth the capital given their position this year. However, that decision (or lack of decision) directly parlays into the offseason questions that Hazen and Co will face. There are any number of options for 2024 starting pitchers on the open market this offseason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that much. How much money will the FO have to spend on starting pitching? Which of the in-house options get more opportunities? Relatedly, how long are the leashes on those opportunities?

Dano: I wasn’t pleased about that, but honestly, our starting pitching isn’t the problem right now. The bullpen and the offense are. Cecconi and Pfaadt had good starts this week, per the next question, and Kelly and Gallen continue to do their jobs pretty well, and while Ryne Nelson is still having bad starts (cf. yesterday), he’s getting better results more frequently, so I still feel like he’s coming around.

Slade Cecconi and Brandon Pfaadt had decent starts. Cause for optimism?

Spencer: The optimism is that we have in house options who can hold their own. Long term idk if Cecconi is a starter, but if he can do what Jameson did last year and become a solid reliever in 2024, I’m happy. Ditto Walston and Jarvis although I buy both of them as starters more than Slade. I was never worried about Pfaadt and think his troubles lowered his value, thus helping Arizona long term.

DBacksEurope: if young kids do well there is always reason to be optimistic. Especially Pfaadt. I was on his bandwagon at the beginning of the season and he is supposedly one of the best. So if one of the best isn’t really that good, there isn’t much hope left. So let’s stay optimistic here.

James: Glad to see Pfaadt adjusting to the Majors. He still profiles as a #3 ⁄ 4 pitcher in a rotation and could still very well end up in the bullpen long-term. However, he’s showing all the signs of someone making yet another round of adjustments to increased competition. If he continues to adjust like this, he has a very real chance of sticking in the rotation. No, he isn’t going to be a TOR pitcher. That doesn’t mean much though. The current crop of highly regarded pitching prospects lacks a TOR type arm, but it is deep in mid-rotation depth, which is just as valuable.

Makakilo: Yes!

If Brandon Pfaadt can solve the puzzle of preventing home runs he will be good near the top of the rotation. In the Majors, he allowed 1 or more homers in 8 of his 9 games. Although his fastball velocity is average for the Majors, its spin is at the 89th percentile.

If Slade Cecconi can solve the puzzle of pitching well after the fourth inning, he will be good in the middle of the rotation. This season In Reno (a hitter’s paradise) he pitched at least 5 innings with 1 or less earned runs in 7 of 20 games. In Slade Cecconi’s first start in the Majors he allowed no runs in the first four innings (he allowed two runs in the fifth inning).

Ben: Absolutely, it’s a cause for optimism. One of the things I will continue to love about baseball is seeing people succeed at a very popular dream: playing in the big leagues. Do I think their success in those outings means they’ve turned the proverbial corner? Probably not, but it’s a nice feeling and makes me more optimistic than if they’d continued to struggle certainly.

Dano: Yes. I feel like it’s waaaaaaaay too early to tell yet with Cecconi, but he had a pretty solid debut outing. Pfaadt, like Nelson and Henry before him, is likely going to continue to have bad outings from time to time, but he’s starting to seem like he’s beginning to settle in. Now, if Tommy Henry can come back from the IL and pick up where he left off (not that small an “if,” of course) then I’ll feel like our young’uns in the rotation are coming along okay.

Do you feel umpiring has been worse this year?

Spencer: Not really. I blame the strike zone box on the screen more than the umpires.

DBacksEurope: I haven’t seen enough games to judge that.

James: On one hand, I agree with Spencer that the box on the screen has exacerbated the discontent with the state of modern umpiring. On the other hand, when guys like Angel Hernandez and others continue to find work at the highest level, I have issues with the process. With the better adaptation of instant replay, I am of the opinion that something needs to be done about umpiring. The most recent example of umpiring failure that just boggles my mind happened just last Friday evening in the White Sox - Guardians game.

Makakilo: No. The logic follows. Assumption that umpiring mistakes are more likely to change the outcome in 1-run games. The Diamondbacks win-loss record in 1-run games shows a better outcome this season compared to the prior two seasons:

  • 14-16 in 2023
  • 17-29 in 2022
  • 10-31 in 2021

Ben: I don’t think it’s necessarily gotten any worse than it has in the past, but I’ve been glad to see a tone down in the umpires inserting themselves into the game. There have been far too many times that they have gone on ego trips and gotten unnecessarily combative with players or managers in my opinion. Look no further than last year when MadBum got tossed during a routine substance check and the umpire seemed to be goading him into a confrontation. I understand the umpires are human and will have subjectivity to their calls, but I can’t wait until that is further limited with either the challenge system or robo umps outright.

Dano: Yes. I have no evidence beyond my own experience watching games on television, but yes.

What are you starting to dislike more & more the older you get?

Spencer: Arizona sports fans. Impatient, uneducated or willfully ignorant of how baseball works in the modern day. Anyone railing on a rookie not debuting like Corbin Carroll or calling college arms spending less than 2 seasons in the Minors busts has no business discussing whether or not something is good or bad long term. I say stick to the NFL or NBA where “development” happens in high school and you can continue ignoring it there too. I never thought I’d see Diamondbacks fans actively calling for the team to make moves reminiscent of the Colorado Rockies…

I’m not saying we should lay down and accept the profound mediocrity we’ve been given by GM after GM in the last 2 decades. We should expect better. But I am reminded of a pivotal lesson from one of my favorite books of all time, Ender’s Game: remember who the enemy is (this lesson is also important to The Hunger Games if you prefer, but it’s less impactful there imo). It’s been 2 decades with some things never changing, therein lies the main problem.

DBacksEurope: Remakes of remakes of remakes of the original and the lack of originality but also reality in general.

A lot of times I hear a song nowadays which is 90% a copy of another song, with a minor twist. And that song was years ago a house copy of a normal pop song.

Sometimes I see a movie with my wife and most of the time you have seen the script 90% in a different movie. Last time I saw some real cheap imitation of “Meet the parents”. It wasn’t even funny.

And that becomes even more apparent in series. The first season you might think “oh this is cool”, but in the end everyone starts having sex with one another, you get relationship problems and bla bla bla…it doesn’t matter if it is set in medieval times or in the future.

Oh, and what is rather ridiculous too now I think of a series set a long time ago: so many people are clean shaven, have their hair styled, their eyebrows smooth, their teeth white as snow…people really buy that bullshit? Netflix having a Victorian series with coloured dukes and queens…in England…why do people watch that? And how, in the last movie I saw, does Angelina Jolie keep her make-up intact after walking through the woods a couple of days, getting hit by lightning, almost perishes in a monstrous forest fire and then spends an entire night in a small creek both under and in the water?

James: To remark on DBE’s response, Those Who Wish Me Dead was a terrible movie and had so many logical flaws it was difficult to enjoy it just for its absurdity. In answer to the question/prompt, societal interaction in general. For the most part, I simply do not match up well with my societal peers anymore and would rather just forego all the nonsense and just live a happily introverted life. Hollywood has released few truly original entertaining products for almost a decade now. So I find no escape there. Sports fandom over the last 20 years has gone to crap as well, in pretty much any sport. I’m just mostly done with it. Lastly, there’s this whole BS with the weather just getting warmer and warmer. Despite what many on social media would like to make the world think, no, this has not been a typical and fully expected summer. It both started more than a month late and was still one of the hottest ever on record, while lacking any sort of actual monsoon season. Despite being born and raised in Arizona, I’m all but done with this nonsense.

Makakilo: Tough question for me because I rarely focus on my dislikes. And if I disliked something more and more, why wouldn’t I do something to change it (it would then become a challenge instead of a dislike). And otherwise why wouldn’t I change my attitude? It’s good to have an accurate perception of things that I cannot realistically change. Why tilt at windmills?

Ben: Ironically, I think the deep and abiding cynicism that seems to grip people more and more has become increasingly frustrating to me. That becomes doubly so for those who have an opportunity to make an actual difference but instead bemoan the lack of change around them. For better or worse, we are all dependent on another and if you see something that bothers you, you should do what you can to make it better in my opinion.

Dano: I’m with James on societal interaction in general, I’m with Ben on the deep and abiding cynicism, I’m with Spencer on the rise of know-nothing blowhardism, though in my experience it is not just a problem within baseball fandom, but something that increasingly saturates our social and civic life at pretty much every level. For me, I increasingly find that I have no interest whatsoever in going out into the world to attend events or activities that draw lots of other people to the same venue. Concerts? No thanks. Movies in theaters? Nope. Any sort of fair or festival? Oh, hell no. And, well, baseball games? Ummm….