Was that a good or bad week for the D-backs?
They lost the games they should have won, but won the games they needed to. It really meshes with how the team has played all season long. Frustrating losses and satisfying wins has been their game. Just more of the same, we only feel it more because of the situation.
Justin: I pointed out to someone that the Mets series could be a dangerous series for us since they have nothing to lose. They took the series. I have liked what I seen from the Cubs series as a bounceback.
Sam: My answer depends on how the finale vs. Chicago goes. Update: A great week! Sweeping the Cubs is HUGE in the wildcard standings.
Makakilo: It was a good week swinging from almost hitting bottom to authentic & ecstatic joy. The angst of losing three games to the Mets was followed by perhaps the best game of the season, won in the 13th inning. Sweeping the Cubs was joy beyond words.
Dano: Absolutely this was a good week. Sure, getting stomped by the Mets is always embarrassing, but going into Monday we own (“own”) the second WC spot, thanks to our sweep of the Tiny Bears. #TinyBears
DBacksEurope: Had we first swept the Cubs and then lost 3 of 4 against the Mets, would we have felt the same? Gallen and Kelly lost big time in New York, which wasn’t a good feeling. I will keep my feelings mixed and won’t call it good nor bad.
James: Indeed it was. After the big letdown in New York, the team responded the way they needed to by sweeping the Cubs and putting themselves in a much better position regarding the playoffs.
Spencer: It was good. It sucks to lose to the Mets, but losing to them is different than losing to, say, Oakland or Colorado. New York has talent that didn’t gel this year. And we not only swept the Cubs, but did so fairly soundly.
Tell us why Arizona will make the playoffs.
ISH95: Out of the contenders, they’re the best team. Even with the recent hiccup, I take Gallen and Kelly over any 1-2 punch in the game, wild card contender or not. They have plenty of redundancy to cover offensive slumps. When Moreno cools off, there is Carroll, or Pham, or Marte to pick him up. They’re a good team.
Justin: I don’t know. I do agree with the Gallen/Kelly 1-2. But Ive been looking at Miami to drop off for a while… and they have not. Is the Red Scare real? I see this as a 4 team battle for 2 spots. I know some, maybe a lot, don’t like the expanded playoff but honestly I do like it. Four teams, only two will get spots. Ill bring up my article about “what if, in an expanded playoff?” if I have to…
Maybe it could just be the hockey fan in me that can see an 8th seed (doesn’t technically exist anymore, but is a wildcard) win the SC…
Sam: The Dbacks know how to step up when it matters most, recently winning key series against the Reds and Cubs. They’ll continue to do so for the rest of the season.
Dano: Awkward question for me, because I’m not sure that they are, but I’m with Sam on this–we’re stepping it up when we need to. I called it, I think, at the top of the Friday night recap–not only did we need to win that game, we needed to sweep the series. And we did. That tells me something very good about this team, even if we don’t get there this year. There’s a strength of character that these kids have, individually and collectively, that we’re starting to see as the season winds down. Whether we are playing baseball in October or not, the future is bright.
Makakilo: As Torey Lovullo said in the postgame presser, the pitching was solid and the bullpen was solid. One aspect is explored in Diamondbacks Secret Weapon : Left-Handed Relief Pitching, scheduled to post on Tuesday.
As of Friday morning, their chances looked just as good as three other teams contending for the third NL wild card. For details see Are the Diamondbacks Contending in September?
Things got better when the Diamondbacks swept the Cubs. The following table shows teams contending for the second and third NL wild cards.
DBacksEurope: I have been saying for weeks that with this weak rotation, bullpen and a streaky offense, it all depends on our TOR Gallen and Kelly. We will make the playoffs because they lead the team to it.
James: The Cubs are slipping. The Reds aren’t going to win enough games. That leaves the Diamondbacks and the Marlins. The Diamondbacks have six games against the Yankees and White Sox. That should be where the team can lock up a berth.
Spencer: They’ll make the playoffs because the offense is starting to click in a way we haven’t seen since May/June. The rotation is holding itself together and the bullpen realized how to pitch again.
Tell us why they won’t make the playoffs.
ISH95: There are too many moving parts. After Gallen and Kelly, it’s anyone’s guess who is going to be pitching decently. The best parts of the offense are all incredibly young and they are almost as likely to go cold at the same time, as they are to pick each other up. And they seem to get discouraged so easily.
Justin: I chose to ignore the question and say I am thrilled to even be in playoff contention with 12 games left.
Sam: The Marlins just won’t stop. They just played 4 series against the four expected NL playoff teams (Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers and Braves) and went 8-5. That “tough schedule” for them the rest of the year is about to get easier with series against the Mets, Brewers, Mets and Pirates to finish out their schedule. The Reds, too, are just facing one playoff team in their last four series.
Ironically given the lead they had, I’m not as worried about the Cubs, but they do still have a series against the Rockies left.
Dano: Because, per ISH, we don’t seem to win the games that we should. There are a couple of series left that we really should win–Yankees, arguably SF. Also, the Cubbies have two series against the Rockies and the Pirates coming up, both of whom they seem like they should be able to trash. We, meanwhile, are facing more competent teams, and even having swept them, our margin right now is very, very tight. We drop or split or lose one of our remaining series, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe that that bounces us out.
Makakilo: To control their destiny (reach 87 wins) they need to win 8 of 11 games. Truly the players need to play their 11 best games to control their destiny. Will that happen? The less desirable alternative is for other teams to collapse leaving the Diamondbacks as a wild card.
DBacksEurope: I have been saying for weeks that with this weak rotation, bullpen and a streaky offence, it all depends on our TOR Gallen and Kelly. We won’t make the playoffs because they don’t lead the team to it.
James: The team’s pitching.
Spencer: As has been stated, the team struggles to win the games they “should” while playing even against “equal” opponents. Merrill Kelly in particular has been a sore spot for me all year. Every time he takes the mound, I expect him to fall apart in front of our eyes. It’s late-season in a year where he started earlier than usual for the WBC and he’s coming off a huge workload year where he faded down the stretch. We’ve set up to have Gallen/Kelly pitching the majority of the starts to end the year. If he isn’t up to the task, that’s a lot of pressure on a young hitting core and iffy-at-best bullpen.
Outside of Corbin Carroll, where do you see any other D-backs finishing in the awards?
ISH95: I think Gallen gets multiple first place votes for Cy Young but not enough to win. Maybe not even top three. There are enough contenders that three first place votes might still equal fifth overall. I think Walker might get on the tail end of MVP, but I wouldn’t bet on it either. Beyond that, I think there are going to be multiple gold glove awards, starting with Walker and Saalfrank /sarcasm
Justin: Gallen gets some votes. Saalfrankenstein wins the Mary Shelley Award unanimously.
Sam: Does Gold Glove count as an award? Without putting in any research, I can see Walker and Thomas picking those up.
Makakilo: My view follows:
- With near certainty, the winner of NL Rookie of the Year: Corbin Carroll.
- Place in top ten for Cy Young: Zac Gallen.
- Very much deserving to win a Gold Glove: Gabriel Moreno. This season he created a reputation for gunning down runners trying to steal second base (52% caught stealing). His 9 caught stealing above average leads the Majors (per Baseball Savant). His 18 DRS at catcher is the best in the NL per The Fielding Bible. It’s not even close - second place is 13 DRS.
- In a close race for a Gold Glove: Christian Walker. His 9 DRS at first base is second best in the NL (Carlos Santana is first with 10 DRS).
- Possible Manager of Year: Torey Lovullo, assuming D-backs reach the post-season.
- Finalist for Gold Glove: Alek Thomas. His 5 DRS in center field is the fourth best in the NL.
- Finalist for Silver Slugger: Corbin Carroll. His 5.1 Offensive WAR ranked the sixth best in the NL per Baseball Reference.
Dano: No, not really. As Justin notes, Gallen gets some Cy Young Award votes, but as he has faded down the stretch, I don’t think he takes it. Of course, he probably has two more starts this year, right? If he absolutely nails them both, maybe he’s back in the actual running. But Carroll and Gallen are the only ones I can think of. Unless there’s someone I’m forgetting who could be in the running for the Viagra comeback player of the year, of course. But I don’t think we have a candidate this year. Maybe some Gold Glove contenders, per Mak. But none of the big EOY awards.
DBacksEurope: I have nothing to add here.
James: I think Gabriel Moreno should be taking home the Gold Glove at catcher. I also expect Alek Thomas to be in the running for the center field version. That one though, is a much closer race and he may be hurt by being the new guy on the block in terms of being a defensive high-flyer in center field.
Spencer: I hadn’t considered Carroll for Silver Slugger, but I like Makakilo’s idea there. Gold Gloves (or at least finalists) for Thomas, Walker, and Moreno (in that order of likeliness I think) make some sense too. And Lovullo for Manager of the Year unless Miami squeaks into the postseason; then I see Schumaker getting it.
Giants and Yankees this week. What does the team need to do?
ISH95: Play like there isn’t another game tomorrow. Burn the bullpen. Push the starters. Empty the entire bench. Send Longoria home on shallow singles. Win. The. Games.
Justin: I like that thought. I don’t think they “need” to take both of the Giants games, but it would help, of course. I think we have Gallen and Kelly lined up, if I am not mistaken. Take ⅔ from NY.
Sam: They finally get an off-day after 18 straight! And then get two of them in a 4-day span. Sigh, the schedule-makers have not been kind to the Diamondbacks this September, between this and sending them to New York and Chicago twice.
Anyways, the Giants games matter a tiny bit less as they’ve fallen back, but they still matter far more than the 9 interleague games that follow. So of course I’d love it if they could win both, but winning just one would probably still doom the Giants, who have to play the Dodgers 7 more times. And then the Yankees, White Sox and Astros series obviously don’t matter any extra for the standings, but it all comes down to doing better than the Cubs, Reds and Marlins. It would also be extra sweet to clinch a spot with a game or two to go, so they can rest Gallen and Kelly and send them out there in the wildcard series.
Makakilo: The players need to focus on winning each game, one game at a time. Each game needs to be their best.
With Gallen and Kelly as starters, and with the rest day for the bullpen, the Diamondbacks need to sweep the Giants.
The Diamondbacks need to win the series with the Yankees. Because I’m writing the series preview for the Yankees, insights follows:
- The Yankees’ roster included 9 players with almost no playing time in the Majors (MLB) prior to this season. The Diamondbacks roster included 8 such players (7 after McGough went on the IL). After pairing each of the 7 D-backs with a similar Yankee player, I compared them. For each of the 7 paired players, my preferred player was a Diamondback.
- Because these players are younger than average, they will add energy to the game. Because their experience is less, misplays may occur. That situation favors the Diamondbacks.
Dano: Win. Pure and simple. The Yankees have basically thrown in the towel. We need to not do that, because we’re still playing for the postseason. And the Giants, well, they’re a funny team. I keep thinking they’re out of it or that they will be shortly, and then they keep showing up again, disturbingly close to us, in the Wild Card standings. We need to put them down once and for all–it’s only two games, but given the beating they took this weekend in Colorado, a two-game sweep should be enough. So, as Jean-Luc Picard would say, “Make it so!”
Sam: As a follow-up, I’m not sure I mean the same thing as everyone else when I talk about things the Diamondbacks “need” to do. For instance, many of you would probably have said they “need” to win the Mets series, or even sweep it. But even though they lost that series, they’re now the second wildcard. Doesn’t that mean they didn’t “need” to win the Mets series?
As the standings sit right now, to get one of the last two wildcards, what the Dbacks actually need to do is 3 of the following 4 things in their final 11 games:
- Match the Cubs’ losses over their last 12 games (e.g., go 6-5 if they go 7-5).
- Match the Reds’ record over their last 11 games (e.g., go 7-4 if they go 7-4).
- Match the Marlins’ wins over their last 12 games (e.g., go 7-4 if they go 7-5).
- Win at least 2 fewer games than the Giants in their last 12 (e.g. go 5-6 if they go 7-5) OR win both head-to-head games, then at least 5 fewer of the rest (e.g. go 2-7 if they go 7-3).
By the way, if the Giants (and Phillies) aren’t part of a tie, the tiebreakers now simply follow this order: Marlins > Reds > Dbacks > Cubs, except that if all four teams tie, the Marlins and Dbacks would advance rather than the Marlins and Reds. And just barely – the Dbacks’ 11-9 record against the other tied teams would only be percentage points better than the Reds’ 14-12.
DBacksEurope: Play over .500. The Giants series could be tied, but the Yankees and White Sox’ series will have to be won.
James: They need to win at least three of the five. More ideally, they go at least 4-1 to truly force the pace for a spot in the postseason. If they can somehow sweep, that all but punches their ticket for mid-October baseball.
- Play Well - Continue to play like you’re facing the Cubs and every game matters more than the last (because until they don’t, they do)
- Hope - San Francisco looks defeated, but they have time to make a push. New York is having a potentially historically (by their standards) bad year, which could give them motivation to avoid a sub-.500 record. The Diamondbacks need to hope the likeliest outcome(s) end up being the true result.
- Win - Duh right? But winning matters now. Look to Sam for the analytical, numbers-based wins. I’m a believer that winning begets winning regardless of what the numbers say. The youth has gotten a taste of contention like I wanted. The team already has an improved record over 2022 while giving major playing time to young bodies. Those were my two realistic goals going into the year. If they want to match my “pipe dream” of a playoff series, they need to win.
Of all the baseball changes since COVID, which are the best and worst, and why?
ISH95: the worst is cashless. I’ve gone on rants about my perception of its legality. Let me give you money. I don’t want to use my card. I definitely don’t want to use Apple Pay. LET ME GIVE YOU MONEY.
Everything else I can take or leave.
Justin: I had to pay for what my best friend bought Saturday, with my card because she only brought cash up from Tucson. She has had fraud and identity theft before on her debit/credit cards, so only carries cash withdrawn from the bank. I know the specifics. Not going to share them, just know I do not blame her for being cash only. This instance was not a case of being careless, either.
It was only popcorn and water I paid for, but that is not the point…
Sam: Do you mean things directly related to COVID, or just changes since 2020? If you mean the latter, the pitch clock is obviously the best, and the rules against shifts are the worst. Wacky shifts were interesting!
(Also, congrats to ISH for finishing a round table!)
Justin: He has come so far.
Dano: Yes, he has. We are so proud.
Per the question, though, I dunno, honestly, as I haven’t been to the ballpark since August 2019. I will be at the game on 9/30, though, so my answer will maybe be different after that. But assuming that the question is not focused specifically on covid-related changes, I would say the pace-of-play changes this year. I don’t actually hate any of them, and I find that I quite like most of them. I still hate the Manfred Man business. But I gotta say, it heightened the inning-on-inning drama last night (Saturday’s marathon) as it progressed, so I’ll give it that. Of course, I’m only giving it that because we won in the end; if we hadn’t, I’d still be entirely in the Burn It to the Ground caucus there.
Best: The faster pace is attracting more fans to baseball. Although technically it’s largely from two things: the pitch clock and limits on disengagements.
Worst: Perhaps the delay in implementing a robo-umpire calling balls and strikes.
Dano: Also, hells yes, on Mak’s noting the delay on implementing robot umpires. Yes, please! #robotumpiresnow
DBacksEurope: The best is the 3-batter rule. Replacing pitchers takes a lot of time, so the pace of play started there. The worst is the introduction of the DH in the NL. I don’t hate it and most of the time the pitcher was an automatic out, but it gave the NL something romantic.
James: My first answer is the expansion to the 26-man roster. While the negotiations happened in 2019, the change didn’t take place until 2020. That feels like cheating though. For changes made since 2020 rolled around, I guess my qualified answer for best change would be the pitch clock. It has helped with the pace, but there are still some tweaks that need to be done regarding the specific details. It’s still an exploitable mess.
As for the change I hate the most, I’ll give the surprising answer of the Manfred Man. I know there are some filthy heathens out there who think it has brought some new excitement to the game and helped the game by shortening extra-inning affairs. I am not one of them. I am in the crowd of the Manfred Man being a crime against the sport, a rule that should be slaughtered, cremated, and then have its ashes buried in the deepest bowels of the underworld, then sat upon by a sadistic demon, just in case it still somehow crawls free. It is a scourge upon the game, a blight that simply should not be tolerated. But hey, I could be overreacting (I’m not).
Spencer: The best? The balanced schedule. Personally, it gives me far more chances to see my team play in person without having to visit Phoenix at its peak climate… For the game, it showcases which divisions are truly the best/worst and allows every team to test their mettle against every other team rather than seeing, say, the Dodgers pad their record with 15 wins each season apiece against the Diamondbacks and Rockies… Close second is the pitch clock - a positive game changer in every single way.
The worst? I’m not sure I really have any? I’m ambivalent to the Spooky Runner; it’s stupid and I have other options I prefer (home run derby shootout style anyone?), but it’s mostly meh to me. It’s not a rule change, but the growing discrepancy between the haves and have-nots in the sport as a whole is not great (sidebar factoid: my net worth as a 30-year-old government employee am closer to the Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 payroll than the Pirates are to the New York Mets…). I don’t like that a team like Oakland can just pretend to be poor and reap benefits of moving without repercussions.
But I also detest that a team like the Mets could just sign Madison Bumgarner to an ungodly deal and pay to have him off their roster without blinking an eye. A salary floor of $100M (leeway for midseason trades, etc. would be necessary - so maybe like a range of $90-$100M with higher/lower numbers depending on what part of the season it is?) AND a Luxury Tax Threshold starting at $220M with harsher punishments would be a nice change to fix this in my opinion. I’d also stop giving the Luxury Tax money to other teams and instead invest it into youth baseball around the country/world to make sure that the future product is better than the hellaciously expensive product being purchased. The future of the sport is more important than rich idiots pretending they’ll have a more competitive team next year with that money.