2017-03-22T22:00:02-04:00Our new closer had a Jekyll and Hyde 2016. Which will we get in 2017? We asked you to rank the 40-man roster along with the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training, and every day between now and the eve of Opening Day, we’ll have a profile of one of those Diamondbacks. D minus 11: Fernando Rodney Date of birth: March 18, 1977 Ht/Wt: 5’11”, 230 lbs Position: Pitcher Status: 40-man roster Bats/Throws: R/R 2016 MLB numbers: 67 games, 65.1 IP, 3.44 ERA. 74:37 K:BB SnakePit Rating: 6.48 I don’t know whether Rodney really doesn’t like Florida, but it’s rare I’ve seen such a striking difference in a player’s numbers before and after a mid-season trade. He was brilliant for the San Diego Padres: over 28 appearances and 28.2 innings, he had a 0.31 ERA, having allowed one earned run. One. But just four days after his trade to the Marlins, he’d allowed more than that, and went on to post a 5.89 ERA in 36.2 innings for Miami. His strikeout rate was similar for both teams, better than ten per 9IP: but his walk and home-run rates were significantly higher for the Marlins. The question is, which one is the “real” Fernando Rodney? He turned 40 over the weekend, and will be the oldest player to pitch for the D-backs since Takashi Saito in 2012 (also becoming the 10th “forty-something” in franchise history). Saito and Rodney also share something else: they’re two of only four National League pitchers to post a K-rate above ten per 9IP, while throwing 30+ innings at age 39 or later. [Saito did in 2010; the others are Randy Johnson in 2004 + his injury-curtailed 2007, and Nolan Ryan in 1987] If he can sustain that in 2017, he should be fine, and an ERA in line with his FIP last year of 3.80 would be okay. And his velo last year was fine, at 96.1 mph, barely changed from the previous two seasons. On the other hand: he turned 40 over the weekend, and we’ve seen how players that age can fall off a cliff. Take Johnson: at age 40, Randy had an ERA+ 176; at age 41, it was 112; in his age 42 season, it dropped to 90. But this is only a one year, $2.75 million package (though there is considerable additional money in incentives), so it’s more likely Rodney is intended as a bridge toward a younger, long-term closer such as Jake Barrett or Jared Miller. Previous entries Bonus! [Non-roster invitees who arrived after poll closed]Hank CongerJorge De La RosaFrank DuncanKevin Jepsen and Brian MatuszT.J. McFarlandTom Wilhelmsen #56: Kristopher Negron #55: Jason Pridie #54: Yuhei Nakaushiro #53: Miller Diaz #52: Erik Davis #51: Josh Thole #50: Josh Taylor #49: Joey Krehbiel #48: Daniel Gibson #47: Ildemaro Vargas #46: Oswaldo Arcia #45: Reymond Fuentes #44: Keyvius Sampson #43: Jack Reinheimer #42: Tyler Jones #41: Dawel Lugo #40: Silvino Bracho #39: J.J. Hoover #38: Domingo Leyba #37: Evan Marshall #36: Oscar Hernandez #35: Jimmie Sherfy #34: Jared Miller #33: Steve Hathaway #32: Enrique Burgos #31: Jeremy Hazelbaker #30: Zack Godley #29: Matt Koch #28: Anthony Banda #27: Gregor Blanco #26: Jeff Mathis #25: Ketel Marte #24: Rubby De La Rosa #23: Shelby Miller #22: Socrates Brito #21: Nick Ahmed #20: Chris Iannetta #19: Braden Shipley #18: Randall Delgado #17 Daniel Descalso #16: Andrew Chafin #15: Chris Herrmann #14: Jake Barrett #13: Yasmany Tomas #12: Archie Bradley [...]
2017-03-22T16:03:47-04:00Despite possessing a big fastball, the young lefty struggles at times to put away hitters with his secondary stuff. That causes his pitch count to run up and leads to short outings. When it comes to pitching, perhaps the most underrated facet of the game is being able to disguise pitches. Pitchers rely on velocity, movement, and deception to fool hitters, with most of the best pitchers in the game being able to use all three tools. Batters have about a quarter of a second to make a decision to swing or not, basing that decision off of the ability to recognize spin and the release point. Pitchers that can provide a consistent release point with all of their pitches and similar looking movement and spin are the ones that are able to fool hitters into making a bad decision. Pitchers that don’t tend to struggle with long pitch counts, long innings, and get lit up. One pitcher in particular that seems to be affected by the inability to disguise pitches is Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray. Ray’s repertoire is well-known at this point, he attacks with 95+ MPH heat that he loves throwing to the glove-side of the plate and complements that with a back-foot slider vs. RHB. He’ll flip in a token change-up or curveball if he needs to, but he’s basically a two-pitch pitcher. Even with that mix, he doesn’t disguise the two pitches very well, which is why he gets hit hard or has long ABs with foul balls. For Inside the ‘Zona, Jeff Wiser wrote about pitch sequences that work or don’t work based on release point and tunneling effect. The idea of pitch tunnels is being able to disguise the movement in the amount of time the hitter has to make a decision. Pitches that look the same in that time period and break late are more effective than pitches that have a ton of break, but break early in the pitch tunnel. If you are interested in reading more about the topic of pitch tunnels, I recommend you click on this link to a Baseball Prospectus article. We’ll start with comparing the Diamondbacks Opening Day Starter. Pitch Combinations That Are Working Zack Greinke’s four-seamer and changeup, slider Despite very average, or even below-average velocity, Zack Greinke has thrown his four-seamer over 40% of the time over the last three years. It’s a pitch he can locate where he wants to for the most part, and it’s one he uses to get ahead. His changeup looks very similar to the fastball for hitters before the decision point – both pitches are released from similar slots and tunnel very well. After the decision point, they showcase above average break differential, meaning that after the hitter has decided to swing (or not swing), the two pitches have above average separation. This applies to his slider as well, as it’s released similar to the heater and tunnels at an above average rate, then separates more than average, too. Simply put, hitters have a very, very difficult time determining what’s coming at them. Is it a four-seamer? Changeup? Slider? The hitter just can’t determine with much certainty and it shows in Greinke’s long-standing success. Other pairings listed in the starting rotation candidates are Patrick Corbin’s sinker-slider combination that propelled him to All-Star status four seasons ago and Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley’s four-seam fastball and curveball combination. Here, we can juxtaposition to what he wrote about Robbie Ray. Robbie Ray’s four-seam fastball and changeup, slider and curveball Let’s think this through: Robbie Ray has a big fastball but struggles to put hitters away. Why is that? He just can’t seem to retire hitters with any kind of efficiency. They seem to foul off or take his secondary pitches rather than swing and miss them. They don’t seem to take them looking either. In short, they don’t really seem to work. So let’s take a look at least one hypothesis: hitters can tell his pitches apart. As compared to his four-seamer, Ray’s changeup and slider differentiate at the release point more so than average, meaning they’r[...]
2017-03-22T16:00:01-04:00Greetings to the new people! As is its wont, the circle of life has turned - insert The Lion King soundtrack here - and so we wave goodbye to four SnakePit writers from the Opening Day 2016 roster. They would be John Baragona, piratedan7, preston.salisbury and soco. We thank them for their contributions over the years, and wish them all the best. It’s a parting on amicable terms, being largely a question of family life, work, etc. interfering with duties, so we hope they’ll still be seen around here now and again. To replace them, we’ve brought on four new faces, but didn’t have to go too far - most of them will be names you’ll recognize, it you’re a regular reader. Rather than introducing them, I invited each writer to submit a bio - short, long, truthful or fictional, entirely up to them - and this is what they provided: David Castro David Patrick Castro graduated from the University of Nevada with a B.A. in Journalism. He has had his work published in the Reno-Gazette Journal, Arizona Rubber, IseeRobots.com and Examiner.com. A Santa Rosa, California native he moved to The Valley of the Sun after graduating from the University of Nevada. He currently resides in suburban Phoenix with his wife and son. kman5000 Relatively new member to the Pit after having lurked for around 2 years. 25 years of age born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Baseball is my escape from the mundane day to day.Favorite seat in the stadium is the bleachers. Favorite food item is the cheeseburger dog. Grew up playing Little League for the Red Sox, so that was the team I was mostly interested in up until 2004. Ironically, it was during the Diamondbacks' worst season ever that my current understanding of the game took shape, and my interest in the hometown team took center stage. I found myself fascinated with a terrible team. Having endured that season truly hardened me for the roller coaster years to come. I have a great appreciation for the members here that tend to delve deeper and answer questions using advanced metrics. Sean Testerman (formerly known as Moranall) Sean is one of those actual rare-breed Phoenix natives and has been a Phoenix loyalist since birth. He has dealt with the continual onslaught of transplanted Cubs fans (approx. 4.3 million residing in Phoenix per 2010 census), bandwagon Giants fans (still working out the sources, but reporting numbers in the hundreds of billions), and rational Dodgers fans (3) for as long as he can remember, but now he represents the Diamondbacks in the tropical paradise known as Indianapolis. Sean is 27 and single for any of you ladies that might be reading from the Indianapolis area... Sean is an aerospace engineer (some might say professional arguer) by trade and you'll rarely see his comments drift away from anything that isn't data-centric. He has a particular passion for modeling systems and statistics, so his love of baseball sabermetrics should not come as any sort of surprise. Sean is a self-proclaimed computer nerd, having been on computers ever since he learned how to load and play games off a floppy at age 4. Don't let his nerdiness fool you, however, as he still regularly plays sports and pretends to be a social butterfly by drinking lots of craft beer. Sean's other hobbies include traveling, cooking, a video game here or there, and fighting the Leastern Time Zone (and the MLB's blackout rules) to watch as much Diamondbacks baseball as humanly possible. Sean has been posting to forums, chat rooms, and other internet communities for more than a decade now, but this will be his first foray into actually being a "writer." thunderpumpkin87 Didn’t submit a bio. But for completeness, he will be given one from Wikipedia, found by hitting the “Random page” link repeatedly. That’ll learn him. :) Was the second wife of 32nd Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz. She was the mother of Şehzade Mahmud Celaleddin Efendi and Emine Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Her marriage served an alliance between the Ottomans and the buffer s[...]
2017-03-22T10:00:05-04:00Concerning the infield log-jam, the 40-man roster and possible trades. Coming into spring, it looked like the infield was going to be Paul Goldschmidt and Brandon Drury on the right-hand side, with Chris Owings and Jake Lamb the everyday starters on the left-hand side. Daniel Descalso had been brought in to provide a left-handed version of Phil Gosselin, while Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte were expected to battle it out for the back-up shortstop’s role. To some extent, things have unfolded as expected: unlike the outfield or bullpen, say, there have no significant injuries to disrupt things on the infield. But there have been a couple of wrinkles. Owings could end up once again seeing time in the outfield, especially with the likely loss of Yasmany Tomas, for an indeterminate period. There may also be the need to clear one or more spots on the 40-man roster, if the team decides to go with some of the non-roster invitees, particularly bullpen arms like Tom Wilhelmsen,, Jorge De La Rosa and J.J. Hoover. To help meet such an eventuality, the team is reported to be soliciting offers for one of its infield arms. But let’s start with the usual look at how the candidates remaining in camp, have performed at the plate so far in spring. Pre-season performances With the exception of Goldschmidt, who has been on World Baseball Classic duty, the anticipated everyday starters mentioned above have performed well. Indeed, all have delivered an OPS better than 1.000 thus far in spring, capped by Lamb’s impressive line of .382/.462/.706. Descalso has hit well too, albeit in playing time also limited by his stint with Team Italy. The lowest output has, not unexpectedly, come from Nick Ahmed. However, his spring was always going to be be about proving his health, and there seems to have been little or no hangover from the hip microfracture procedure which he underwent at the tail end of the 2016 season. It appears the team wants to decide well before Opening Day, manager Torey Lovullo saying, “It will be sometime in the next week.” But as in the other areas, he has been reluctant to give any hints as to who might have the inside track on the shortstop position. "They offer different things in different ways. It's a boxing match and they're all slugging it out right now. I love that. That's why the decision hasn't been made. It's been hard on me. It's been hard on the front office, it's been hard on the staff. It's been hard on everybody to kind of separate that field. We're going take as much time as we possibly can to get that answer right." The 40-man crunch The injuries to Tomas and Socrates Brito leave the D-backs with only three true OF on the 40-man roster: David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Jeremy Hazelbaker. In order for the team to add a replacement such as Gregor Blanco, as well as add any of the non-roster relief pitching candidates (Wilhemsen, Jorge De La Rosa or J.J. Hoover being most likely), they must clear a spot on the 40-man for each of the players concerned. The injured men aren’t much help, because if placed on the 15-day disabled list, they still occupy a 40-man slot. It requires a move to the 60-day DL to free that up, which would mean a major delay before they could be re-activated. Taking anyone else off would mean exposing them to waivers and potentially losing them to another team. Looking at the current Diamondbacks 40-man roster doesn’t so much fat which can be trimmed. Leftie Steve Hathaway and Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones are perhaps the pitchers most in risk of losing a spot; on the position player side, we do seem somewhat overstocked on infield prospects, with Domingo Leyba, Dawel Lugo, Jack Reinheimer and Ildemaro Vargas all sitting there. But Nick Piecoro floats the other way of freeing up room: trading a player, saying Ahmed has “sparked interest from at least a handful of teams,” including the Padres, Rays and Yankees. Potential trades San Diego’s interest was previously noted, and New York are now [...]
2017-03-21T22:00:01-04:00Will 2017 finally be his year? We asked you to rank the 40-man roster along with the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training, and every day between now and the eve of Opening Day, we’ll have a profile of one of those Diamondbacks. D minus 12: Archie Bradley Date of birth: August 10, 1992 Ht/Wt: 6’4”, 225 lbs Position: Pitcher Status: 40-man roster Bats/Throws: R/R 2016 MLB numbers: 26 games, 141.2 IP, 5.02 ERA. 143:67 K:BB SnakePit Rating: 5.93 Though nothing has been announced officially of yet, it seems increasingly likely that Archie Bradley is going to be the odd man out in terms of a rotation spot, and will start the year in Reno. This isn’t necessarily a season-long sentence, any more than it was when he began the 2016 season there - only Robbie Ray ended up starting more games on the Diamondbacks last year than Bradley. So, the odds are greatly in favor of him getting his chance again at some point this season. But for someone who was a unanimous top 10 prospect in all baseball before the 2014 season, it has apparently been a struggle to turn that potential into major-league success. Over 34 MLB starts, Bradley’s ERA is 5.18. However, his career FIP is almost a run lower, at 4.27, and that improved significantly last year, dropping to 4.10, as he struck out more than a batter per inning. Indeed, his peripherals merit comparison with another young pitcher. Let’s play the Pitcher A/B game, with two lines from the 2016 season produced by 23-year-old arms.Pitcher A: 141.2 IP, 154 H, 16 HR, 67 BB, 143 SO, 4.10 FIPPitcher B: 134.1 IP, 129 H, 27 HR, 37 BB, 119 SO, 4.99 FIPA, you will perhaps have guessed, is Archie. But B is actually Taijuan Walker, just three days younger than Bradley, and the centerpiece in a trade which cost Arizona our MVP from last season, Jean Segura. While Archie appears Reno bound, Walker will likely be the #2 starter for the D-backs. Bradley’s fate is in his own hands. When the opportunity comes, as it likely will in 2017, he needs to seize it with both hands and deliver the kind of consistent performances which will make it impossible to remove him from the rotation. With Walker positioned ahead of him, that may be a little harder than 2016. But Archie has the ability to do it. Whether he can or not, however, remains to be seen. Previous entries Bonus! [Non-roster invitees who arrived after poll closed]Hank CongerJorge De La RosaFrank DuncanKevin Jepsen and Brian MatuszT.J. McFarlandTom Wilhelmsen #56: Kristopher Negron #55: Jason Pridie #54: Yuhei Nakaushiro #53: Miller Diaz #52: Erik Davis #51: Josh Thole #50: Josh Taylor #49: Joey Krehbiel #48: Daniel Gibson #47: Ildemaro Vargas #46: Oswaldo Arcia #45: Reymond Fuentes #44: Keyvius Sampson #43: Jack Reinheimer #42: Tyler Jones #41: Dawel Lugo #40: Silvino Bracho #39: J.J. Hoover #38: Domingo Leyba #37: Evan Marshall #36: Oscar Hernandez #35: Jimmie Sherfy #34: Jared Miller #33: Steve Hathaway #32: Enrique Burgos #31: Jeremy Hazelbaker #30: Zack Godley #29: Matt Koch #28: Anthony Banda #27: Gregor Blanco #26: Jeff Mathis #25: Ketel Marte #24: Rubby De La Rosa #23: Shelby Miller #22: Socrates Brito #21: Nick Ahmed #20: Chris Iannetta #19: Braden Shipley #18: Randall Delgado #17 Daniel Descalso #16: Andrew Chafin #15: Chris Herrmann #14: Jake Barrett #13: Yasmany Tomas [...]
2017-03-21T20:15:02-04:00Peter O’Brien homered, then struck out twice in his other at-bats. Yeah, 2016 called: they want their recap back. Cactus League record: 13-10-1. Change on 2016: -5.5. Remember Peter O’Brien? Prodigious power, appalling plate discipline, couldn’t field any position? We ended up trading him to the Royals for a minor-league player in January. Well, guess who is leading all hitters in home-runs this spring? Yep: Peter O’Brien, who hit his seventh of the pre-season off Robbie Ray in the second inning this afternoon. We’ll see whether it lasts - he had five last spring - and he’s still also striking out at a scary rate, with 17 in 45 at-bats. But at least he gets to DH for the Royals, so it’s probably a better universe for everyone. Otherwise, however, it was another good outing for Ray, who went five innings and allowed two runs on four hits, with a walk and six strikeouts. Nick Piecoro said of the outing, “Lots of strikes. Lively fastball,” and notes Ray’s improved command as we’ve gone deeper into spring. I also note Ray’s efficiency. Those five innings took 78 pitches, and average of 15.6 per frame, which would be a distinct improvement over his 18.2 average in 2016, which was one of the problems preventing him from going deeper into games. If he can get that figure down to average (16.6 last year), it’ll be another step toward him becoming the ace commensurate with his elite K-rate. Here’s manager Torey Lovullo discussing Ray’s outing (via @FoxSportsAZ): Torey Lovullo liked what he saw from Robbie Ray today. @Dbacks pic.twitter.com/W5h6qlhaa8— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) March 21, 2017 The rest of the bullpen seems to have had a good day too, though I am not inclined to belief what the MLB.com box-score is telling me: Yeah. I’m pretty sure Fernando Rodney didn’t go four innings this afternoon. Not least because elsewhere in the box-score, it says J.J. Hoover got the save. But I’m not inclined to sit around and wait for MLB to get their act together. After a couple hours, MLB has finally fixed the box score for this game, as Andrew Chafin also pitched for the Dbacks in the 9th inning. Rodney and Chafin had 1-2-3 innings, with Rodney striking out two hitters, while Hoover pitched the two innings between them. The correct box score for March 21, 2017. Arizona got on the board in the second, with Chris Herrmann’s second home-run of spring. But it was a three-run fifth which proved decisive. Gregor Blanco got a spring RBI triple, after the Royals’ outfielder lost the ball in the sun. David Peralta reached on an error, allowing Blanco to score, and Jake Lamb doubled - off a left-handed pitcher, no less - to bring Peralta home. Tomorrow’s an off-day for the Diamondbacks. So we can all concentrate on watching the once again Goldschmidt-less Team USA go up against Japan in the semi-final of the World Baseball Classic. If they lose, I’ll have no sympathy for them. [...]
Can Ray sustain what has been steady improvement this spring?
One roster move was made by the Diamondbacks this morning: Evan Marshall was optioned to AAA Reno. This leaves the team with 44 players left in camp. According to Steve Gilbert, the problem was a lack of available innings, and the team expects him to return at some point.
Ray gets his fifth spring outing, and they’ve generally been getting better as they’ve gone along, which is good to see. He started off by walking three in just 1.1 innings, but last time out he struck out seven and walked none over his four frames. As ever with Ray, pitch efficiency is a thing, and since he’ll probably only get one more outing after this before Opening Day, we’re close to the point where what we see is going to be what we get from him.
2017-03-21T12:31:50-04:00The herd has been significantly thinned, one way or another. When we originally looked at the 2017 Diamondbacks bullpen, there were 26 potential candidates - and that was before we added T.J. McFarland. However, injury and roster cuts have succeeded in winnowing down the candidates significantly. Here are the stats of those I’d say have pitched in spring training and have a legitimate shot at a bullpen spot. They are listed in descending order of innings pitched, in Cactus League games only i.e. excluding exhibition contests. Near-certs Randall Delgado Fernando Rodney Delgado has had a particularly good spring training, throwing six innings and delivering a K:BB ratio of 10:0, and has likely cemented his spot as a result. Francisco Rodney hasn’t been seen very much in the Cactus League, due to his participation in the World Baseball Classic with the Dominican Republic team. He allowed one run over 3.1 inning there, with a K:BB of 4:0, but the run did lead to a blown save against Colombia. Wounded warriors Jake Barrett (shoulder) Silvino Bracho (thigh) Rubby De La Rosa (elbow) Steve Hathaway (shoulder) Kevin Jepsen (thigh) That’s quite a slew of injuries, and the above are probably questionable at best for any Opening Day spot. It’s particularly a blow for Barrett, who was previously in the “near-cert” category. Relief pitchers don’t need as much in-game action to be ready as other players, but time is running out if they are going to prove their return to fitness, at the very least. Stock rising Andrew Chafin J.J. Hoover Tom Wilhelmsen The above three have delivered solid pre-season numbers, which have likely improved their chances of making the Opening Day bullpen. In Chafin’s case, this spring was partly about proving his fitness, after a 2016 curtailed by injury. He’s done that, and a K:BB of 8:0 in 6.2 innings also impresses. Hoover has a similar good ratio (7:0 in 5.2 IP), and Wilhelmsen had held batters to a .130 average, though his K:BB (4:4) leaves something to be desired. But if Opening Day was today, the trio would likely all make it onto the Arizona roster. On the bubble Erik Davis Jorge De La Rosa Tyler Jones While Davis has allowed two runs over seven innings, with a K:BB of 7:1,much of that work has come late on in games, against other teams’ B-hitters. De La Rosa’s length and experience makes him a valuable option, but a K:BB of 5:4 is a significant question-mark. Jones’s Rule 5 status gives him an advantage, and his 8:0 ratio stands out more than his 4.05 ERA. Stock falling Zack Godley Evan Marshall Brian Matusz T.J. McFarland While Godley has had his share of work, and a good 8:1 K:BB, he has also allowed ten hits in only six innings. We’re all rooting for Marshall, but Evan only has three K’s in 5.1 innings, and a .391 average suggests he’s not missing many bats. Matusz’s average against is hardly any better, though does have a 7:0 K:BB in his favor - again, the quality of the hitters he has faced is likely a factor. McFarland’s late arrival puts him already behind, and the bases have been left littered with his runners in his appearances thus far. Conclusions There is still time for things to change, particularly on the health front. Barrett’s rehab has been going well - he could still be ready, and if so, will likely command a spot. Manager Torey Lovullo said, “It’s going to be close. We’re going to continue to ramp him up but we’re going to proceed with caution.” But my gut feeling is that this caution will lead to him missing the cut - perhaps not by much, but enough. As a result, here’s my current best guess at our Opening Day bullpen: Andrew Chafin Jorge De La Rosa Randall Delgado J.J. Hoover Tyler Jones Fernando Rodney Tom Wilhelmsen [...]