The last week literally had a lot of ups and downs, with the team winning two of three against the Padres and one of three against the Giants. In the middle game against the Padres, we saw Ian Kennedy face the D-backs in his new uniform for the first time. David Holmberg got the call to face him for his big league debut. Neither starter figured into the decision for that game, however; in true 2013 Arizona fashion, the game ended in a walkoff hit for Aaron Hill.
Walkoffs have been a theme all season — with the Padres walkoff and another on Saturday against the Giants, the D-backs still lead the league in walkoff wins, now with 12 total. Frequent lead changes are the sign of a middling team, unfortunately… and in today’s ESPN Power Rankings, Arizona stayed at 14th overall. The D-backs are now a ridiculous 11.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West — meaning the division is almost certainly out of reach, even if Arizona managed to win all seven games it has against L.A. this month. The second wild card spot is still a remote possibility, as the D-backs are only 6 games back of the Reds — but the Nationals are just 6.5 games back, meaning a total collapse by Cincinnati still would not assure Arizona a spot.
Despite the narrow lead over the Nats in the standings, FanGraphs’ playoff odds tell the story that Washington is really the better team, and that Arizona may have been overperforming a bit this year. Using the ZiPS and Steamer projection models, FanGraphs comes up with a 2% chance for Arizona of grabbing a wild card — but the same projection gives the Nats an 8.4% chance. You might be right to wonder if the ZiPS and Steamer models are overly incredulous about individual D-backs’ performances this year, though (especially Goldy’s) — using season-to-date stats, FanGraphs gives Arizona a 6.7% chance of making the playoffs (6.5% chance of getting the wild card). We’re splitting hairs at this point, however, and any way you slice it, Arizona needs to go on a run right away in order to remain in the hunt this year.
Yesterday saw only two promotions once the roster expanded, in the returns of David Hernandez and Tony Sipp. I would think a few more will join them as the month goes on, but I’m surprised we don’t have one or two new guys yet. Check out my thoughts from Thursday. Promoting Owings is still an option if one of the team’s infielders runs into an injury issue. The addition of Matt Langwell to complete the Jason Kubel trade probably changes the math for September callups — but not for any evaluation of the Kubel trade, as Langwell is 27 and doesn’t offer much upside. I’m sure the club will use this month as an audition for Langwell — if he doesn’t perform, we might never see him in a D-backs uniform again.
Some good stuff written on the D-backs this week:
- Last week, the Arizona Fall League announced rosters. The D-backs organization is sending six to play for the Salt River Rafters: Mike Freeman, Jake Lamb, Jake Barrett, Nick Ahmed (from the Upton trade), Andrew Chafin, and Matt Stites. I had been hoping that Chafin might make the bullpen this month as an expanded roster callup, but no dice, apparently. And I think we’re all eager to see more of Stites. Nick Piecoro has a thorough breakdown of these six guys.
- At FanGraphs, prospect guru Marc Hulet wrote about what to expect from David Holmberg, and about the youthfulness of the Arizona pitching staff in general. Given Holmberg’s pitch count struggles, I wonder if he’ll be the mop-up guy for the rest of this month if he returns, freeing up long man Josh Collmenter for some higher-leverage situations. On the RotoGraphs side of the same site, Mike Petriello had some interesting things to say about the return and rise of Adam Eaton.
- Several very good posts at AZ Snake Pit this week, including this look at the decline of baseball in Tuscon by Clefo. I also enjoyed mpschutz_az’s cautiously optimistic piece on the organization’s outlook. Jim McLennan took an interesting look at past years’ September callups, and his thoughts on the Kubel swap are pretty much in line with mine.
- At Venom Strikes, Christian Moffett had some thoughts about Josh Collmenter, and Thomas Lynch went out on a limb predicting a Skaggs trade this offseason. Personally, I think there’s every reason to bet that some or all of Tyler Skaggs’ lost velocity will return in the spring, and since that’s exactly what happened last year, I think the organization is at least conscious of that possibility — that would make the offseason about the worst possible time to trade Skaggs. Either he’ll be mediocre in the spring, and his value will only be marginally worse than it is right now, or it’ll be back.
- At Prestige Blogs, Chris Jackson was back in the saddle and firing away with a handful of posts. In the first, Jackson noted that Arizona has been middle of the pack in leaving runners on base, which makes sense since we’re in the middle of the pack in terms of getting runners on base. He also notes that Arizona’s bullpen ERA is actually fairly good, something that Inside the ‘Zona’s Jeff Wiser also covered recently. He also thoroughly catalogued Kevin Towers’ trade history. Jackson offers a good, clean assessment of each trade and I don’t differ much on my opinion of each of those moves, except to note that he analyzes results, not necessarily the strength of the move at the time it was made. Jackson also covered the Upton trade in greater depth.
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