For a time last week, one forgot the horrible start to the season. For a time, the D-backs looked like last year’s squad, capable of a comeback or walkoff at any time. But in dropping yesterday’s contest despite an excellent start by Brandon McCarthy, the team actually went 3 for 7 in the last week. The Cubs series may have been the most disheartening, in my opinion, because the Cubs live in the National League basement. And in matching up with Chicago somewhat equally, the D-backs looked like the Cubs’ new roommates. No surprise, then, that despite an increase in winning percentage, the D-backs slipped to 29th in the ESPN Power Rankings.
That said, it sure was refreshing to see some wins, complete with lead changes, late inning rallies, and a healthy dose of Addison Reed. Now, if we could just get those Kansas City Packers uniforms full time… or, at least, give Aaron Hill some collared jerseys so he can do those Ty Cobb collar flip-ups…
The big news this week, however, is the stress fracture in the left foot of Mark Trumbo. And unlike Hill’s miraculous self-healing hand bone from last season, Trumbo will need to quit baseball activities until the foot is fully healed — especially after his bout with a similar injury in his other foot took longer than originally expected. The news now is that instead of the initial 4-6 week estimate, Trumbo may be out “for an extended period of time.” Here’s Nick Piecoro on the injury news. It sounds like July might be a reasonable expectation.
Trumbo has been a polarizing figure in the last few months, as any reader of this site already knows. A great player he is not — but he is a pretty good one. I did think the trade was terrible, in that Trumbo’s value probably should have been similar to each of the two players the D-backs gave up (check out the comments on that post for some support on the “polarizing” remark).
I like to analyze trades as at-the-time moves — only if a team was clearly working with very important information that we didn’t have might I greatly change my mind later. But if you like analyzing trades purely in terms of results, some of the early returns are in (and keep in mind that we’re expecting younger players to get better):
Mark Trumbo: 108 wRC+ (8% above average at creating runs); 7 HR in 87 PA; .770 OPS; 17 hits; 5 walks; 0.0 WAR
Adam Eaton: 105 wRC+ (5% above average); 1 HR in 97 PA; .737 OPS; 19 hits; 8 walks; 0.3 WAR
Tyler Skaggs: 81 ERA- (19% above average); 3.21 ERA in 4 starts; 1.11 WHIP; 0.4 WAR
But it’s about the future now, and in terms of covering left field in Trumbo’s absence, the D-backs are set up very well so long as they use Cody Ross and Eric Chavez in an unconventional platoon. Chavez started 45% of the team’s games last year despite spending some time on the DL, but has started just 4 of the D-backs’ 28 games so far this season (14%). We knew when he was re-signed that Chavez would get less playing time in 2014. But that had a lot to do with Trumbo, and as noted in that other piece, Chavez is not quite as useful as a pinch hitter if those appearances are likely to come up next to Gerardo Parra in the lineup.
Now, with Ross likely to start about half the time, the time is right for a platoon. Right-handed Ross and lefty Chavez can shuttle Martin Prado back and forth. It just makes too much sense; very few players in baseball have this kind of “half time” status about them, and Arizona has two of them. They happen to hit from different sides of the plate. And with Prado available to help make two positions seem like one, there’s no reason not to do it (certainly not Roger Kieschnick). With Ross and Chavez both capable of above-average production (especially in a platoon), the team might not miss Trumbo much at all.
I realize that Chavez is not quite the hitter he once was, and that Ross has really struggled since coming back. But I’ll leave off with this:
Eric Chavez, career versus righties: .854 OPS (.700 OPS vs. LHP)
Cody Ross, career versus lefties: .935 OPS (.710 OPS vs. RHP)
Mark Trumbo, career: .768 OPS
- I draw your attention to this part of Miguel Montero‘s statements on Gibson and Towers from this Nick Piecoro piece: “They’ve been coming here with the best attitude, with the best intentions, and they’ve been pushing us hard and they’ve been very positive.” I happen to think that Kirk Gibson is a good manager, but I agree that the track record of Kevin Towers is not good. For either man, though, does it matter how good their intentions were? Yes, a lot just hasn’t worked out. But with respect to Towers, I think we’re talking about a process failure. And a process failure means that even if the dice were rolled again, the team would probably still lose. You don’t replace Towers because he happened to do a bad job. You replace Towers because he’s probably not going to do a good job.
- In addressing the many reasons for the D-backs’ poor start, Piecoro notes that “a GM change mid-season might not accomplish much. Teams might be reluctant to let their top executives leave for another club in-season, and most major roster retooling happens during the off-season.” I’d just note that one would probably want to replace one’s GM at a time other than a time of major roster retooling, and that the team’s last interim GM — Jerry Dipoto — actually did a damned good job, even if a shortage of qualified candidates should be concerning. But there’s also this, as Piecoro also notes: “[t]hen again, with several of the deals Towers has made, the Diamondbacks were perceived at the time as having received unequal value for what they gave up. If the club is going to be selling at the trade deadline, ownership might want someone else doing the negotiating.” Completely agree. And fans might want someone else doing the negotiating, too.
- As AZ Snake Pit notes, Randy Johnson will return to help celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his perfect game on May 18. Any chance the Big Unit can continue after that ceremonial first pitch?
- Since I wrote last week that Archie Bradley should get called up (Towers implied he thought he was ready by saying he wouldn’t call Bradley up now because it’d be too much pressure with the team’s recent performance), the pitcher has taken two more turns with Reno. Venom Strikes’s Joseph Jacquez wonders what’s wrong with Bradley. True — his last start was a real stinker (4 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 4 BB), and he’s had trouble getting quick innings (lasting under 5 innings per start, on average). But maybe it shouldn’t escape our attention that Bradley’s two bad starts were both at Reno. And I’m not sure I agree with Jacquez when he says that Bradley “needs to stay in the minors as long as he continues to struggle,” as proving that one can pitch well in Reno is not necessarily a prerequisite to being a major league pitcher. I did push for Bradley to be promoted last week (obviously, my full reasoning is there), but when I wrote that, I assumed that this season was already a lost season for the D-backs — and it seemed like promoting him couldn’t hurt the team. In no way was I looking for Bradley to save the staff (as I noted). If him being promoted would be perceived that way, that’s on us, and our perception should have nothing to do with Bradley’s development.
- Also at Venom Strikes, Tom Lynch notes that the Arroyo signing hasn’t worked out as well as was hoped, at least thus far. Count me in with Lynch: “I want Bronson Arroyo to pitch lights-out the rest of the season.” For the record, we hated it. Jeff and I had to console each other all weekend after that signing. I was just downright downtrodden. And Jeff took Towers to task for that move, excoriating the GM for his offseason moves overall. As Jeff wrote there, “it’s not necessarily Bronson Arroyo that I have a problem with. Instead, it’s the consistent thinking of the man who brought the soon-to-be 37-year old pitcher aboard that has me underwhelmed.” Hear, hear.
- The site Awful Announcing solicited votes to grade the MLB broadcast teams, and the D-backs’ team — fronted by Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly — came in 17th. Just 81 of 856 voters gave the team an “A,” but the most popular choice was “B” (298, more than a third). For what it’s worth, I really like this broadcast team and I hope it stays together. I don’t like Berthiaume’s characterizations sometimes, and sometimes he’s kind of shallow with his analysis, but I really like that he shares what he reads on air, when pertinent.
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