The D-backs demolished the Rockies in a three-game sweep in Denver last week before taking two of three from the Braves at home — their plus-14 run differential during the six games was enough to bump the run differential for the season to minus-51. The D-backs are 23-19 since April 22, winning at almost the exact rate we expected before the season — but the fact that they still dwell in the NL West basement is a testament to just how big a hole the team dug itself at the outset of the season. The minus-51 run differential is second-worst in the majors (ahead of minus-54 Tampa Bay). Is contention cyclical for expansion teams?
The problem is still pitching. The offense is a surprising sixth place in the NL in terms of runs scored, and only 13 runs off of the NL-leading Marlins. But the D-backs have let up 20 more runs than the next-worst teams in the majors (White Sox and Rockies). Chase Anderson and Josh Collmenter have arguably been the best two starting pitchers in the last month — and when your patches are better than the rest of the canoe, it might be time to get a new canoe.
That said, the team appears to be playing up to its capability, finally, and may be an 85-win team digging itself out of a 5-19 hole.
By the way — at “press time,” news broke that Trevor Cahill was designated for assignment to make room on the Active Roster for J.J. Putz. I have no details at this point, but we’ll post them when they’re available. What’s more odd is that about one hour before, Kirk Gibson said he was mulling a return for Trevor Cahill to the rotation. As Rod noted this morning, Cahill has been better in relief. He may never be lights-out in any role, however. This is pretty shocking, in my book, considering he’s owed about $17M, including his $12M salary for 2015, a prorated portion of his $7.7M salary this season, and a $300k buyout. I’d have to check, but I think that’s the second-largest salary dump in team history.
With Cahill designated for assignment, the D-backs have ten days to make a roster move. They could send him to AAA Reno with his permission if he passes through waivers, trade him, or release him (in which case any team could sign him for the league minimum, with the D-backs on the hook for the rest of his contracted salary above that amount). I have to imagine he’d be worth more than the league minimum to some other team that wanted to take a flyer that they could “fix” him — so if he is claimed, my money is on a trade. If he’s not claimed, he’s probably going to have Dave Duncan as a new best friend. But what do you think the chances are that a team puts in a waiver claim? Seems pretty unlikely, and I can’t think of a team with that kind of need and that kind of money to spend.
Jesse Sanchez reports that Towers hopes to retain Cahill:
“Hope is to retain him. We still think there is value there.”~#Dbacks GM Kevin Towers on Trevor Cahill, who DFA’d earlier today.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) June 9, 2014
Another thought about the Cahill DFA: the D-backs must be comfortable with Randall Delgado as their long reliever. A team really only needs one, but a team does need one, and Josh Collmenter isn’t available for the job any longer. Now, if Towers & Co. can get Delgado to sign the same sweetheart deal that Collmenter signed over the winter…
Also: if Eric Chavez can’t comfortably start, it absolutely is time to see if a DL stint will help. [Ed: Sure enough, that’s what the D-backs have done.]
To the links:
- Eno Sarris had a stellar piece on changeups at FanGraphs, again featuring Brandon McCarthy. Great piece that every baseball fan should read to help themselves decode the game. It’s pretty damned interesting how similar changeups are to sinkers — and the tidbit about how Cahill has an 8mph spread on his sinker is also a pretty great tidbit for us who follow the D-backs.
- Also at FanGraphs, Mike Petriello got the word out that A.J. Pollock (#ActionJacksonPollock) is a damned good center fielder. That he’s great, all I can say is: yep. That losing him for the next two months is a crushing blow, all I can say is: how about you not rub it in. Before he went down, I really wondered if we were seeing a good player becoming great. Huge loss.
- Our own Jeff Wiser posted on the sustainability of reverse platoon splits at Beyond the Box Score, using Pollock as an example and, perhaps, inspiration. Jeff’s piece caused a bit of stir in the saber world, so go check it out.
- Nick Piecoro on David Peralta’s journey to the major leagues. I love stories like this — Peralta is not the first former pitcher to make the bigs as an outfielder, but I can still count all of the examples I can think of on my fingers.
- Piecoro also addressed the D-backs draft, in which the team netted Touki Toussaint and some other intriguing pitchers. I don’t know too much about these guys, but I view the pick of a high schooler a positive thing. Don’t worry… you won’t have to wait long to hear from Jeff on the draft results.
- Speaking of the draft, here’s Keith Law’s take on the D-backs’ top selections ($), and John Sickels’s take.
- Chris Moran of Beyond the Box Score did a post on all of the youth that the D-backs have traded away under Towers. It’s not really anything you don’t already know if you’re a regular reader here — in fact, I think this post covers the same territory but in a way that is much easier to visualize. And Jeff had a post on the Towers thought process.
- What did you think of the contract the Astros put together with Jonathan Singleton? Maybe not much, if you realize the D-backs wouldn’t face him this week if the Astros were still worried about Super Two. But it’s a great model, and the D-backs should be among the teams to try this with essentially every player they believe has a decent future with the club. Maybe most players wouldn’t take it; fine, but that’s not a reason to not offer it. And you only need it to work out 10% or 20% of the time for it to make sense. At Baseball Prospectus, Zachary Levine explained the economics behind the Singleton deal ($).
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