We sometimes — maybe even often — write editorial or opinion material here at this site. But the site’s soul is sabermetric research, and even the editorial content is informed first and foremost by sabermetric principles and lessons from the past. I’m quite proud to say that the four writers who write regular content grew up as fans of four different teams. That’s the perspective that we try to draw on for our work: we’re a bunch of people who love baseball, read all about baseball, research baseball. And we happen to be focusing energies on the D-backs. We have our own opinions, and we have our own biases, although numbers hopefully let us filter those biases out, frequently. We have our pet issues. But the goal is still to be objective, even when we’re trying to write persuasively. We make no apologies for attempting to be persuasive when it’s called for — that’s part of what makes for a good analytics department, and I think of us as a free-standing analytics department, sometimes.
I’ve been very fond of the Diamondbacks for a long time — the image of seeing the final 2001 World Series at-bat on a 17″ TV in a college dorm room is still seared on my brain. But for most of the last ten years, since getting an MLB.tv account in 2005 for the first time, I’ve been a baseball nomad. It wasn’t until Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly had me watching more and more D-backs games that I found myself looking forward to the next one, and flipping around a lot less. And that made me want to connect with other folks that were also following the team.
Jeff Wiser joined up immediately, and I mean immediately. We shared a vision for this space: to be the USS Mariner of the desert. And then we started cranking out content with an emphasis on new ideas and quality analysis. It’s only gotten better since then, with the talented RG and Jeffrey Bellone joining us.
The very first post ever written here was a recap of Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt in the All-Star Game last year. It’s been a year, and that makes this the site’s anniversary — this post is #271 on the site, and it’s been a wild ride. I’m writing this as myself, and not peppering “we” in too often, because I also want to say thanks specifically to Jeff Wiser. Without Jeff, I have no idea what kind of disjointed, haphazard thing I would have done, but we really hit the ground running when we started to run the site together. And Jeff’s work has been reliably great. Later this week, Jeff will post his 100th article here. And if you’re a regular reader, you’re just like me: really looking forward to it. Thanks for everything, Jeff.
I can’t thank you all enough for reading, for pushing us, and for turning baseball, which was always enjoyable, into something of pure joy. Thank you, to everyone who has read, to anyone who has recommended us, to anyone who has interacted with us on Twitter and helped us understand the game and the team. We’re here because we love doing this, and lately we’ve hit an extra gear. I’m really excited to continue to write with RG, Jeff, and Jeff — and I think you’re going to like what we have in store.
Analysis is our “business,” and business is good. The next D-backs game you can watch is on Friday of this week, with everyone but Goldy and Miguel Montero getting as deserved a rest as I can remember. And on the hill to start that game? None other than Trevor Cahill.
Cahill, I think, needs a nickname. We’ll give him one if it looks like he’s turned something around. At High-A Visalia, Cahill had a single start — and allowed four earned runs in a two-inning start. At Triple-A Reno, Cahill had pretty good results: a 3.49 ERA in 28.1 innings (6 starts), with a 8.58/9 strikeout ratio (27 total). Cahill also maintained the high ground ball rate he’s more or less had in the majors: 3.27 ground balls per fly balls. Since fly balls occasionally find their way over an outfield fence, that’s a good thing. But it’s not exactly the secret to his game, apparently, what with a 3.07 GB/FB ratio in the majors earlier this season.
The cause for alarm: walks. In Cahill’s 41.1 major league innings this year (most of which were in relief), he had 25 walks. That’s bad, but not necessarily horrible. At Reno, Cahill had 20 walks in 28.1 innings. That’s definitely bad. Really bad.
I’m definitely on board with the team figuring out what it has in the remaining games this season, and Cahill is under contract for 2015. He fits the bill. And he’s always had the stuff, even if he sometimes loses it — this is an example of a player who only needs to make one adjustment to be very helpful, and those are players a team can get lucky with. This move, though, is a gamble. It’s a gamble to see if Cahill can show enough in 6-7 starts to be moved in August, after the non-waiver trade deadline. If GM Kevin Towers can get anything for him — even just salary relief — that’s worth something. A rotation of Cahill, Miley, Collmenter, Nuno and Anderson is not pretty. But do the D-backs really have anyone else to try? I wouldn’t mind seeing Delgado getting another chance. But it’s Mike Bolsinger who’s getting removed in favor of Cahill, and I think we’ve seen enough from Bolsinger (4.02 FIP, 5.50 ERA) to know what he is: an emergency fill-in. His strikeout rate is pretty good, but that’s not meaningful when you have a 1.59 WHIP.
- Maybe I buried the lede, but Mark Trumbo is back in black (and Sedona Red). Nick Piecoro’s notebook from Friday had the details. This pushes David Peralta, who’s been great in left field in a way that might be sustainable. This morning, RG laid out the D-backs’ options for outfield alignment for the balance of this season, and I was surprised to find myself agreeing with him. Surprised, because I didn’t see myself pushing for starting playing time for Cody Ross — but what else do you with him? Either cut him now, or give him enough playing time to be August trade bait like Cahill. We know exactly who Gerardo Parra is. I think (but am not sure) that we know exactly who Ender Inciarte is, especially since he’d need to improve several facets of his game to be anything more than a useful fifth outfielder on a contending club. But David Peralta might be the prize. Peralta has been a butcher in left field with some easy plays, but as noted by Gibson in the Piecoro notebook, he’s very athletic. It’s not his range that’s lacking. He might be just as good in center as in left, and if that’s true, I see no reason not to try him out there. As RG noted, that might all be academic once A.J. Pollock returns (possibly in a few weeks). But at that point, the team might have reached a final decision on Cody Ross.
- Nick Piecoro also wrote about Matt Stites‘s sudden control issue. I learned a lot from Jeff Wiser’s piece on Stites last week…and I have confidence this will pass. Other cool notes in that notebook, though, including an update on Chris Owings and an offensive record broken by a D-backs minor leaguer. And, again, letting players like Stites make adjustments at this level is one of the things that the rest of the season is for. It’s still fun to watch.
- At FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan compared projections from player-WAR to projections that also added in strength-of-schedule adjustments, and published his results. The D-backs’ strength of schedule is harmful to them to an extent of about a half win, although they’re almost right in the middle in terms of the National League only. So buckle in, folks! Just kidding, as this isn’t that important. All it does is dispel the notion that there might be some kind of wonderfully fluffy part of the schedule that could make things more competitive.
- Also from Sullivan: as of last Tuesday, Clayton Kershaw had a 1.85 ERA in 13 starts, giving up 18 runs — but 7 of those 18 runs were all earned in a single start. You may remember it: it was at Chase Field. Sullivan breaks down Kershaw’s start, all with the premise: “How did Clayton Kershaw get bombed by the Diamondbacks in the middle of May?” Hey, you gotta take pleasure from the little things, right?
- At Snake Pit, Jim McLennan takes a crack at the question: When will Arizona have their next winning season? I agree with McLennan — I wouldn’t mind a 2-3 year rebuild, so it’s kind of a shame that that’s absolutely not what the team is trying to do right now. Like for McLennan, it’s also hard for me to see how, in 2015, the D-backs can have a starting rotation that’s above average overall. Which is weird, considering a year ago this time, Keith Law was able to write this: “Diamondbacks fans should be gritty — I mean, giddy — over the prospect of a rotation with Bradley, Pat Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, Wade Miley and Daniel Hudson by Opening Day of 2015.” Technically, only Skaggs is off the table, and Bronson Arroyo isn’t eligible because of the surgeon’s table. So this rotation might only be off by one starter, except that if Hudson is in there, it might be a diminished version, and the industry seems less sure of Bradley than it was a year ago.
- Apparently, the Dodgers have seen their ratings absolutely plummet this year, for the simple reason that they’re not televised in most LA-area households. From an average number of households of 154,000 per game last year, the D0dgers are currently at 40,000. Better yet, the D-backs stayed out of the bottom 5 in average audience and rating, and did not see the bottom 5 in either audience change or rating change. So there’s that… and remember, the D-backs are still gearing up for their next big television contract, so this really matters in the big picture.
- Finally, and on the lighter side: our Jeffrey Bellone took a look at how valuable LeBron James is, in baseball terms. Enjoy!
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