Things looked dark this time last week, after the D-backs were swept in Philadelphia and headed to Miami with a 15-21 record. But that’s the funny thing about going 6-1 in a week this early this season; even after dropping yesterday’s game in St. Louis, the D-backs are again within spitting distance of .500 with a 21-23 record. Looks like we’re in for another couple of months of meaningful games, at the very least; Arizona is third in the division right now, 6 games back of the Mike Bolsinger-fueled Dodgers and 3 games out of the wild card hunt. If a few more things broke in the D-backs’ favor in the near future — such as Patrick Corbin hitting the ground running and Archie Bradley fully bouncing back — they aren’t necessarily out of this.
One of the things that has clearly broken in the D-backs’ direction is Yasmany Tomas — after his three-hit Memorial Day performance, Tomas raised his average to .347 for the year. He continues to do his damage against right-handers, which is interesting — his wRC+ of 148 against RHP is not that far away from fellow righty and sizzling first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who currently sits with a 172 wRC+ against RHP. But you have to wonder if there’s any meaning in Tomas’s horrendous 18 wRC+ against LHP, especially with respect to the impending playing time debate with Jake Lamb getting ready to emerge from the DL. Sure, Lamb had incredible results hitting almost exclusively against RHP in early April, but with a platoon-split-free minor league record for Lamb, it’s getting hard to see how the D-backs could justify playing Tomas mostly against LHP, or Lamb mostly against RHP. Sometimes, the puzzle pieces just don’t fit together that well.
Tomas’s ridiculous batting average doesn’t carry with it much in the way of walks or extra bases, but it’s hard to say he was called up too early. Tomas has made his adjustments and they’ve paid off, as Jeff explored last week. Nine multi-hit games in May. Nine-game hit streak going right now, with eighteen hits over those nine games. If Tomas is a unicorn, it might be in an ability to place the ball in good spots for hits, because it’s really not showing up in hard hit average, and it’s not from speed. I doubt the D-backs thought they were signing Ichiro Suzuki, but hey, overrated doesn’t mean bad. Just ask Mark Trumbo, who also hopes to dislodge a torrent of multi-hit games with a home run yesterday like Tomas apparently did with his home run in Philadelphia.
Sometime between Chase Anderson‘s epic 8+ innings in Miami and J.C. Ramirez‘s monstrous appearance yesterday (striking out three Matts in a row with two on and no outs), it probably occurred to most D-backs types: this team has borderline embarrassing depth in (borderline?) pitching, even without any a single pitcher who is arguably elite. Nine starts into his sophomore season, Anderson stands with a 2.59 ERA and an excellent 3.16 FIP. He’s only gotten better lately, especially with respect to pitches per inning; it looks like he’s going after batters more efficiently in the early going without “saving” anything, and that he’s been more willing to use his changeup early instead of frequently looking to set up a strikeout. Two of his best starts have come with Jordan Pacheco behind the plate, which, as far as I’m concerned, is as good a sales pitch for Anderson as there may be.
And Anderson is not alone. Jeremy Hellickson doesn’t yet have the results to show for it, but he’s getting much better peripheral results in May — his soft hit percentage has climbed up to the point of it being helpful, and (relatedly) his batting average against in May is a very good .238 (compare with .336 for April). Rubby De La Rosa has begun to show that “good Rubby” may not be the rule, but it’s not really the exception, either; the 133 batters he’s faced in May have hit a ridiculously low .195, with just nine walks. Randall Delgado has a sturdy 3.80 ERA, Brad Ziegler is as ziggy as ever at a 0.86 ERA, and while others in the relief corps have some unsightly ERAs, FIP indicates that they may be unlucky (Enrique Burgos, 4.61 ERA and 2.19 FIP; Andrew Chafin, 4.13 ERA and 3.23 FIP; Daniel Hudson, 5.63 ERA and 3.89 FIP; Addison Reed, 5.87 ERA and 3.93 FIP).
At some point, we may have to start talking more seriously about Josh Collmenter, who has a 9.31 ERA in May after allowing 7 home runs in 19.1 innings, and we’d have to throw our arms up in the air at this point with respect to Evan Marshall. But you get the idea: the D-backs are not struggling to fill out their pitching staff. By the end of this season, the D-backs could probably populate an entire second rotation with starters who are better than replacement, if they wanted to. And with Anderson and RDLR and possibly Archie Bradley knocking on the door of “above average,” it’s no longer completely about depth.
You can’t force elite pitching to happen, and the next-best thing requires boatloads of money. But you can do this, the D-backs have shown us. Corbin’s return is on the horizon, and now we learn that Burgos will hit the MLB DL with a shoulder injury (more like fatigue, thankfully) that simply makes room for David Hernandez. At points this year, the D-backs can and will let the likes of Matt Reynolds, Allen Webster, Bronson Arroyo, and Robbie Ray out to play. Vidal Nuno has taken Burgos’s roster spot at the moment. And if push comes to shove and injury leads to even more opportunities, Kevin Munson, Jake Barrett, Aaron Blair and others may get their shot. The D-backs have been pretty lucky with pitcher injuries so far this year, but even if that starts to be an issue, they have enough pitchers lined up that they can use the MLB time for information-gathering purposes, over and above the normal survival instinct. And we keep seeing fun, new things happening.
- Last week’s edition of Q&A from Zach Buchanan at azcentral.com featured Jake Lamb, so — did you think we’d lead off with something else? Cool stuff here on living with Archie Bradley, the University of Washington, and Jake’s keep-moving-but-stay-content mindset. Hats off, sir. When the day finally comes that Lamb is back, I hope you’ll all join me in celebrating Lamb Day… Oh, and we talked about living at 1 Baller Street with Bradley and Lamb a couple of episodes ago on The Pool Shot.
- Also from Buchanan, check out this feature on J.C. Ramirez. Still reeling from that performance yesterday, which came after this piece, but Buchanan presciently makes that point: Ramirez’s appearances “have been high wire acts.” Ramirez has an average-ish Left On Base Percentage of 75.8%, but that’s purely about his baserunners, and doesn’t include anyone he inherited. To look at that (and at any reliever who tends to come in mid-inning at least occasionally), I really like RE24, which compares the expected number of runs scored before a player enters the game to the number expected when he’s done. Just 6 appearances in, and his RE24 isn’t just positive — it’s 4.27. Ziegler-esque. Only 33 qualified relievers have RE24 totals greater than Ramirez’s, and by virtue of their being qualified, we can say they have at least double the innings pitched. Crazy. By the way, the leader in RE24 this year? Will Harris (11.13 RE24), and it’s not that close. Oh, and remember how Harris was waived because it was more important to keep Mike Bolsinger, and remember how Bolsinger was then sold for cash to the Dodgers? Just don’t look at Bolsinger’s ERA right now. Don’t look.
- We may end up waiting a bit longer for Patrick Corbin’s return; after an iffy intrasquad game last week, a June 4 return seemed a lot less likely, as Christina De Nicola wrote at MLB.com.
- At Snake Pit, Jim McLennan took on The Major Debate in D-backs land: what do we do now that Tomas is setting the world on fire and Jake Lamb appears to have his foot back? It boggles the mind. A platoon wouldn’t necessarily just under-utilize both players; as noted in the header material, it might just not fit that well. We have little to go on with respect to whether Tomas will have a reverse platoon split going forward, but it is so extreme that I feel very uncomfortable assuming the trend will reverse itself completely. As Jeff wrote last year, reverse platoon splits for hitters have a way of not sticking around at all. But — and this is a very big but — part of what has been so confusing about Tomas is that he hasn’t really pulled the ball, and he does have some especially unusual habits at the plate. If anyone were to keep a reverse split, I might be inclined to consider Tomas there. And unfortunately for these two players and their fantasy owners, the outfield time share is working so ridiculously well that you really can’t use it as a third base safety valve, at least not yet. Anyway, it wasn’t pretty, but Jeff and I did work through this Tomas-Lamb debate at length on the most recent episode of The Pool Shot, and I think we did hit the nail on the head in terms of the most likely outcome.
- Also at Snake Pit, soco talked through some possible Trumbo trade destinations. This one’s going to be really tough, right? The field is narrow. It’s odd that the Angels are one of the best fits, but that absolutely is true. The Orioles is an interesting possibility, especially given the performance of Chris Davis, who is the only player who might be more Trumbo-ish than Trumbo. That made sense in my head. But I don’t see how the Indians would clog things up, and the Twins might only make sense if the asking price for Trumbo is “not that much.” It’s just going to be a really narrow market. Maybe the Blue Jays will go on a run and simultaneously lose one of their corner types. Same thing for the Padres. I have no idea. Just hope that the Astros stay in the race this season; if Chris Carter hits the same market, I don’t see how Trumbo could go anywhere for a decent return.
- Eno Sarris is the best, and he took a look back at the D-backs rotation last week. I don’t want to ruin it, so just go check it out. In fact, I’m going to go to caps and bolding here so people don’t miss this (sorry if you’ve been reading continuously). GO READ THIS SARRIS PIECE ON THE D-BACKS ROTATION OKAY THANK YOU.
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Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).