A sweep at the hand of the lowly Phillies was not a fun way for anyone to spend their weekend, but the season probably reached its nadir (hopefully) at home just before that. After getting hammered by the Nationals on Monday and getting 16 hits and 14 runs’ worth of revenge the day after, the D-backs were positioned to take the series from Matt Williams and Washington on Wednesday night, a Yasmany Tomas line drive breaking a tie in the bottom of the eighth. But coming on to lock down the victory at the top of the ninth, Addison Reed unraveled. After a quick out, it was single, single, walk, grand slam. Drew Storen provided a very sharp contrast by converting his save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth with three straight whiffs.
As reported by Nick Piecoro, Chip Hale removed Reed from the closer role shortly thereafter. The idea appears to be to get him some work in other situations — something the team maybe could have done before removing him from the closer’s role, as he wasn’t pitching that frequently. It’s also worth noting that Evan Marshall was similarly demoted before being officially demoted — it doesn’t always work, especially when day-to-day needs seem to take precedence over ironing out wrinkles in mechanics with the big club. But Reed is a good pitcher, and a 6.00 ERA in 12 innings is roughly the equivalent of two or three mediocre starts. We’ve seen some long fly balls from Reed — like the one in San Francisco that was his other blown save — but this was actually his first home run allowed of the season. And as strange as this sounds, if Reed gets “right” this bump in the road could actually make him more attractive to other teams in trade in July. Long fly balls have always been a risk with Reed and that would have been a known risk in July either way, but if Reed’s arbitration case this offseason has taken a significant hit, he might still be considered a 2016 asset.
Last fall, I outlined how much of a difference a humidor would make at Chase Field. The difference in batted ball difference could be very dramatic — maybe even reducing home runs by 37%. Chase Field could become a pitchers haven; although elevation and the dryness of the air would still make the ball go further, the large dimensions of the field would more than make up the difference. That’s attractive in one way — given the shorter shelf life of pitchers, being able to make your own pitchers is probably more helpful to a mid-market team than being able to make your own hitters. But the trick was always that once the team (and the baseballs) took the plunge by storing balls in a room set at 50% humidity, there would be no turning back. MLB clamped down on the procedure at Coors Field about four years ago, which is part of it — you couldn’t really use it less once you started using it. And maybe there’s a PR side of things, as well — if you used it and it worked, it would be hard to take it away even if hitters struggled just as much as Rockies pitchers struggle.
But we had a pretty big development here last week, it seems. Thanks in part to Tom Brady, MLB apparently circulated a memo to all 30 teams before opening day about ball storage, according to an AP report. The memo detailed a “nine-step procedure on ball handling,” and specified storage at 70 degrees and 50% humidity, the levels used by Rawlings and the Coors Field humidor. I don’t know any additional information here, but that would seem to suggest that the D-backs have been required to store baseballs at levels consistent with a humidor. In Boston and most other MLB cities, 50% humidity would probably mean having to de-humidify the air. In Phoenix, there’s no other way to achieve 50% humidity than to pump moisture in.
Batted balls hit far enough to become home runs are hit infrequently enough that we’d want one or more years of data before drawing any conclusions. It’s possible that at some later point, we can also use batted ball velocity data to guess how humid the balls are (without trajectory information, that could be difficult). But there are still some things we can look at, and so far, there have been 1.86 home runs per game at Chase this year, “up” from 1.85 per game last year. Stay tuned.
- After Reed’s Wednesday disaster but before Reed was officially removed from the closer role, Jim McLennan posted an excellent case for why he should be severed from the ninth inning, in addition to addressing alternatives. Do yourself a favor and go read it, if you haven’t already. Reed may have been worse than you think — Reed has had bad results despite a bit of HR luck this season, but his decent overall results last season hid the opposite.
- In this Zach Buchanan piece, scouting director Deric Ladnier has some thoughts about the lack of a standout #1 pick in this year’s draft class. Talk about pressure, right? You might have wanted Reed removed as closer before last week, but no one is really faulting Hale for that — just like no one is faulting Hale for giving Reed a pause now. Nothing controversial. The D-backs powers that be also can’t really be burned if there was a fairly obvious top guy and they took him — even if he didn’t pan out. But now, it’s all about the decision. It’s complicated, as Jeff addressed last week.
- Nick Piecoro reported on the team’s relief struggles and many of the things that have played into that. Considering the bullpen was so good to start the season, ranking where Piecoro identified is a huge change. The D-backs bullpen has a 5.38 ERA over the last 30 days — and that includes Vidal Nuno‘s excellent pseudo-start last week. Again, probably a bump in the road. Or more home games than usual? Or the corps is just not as good as we thought, but it’s still early. In the same notebook, Piecoro has notes on David Hernandez‘s first rehab appearance. We won’t be waiting long.
- At mlb.com, Steve Gilbert has some thoughts about Nick Ahmed from Tony La Russa. This is one of those things that could change quickly; Chris Owings looked almost as broken at the plate early this season, and his offensive production in the last two weeks has been on par with Goldy’s. Or the rug could get pulled out from under us with no warning. Still admire sticking with Ahmed even this long.
- Goldy was a homer short of the cycle on Wednesday, about a week after Mark Trumbo fell short by a double. So naturally, Zach Borenstein hit for the cycle on Saturday, as Arizona Sports explained. The Joe Thatcher legacy lives on.
- And though it actually was pretty entertaining, you’ll never again have to wonder what it’s like for official baseball team twitter accounts to gut out a game of rock paper scissors.
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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).