Even before the season started, it looked like the pitching staff would be a difficult puzzle to solve in August, and even if there have been fewer comings and goings than we might have guessed, that might start to change here pretty soon — and we are looking at some interesting questions as 2016 starts to be more of the focus.

The most recent wrinkle was definitely Zack Godley, who after more than 25 years on Earth and less than a year after being converted from relief, was called up unexpectedly for an interesting debut — and as Jeff explained on Wednesday, the way he was going about his business three starts into his tenure was very unusual. On the point about being converted from relief — Godley threw just 55.1 innings in 2014, after 26.2 professional innings in 2013. As things currently stand, he’s thrown 107.1 innings, already a jump of over 40. So we probably need not be surprised that the D-backs removed him from the rotation this week in favor of Chase Anderson, returning Sunday. As Nick Piecoro reported, Godley may end up back in the bigs as a reliever once rosters expand again — and that may happen even sooner if something unexpected transpires. The main point: the D-backs don’t necessarily have the opportunity to get more of a read on Godley before spring training tryouts begin.

Time is running short to see if Daniel Hudson could start next season. Huddy has had a rocky time lately, with 6 ER in his last two appearances, but that’s not a whole lot different than a starter having a rough start. He’s stayed at the same velocity plateau since ramping up through April this season, averaging four-seam velocity of almost exactly 97 mph (release speed, per Brooks) since May. We’ve seen a few sinkers lately — which hasn’t worked out too well — but Huddy’s slider has been good, and he’s thrown his excellent changeup over 30% of the time in each of the last three months. The D-backs can control Hudson for one more season through the arbitration process (which should be a fascinating case study), but 2017 may not be a priority for the team — right now, it’s a matter of whether they want to be able to have Hudson start next season. If they don’t move him to the rotation soon, that probably will not be an option.

Innings concerns will start to dominate the roster in September, but we may still get some musical chairs in August. Rubby De La Rosa threw 161.2 innings last season, but that was an enormous jump from his 91.2 innings in 2013 — and even before his surgery, RDLR totaled just 110.1 innings in 2010 and 100.2 in 2011. At 136.1 innings now, he’s on track to exceed last season’s total right around the end of August. Robbie Ray is in pretty good shape, although he, too, will surpass his innings total from last season on or around the end of the month. On the flip side, Aaron Blair stands at 125.1 innings, with no prayer to build on his 154.1 innings total with Triple-A Reno, whose season may be complete a month from now. Many moving parts.

Patrick Corbin stands as a human reminder to take these concerns seriously. The team did nothing unconventional in stretching him from his 186.1 innings in 2012 to 208.1 in 2013 — in fact, that’s a pretty great way to get over 200 for the first time — but that doesn’t mean they should have done it. We use the Verducci Rule of 30 inning steps as a benchmark, but Corbin seemed to be exhausted at the end of the year. I’ve trotted this out too often, maybe, but: 32 ER in his last 36 innings? With so many balls in the air, the team will have to constantly re-evaluate and change plans — and remember, if they shut someone down with the minor league seasons at the beginning of September, it would be hard to bring him back to help fill innings for the season’s final two weeks. The biggest priority: don’t let guys pitch tired. That’s the biggest risk factor for injury.

Not that injury can always be helped in this sport. Our thoughts are with Evan Marshall as he recovers from the liner that struck him and fractured his skull on Tuesday. The man has a lot to give. Here’s a statement from the D-backs.

The links:

  • PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT! Yeah, he’s great, and armed with information from Statcast, Mike Petriello helped figure out why Goldy has been able to steal so many bases (and has been in a position to attempt them). In the scheme of things, maybe this is really small — and yet getting new information like this and having it unlock something we spend so much time with is the absolute best. Really well done, and make sure you check it out.
  • Patrick Corbin was back to being the near-dominant version of himself before his most recent start, as Nick Piecoro reported on Tuesday. And as Piecoro reported the day after, the D-backs went the very conservative route with Corbin after his second inning was also his second difficult inning in his last start. No one was pleased to see Corbin struggle on Tuesday, but we should all be pretty happy that the D-backs were so careful — forcing him to continue with what wasn’t working seems as risky as pitching tired. Still, the team is going to be in a weird position with Corbin next season. All of those simulated games and so forth count in the big picture, but if Corbin finishes with under 80 professional innings this season, where does that leave the team for 2016? Does he open the season in the rotation, planning to shut him down somewhere along the way? Do you delay his debut in what we all hope is a contending season? Hard questions, but one thing at a time, I guess. The priority is keeping him healthy right now.
  • With Chase Anderson set to return Sunday, giving him a breather was partly about giving him a chance to recharge, as Piecoro also reported. Remember, the team was going to use the All-Star break for a similar purpose; had he slotted in fifth as Chip Hale had planned, he would have had ten days’ rest. Swapped for Jeremy Hellickson to give Hellickson an extra couple of days with his blister, Anderson still had seven days’ rest — but we’ll soon see if the extra time helped.
  • We all overreacted to the Aroldis Chapman rumors, maybe, says soco at Snake Pit. Part of it is the fun of it; part of it is that we were probably going to be talking or thinking about baseball anyway, and this kind of thing trumps the less time-specific stuff. I think it was “cautious pessimism?” Is that a thing? But this wasn’t the world exploding like the Touki Toussaint trade, and embers still lit from that may have helped fan the flames. I dunno. Maybe we’ll all complain if we can; I’m less concerned about judgment and more about figuring things out, and incomplete information is interesting but only occasionally eye-opening like that. As some have said, the rush to judgment on Twitter can be at hyperspeed. Let’s not foreclose the possibility that some of us just think quickly. Maybe?
  • Vote for Derrick!

3 Responses to Roundup: Pitching Questions to Dominate Next 30 Days

  1. Robert says:

    So, if you are the GM who do you look at in September to plan your top five for Spring Training? Which will also align who you work with in the off season and who you might allow yourself to trade?

  2. Rizz says:

    If I was GM…Corbin and Ray are in the rotation next year. I’d try to sign or trade for a #3 or better. So that means nobody worse than Zimmerman via free agency. There plenty of cheap back end options in the organization so there is no need to sign one at market value. The last two spots in the rotation go to who looks the best in spring training. I would be willing to trade any prospect and anyone on the major league roster not named Goldschmidt or Pollock.

    • Dave-Phoenix says:

      I concur..

      The D-Backs have more than enough #3-#4-#5 starters within the organization to not have to waste money or prospects getting more of what they already have. The D-Backs only should be interested in legitimate #1 or #2 starters during the off-season.

      The D-Backs may be able to pair up one our many 3-4-5 starters with a position player to upgrade at pitching, but #1/#2 starters don’t grow on trees, so I’m not sure who would take such a deal.

      Our real hope is that one or two of the many young pitchers continues to grow and becomes a legit #1 or #2.

      -RLDR still has a ton of potential.
      – If Ray can develop some real off-speed pitches, especially a good slider, he can become a real ace
      – Archie Bradley – The jury is still out.

      Its not unheard of…. Randy Johnson took years to become the great pitcher we saw. Curt Schilling too. So have many others.

      I do like the way Stewart continues to acquire young power arms. Keep throwing darts at the wall until you hit something….

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