Stick a fork in 'em – The 2009 Diamondbacks

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While they have a slightly better record than the Indians, the
Diamondbacks are the second team we’re declaring dead for 2009.
Wednesday’s loss dropped them 18 1/2 games back in the NL West. Even
the lowly Nationals, the recipient of the first fork of the year, are a mere 17 1/2 games in the NL East.

So, let’s examine what the D’backs can look forward to in 2010.

The 2010 depth chart

Catcher: Chris Snyder, Miguel Montero (Arb.), Orlando Mercado, James Skelton

If they hadn’t been so stubborn about holding out for Michael Bowden,
the Diamondbacks very likely could have had Daniel Bard from the Red
Sox for Montero over the winter. Unfortunately, they probably wouldn’t
do so well now. Montero hasn’t progressed in an expanded role first
brought upon by the managerial switch to A.J. Hinch and then enhanced
further by Snyder’s recent DL stint.

The team could instead opt to move Snyder, who will make $10.5 million
between 2010 and 2011, but they’d be fortunate to receive more than a
couple of B prospects back. Since there aren’t any assurances that
Montero will be a quality regular and none of the team’s prospects
project as starters, standing pat may well be the best strategy.

First base: Conor Jackson (Arb.), Mark Reynolds, Josh Whitesell

Whitesell is a quad-A player and Chad Tracy is a free agent, so the
Diamondbacks could either turn Reynolds into a first baseman or look
outside of the organization for a solution this winter. My guess is
that they’ll leave Reynolds at third, given that he has the range for
the position and he’s been even more error-prone than usual while
playing first base this year. Jackson has appeared to be more valuable
defensively in left field than he was at first base. More on him below.

Second base: Ryan Roberts, Augie Ojeda (Arb.), Rusty Ryal, Ruben Gotay, Mark Hallberg, James Skelton

Yes, it’s that bleak. Ryan, a 26-year-old hitting .286/.345/.500 in
the PCL, figures to get a look at second base if the Diamondbacks trade
free-agent-to-be Felipe Lopez. However, he should be nothing more than
a fallback option again in 2009. Since Hallberg hasn’t hit in Double-A,
the Diamondbacks should be in the market for a veteran second baseman
for the second year in a row. Fortunately, decent ones are usually
pretty easy to find.

Third base: Mark Reynolds, Augie Ojeda (Arb.), Ryan Roberts

If the Diamondbacks did move Reynolds across the diamond, they’d
just have to go after a replacement at third instead. The club did
draft third basemen with the 16th and 35th selections in the 2009 draft
(Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson), but both were high school players
and neither will move quickly.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew (Arb.), Augie Ojeda, Pedro Ciriaco

One of the few positives for the Diamondbacks this year is that
Drew’s fielding numbers have been considerably better than they were
last year. I could see an argument for moving Drew to third and
Reynolds to first, but it’s not something with any chance of happening
in the near future. Besides, the Diamondbacks don’t have a Elvis Andrus
to break in at short.

Left field: Conor Jackson (Arb.), Gerardo Parra, Eric Byrnes, Trent Oeltjen, Cyle Hankerd, Collin Cowgill

Center field: Chris Young, Gerardo Parra, Eric Byrnes

Right field: Justin Upton, Gerardo Parra, Eric Byrnes

We know Upton is a fixture in right. The Diamondbacks will have to
decide whether it’s worth trading Young or moving Jackson back to first
base to make room for Parra in the 2010 outfield. The 22-year-old Parra
got off to a very nice start after coming up as Jackson’s replacement
this year, but he’s now sporting a .259/.302/.400 line and given that
he’s never played in Triple-A, he still might need some additional
seasoning.

Complicating things is that both Young and Jackson have lost a great
deal of trade value. Young showed clear signs of bouncing back from a
horrendous start last month, but he’ll have to keep it up if the
Diamondbacks are going to get fair value for him this season.
Unfortunately, it looks like Jackson’s season has been completely
ruined by his case of valley fever, but at least that means he’s not
going to receive much of a raise from his current $3 million salary.

The Diamondbacks are almost certainly stuck with Byrnes, who figures to remain an $11 million fourth outfielder.

I think a Jackson-Young-Upton outfield will be the best option at
the beginning of 2010. However, Parra would likely guarantee himself a
spot with a strong second half.

Rotation: Brandon Webb (option), Dan Haren, Max Scherzer, Jon
Garland (option), Jarrod Parker, Yusmeiro Petit, Esmerling Vasquez,
Cesar Valdez, Billy Buckner, Bryan Augenstein, Barry Enright

If Webb can come back from his shoulder problems in September, then the
$6 million decision on his 2010 option will remain an easy call. Still,
it’s not like the Diamondbacks will be able to pencil him in for 220
innings next year.

The uncertainty around Webb is probably the one thing that could
cause the Diamondbacks to listen to offers for Haren. A team with a
Webb-Haren-Scherzer front three should be capable of competing next
year. However, if the Diamondbacks suddenly learned that Webb needed
surgery that would cost him at least part of next year, they’d have to
give serious thought to cashing in Haren for the huge return he’d bring
in. He’s under control through 2013 at fairly reasonable terms.

The Diamondbacks, though, won’t really know about Webb’s health
until the final month, making a Haren deadline deal awfully unlikely.

Doug Davis is a free agent and is likely to be traded. Garland is on
a mutual option, making it unlikely that he’ll be back. Ideally, the
Diamondbacks will replace him with a similar fourth-starter type and
then get by with a Petit or Valdez in the fifth spot until Parker
arrives. He could be next year’s Tommy Hanson.

Bullpen: Chad Qualls, Tony Pena (Arb.), Jon Rauch, Juan Gutierrez,
Daniel Schlereth, Clay Zavada, Esmerling Vasquez, Billy Buckner,
Yusmeiro Petit, Blaine Boyer (Arb.), Daniel Strange, Bobby Korecky,
Doug Slaten, Leo Rosales, Jose Marte, Kyler Newby

Qualls is only under control through 2010 and could receive a raise to
$4.5 million-$5 million in arbitration after spending a full year as a
closer, so he might be the Diamondback most likely to go in a deadline
deal. Rauch, now that he’s past his early-season woes, is next in line.
That would potential leave Pena as the Diamondbacks’ closer, though he
hasn’t made a particularly strong case for the role while posting a
4.36 ERA this season. Gutierrez would be another option. Schlereth, a
left-hander picked in the first round last year, is the best bet for
the long-term. If the Diamondbacks do move Qualls, they’ll probably
look for a cheap veteran to serve as a stopgap closer next year.

Time for a best guess:

Arizona’s 2010 roster

Lineup

2B Free agent

SS Stephen Drew

RF Justin Upton

3B Mark Reynolds

1B Free agent

LF Conor Jackson

CF Chris Young

C Chris Snyder

Bench: OF Eric Byrnes, C Miguel Montero, INF Augie Ojeda, INF Ryan Roberts, OF Free agent

Rotation

Dan Haren

Brandon Webb

Max Scherzer

Free agent

Cesar Valdez

Bullpen

Free agent

Tony Pena

Juan Gutierrez

Clay Zavada

Free agent

Esmerling Vasquez

Billy Buckner

Ideally, the Diamondbacks will get their answer at first, second or
in the rotation in return for Davis later this month. Qualls could also
bring back someone capable of playing an important role on the 2010
club. There probably won’t be a whole lot of money available after
raises for Drew, Young, Haren and Snyder kick in. One huge factor in
how much flexibility the Diamondbacks will have is whether Reynolds
qualifies as a super-two player. He’ll have two years and 138 days of
service time at season’s end. Last year, Taylor Buchholz was the last
player to qualify as a super two and he had two years, 140 days. With
the season Reynolds is having, it could be a $5 million swing for the
Diamondbacks.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]