The battle between first and second place in the NL West starts tonight between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. Charlie Gebow from AZ Snake Pit recently took the time to answer a couple questions about Arizona's 2013 season so far.
DAVID: Who do you think the Diamondbacks' MVP and Cy Young are as of right now?
CHARLIE: Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin, respectively. You could argue that without them, both the hitting and starting pitching for the Diamondbacks would be a nightmarish hellscape that Werner Herzog could never possibly achieve. Goldschmidt is a legitimate NL MVP candidate right now by many measures (Lots of dingers, high batting average, best player on a first place team, chisled features, etc.) I would say the runner-up is Gerardo Parra, who has given the Diamondbacks a fairly impressive OPS+ of 118 from the leadoff spot.
CHARLIE: At the start of the season, Corbin was one of three guys who were considered to be in a race for the fifth starter, with Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs. Corbin won out and thank goodness he did. (Of course, all three of them are in the rotation right now. Baseball!) Also, if you ever need anything to make any Angel fans you know feel bad, bring up Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs. It's fun.
DAVID: Do you think Paul Goldschmidt deserves to start in the All-Star Game over Joey Votto?
CHARLIE: Duh, shouldn't everybody? Goldschmidt is more of a power/RBI guy and Votto more of an on base guy. The former is usually sexier to your average ASG voter, but Votto is also entrenched in the way that guys get in ASG voting. So just because of what I want to see, I think he deserves it, but it's not like Votto is totally unworthy. It's not, say, Brandon Belt starting instead.
DAVID: In your honest opinion, do you see Patrick Corbin being this dominant in future seasons? Ian Kennedy was incredible in 2011 but hasn't been nearly as good since then.
CHARLIE: I don't know about this dominant. Like all young players, pitching and position players, scouting will catch up to him and opposing players will make adjustments, and he'll need to make counter-adjustments. Having good control with his slider will be key. Developing a third pitch beyond this fastball-slider combo would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath. I still think he'll be an effective starter going forward, it not at this level.
DAVID: This might seem random but I've heard a lot of positive things about him. Do you think Steve Berthiaume has done a good job as Arizona's new play-by-play broadcaster?
CHARLIE: Well, I like him. He's knowledgeable and has a sort of dry sense of humor that I personally relate with. He's still a little raw when it comes to some nuts and bolts announcer stuff (mostly around the judging of fly balls as homers or just fly-outs), but he's only been on the job for three months. That sort of thing takes repetition, I imagine. Pairing him up with (Bob) Brenly, one of the best color analysts in the business, helps a lot. The new booth is definitely, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air from the random sentence fragments Mark Grace used to shout.
DAVID: What types of players do you think the Dbacks need to target at the trade deadline?
CHARLIE: Hard to say. You could argue that another outfield bat would be nice, but Adam Eaton is still rehabbing and could be that spark. If Martin Prado starts hitting around his career averages, that could be a big boost. A starting pitcher would be nice, but there are a lot of options internally through guys in the minors that have been mentioned as having an outside chance of being called up (Archie Bradley and David Holmberg, both currently in Double-A) to guys coming off the DL (Brandon McCarthy). Another reliever is probably the big need, especially if any of the back-end guys fly off the handle permanently.
DAVID: Do you think this team could be a lot better with Justin Upton still on it? Or do you think they're fine without him?
CHARLIE: April version of Upton? Yes. Every other month version of him? Hell no. For whatever reason, the well here was poisoned for Upton, and him being moved was inevitable. Considering this team is better (so far) than the 2012 team that did have Upton, so I guess the official answer is a hesitant "No...?"
DAVID: Heath Bell isn't pitching well and neither is J.J. Putz. What do you think Arizona needs to do to fix that problem?
CHARLIE: Either trade for somebody or hope that one of them figures it out. Compounding the issue is that David Hernandez, probably the best reliever the past two seasons, has also decided to give into the peer pressure of his bullpen mates and also give up a lot of home runs and walk guys at a higher than usual rate.
CHARLIE: J.J. struggled in his first appearance off the DL, and had noticeably lower velocity. However, he looked sharp in the following two, and his velocity was back to normal levels. If he continues that, then the Diamondbacks won't need to break the bank for a temporary fix in a back-end reliever. I'd still like them to get one, but not out of desperation.
CHARLIE: Heath Bell should only be used when there's a tire fire already in progress, either in or against the Diamondbacks' favor. He's been too adept at setting them this season. I kind of understood his acquisition in the offseason, Kevin Towers was hoping to hit big on a reclamation project which is the sort of risk you sometimes need to take to get a team over the top, but the existential dread I get when Heath Bell comes into games is not close to subsiding anytime soon.
DAVID: Arizona is first in the NL West. What do you think they need to do to stay in first and make the playoffs?
CHARLIE: Guys other than Goldschmidt and Parra need to step up, and to be fair some have. Miguel Montero has recovered nicely from his terrible first two months of the season, Cody Ross has been hot lately, and Martin Prado has shown signs of competence and then some in the past few days. Getting Aaron Hill back after a lengthy DL stint from a broken hand will help immeasurably.
CHARLIE: Pitching wise, again, guys other than Corbin need to step it up. Wade Miley and Ian Kennedy will be key. They've both had rough times during this season, but if they pitch the second half close to what they're capable of, the Diamondbacks will be in a good spot. They both had good outings the last time they pitched, so there's hope.
CHARLIE: The Diamondbacks are in first mostly through virtue of the rest of the NL West being significantly worse by comparison. However, you get that feeling that won't be the case for long and somebody else will step up (at the moment, it looks like you guys might be that team.) Arizona also played 48 road games in the first half, more than any other team in the majors as of the end of play Sunday. This will ensure many many many games at home in the second half, which could be huge down the stretch.
DAVID: Series prediction?
CHARLIE: I'll say 2-1 D'Backs by virtue of them being at home this time, and having a rested up bullpen that only pitched three innings in the sweep against the Rockies. Everyone will be nice to one-another, at least outwardly.