It’s no secret that baseball is an incredibly streaky game. Good teams go cold and even the worst teams get hot throughout the season. What truly matters is what teams do when they’re in their neutral position. Have the Arizona Diamondbacks been in their neutral position this season, or have they just been hot then cold?
The Los Angeles Dodgers of 2017 are a good example of what the Diamondbacks could be. The Dodgers lit the majors up by going 43-7 over 50 games (but I don’t have to tell you that, because if you’re reading this, you still wake up in a cold sweat over the thought of Fernando freaking Rodney entering the game at Dodger Stadium with a lead). They also went 4-15 over 19 games in September. Comparatively, Arizona went 24-11 to start the 2018 season, however, since then, the Diamondbacks are a mere 1-10.
Let’s take a look at the two different theories concerning the play of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D-backs are simply getting their cold streak out of the way.
The Arizona Diamondbacks that we saw for the first 35 games of the season could be the true D-backs. A major attack by the injury bug hit the team early and often and now they were working their way through finding suitable replacements until these players return.
Arizona nearly had their full starting lineup for the first four games of the season before Jake Lamb was hurt. Their starting rotation was intact until April 14 when Taijuan Walker went down for the season with Tommy-john, for only 14 games, and then took yet another hit 27 games into the season when Robby Ray went to the DL with an oblique strain.
Arizona continued to win despite those injuries. With Lamb and Souza out of the lineup, Arizona needed their starting pitching and bottom of the order to play above their skill levels and got that for about as long as possible.
Patrick Corbin is having yet another CY Young-quality start to his season, a la 2014, and Zack Greinke is pitching fine. Zack Godley started ridiculously hot, but has since cooled off and needs to find his average. AJ Pollack was essentially the entire Arizona offense until he got hurt on May 15th, which was six games into the cold stretch. It’s weird that AJ broke his thumb. It’d be more reasonable for him to injure his back since he was carrying the entire offense. That could explain the cold stretch in which Arizona has averaged just two runs per game.
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona’s best player, is tied for 16th among Major League first basemen with 0.6 WAR. It’s not a good sign that he’s tied with Miguel Cabrera, an over-the-hill 35-year-old with 15 years of service. Goldy’s hitting just .205, which absolutely is contributing to the cold stretch and the worst part is, he probably won’t start hitting again until Souza gets hot and is able to protect Goldschmidt in the lineup. In the month of May, Goldy is hitting a less-than-stellar 7-67, a .104 batting average. He has more walks in May, nine, than hits, seven. However, the team has full expectations of Goldschmidt returning to his usual self in due time.
Furthermore, the D-backs have played this whole season with nearly no offensive production from the catcher’s spot. Manager Torey Llovulo has started talking about getting John Ryan Murphy more starts and at-bats, which should spark the bottom half of the order and make it easier to turn the lineup over with runners on base.
The D-backs should return to their winning ways once they get Robby Ray back, Godly starts pitching better, Souza and Lamb are fully healthy, the catcher’s spot starts producing, and Paul Goldschmidt starts picking it up.
The Diamondbacks were hot, and now they’re cold. We don’t know what this team’s average is
Another explanation for the Diamondbacks’ season is that for 35 games, the Snakes overachieved. They benefitted from a relatively easy schedule, playing the weak NL West, the third-place St. Louis Cardinals, and the fourth-place Washington Nationals. However, the D-backs did win series against the first place Houston Astros and the second place Philadelphia Phillies (man, how weird is it to think that beating the Phillies is an achievement and not a foregone conclusion).
Maybe, Arizona was playing decent baseball that looked a lot better because of their competition. In their cold streak, the D-backs have lost series to the Nationals, the first place Milawukee Brewers, and the first place New York Mets. Arizona’s good pitching is just not good enough to compensate for the worst offense in the league. The D-backs’ pitching is second in the league in runs allowed and fifth in the league in hits allowed but the offense is dead last in hits per game and 29th in runs per game.
The D-backs are going to get better for a stretch, as they face the Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds, and Miami Marlins, but this team is plagued by injuries and can’t seem to all be healthy at the same time. Because of that, Arizona won’t be able to beat good teams with above average pitching.
Regardless, this Arizona Diamondbacks team may make the playoffs but only because the NL West is such a disaster.