18 April 2011
After the first two weeks of the season, the Diamondbacks are 6-8, 5.5 games behind the first place Colorado Rockies. But despite the so-so record, there are several bright spots for the team, both offensively and on the pitching staff.
On offense, the Diamondbacks have scored 5.36 Runs/Game, good for 5th in the league, and well ahead of last year's 4.40 Runs/Game. The team also ranks 6th in OBP (.325), 4th in SLG (.416), and 4th in OPS (.780). The team's offense has benefited from playing 9 of the first 14 games in hitter-friendly, plus a couple in Coors Field. But even after considering park effects, the Diamondbacks rank 4th in the league in OPS+ at 104. At home, the team has hit an excellent .283/.351/.453, and on the road, a respectable .265/.328/.409. The most impressive part of the offense has been the team's performance with Runners in Scoring Position, where they have a league-leading .894 OPS (.299/.369/.524). And, for what it's worth, the team ranks eighth in the NL in strikeouts per game at 7.21K/G.
At first glance, the pitching has been poor, ranking last in the NL with a 5.55 ERA. But there are many signs of improvement from last year. On an individual level, closer J.J. Putz and set-up man David Hernandez have been perfect so far, and a huge improvement over the Diamondbacks' late inning pitchers in 2010. The ERAs of the rest of the team do not look as impressive, but the underlying skills have been solid. The Diamondbacks' pitchers have struck out 7.88 batters per 9 innings (4th in the NL), and have only walked 3.3 per 9 IP (10th in the NL).
Unfortunately, the pitchers have had the opposite performance of the hitters with Runners in Scoring Position, allowing batters to hit .309/.399/.520, and giving the team a league-low LOB% of 66.1%. The Home Runs allowed have been a problem (1.41 HR/9), but putting those K, BB, and HR rates together leads to a FIP of 4.51, more than one run lower than the actual ERA. The pitchers have allowed Home Runs on a league-high 13.5% of their fly balls. The team's xFIP, which assumes a league-average HR/FB rate, is 3.84, 7th best in the league. Since xFIP has been shown to be a better predictor of future ERA than both ERA and FIP, at least there is some reason for optimism with the pitching staff.