13 July 2012
The Diamondbacks are coming out of the All Star Break with a record of 42-43, just 4 Games Behind the Dodgers and 3.5 Games Behind the Giants. Even though the team is still below .500, they are in much better shape than they were a few weeks ago - the D'Backs were 11.5 GB on May 22, and 7 GB just one week ago. The Diamondbacks rank 6th in the NL in Runs/Game, with 4.41 R/G, and rank 8th in Runs Allowed with 4.29 R/G. Let's take a look at what to expect in the 2nd Half.
The Diamondbacks are starting the second half with a rotation of Kennedy, Saunders, Cahill, Miley, and Bauer. Saunders will be activated from the DL on Saturday, after missing two weeks with a slight shoulder strain. While he was wild in his rehab assignment last week (3H, 5 BB in 4.1 IP), he felt fine and said he is ready to go this weekend. The team has announced that Bauer will stay in the rotation, with Collmenter moving back to the bullpen. Bauer pitched very well against the Dodgers last week after two so-so outings to start his Major League career. Miley has been fantastic, but slipped a little in his last two starts. Cahill has been solid, but has slown flashes of being even better. The big key for the 2nd half is Kennedy. His component stats and FIP have been very good, but the overall results have been disappointing. His overall BABIP is much higher this year, .326 compared to .270, which is probably a combination of bad luck and poorer command. Left-handed batters have an .818 OPS against Kennedy this year, compared to just .656 last year. The team needs Kennedy to get his ERA back in the 3's, and I think he will do just that. Overall, the starting rotation should be a strength for the club in the 2nd Half.
Corbin, who has been pitching well in long relief, will probably be sent back to AAA to continue working as a starter. Hudson, of course, is out for the year after Tommy John surgery.
The bullpen has pitched much better over the last month, and the overall bullpen ERA is down to 3.54, 6th best in the NL. After a shaky start, closer J.J. Putz has recorded scoreless outings in 12 of his last 13 appearances. Primary Setup man David Hernandez has also been solid, with 11 scoreless appearances in his last 13 games. Bryan Shaw has been the best in the bullpen with regards to Inherited Runners, allowing only 4 of 25 to score (16%), but the other key players have also been fine - Breslow (7-20, 35%), Ziegler (9-30, 30%), and Zagurski (2-8, 25%). Collmenter will move back to the long relief role, where he has been very good, with a 1.19 ERA over 22.2 relief innings.
Now that Stephen Drew is back in the lineup, the Diamondbacks will be at full strength for the 2nd Half. Chris Young has continued to struggle since he returned from his shoulder injury, batting just .143/.235/.256 since he returned. He also has had a huge platoon split this year, with a .904 OPS against LHP but only .592 against RHP. He will continue to lose playing time against RHP to Gerardo Parra unless he turns things around.
The other weak spot has been Third Base, where Ryan Roberts has been unable to provide any consistent offense. In the short term, he may lose some ABs to Willie Bloomquist or Geoff Blum, and there is a chance that Ryan Wheeler or Matt Davidson could come up from the Minors to play 3B. Wheeler is the more likely option, with a .358/.396/.580 line in the hitter-friendly PCL. Davidson has a solid .866 in AA, but got off to a very hot start and then has slowed down. If the Roberts/Blum/Bloomquist trio fails to get the job done, Wheeler could be given an opportunity.
I still believe that Justin Upton will spend the rest of the season with the Diamondbacks, and I think he will have a strong 2nd Half as he continues to recover from his thumb injury. Kubel, Hill, Goldschmidt, and Montero have all been good to excellent for the Diamondbacks, and should continue to keep the team's offense in the upper half of the NL.
Ransom, Pollock, Bell, and Schmidt are no longer in the Majors with the Diamondbacks, and McDonald is on the DL, so the bench currently consists of Overbay, Bloomquist, Blum, Blanco, and the 4th OF (Parra or Young). It's a veteran bench, which Manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers seem to like, but not a particularly strong offensive group. Overbay has hit very well in his limited playing time, and Bloomquist has hit well compared to his usual standards, but Blum and Blanco haven't done much at all so far. Wheeler could be an option here, as well as AAA outfielder Adam Eaton, who is batting .375/.458/.522.
2nd Half Outlook
The Diamondbacks are in good shape to make a run at the NL West title. Even though the Dodgers are in 1st Place and will be getting Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier back this weekend, I don't think their starting rotation will continue to pitch as well as they have in the 1st Half (3.43 ERA). Plus, they have gotten better than expected performances from position players like Bobby Abreu, Mark Ellis, A.J. Ellis, and Jerry Hairston. The Giants are still near the bottom of the NL in scoring with just 3.93 R/G, despite an excellent first half from Melky Cabrera. But the middle infield is weak, and the other two outfield spots are still questionable. The pitching has been solid for the Giants, even with Tim Linecum's horrible first half (6.42 ERA). I think the NL West will come down to the Diamondbacks and the Giants, with the D-Backs' better balance between hitting and pitching giving them the edge.