10 May 2012
With 32 Games, or about one-fifth of the Major League Baseball season complete, the Diamondbacks are currently on a five game losing streak, putting their overall record at 14-18. One year ago at this time, the D'Backs stood at 15-17, but were about to embark on a 15-3 run that would put them in the thick of the Division race for the rest of the year. Can this year's team also turn things around and catch up with the Dodgers, who at 20-11 are already 6.5 games ahead? Let's take a look at the team's performance to date, with a look at what has gone right (not much) and what has gone wrong with the club so far this season.
Performance to Date
After 32 Games, the Diamondbacks have scored 132 Runs (4.12 R/G) and allowed 143 Runs (4.47 R/G). The offense ranks 7th in the NL in Runs per Game, and is 8th in the league in OPS+ (OPS adjusted for park effects). The individual offensive components show a similar story - 7th in the NL in OBP and SLG, 5th in HR, and 9th in AVG. The 2011 team finished the year 4th in R/G. On the pitching side, the team ranks 13th in Runs Allowed, and is 12th in ERA+. The pitching problems have been in both the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Both the starters and relievers have seen their ERAs rise by around 0.40, even while league-wide ERAs have fallen this year compared to 2011.
What's Gone Wrong at the Team Level - Offense
Compared to 2011, many of the offensive stats are similar to the 2011 team. The team batting average and on-base percentage are almost exactly the same, and the walks and stolen bases are up slightly. The big difference has been the drop in power, along with an increase in Grounding into Double Plays. The drop in power has been a big problem away from Chase Field, as the team has only a .365 slugging percentage in road games, compared to .412 at home.
One big problem for the Diamondbacks in 2012 has been clutch hitting. In 2011, the Diamondbacks hit exceptionally well in "Late and Close" situations (defined as in the 7th Inning or later when the batting team is either tied, ahead by one, or has the tying run on base, at bat, or on deck), going .280/.364/.446, for an .810 OPS. In 2012, the team's production in these situations has plummeted, with the Diamondbacks hitting just .158/.227/.248, with a 43K/13 BB ratio over 183 plate appearances. These "clutch" stats are usually pretty flukey, so expecting a performance like 2011 is probably unrealistic, but the team should return to something closer to their overall batting line.
|Late and Close - 2012||.158||.227||.248||.475|
|Late and Close - 2011||.280||.364||.460||.810|
The poor performance in clutch situations actually extends to the late innings in general:
Another big problem for the team has been the top of the batting order. Leadoff hitters for the Diamondbacks have a combined OBP of just .267 for the year, and the #2 hitters are also below average at .308. That has created very few RBI opportunities for the team's 3,4, and 5 hitters.
Looking at some other offensive splits, another weakness has been the team's performance against left-handed pitching, where the team OPS is 37 points lower than against RHP.
What's Gone Wrong at the Team Level - Pitching
Looking at their component stats, the starters have actually struck out a few more batters than last year, but have also walked a few more and given up a few more home runs. Putting these stats together, the staff's FIP of 4.07 is not much different than its 4.02 from 2011.
The team's BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is almost the same between the two seasons, .294 in 2012 compared to .286 in 2011, and the team is getting a lot more ground balls in 2012, 47.8% to 41.9%. I think the conclusion from all of these stats is that there is no reason to panic. The main issue is that the staff has been giving up a few too many HRs, even though they are inducing a lot more ground balls this year. If that HR rate can be brought back to its usual level, both the starters and relievers should be fine.
|Starters - 2012||11||12||4.23||1.31||6.6||2.8||1.0|
|Starters - 2011||71||54||3.84||1.27||6.1||2.5||1.1|
|Relievers - 2012||3||6||4.18||1.33||7.7||3.0||1.4|
|Relievers - 2011||23||14||3.71||1.32||7.7||3.4||0.8|
The pitching, and particularly the home runs allowed, have been significantly worse at home through the first 32 Games (16 Home, 16 Away)
What's Gone Right at the Team Level
What have the Diamondbacks done well so far in 2012? Offensively, there are very few improvements over last season. The stolen base success rate has gone up, to 75% (27/36), from last year's 71%. The team has continued to hit very well when ahead in the count, batting .500 (3-6) on 3-0 counts and .417 (10-24) on 3-1 counts. And the team is still drawing walks at a good rate. On the pitching side, the pitcher's are doing a decent job with strikeouts and walks - the problem has been the Home Runs.
What's Gone Wrong at the Individual Level
One big problem has been injuries. Chris Young, who has been one of the team's top offensive and defensive players, has missed the last 20 games with a shoulder injury. The good news is that CY has resumed baseball activities, and expects to be back with the Diamondbacks within a week or two. A second key injury has been pitcher Daniel Hudson. Hudson threw a bullpen session on Tuesday, and felt fine. He will throw again this weekend, and could start facing live hitters next week. A third injured player is SS Stephen Drew, who has played in two extended spring training games, and may start a minor league rehab assignment within a week. Obviously, getting these three players back will be a huge boost for the Diamondbacks, and all three are on track to be back by the end of the month.
Upton has also been injured, but has avoided the Disabled List so far this season. But the production has not been there, as Upton is down to .235/.316/.363, way below his career rates of .275/.355/.482. After cutting his strikeout rate to 18.7% in 2011, it has jumped back up to 24.8% in 2012. He is still drawing walks at a decent rate, but has had trouble getting the ball in the air - his FB% is down from 44.8% last year to 31.1% in 2012.
Like Upton, Goldschmidt is off to a very slow start, and has seen his power drop considerably. Goldschmidt is down to a batting line of .218/.289/.322, and has not homered since opening day. Plus, he still has a high strikeout rate of 25.8%, and has had trouble pulling the ball. At Chase Field, Goldschmidt has only hit two fly balls to LF in 16 home games.
Bloomquist has always been a below average offensive player, but his batting line of .209/.258/.319 is poor even by his standards (career rate of .262/.314/.336). And if Manager Kirk Gibson is going to continue to use Bloomquist in the leadoff slot while Drew is out, he simply must do a better job of getting on base.
After a .249/.341/.427 batting line in 2011, Roberts has dropped to just .217/.295/.337 in 2012. He's still drawing walks, but like many others on the team, the power has not been there. The hopeful news for Roberts is that he has been hitting better over the month of May, going 8 for 17 (.471) with a HR and 2 walks.
Collmenter came out of nowhere in 2011 to make 24 starts for the Diamondbacks with a 3.38 ERA. Unfortunately, his success did not carry over to 2012, as he given up 6 HR in 18.1 IP as a starter, and seen his ERA rise to 8.44. Collmenter has been dropped from the rotation and moved to the bullpen. With the Diamondbacks' crop of pitching talent in the high Minors, Collmenter may not get another chance to start.
After a fantastic season in 2011, Putz has really struggled so far in 2012. Last year, Putz only gave up 4 HR and 14 ER for the entire season. This year, he has already allowed 4 HR, and has been charged with 10 ER in his first 10 IP. Putz already has two blown saves and two losses for 2012. On the bright side, he has struck out 12 batters in 10 innings, and hasn't walked anyone yet.
After a nice rookie season in 2011, Paterson completely fell apart this year, allowing 11 ER in just 2.2 IP, including 15 Hits and 2 Walks. He's back at the AAA level.
What's Gone Right at the Individual Level
Saunders had a rough outing in his last start, but he had allowed 2 ER or less in his first five starts, including a complete game shutout. For the year, he has an excellent 2.50 ERA and a 26K/10BB ratio over 39.2 IP.
Miley went 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the month of April, winning the NL Rookie of the Month award. Things have not gone as well in May (0-1, 5.40 ERA), but Miley has been fine for a #4 or 5 starter.
Hill has continued his solid play since coming to the Diamondbacks, batting .259/.341/.429 and playing excellent defense at second base. His .770 OPS is currently the second highest on the team.
Kubel was a very controversial signing in the offseason, but he leads the team with a .780 OPS and leads the Majors with 6 outfield assists. A little more power would be nice, but Kubel's overall play has been good.
The slow start of Ryan Roberts gave Ransom an opportunity, and he is off to a .317/.391/.683 start, with 4 HR in just 41 AB. It almost certainly won't last - when he was called up from AAA Reno, Ransom was the oldest position player in the league. So it's nice to see him have some success at the Major League level.
McDonald has only had 45 plate appearances for the year, but he has been outstanding with the glove, and has even hit .310/.356/.476. He's never hit well in the Majors before, but he should continue to be a strong defensive replacement.
Brad Ziegler/Craig Breslow
The pair of former Oakland relievers both have ERAs below 2 after 30 combined innings. After a rough spring training, there were questions about both pitchers, but they have pitched well once the real games started.
It has certainly been a disappointing month of May for the Diamondbacks, as the team has dropped 7 of 9 games and fallen four games below .500. But it is way too early to give up on the season. The biggest problem on offense has been the lack of power; but Justin Upton and Paul Goldschmidt should revert to form, and Chris Young should be back in the lineup within the next week or two. Willie Bloomquist has been a problem at the top of the lineup, but there is hope that Stephen Drew will be back by the end of the month. The team has been remarkbly poor in clutch situations, but that too should bounce back closer to the team's overall offensive standards.
On the pitching side, Trevor Cahill, Ian Kennedy, and Joe Saunders have been fine, and Wade Miley has chipped in a few good starts. Daniel Hudson should be ready soon, and youngsters Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Charles Brewer, and Chase Anderson give the team plenty of options if anyone falters in the rotation. The team needs J.J. Putz to rebound, but the rest of the bullpen - David Hernandez, Bryan Shaw, Ziegler, and Breslow has been fine. The Diamondbacks still have all of the pieces to make a run for the NL West title, and I think they will be right back in the thick of race soon.