10 Reasons Diamondbacks Have Dodgers, Giants Right Where They Want Them

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIJuly 5, 2012

10 Reasons Diamondbacks Have Dodgers, Giants Right Where They Want Them

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks have a bold outlook for half No. 2 of the 2012 MLB season: win it all.

    The idea is absolutely crazy—crazy enough to work.

    With the D-Backs and Dodgers set to square off for a weekend set as baseball begins its first full series of the second half, the Diamondbacks have a chance to make a statement.

    From mid-July through Game 162 of the regular season, Arizona will have its chance and at six games out of first place, the Diamondbacks have the first-place Dodgers and second-place Giants right where they want them.

Dodgers Injuries: Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier

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    As the Diamondbacks dig in for their July set against Los Angeles, Arizona has the boys in blue exactly where they want them.

    With superstars Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier—not to mention Todd Coffey, Rubby De La Rosa, Javy Guerra, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Ted Lilly, Justin Sellers and most recently Juan Uribe and potentially Dee Gordon out of commission, it seems Los Angeles has more players injured than on the active roster.

    For the next several days, weeks and possibly even months, the Dodgers must continue filling the void, which results in...

Dodgers: Fatigue and Slump

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    With Matt Kemp out of the lineup, right fielder Andre Ethier tried to do everything for Los Angeles, ultimately resulting in an appearance on the 15-day Disabled List, as Ethier strained his left oblique during a routine slide into second base.

    Such is the concept of fatigue—the Dodgers weathered the storm in May and Kemp's first DL stint nearly perfectly, yet Kemp's return to the DL more recently has finally taken its toll: With a win over Cincinnati on Wednesday, for instance, the Dodgers completed their first two-game winning streak since back-to-back wins over the Mariners on June 9-10.

    As for L.A.'s record since June 19? Try 4-12, which has to make you feel good about...

Dodgers: First Place in the NL West

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    Van Slyke, Herrera, Cruz? These aren't names we're familiar with seeing on Dodgers uniforms, yet these same names have somehow kept Los Angeles afloat in the NL West.

    Yet while the Dodgers fatigue and slump, the Southern California ballclub somehow is still the NL West's top team.

    This means Los Angeles padded themselves quite well early on in the season, but as their recent back-and-forth tug-of-war with San Francisco suggests, the adrenalin rush is over. For a team on its way down to be first place in the division, this is great news for Arizona.

Giants: Battle LA

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    Conversely, something has to be said about San Francisco's recent performance: As the Dodgers slipped and slid, the Giants opened June with a four-game sweep vs. Chicago, picking up four series wins along the way, including a June 25-27 sweep of Los Angeles before splitting a four-gamer with Cincinnati, 2-2.

    For L.A. and San Francisco, it's all about that one-two punch.

    Arizona? Neither team will see that mirage coming.

Giants and Dodgers: Pitching

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    Talk about dynamite, San Francisco pitching in 2011 was absolutely remarkable, San Francisco leading MLB in opposing batting average and placing second to Philadelphia in the NL's ERA and WHIP races.

    This year, the tides have turned. While Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong may hurl the occasional gem or even no-hitter, baseball is a sport of averages and, succinctly, the Giants' cumulative performance has dropped.

    For a pitching showcase, the power has surprisingly shifted across the San Francisco Bay. The Giants now trail both Los Angeles and Oakland in opposing batting average, ERA and WHIP.

    Make no mistake, Los Angeles has a dominating pitching staff and although it is less impressive than it was in 2011, San Francisco still remains a very real threat.

    But boy does it sting the orange-and-black to know their team is no longer the best pitching team in the division.

HR: The Long Ball

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    When it comes to pitching, unless All-Star Wade Miley is on the mound, the Dodgers and Giants both hold the upper hand against Arizona.

    When it comes to hitting, Arizona best live and die with the long ball.

    With 49 and 46 team home runs, respectively, the Giants and Dodgers are dead last in Major League Baseball in dingers, while the Padres' 51 places San Diego third from the bottom. Meanwhile, Arizona is 13th best.

    When it comes to doubles, Arizona is even better—seventh-best in MLB, while Los Angeles is 22nd and San Francisco is 23rd.

    On-base and Slugging percentage? No. 2 in the NL West behind the Coors Field-aided Colorado Rockies. OPS and total bases? Also second. 

    Arizona is an offensively AL team in an NL division. Don't try playing small ball here, the Diamondbacks have been caught stealing 30 times—more than any other team in the Majors, save for the Dodgers (also 30).

Depth: Bits and Pieces

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    With Daniel Hudson out for the season and Joe Saunders back on the DL, Arizona turned to Wade Miley, who powered the team through several key contests this season, compiling an impressive 9-2 record with a 2.87 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

    With Trevor Bauer's short outing against Atlanta, it was Patrick Corbin pitching three scoreless innings of relief that helped propel the D-Backs to a victory.

    From Jason Kubel's .899 OPS to Aaron Hill's return from injury to the tune of a .300 batting average and All-Star Game last vote campaign, Arizona has relied on a variety of pieces to compete in 2012, ultimately diversifying their approach and protecting against the fatigue of a long season.

    While the Giants and Dodgers may fall due to the lengthy schedule, Arizona has a built-in safeguard: its depth.

Arizona Slump: Rock Bottom

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    Happy Fourth.

    As San Diego celebrated Independence Day by completing its first three-game sweep of Arizona in franchise history, Arizona might have been best served by looking forward to Thanksgiving.

    Thankful that its slump was an early-to-mid-season affair.

    Thankful that its slump coincided with that of the first-place Dodgers.

    Thankful that Arizona is still the underdog.

    In 2011, the Diamondbacks thrived in this role, shocking the baseball world and truly owning the term, "underdog." As the No. 3 team in the NL West, Arizona is still the underdog and in prime position to recapture the momentous run to the top.

99.6: The False Probability

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    Given a 99.6 percent chance to make the post-season on Sept. 4, 2011, the Boston Red Sox had only one mission—to play average-to-poor baseball for less than one month.

    Somehow, Beantown messed that one up and found themselves on the brink of post-season elimination on the final day of the 2011 regular season.

    Yet as the hours ticked by on that final night, Boston racked up a ninth-inning 3-2 lead over Baltimore as New York pummeled Tampa Bay 7-0 in the eighth, Boston's chances of seeing the post-season again climbed to 99.8 percent.

    Well, that never did happen, now did it?

    Statisticians will tell you, baseball is a numbers game, though even when the numbers work against you, not even a 0.2 percent chance is small enough to prevent the inevitable.

Kirk Gibson and the Improbable

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    At six games back and in the midst of a five-game losing streak—the second-longest active streak only to the Astros' seven—the idea sounds absolutely crazy.



    Impossible? Don't tell Kirk Gibson.

    1988: In the opening contest of the World Series, the Dodgers and A's squared off in a game sure to be a one-run affair. As Los Angeles batted in the bottom of the ninth, manager Tommy Lasorda called on Gibson—injured and barely able to walk, much less swing a baseball bat. The rest is baseball history.

    Vin Scully: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

    1988, meet 2012 and the Arizona Diamondbacks.