Starting the season off with a 4-8 record is probably not what Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson had in mind.
The team began 1-7, marking it the worst start in franchise history, with one more loss in the first eight games than the club’s inaugural season in 1998. And after finishing the past two seasons with an 81-81 finish, winning one game in eight tries is going to start raising concerns.
That is why Major League Baseball has a season that is 162 games long. The Diamondbacks can get going at any point and turn things around in the NL West. After all, the club has won three out of its last four, including its first series win against the San Francisco Giants.
However, there are a few things that must vastly improve if the Diamondbacks are going to compete in this division and for a playoff spot. Arizona is falling behind in some major categories that will keep it shackled at the bottom of the West.
The Starting Rotation
The Diamondbacks rotation took a hit when Patrick Corbin was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery a couple of weeks ago.
As good as Corbin was in 2013, he couldn’t have helped this staff get off to a better start. The rotation has a collective 6.57 ERA and one fewer strikeout than the bullpen in 20 more innings pitched. The staff as a whole has an ERA of 5.86, good for second worst in all of baseball.
This chart shows the early season statistics for the starting rotation.
The offense is scoring runs but it won’t do the club any good if the rotation can’t go deep into ballgames. Josh Collmenter needs to be considered for a move back to the rotation, and Mike Bolsinger, currently pitching at Triple-A Reno, needs a shot in the big leagues.
Giving them a shot against the Los Angeles Dodgers would be a good start. The Dodgers have a team batting average of .251 and do most of their damage against strictly finesse pitchers.
Wade Miley pitched well against the Dodgers in his first start but only went five innings due to the odd scheduling. With help from his offense, Miley should have a longer leash and shut down an L.A. team that is hitting just .198 against left-handed pitching.
The bullpen is also to blame for the team’s misfortunes.
After tying the Houston Astros for most blown saves in the bigs last season (29), the Diamondbacks have already managed to blow three saves in seven opportunities this season.
Five relievers have a WHIP of at least 1.500 and free passes have come at an overwhelming rate. In 43 innings, the bullpen has given up 23 walks and 23 earned runs. Collectively, the bullpen has a 4.81 ERA and a WHIP of 1.512.
As previously mentioned, the rotation needs to go deeper into ballgames. Not only will it take pressure off the offense but it will also take pressure off of the bullpen which has already made 41 total appearances in 12 games.
The series against the Dodgers could be a good opportunity to build confidence, though. The Dodgers are hitting just .195 against relief pitching and have scored just eight runs during the final three innings.
The club has one of the more potent offenses in baseball, but timely hitting has been an issue.
It isn’t as if the D'Backs aren't scoring runs, considering they average 4.25 runs per game and have scored at least five runs seven times this season. It is when they aren’t scoring that has been the issue. The chart below breaks down the innings where Arizona has been most successful.
Through the first 12 games, the Diamondbacks are hitting .212 with runners in scoring position, including just five extra-base hits and 24 strikeouts. That batting average drops to .125 with RISP and two outs, which is good for fifth worst in baseball.
They won their first extra-inning game of the season on April 10. Scoring runs late in games with a shady bullpen will be imperative to keeping pace with the rest of the division.
The offense ruined an eight-strikeout performance by Wade Miley in the first game against the Dodgers in Australia and mustered just two hits against Hyun-Jin Ryu in the second game. The Diamondbacks have a collective .302 batting average against the South Korean and need to live up to it to give their staff support against the Dodgers' productive offense.
Although stout, the Dodgers bullpen is prone to giving up walks (19) and home runs (4). The Diamondbacks can improve their clutch-hitting numbers in Los Angeles if they can work the count and take advantage of pitches up in the zone.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
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