Arizona Diamondbacks: "Snake-Bitten" in First Half of 2009
The headline says it all. It has been a long first half of the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have suffered through injuries to some of their best players, a manager change, and struggles in nearly every facet of their game.
On the heels of a five-game losing streak that has them 18 games back in the National League West and 16 games under .500, manager A.J. Hinch is trying to stop the bleeding.
"We're a last-place team not playing up to our standards," Hinch said. "The losing exposes a lot. It makes things look worse than they probably are and doesn't allow you to focus too much on some of the good things that are happening. The growing frustration of playing just good enough to lose by a little is weighing on everybody."
Two of the most glaring problems have been fielding and the bullpen.
The Diamondbacks are tied for last in fielding percentage (.976) and leading the league in errors (71), on the back of four errors in one inning in Sunday's loss to the Angels. This has lead to 65 unearned runs for the season, often at crucial times in close games.
Protecting leads and not letting games get out of hand have been another issue. The bullpen has ruined several quality outings from the starting rotation and put extra pressure on the inconsistent offense. All but four of Arizona's pitchers have an ERA of 4.13 or worse, making no one pitcher more reliable than another.
Appearances have also been inconsistent with a pitcher looking nearly invincible one day, then struggling to get outs the next.
Another issue has been the Snakes' play at Chase Field, where they are 15-28, the second worst home record in baseball. Their lackluster pitching has come under scrutiny for this as well. Arizona has a home ERA of 5.27, almost two runs higher than its average on the road.
A lingering shoulder injury to ace Brandon Webb has put the spotlight on young pitchers Max Scherzer and Billy Buckner, who have struggled with a combined 6.15 ERA. One of the few bright spots has been Dan Haren (6-5, 2.25 ERA), who should have more wins if not for the play of the bullpen.
Hitting has not been very strong either. The Diamondbacks are 28th in team batting average (.245) and 29th in strikeouts (605). Scoring runs has been inconsistent much of the year, making it difficult to pinpoint weaknesses.
Arizona has also missed the steady bats of Conor Jackson and Chris Snyder, who have been on the disabled list for extended periods of time.
From top to bottom, this team has struggled and their record shows it. Change is going to come in one form or another.
Hopefully, this losing and struggling in the first half of the season are a part of the growing pains that any young team must endure to have eventual success.
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