If the Arizona Diamondbacks make the playoffs this season, the other National League contenders are in big trouble.
At 62-59, the D-Backs are by no means a lock to visit the postseason.
With 40 games remaining, Arizona only leads the NL West by half a game. Los Angeles' acquisition of Manny Ramirez has the Dodgers on fire, poised to overtake the division lead. Offensively, the D-Backs have been inconsistent and have lacked a big bat in the middle of the lineup.
Arizona is limping toward the end of the season. The playoffs are not a sure thing, but this is exactly the position the D-Backs want to be in.
The past two NL representatives in the World Series followed a similar path. Two years ago, at this time, the St. Louis Cardinals were 62-55. A year ago, the Colorado Rockies stood at 61-57.
Nothing was expected from either team.
The Cardinals, who jumped out to a big lead early in the season, struggled through the last few months, but held on to win their division by one game. The Rockies snuck into the playoffs as a wild-card team by winning 14 of their final 15 games, just to force a one-game playoff.
Once in the playoffs, though, both teams got hot, riding good pitching and hot bats to the World Series.
The D-Backs stand in the same shoes of those two NL predecessors.
Arizona has done nothing to raise expectations of postseason success. The Diamondbacks, however, have all the pieces to make the kind of run that leads to the World Series.
Good pitching? The D-Backs have a ton.
Brandon Webb and Dan Haren have been the NL’s best one-two punch. Webb, 17-4 with a 2.88 ERA, will likely win the NL Cy Young; he’s been that good. Even 44-year-old Randy Johnson is starting to hit his stride. Johnson, a five-time Cy Young award winner, is 4-1 with a 1.08 ERA over the past month.
In a seven-game series, having to face Webb, Haren, and then Johnson would be brutally daunting for any offense. In a five-game series, impossible.
Generating offense, though, could be an issue in the playoffs. Only OF Conor Jackson and 2B Orlando Hudson are batting over .300, and Hudson is out for the season. Only 3B Mark Reynolds has over 60 RBI. Not the kind of numbers that inspire confidence.
The D-Backs, however, have already proven this season that they can get hot. Arizona started the season on a torrid pace, going 20-8 in April. They scored over six runs 10 times and 10 runs three times. If they make the playoffs, they would only need to get hot for 11 games. 11 games are doable.
The key to Arizona’s run to the postseason and beyond is Adam Dunn, whom the D-Backs traded for earlier this week. He brings the big bat the D-Backs have been missing. His 32 HR and 76 RBI are exactly what they need to kick start a struggling offense.
Despite the struggling offense, and the real threat from the Dodgers, the D-Backs are coiled and poised to strike, right in the position they want to be in.
It doesn’t matter if they limp into the playoffs like the 2006 Cardinals, or heat up in the last month of the season like the 2007 Rockies. All that matters is getting in.
And if they do, watch out NL. You are in big trouble.