August Rush: the Diamondbacks Heroes and Villains

I kinda wanted us to have a losing record, simply so I could use the title The Wails of August, but Monday night's comeback ruined that. Curse you, Rusty Ryal. Instead, while it took a late burst to do it, in the shape of a five-game streak, the Diamondbacks posted their second consecutive winning month, going 15-14 in August, to follow up July's record of 14-12. That's not to be under-estimated, because Arizona hadn't enjoyed back-to-back months above .500 since the end of 2007. It was a pretty streaky month: we had our worst losing run of the year, when we dropped seven straight, but also contained a couple of five-game winning spells. [Contrast April, where our longest streak in either direction was only three]

After the break, we'll drill down a bit, to both team and individual performances in pitching and hitting, and see who starred in August and who should be barred.

This was a good month offensively, with the team enjoying their best OPS of the year to date, reaching .791. That was an sOPS+ of 105, ranking them fourth in the National League. We trailed only the Marlins in hits and the Phillies in home-runs - I was amused to note that, in August, the entire Mets roster had only three more home-runs than Reynolds! Of course, we also had more K's than any team bar the Rockies, and our BABIP of .321 was a little above league-average, .306, so a certain element of luck may have been involved.

On the pitching side, the Diamondbacks set right in the middle of the pack, a 4.32 ERA ranking them eighth, and an sOPS+ of 94 was good for seventh. However, this did conceal a significant split between the starters and the bullpen. Despite a 12-9 record, the rotation's ERA was 4.55, up sharply on July's figure of 3.72. The relief corps, on the other hand, had a 3.79 ERA, only fractionally higher on last month's figure of 3.66. This continued their excellent second-half form: since the break, their ERA is 3.47, third-best in the league. We'll see how that is impacted by the loss of Qualls for the rest of the season.

Heroes

  • Miguel Montero - .326/.367/.543, 3 HR, 18 RBI
    Montero continues to produce at a very high level for the position. Among the ninteeen major-league catchers with 60+ at-bats, only Joe Mauer had a better August OPS - no shame being second to him. Montero had eleven doubles in the month, easily the most on the team, and was tied for the lead in extra-base hits with 14. One issue: he has forgotten how to take a walk, with only one in 78 PAs, from July 27-August 22.

  • Yusmeiro Petit - 28 IP, 27 H, 8 BB, 20 K, 3.54 ERA
    August started for Petit with him becoming the Arizona pitcher to come closest to a no-hitter since the Big Unit's perfect game, and he returned the best ERA of anyone in the rotation over the month. The reason is largely due to his HR/9 rate dropping to 1.29, well below his career average of 1.95, and closer to NL average, 1.01. When he keeps the ball in the park, Petit is a decent-plus pitcher.

  • Mark Reynolds - 277/.370/.660 (1.030 OPS), 11 HR, 21 RBI
    It's the first time Special K has had an OPS over a thousand for a full month, and  it increased for the sixth straight month. He also had a new career high in home-runs; basically, the difference from July was largely that three hits left the park instead of hitting off the wall for doubles. Oh, and he led the team in stolen-bases, going 4-0 there. Mark is currently on pace to hit 49 homers and steal 27 bases by the end of the year.

  • Ryan Roberts - .352/.443/.560 (1.004 OPS), 4 HR, 12 RBI
    Anyone who wants the 2010 second-base position e.g. Rusty Ryal, Tony Abreu, will have to go through Ryan Roberts to get there. He's staking his claim with a blistering second-half, batting .331 in 137 PAs after the break, mostly in the leadoff spot, and better still since the trade of Felipe Lopez left Roberts as the de facto starter at the position. It's a remarkable turnaround from June, where he hit only .098.

  • The B-bullpen [Esmerling Vasquez, Blaine Boyer, Juan Gutierrez] - 30.2 IP, 25 H, 10 BB, 19 K, 1.76 ERA
    These three get a communal nomination; Vasquez in particular had an excellent month, allowing one run in 10.2 innings of work, for a 0.84 ERA. The trio don't strike out a lot of opposing hitters, with a K/9 of only 5.58, but they didn't allow mant hits either - their WHIP is 1.14. It's a big turn-around from earlier, in the season when their appearance in a game was largely taken as the waving of a white flag.

Villains

  • Stephen Drew - .229/.284/.419 (.793 OPS), 4 HR, 16 RBI
    The much-anticipated second-half surge by Drew pretty much withered and died on the vine in August, though in his defense, a BABIP of only .225 was a significant factor in his disappointing month. While not as bad as April and May, Drew's struggles against left-handers were particularly obvious - in 32 PAs last month, he went 2-for-31 with one walk, and is now hitting only .191 this season against them.

  • Dan Haren - 40 IP, 42 H, 7 BB, 34 K, 22 ER, 4.95 ERA
    The second-half slump was not unexpected for Haren, having been a feature of most seasons in his career. However, it's been much more pronounced in 2009, albeit magnified by the brilliance of his outings before the break. Some is BABIP regressing to the mean, but his walk-rate has jumped up, from 1.11/9 IP in the first half to 1.84 now. Same for home-runs, which have increased from 0.84/9 IP to 1.55.

  • Chad Qualls - 8.1 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 5 ER, 5.40 ERA
    Our closer will certainly not look back kindly on August, ending as it did with him writhing on the ground in pain. But, even putting that aside, it was not a month to remember. He only had six save opportunities. Maybe it was ring-rust; he only got in to nine games, but had just one 'clean' full inning. The nadir was obvious: the three-run pinch-hit homer which cost us the game in San Francisco last week.

  • Max Scherzer - 32 IP, 39 H, 11 BB, 39 K, 23 ER 6.47 ERA
    Max's tank looks basically to have reached empty: this is something of a surprise, as he has only just passed his innings pitched last year [including the AFL], but he had only one quality start in six August attempts. While the strikeouts still happen in quantity - 39 is a career high for him - opponents hit .300 off Scherzer last month. Still, better for him to struggle in a year where we aren't in a pennant race.

  • Chad Tracy - .262/.304/.308 (.612 OPS), 0 HR, 5 RBI
    Grim factoid: In the second half, Tracy has a lower slugging percentage than Alex Romero or Augie Ojeda, and sadly, the chances of the Diamondbacks wanting to exercise their 2010 option for Chad appear to be getting slimmer. Since the start of 2008, his OPS+ is only 76, and that isn't worth $7m. August was his first full month (60+ AB) without a single HR in three years.

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