Fan Confidence: The Sky Fell, and Then It Didn't

Apr. 23, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill leaps in the air after forcing out Philadelphia Phillies base runner (15) John Mayberry Jr to start a double play in the ninth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Forgive me if I'm suffering from whiplash. Go back to the last, jinxed, Fan Confidence, and things seemed pretty good, if unsustainable. Then by the end of the week the world was burning down around us. Now the Diamondbacks are back on the upswing. it's frustrating to watch as a fan because we'd like some consistency. We'd like to know, reasonably, what to expect.

If you watched last season, though, you should be disabused of this notion. Baseball will always surprise you. The end standings, when looked at from the distance of the full season, seem inevitable and unchanging. The reality is that often the best ending teams stumbled at the start, or in the middle of the season, or at some point. A lot of teams don't go wire-to-wire. The beginning of the season isn't when you jockey for position, it's when you figure out what kind of team you have and how to rebuild the car so you can win in the later series of the season.

What a week it's been. You'd think that the Diamondbacks were the worst team in the league with the way some people around town have talked. I tuned into KTAR 620's Byrnes and Gambo show yesterday on the way to work and was amazed by how negative they were about the season. To paraphrase their position: the Diamondbacks over relied on luck last year, and it was coming back to hurt them this year. It's like buying a ton of Christmas toys on your credit card, and then facing the big bill afterwards.

To a certain extent they're right. The D-backs were exceptionally lucky to not suffer many major injuries last year, whereas they've been hit pretty hard by injuries to start the season. The difference, of course, is that Upton, Young, and Hudson are not expected to lose much or any time.

If we should have learned anything from last season is that the team that finishes a season isn't always the one that starts it. Yes, Arizona suffered only one major injury with Stephen Drew, but the team at the end of the season was significantly different from the Opening Day lineup. The first month and half of the season in 2011 were pretty mundane, but as they folded in new players and learned how to make it work then things start moving up.

Last week wasn't very pretty because virtually nothing was working. The offense was putrid, and the bullpen was uncharacteristically shaky. They suffered injuries, and scares. Yet, like in 2011, the D-backs are proving their streaky nature, and their ability to bounce back. They started the season hot this year, with a 4 game streak. Then they lost 5 straight, before turning around and winning a couple more in a row. The offense seems to be coming back, and outside of Joe Paterson's struggles last night, the bullpen looked better.

These streaks are problematic when you focus too close. In geography it's a modifiable area unit problem; differences in spatial size are problematic when trying to convert between big and small. For all the cries of "small sample size!" most of the year, it's suspiciously absent when the small sample size confirms a pre-existing assumption. If your pre-inclined to thinking the D-backs are suspect, then the 5 game losing streak is a time to crow. Likewise, the winning streaks gives the optimistic a chance to puff up.

The reality is at some place somewhere in the middle: Arizona is a streaky team, and to attribute too much meaning to a 5 game streak, or a week, is silly.

At the point when it seemed like the season was veering toward oblivion, the team turned around and snapped off a couple of good wins. I wouldn't be surprised if they keep it up. Say what you want about Kirk Gibson's club, but they're not a team to get bogged down in the past.

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