May 9, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher J.J. Putz reacts after giving up a run in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Chase Field. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Sometimes, teams just need an off-day to regroup and reevaluate their performance as a team. The start of the season hasn't gone the way this team was expecting it to, that's pretty clear. Let's be frank, for a team that entered this year looking to win the NL West, this performance has been disappointing, particularly in their last few series. There have been extenuating circumstances, of course. They've dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries so far, but in addition to the injuries, several cornerstone players that the team was relying on simply haven't played very well so far. It's still early, and being under .500 in mid-May isn't a death sentence for the season, but it sure would be nice to see some improvement.
Also, that entire last paragraph was about the Giants. Obviously. I mean, who else would it be about?
Where the Diamondbacks are currently without Drew, Young and Hudson, the Giants are trying to muddle along without Freddy Sanchez, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval. We can point to Upton's OPS+ of 85 as an example of a star player who should be producing but isn't while Giant fans can look at Tim Lincecum's 5.89 ERA. And ultimately, the two teams are at more or less the same place, looking up at the Dodgers. I imagine that Giant fans are probably the only group of people in the world who resent that more than we do.
What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):
The Diamondbacks and Giants have more or less equivalent offenses so far in 2012. Sorry, let's try that again: the Diamondbacks and Giants have more or less equivalent offenses so far in 2012.
The Giants have a slightly higher average, but the Diamondbacks get on base more. The D-Backs walk more, but they make up for by striking out noticeably more. The D-Backs have scored 19 more runs this year, but the difference in park effects makes up for it. For all intents and purposes, they're in a dead heat offensively. Think of all the jokes we've made at the expense of the Giants' offense. For now at least, they're just as justified in making jokes about our offense.
The Giants have hit better this year, and I don't mean to disparage that improvement, but this is on the D-Backs. If the D-Backs don't out-hit the Giants, they aren't going to win this division. Because realistically, they aren't going to out-pitch them.
How do you know I'm in a hurry? Bullet points!
- Pablo Sandoval had a .912 OPS in 24 games while hitting in the middle of the Giants' lineup. Conor Gillaspie is probably a very nice guy and/or an accomplished Scrabble player, but my uneducated guess is that he isn't going to put up an OPS of .912 while playing solid defense at third. Prove me wrong, Conor.
- Get to Know a Giant: featuring, Gregor Blanco. Gregor Blanco was a minor-league free agent after 2011, and his calling card was drawing walks and with occasional doubles power. Sabean picked him up on a minor-league deal and he's slid into the outfield rotation. This is about as non-Brian Sabean of a move as I can think of, which is to say he was a savvy offensive pickup.
- "Are you sure Aubrey Huff can't come back yet?...Well, tell him to rub some dirt on it and get out there...Wha' do you mean rubbing dirt on it doesn't help with anxiety?...Fine, who else we got? Pill? No, I don't care about his numbers in the minors against right-handed pitching, just...ok, fine. I mean, I guess we could just not play a first baseman...Wait, what...They can lodge grievances now?! Ah Christ, fine...Belt, you're in! Just...don't touch anything, okay?"
-Overheard from Bruce Bochy's phone
- (It's funny because Bochy only plays veterans)
Insightful Commentary: Weird as it sounds, Corbin is actually a couple weeks older than Bumgarner. This sounds weird because Bumgarner is in his third major league season, whereas Corbin will be making his third major league start, so there's a bit of a discrepancy there.
Some people were upset with the quick hook for Corbin after things fell apart for him in the third inning against the Mets, but I can understand it. He was making his second start of his career, and there was no reason to let the game get out of hand unnecessarily if he couldn't handle things. Don't blame Gibby for that, blame the rest of the rotation struggling afterwards so as to make the lack of a long man that much more noticeable.
Insightful Commentary: Matt Cain clearly didn't get the memo about the recent trend of players struggling after signing long-term contracts. Or maybe he got it, read it, and chose to ignore it. Who even knows? But he's gotten off to a fantastic start this year, with the best K/BB of his career so far in 2012. According to mlb.com, his WHIP is currently at .728, which is utterly absurd and rather lower than Pedro Martinez's career low. Cain's BABIP is only .183, so expect a few more hits to start falling in, but Cain is still on his way to a very good season.
Insightful Commentary: It's easy to say that Saunders' last start was just inevitable, and maybe it was to some extent, but let's not ignore who it came against. The entire Cardinals lineup is absurdly hot right now, and in this case it happened to coincide with Joe not having his best stuff. One bad start doesn't automatically undo everything he's done so far this year, especially against the Cardinals. I vote we just go ahead and ignore all of the pitching data from that series. Actually, let's just pretend the series didn't happen at all.
Like Saunders, Zito is an oft-maligned veteran who has had something of a renaissance this year...at least on the surface. Under the surface, his K/BB rate is almost 1, which tends to not be a good thing. He has a FIP of 4.42, and his ERA at the end of the year will probably end up being closer to that than its current mark, according to the numbers under the surface. Barry Zito is an iceberg of mediocrity.
Final Verdict: The Diamondbacks have some issues, that have to be addressed. But so do the Giants, and the Diamondbacks are at home, and they really aren't this bad. I'll say the Diamondbacks postpone the introspection about the structure of the team and win two games to one.
As ever, head over to McCovey Chronicles for the Giants' take on things.
(Stats from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs)