I was away from computers for most of the weekend, so when I came back this morning to read the site, it hit me: we are incredibly negative for fans of a first place team. In fact, if I didn't know the D-backs were in first place, I would have thought the season was lost. Apparently, every starting pitcher (Patrick Corbin excepted) is terrible and needs to be traded or demoted immediately. Who knew? So I decided to come up with some reasons why panic isn't called for at this stage, and why we can have hope for the next 81 games.
1. We just got swept. This seems like a reason to panic. But is it really? We got swept on the road by the team with the best home record in baseball, 28-11. While getting swept, we got an excellent start from our replacement fifth starter, and improved offense from two of our slumping bats: Montero and Prado. While Prado's series might just be the result of returning to familiar surroundings, there are enough positives to take out of the series to avoid turning all Chicken Little.
2. June is over. Looking at the schedule in advance, we should have expected June to be a very difficult month. (Technically, starting with Memorial Day.) In that period, 32 games were scheduled, with 31 played, and only 11 were at home. Not only that, but opposition included the Rangers (leading the AL West at the time, and currently), the Cardinals (then leading the NL Central), the Reds (passed by the Pirates for Wild-Card lead during our series), and the aforementioned Braves (leading the NL East and owners of the best home record in baseball). Compiling a 14-17 record during that stretch is far from terrible. In fact, if before the season had started someone had told us we would go 14-17 during that stretch, we probably would have taken it. But the fact that so many games were lost in disappointing fashion made the losses difficult to swallow.
3. July is here. As difficult as June was, July is the opposite. In July, we get 17 home games and only 9 road games. None are against teams currently leading their divisions, and only 6 are against teams currently 3rd or higher (and both of those are divisional; Rockies and Padres.) We play each of the other members of our division, so if July is a hot month, this is a chance to really gain some space at the top of the division. Of course, if July goes like June, there will be a reason to panic.
4. The D-backs are one of only four NL teams (and the other three are the East, and play the Marlins) whose remaining opponents have a losing record. (I'm not sure if this includes the probable make-up game with Texas, which would move the record back to .500).
5. The starting pitching is second in the league in No Decisions, and second in the division in Average Game Score. In both cases, first place belongs to the Dodgers, whose starting rotation is constructed with Clayton Kershaw and fine china. If they manage not to break, the Dodgers could be trouble, but the likelihood of that is small. The bullpen (despite criticisms) has performed fairly well despite leading the NL in aLI, a metric that measures the pressure situation. The bullpen has also stayed fresh, being last in the league in games where a reliever pitches more than one inning. A fresh bullpen could be key to a stretch run.
I could add reasons to these, but I think I've made my point. We made it through a very tough portion of the schedule (the toughest portion) and are still in first place. We need to enjoy that we are fans of a first place team, and look forward to taking the opportunity the schedule provides us to extend that lead in a much softer stretch.