It's startling to realize that four weeks ago today, we went into play with a 4.5 game lead in the National League West. Where did that lead go? Well, it has been a combination of Arizona not being very good, and Los Angeles being extremely good. The Dodgers are 19-4 since that time, a record which has been beaten in the City of Angels only once since the team moved there - the 1977 team putting together a 20-3 run in April and May. So you're talking about something that happens once in every couple of generations, and there's not really too much that any team can do about defending against that.
However, the harsh truth is, the Diamondbacks haven't played very well of late either, going 9-14 over the same time-span. It's not really hard to see why: the Arizona offense has been pretty bad, with a line of .237/.302/.361. That has been especially notable in the losses: over those 14 defeats, we scored a total of 27 runs, and were held to two or fewer in 10 of those. That's not giving yourself any real chance to win, and you won't be surprised to learn that we are 5-31 in such games this season. Breaking down the individual numbers further, we see some particularly obvious spots of weakness:
I removed the other pitchers' numbers, but left Delgado's in there as an illustration. Because over the past four weeks, an entire starting outfield - exactly the one we fielded for the opener in Tampa - of Eaton, Kubel and Parra, has been collectively hitting worse than Delgado. Not just batting average, but OPS. Collectively, those three are hitting .139, and Pollock only narrowly escapes the same fate, leading Delgado by 21 points. Parra, in particular, just hasn't been the same since he ate the warning-track in New York in the first game of July - he has lost close to a hundred OPS points since, and it seems even his defense has suffered.
It has just been a line-up with too many gurgling vertices of suck present. On any given day, you've usually had at least two outfield spots below a .600 OPS, with the middle-infield not much better, and the loss of Montero to his back injury has significantly weakened the offensive production there. Put another way, we are currently almost entirely reliant of Goldschmidt, Ross and Prado, with occasional help from the cut-crystal decanter which is Chavez. As for the rest... Well, let's just say, I've grown used to expecting an out, and am pleasantly surprised if there's any other result. But do our hurlers show the same sharp division?
|3||Eury De La Rosa||2||0||2.1||0||0||0||0||3||0||0.00|
The pitching generally hasn't had too many problems, with a 3.57 ERA, and the bullpen - source of many apparent problems earlier in the season - seems to have come around. They haven't blown a save since July 10th, and that was a result of the only earned run allowed by the trio of Bell, Putz and Ziegler in the past four weeks, working a total of 28.1 innings. But, just as the blown saves earlier in the season didn't really impact us as much as you might think, the lack of them over the past month hasn't been much help, when the offense is running like a Brezhnev-era Lada. [kids, ask your parents. Or use that "Wikipedia" thing I've heard about]
There is still something of a chasm at the bottom, with no-one having an ERA between five and eight. However, most of those above that figure were short-termers, no longer with the club. The others are Sprull, who had appeared in noe game, and Hernandez, whose struggles have been well-documented - if he appears in any high-leverage situations the rest of the way, it had better be because there's no-one else whose count of functioning limbs passes three. [Note: Thatcher's numbers above include games pitched with the Padres: for Arizona, he has thrown two hitless innings over three appearances]
The bottom line is the standings, where Arizona needs to play MUCH better the rest of the way than they have done, if they are to have any chance. The Dodgers have 52 games left: if they play even .500 ball the rest of the way, that will take them to a total of 87 victories. To match that total, the Diamondbacks would have to go 31-20. It's by no means impossible: in 2011, around this time, we had a 35-16 spell. However, it's not something we've managed this season or last, and if you look at the previous 51 games to date, our record in those is only 22-29. Do we have a nine-game improvement over that in our back pocket? Can't say I'm optimistic.
There is the alternative possibility of a wild-card spot, and thank Selig there's two of those this season. Because if there was still only one, we'd be 9.5 games back of the Cardinals for that, basically out of it. However, we are "only" 4.5 games behind the Reds, and there's no-one between us and them [such is the weird state of the NL this year, where the majority of teams are eight games or more below .500]. There is a four-game series on the road against Cincinnati, coming up later this month, and if we don't take at least two there, it could well be the last hurrah for any playoff aspirations in Arizona this campaign.
In between now and then, however, I can only repeat that the team - and in particular, the hitters - need to step up and produce, in a way they just haven't done over the past month. If that doesn't happen, then the odds are that, by the time the Reds series rolls around, we'll be so far back of Cincinnati, the results will be almost irrelevant. The rest of the season starts tomorrow. I hope the Diamondbacks realize that, and begin playing like it.