Saying that the offense has been pathetic so far is a needless waste of perfectly good oxygen. Although Arizonans are accustomed to drought, this kind of offensive putridity is on a whole new level. It would seemingly be fair to say that our anemic offense deserves the bulk of the blame for this slow start. The starting pitching has been solid, particularly if you ignore Webb's one start and Petit's balloonish ERA, and the bullpen, while below average so far, hasn't exactly coughed up many leads. Of course, we'd actually have to have those first to lose them.
Even though I enjoy watching the game for what it is, I have a great appreciation for the statistical nature of baseball. So while we could analyze swings and break down our inability to hit with runners in scoring position, I'm taking this opportunity to look at just how bad we've been at the plate, and what possible factors could be contributing to it.
At 3.69 runs per game, we're presently on pace to score 598 runs, by far the worst in the NL and in franchise history. On the plus side, we'd have to be considerably worse to merit inclusion among the all-time worst run-scoring seasons in the modern era -- for example, the Phillies scored 394 runs in 1942 (albeit in only 151 games, but they still averaged just 2.61 r/g [!] to set the record). The California Angels managed 454 runs in 1972 in 155 games, also averaging less than 3 per. So historically, we're not doing that bad, even if it feels that way sometimes. As a whole, the NL is averaging 4.71 runs a game, or 763 over a 162-game marathon.
Let's break down the numbers a bit further and see if a reason for our failures (yes, other than "we suck") comes to light. They're hidden behind the jump for those who go cross-eyed at charts.
Listed below are our totals in the season to date, followed by our rank in the National League and the "leader" in the NL in that particular category. If the Diamondbacks are eighth or above, the league leader is shown; if 9th or lower, and it's not us, the 16th-ranked team is listed.
Let's take a little bit different approach, then. Last season, the Diamondbacks hit the fewest number of singles in baseball. Has that trend continued as well?
Hey, lookie there! Philadelphia has one less single than we do so far. Of course, it's worth pointing out that they've played four fewer games than us, so that prooooobably won't last. In fact, these numbers can't help but be slightly skewed -- only the Dodgers have as many games played as the Diamondbacks through yesterday's action.
So it seems the same problems that plagued us through the final five months of 2008 are still hanging around through the early parts of 2009, without an unsustainably hot month of April to skew our place in the standings. The team doesn't have a problem hitting for power, even with a number of its regulars struggling (although the number of triples vs. doubles is curious, given what you would perceive as above-average team speed). But even all those extra-base hits keep Arizona mired in 14th in slugging percentage, because there simply aren't enough hits to go around.
Jenny already put together a great piece earlier on the struggles of this team versus the 111-loss team of 2004. As mentioned before the jump, the current roster's pace would still be worse than in 2004 by 17 runs. Granted, the pitching on that team outside of Randy Johnson was terrible (almost 900 RA), but the Diamondbacks still fall short of the .253/.310/.393 line that the '04 squad put up. It should be noted that in 2004, no one but Shea Hillenbrand had more than 65 RBI -- but then again, no one struck out more than 90 times either. Since RBIs aren't exactly the best measure of a hitter, we'll ignore that for now.
What's the end result of all this? Basically, the team doesn't get on base enough. I know, I know -- "Chris, we didn't need some fancy-ass charts to get us to that conclusion." But it's remarkable how terrible this offense really is when you compare it to both the other teams in the National League and years past. Where that fundamental breakdown happened in the organization (scouting? Talent evaluation? Player development? Major/minor league coaching staffs?) is a matter of debate for another day, but the bottom line is that without significant, unexpected improvement, the 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks are in severe trouble. Strap in, folks; it's gonna be a bumpy ride.