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That was the month that was: the Diamondbacks in July

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What is this thing called 'a winning record'? Yes, the Diamondbacks went 14-12 over July - even with the All-Star break, it a number of wins not surpassed since April 2008 [and tied last July, curiously]. I can't say this was unexpected, even after the miserable June where we were 9-17. I pointed out then, that our run differential pointed strongly to the team being nowhere near as bad as the record indicated, and so things turned out. We improved the differential too, ending this month having out-scored the opposition, again for the first time this season.

After the jump, we'll have a look at the heroes and villains of the month for Arizona [I'm listing them alphabetically this time], and take a peek at what the August schedule might bring.

Heroes

  1. Stephen Drew - .323/.398/.573 = .971 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI
    Think Drew liked being moved back to lead-off? With the departure of Felipe Lopez, opportunity knocked, and our shortstop answered - he was already hitting pretty well in the first half of the month but since returning to #1 in the line-up on July 20th, his line is even better, batting .375 with an OPS over a thousand. Could this be the start of the second-half surge which we saw from Drew last year? We can only hope.

  2. Dan Haren - 33 IP, 27 H, 7 BB, 33 K, 2.18 ERA,. Opp OPS .591
    No month, it seems, is complete without a Haren Player of the Month nomination, though his 2.18 ERA is more than half a run worse than the figure posted in June, when he romped away with the voting.Still pretty damn good, even if his ERA in three post-All Star break starts, was 3.50. Perhaps most of concern, his K:BB ratio in those starts has been 17:6, a massive drop-off from the first-half number, which was better than 8:1.

  3. Miguel Montero - .337/.367/.640 = 1.006 OPS, 6 HR, 16 RBI
    With Chris Snyder all but absent for the month, Montero had the chance to prove what he could do as an everyday player, and seized the opportunity. Based on July, it looks like Randy Johnson might have been right about Montero, and this could have changed the face of the Diamondbacks for 2010. Montero went from being trade-bait to becoming Hinch's guy, and may well have become the favoriite to be our Opening Day catcher next season.

  4. Chad Qualls - 13 IP, 11 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 1.38 ERA, Opp OPS .486.
    Nice to have confidence in the bullpen, and this month was almost like the good old days with the Four Relievers of the Apocalypse. Qualls, Jon Rauch, Esmerling Vasquez and Blaine Boyer combined for 41.1 innings at a 1.74 ERA clip in July - any of them deserve consideration. While Vasquez had the lowest ERA (1.08), Qualls gets it for a better WHIP, more innings and less reliance on BABIP. Five of his six saves were one-run games or had the tying run aboard when he entered.

  5. Mark Reynolds - .289/.378/.598 = .976 OPS, 8 HR, 13 RBI
    Led the team in homers, total bases and walks, even if his month did end with an embarrassing - albeit entirely harmless - error on an infield pop-up against the Mets. That doesn't accurately reflect a very good spell for Mark - he has improved his BA, OBP and SLG every month this season. He also provided some spectacular grabs, falling into the stands on a couple of occasions to make outs, at risk to life, limb and the front-row of spectators.

Villains

  1. Augie Ojeda - .148/.281/.222 = .503 OPS, 0 HR, 0 RBI
    Well, we know Ojeda won't be going anywhere before September 12th, as that's his Bobblehead Night at Chase Field [after all, there are already 25,000 Tony Peña dolls, somewhere in a Chinese landfill...] However, he's doing little to convince anyone that he should be part of the Diamondbacks in 2010 - least of all Zephon... His defense remains as solid as ever, but numbers like these make it difficult to claim that outweighs his lack of offense.

  2. Yusmeiro Petit - 24.2 IP, 27 H, 10 BB, 25 K, 5.47 ERA,. Opp. OPS .799
    Teetered on the edge of losing his position - when the Pirates smack you around for six runs in 4.1 innings, you know you've got problems. But then he pitched an improbable six shutout innings against a potent Phillies line-up on Wednesday, and has likely bought himself a couple more outings. The absence of any credible alternatives for the #5 spot work in his favor; Petit probably has a wax figure of Jarrod Parker in his locker, dotted with pins.

  3. Scott Schoeneweis - 5 IP, 9 H, 5 BB, 6 K, 14.40 ERA, Opp. OPS 1.213
    The majority of the last 22 batters faced have reached base, on eight hits and four walks, and all the runners inherited over that time have scored. Of course, part of this is AJ Hinch still holding to the forlorn hope that Schoeneweis can get righties out: the dozen he saw this month went 5-for-9 with three walks, bringing his overall line vs. RHB this year to .345/.472/.621, an OPS of 1.093. The bad news is, LHB are now almost at .800 too...

  4. Chris Young - .200/.313/.329 = .642 OPS, 0 HR, 8 RBI
    Nice though it would be to think that Young is actually getting out of the woods, after a good June, he was right back in the doldrums this month. His OPS was almost exactly at his miserable season number of .646, and it looks more likely that June was the freakish outlier, rather than April, May and, now, July. He's 27 starts and 114 PA's from his last home-run, and is on pace for just nine HR, two seasons after hitting 32 of them.

  5. Clay Zavada - 10 IP, 14 H, 8 BB, 11 K, 5.40 ERA, Opp. OPS .861
    While the 'stache may be as impeccable as ever, Zavada struggled badly with his control this month, leading to an OBP for opposing hitters of .442. The only thing that kept his stats from ballooning as a result, was only allowing two extra-base hits in July. However, the BABIP which helped him during his scoreless streak, bit back with a vengeance - .419 isn't something we should expect to continue, so I'm not too concerned yet.

Coming up in August

Enjoy this month while it lasts, folks. the first couple of weeks on the schedule are all against teams below .500. We have three against the Nationals in Washington, three versus the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and the rest of the home-and-home series against these Mets, with six more games there. That's a dozen contests, and even if nine of them are on the road, we should still probably be looking to post a solid record, with half those games coming against teams with less wins than the Diamondbacks.

After an off-day on the 14th, things get considerably harder. For the next month after that, we might not see a sub-.500 team - the Brewers and Astros are the worst outfits we are scheduled to play, both of whom came into this weeked with even W-L records. It's going to be a real test of how far this team has or has not come. While this season is all but over, if we can compete with the likes of the Dodgers, whom we face nine times between August 14 and September 9, it will augur well for 2010.

We also have a tough travel schedule, the result of a make-up game scheduled in Atlanta on August 17th. The day before, we're playing in Phoenix; the day after, we face the World Champions in Philadelphia. That road-trip then continues through Houston and ends with three games in San Francisco. Then it's back to Phoenix for a quick three-game set against the Astros, before we finish the month in Los Angeles. It we can exit the month with any kind of winning record against all those opponents, I'll be satisfied.