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View From The Top: What Now For The Diamondbacks?

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NL West Standings

W L PCT GB STRK
Arizona 64 53 .547 0 Won 2
San Francisco 64 54 .542 0.5 Lost 1
Colorado 55 63 .466 9.5 Lost 1
Los Angeles 52 64 .448 11.5 Lost 4
San Diego 52 66 .440 12.5 Won 2

(updated 8.11.2011 at 9:03 AM MST)


Okay, that's the hard part over. All we've got to do is stay here for the next 45 games, and we'll be golden. Our fate is in our hands now: win out the rest of the way, and nothing can stop us. Simple, really.

Of course, it's far from that. But it's amazing what a difference a one-game tweak in the standings makes, even if, as soco documented earlier today, there's still a sense of the team over-achieving. But on the other hand, there are factors which point to the Diamondbacks being able to sustain the success.

Just don't tell that to Baseball Prospectus, however. Their Playoff Odds report - apparently formulated by someone wearing one of those crappy Panda hats - still gives the second-place Giants an 82.9% chance of winning the division - about 5-1 on favorites. This is largely because they give the Giants a .552 expected win percentage. In other words, San Francisco have been underachieving over the entire season, posting a paltry .542 W%. Yeah... About that... Basically, that number flies in the face of just about every other metric.

Run Differential: Diamondbacks, +19; Giants, -13.
In the NL West, only the Dodgers have been outscored by more runs than the Giants. As a yard-stick, the NL teams book-ending San Francisco's number are the Rockies (-8) and Nationals (-22); they have 55 and 56 wins to date, respectively, compared to the Giants' 64. Based on those numbers, the standings by expected W-L have Arizona holding a 3.5 game lead over... not San Francisco, but Colorado and San Diego. This horrific 3-10 streak for the Giants, is to some extent regression, but they were outscored more than two to one over that time, so fully deserved their record. The good news: there should be more to come.

Current Form: Diamondbacks 25-20; Giants, 24-20.
This is simply based on the number of games each team has left i.e. Arizona plays its remaining 45 games with the same record they had over the last 45, and the same for San Francisco. It's pretty close over that range, but if you zoom in any closer, the Diamondbacks edge becomes much more significant. One month: AZ 15-10, SF: 12-14. Three weeks: AZ 12-7, SF: 7-12. Two weeks: AZ 7-6, SF: 4-10. One week: AZ: 3-3, SF: 2-5. It's amazing how much things have changed since shoe's Fanpost, two and a half weeks ago, where it seemed like we might need to go 40-21 the rest of the way. to beat the Giants.

Wins Above Replacement: fWAR Diamondbacks Hitting 23.2, Pitching 11.5; Giants 11.7/18.9, Total 34.9/30.6.
The two teams have taken very different routes to almost the same record - Arizona with offense, San Francisco with pitching, and certainly fits with what any fan of either team will see. The Giants trail only the Phillies on the mound, while the D-backs are behind the Reds and Cardinals at the plate. Even the acquisition of Beltran might not help the Giants much going forward. At best, it'll probably only partly counter the loss of Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey, two of their top six hitters by fWAR, who will take no part in proceedings the rest of the way. [In the interests of full disclosure, bWAR does tell a slightly different story: Diamondbacks 16.4/7.2 Giants 9.9/17.2 Total 23.6/27.1]

What the above tells me is that the Arizona Diamondbacks can win this thing, and that the 'true' odds of us doing so are a lot closer to CoolStandings.com's 50.3% than 13%. The 2011 Giants are not a better team than the 2011 Diamondbacks, and are a faint shadow of the 2010 team which won 92 games, and legitimately so. This is not to right the Giants off: in many ways, they are very reminiscent of the last D-backs team to make the post-season, which won 90 games despite being outscored. So the Giants' success is sustainable, though would be very much the exception, rather than the rule.

"Can" is, of course, not the same thing as "will". Captain Canuck looked at the schedules the rest of the way, and found that the Giants have a slightly easier schedule (though only about .036 easier overall); however, the Giants play more of their games on the road, where they have been significantly worse to date [35-25 at home, 29-29 on the road]. That side of things probably comes out as close to a wash. The key for Arizona, it seems, is getting a decent cushion over the next four games, to last them through the road-trip to Philadelphia and Atlanta - the only teams, outside the Giants, currently above .500 on our remaining schedule.

It's a boost to be facing the Mets without Jose Reyes. I'm sure Zavada's Mustache will go into that more tomorrow, but he has been worth 5.6 fWAR for them this year, the third-highest number in the National League. That said, the Mets have coped, going 9-9 in the games where Reyes hasn't started. The six games against San Francisco will also be huge, naturally. But if we can get through August to the first of those contests on September 2, and still have a lead - even a slim one - then the dynamic will change. Every game off the calendar will work in our favor, and so splitting the games with the Giants 3-3 would be positive, in terms of the D-backs' chances.

It's just great to be here though. Meaningful baseball in mid-August? Who'd have thought it...