The Diamondbacks are currently on pace to go 116-46; their 5-2 record is the best the team has had in over a decade, and both losses have been by a single run, so it's not as if the team has been getting blown out when they lose. But you really wouldn't know it by reading the Gameday Threads where, especially on this road-trip, far more of the comments have been negative. I'm not certain why this is the case. Unrealistic expectations? The fact that, despite our start, we're still lagging behind the Dodgers? Or are we simply being over-critical, especially in a sport where offensive failure is to be expected two out of every three at-bats?
Some philosophical discourse for a Saturday after the jump...
Especially at this stage in the season, I tend to have a very phlegmatic disposition with regard to the games. We've now played seven contests, but in the context of a full season, that's really not so much. The equivalent, in NFL terms, would be somewhere in the third quarter of the opening game, and so to me, it seems silly to draw any kind of definitive conclusions or make demands for change at this point. Sure, a game won or lost in April counts exactly the same as one in September. However, the difference is that, at this point, there is absolutely no sense of finality: the later in the year, the bigger step each game is towards triumph or disaster.
That's why, personally, at this point in the season, no loss "sucks." The only game I've felt any significant emotion towards was the one against the Giants where we came back from six runs down. As noted in the recap, when the score was 0-6, I didn't really care. But after we clawed our way back to make it a one-run game, it suddenly felt like it mattered a great deal more. I think, in general, it's true that a loss in a close game is felt more than a game where you fell behind early, and were never really in with a chance. The Diamondbacks have certainly played their share of those: more than a week in, every contest has been decided by two runs or less.
I would agree that this team doesn't "feel" like a 5-2 outfit, They have been terrible in certain aspects of the game, and this may well play into a feeling of low confidence and self-esteem. The most obvious is horrible performance with runners in scoring position. Thus far, the team has hit a dreadful .141 there, and we have scored almost as many runs without anyone in scoring position, 15 of our 31 coming from a man on first or the bases empty (last year in the NL, the runs ratio was more than 3:1 out of RISP situations). With a man on third, we're worse still: 3-for-25 with seven strikeouts, and there's no denying the sense of deflation when we don't get that runner home.
However, I can state with absolute certainty. this will turn around. Only one team last year hit less than .230 there - and that was the GIants, who pretty much sucked as a whole, batting .242 overall. The clutch hits will come, and our BABIP will also regress up from its current .253 as well. But, don't forget, we are 5-2 despite this horrible failing, rather than 2-5 because of it. We must be doing something right. That something would likely be pitching, where despite loud demands for some kind of drastic shake-up, our team ERA is 3.43, significantly better than league average (3.74) - even though we've played most of our games in hitter-friendly parks, Chase and Coors.
While it may be hard to do so emotionally, I think we need to accept that, from a logical point of view, baseball is a game driven by offensive failure, in a way unlike the other major sports. Shot 33% from the field in the NBA, and you'll find yourself on the bench very quickly. Complete 33% of passes as a quarterback and your next huddle will be before your shift opens at Burger King. But even an on-base percentage of .330 would be comfortably above average (.319 in the NL at the time of writing). Hit .330 and you'll be an MVP candidate. Failure is to be expected in any individual situation, and we should act accordingly.
Truth is, making an out really doesn't tend to reduce Win Probability much either. Take last night's game: the offensive play with the biggest negative impact was Roberts being out advancing from first to second - that was only worth -11%. The next was Chris Young's fly-out with one down and a runner on first in the ninth: -10% for that. Even in the fourth, when we had second and third with no outs, and failed to score, the three futile at-bats combined were just -15%. It's worth remembering how little they move the needle and act accordingly: sigh momentarily, perhaps roll your eyes and otherwise, follow the instructions in the image at the top.
If you want further incentive to keep your cool, remember how much fun it is to sneak over to McC after something crappy happens to the Giants, and see the potty-mouthed brats there flailing and F-bombing their reactions? You know damn well that, when something crappy happens to the Diamondbacks, they're doing the same thing. So don't give them the pleasure of seeing us weeping, wailing and gnashing our teeth. Yes,.we want to win. Yes, we expect to win. But as I mentioned, if a game like last night - losing by one run on the road - sucks, it's going to be a very, very long season, with many, many worse losses to come.
Now,.I'm not expecting us to turn into the Fandom of Borg, maintaining a stoic indifference to every turn of the game. But we should be aware that this team is likely to lose, even by my optimistic calculations, over sixty more times before the regular season ends. I think that's what concerns me most. If we're this critical and demanding when the team is off to its best start since 2000, what are we going to be like if there's a genuine rough patch, not a week where we lose two games by the narrowest of margins? Instead, I'm glad we're doing well despite not playing to our potential, and look forward to seeing how well things go when we do.