The season has got off to a solid beginning for the Diamondbacks, sweeping the Giants at home, and then going on the road and taking half of the contests there. However, it has not been without roadbumps: the team has struggled with runners in scoring position, and a couple of spots in the rotation have performed well below pre-season expectations. Our panel, with guest panelist SenSurround, discuss those, the spectacular start by the Dodgers and the upcoming week against the Pirates and Braves. Other guests are welcome: sign up in the comments. The current list is: DeDxDbacKxJroK, luckycc, sonic barracuda and blank_38.
The first nine games are in the bag. How have the team performed overall?
Dan: Very well overall. Chris Young and Miguel Montero have been utterly huge for us, and you can't argue with the overall record. Despite some of the pieces not playing as we'd hope, the team is off to a perfectly good start.
SenSurround: It's hard to argue results, but I think production from people not named Chris Young or Miguel Montero at the plate has been inconsistent at best, while the pitching has been damn lucky not getting burned by the walk so far. That being said, everyone, sans Collmenter, has had at least a nice moment or two that made up for the inconsistency in a big way and showed we'll probably be ok long term.
Jim: 6-3 is a good start to the season, especially with those games being against divisional rivals, and most on the road. It's been kinda weird, in that a lot of the production has been from places you wouldn't expect. Sure, Ian Kennedy has been great, and Chris Young has lived up to his spring performance. But in the bullpen, J.J. Putz and David Hernandez have largely been outshone by Wade Miley and Bryan Shaw. And who said Willie Bloomquist would have a better OPS than Justin Upton? I know I didn't...
Kishi: Not bad. Not the offensive output we'd hope for, and our starting pitching hasn't quite lived up to all of our expectations, but we've seen some good work from Wade Miley and Bryan Shaw out of the bullpen. Trevor Cahill and Chris Young have been bright spots, too.
soco: The big numbers look fine, but they hide concerns. Starting pitching has been inconsistent, the offense isn't there, and they constantly fudge the details.
What were the highlights and lowlights?
Clefo: Highlights? Sweeping the Giants with that epic comeback. Lowlights? The rain game on Saturday. That hurt in so many ways.
Dan: Chris Young's overall play has to be a highlight. Lowlight? I'm with Clefo, that rain game at Coors was a tragic comedy.
SenSurround: High for me has to be Miley keeping us in the game against the Giants, despite the defense kicking the ball around behind him. It's hard to say anything besides the Colorado debacle as the low so far. I don't even care if they call that game when Colorado's winning, MLB should be ashamed of themselves for letting it go on.
Jim: Sweeping the Giants was wonderful, especially that miraculous comeback on the Sunday, when all seemed lost. I'll also pick out Trevor Cahill's start in Colorado on Sunday as a real treat. In conditions that were hardly favorable, he pitched brilliantly, and gave the offense a chance to avoid the sweep. Lowlights: I'm with everyone else. Saturday's contest was an embarrassment to baseball. Should we end up missing the post-season by one game, I'm going to be righteously pissed.
Kishi: That rally was good, but I'll also point out the first inning of Opening Day as a definite highlight- come on, who wasn't looking forward to seeing Paul Goldschmidt face off against Lincecum? I can't pick anything other than Saturday's game as a main low point, though. That was just ridiculous.
soco: Highlight was the Giants sweep, for obvious reasons. Lowlight has been various pitching concerns.
Josh Collmenter. Discuss.
Clefo: I would be stunned if Miley didn't get his next start. And if what I read in GDTs is true, I am going to be stunned.
Dan: Can't locate. 86-88 and straight with a terrible curve - even if you have a plus changeup - when you can't locate is the pitching equivalent of Armageddon.
SenSurround: Supremely hittable, and not because his deception isn't working for him. He has to be Greg Maddux lite with his control to get guys out, and he's not close. A AAA stint to find the problem would be best for all parties involved.
Jim: Not fooling anyone. Which is weird, because there was no such issue last year, even when teams saw him multiple times - just ask Milwaukee. This wasn't even a Barry Enright-like situation, where a player succeeded in spite of shaky peripherals; Collmenter was striking out people in 2011. It feels almost as if a note was passed around the other teams, explaining how to handle him, because he's been smacked about like [insert politically-incorrect simile] since the start of spring. I'm surprised he's getting a third start, and we can't go on basically having him and Miley perform like one starter. When Takashi Saito is back, I'm betting Collmenter goes down to the minors and Miley replaces him, though the latter's peripherals are not great either (one K and three walks in seven innings). For how long? I would hate to say.
Kishi: I suspect he was replaced by aliens in the off-season. It's about the only thing I can imagine. It seems like some time in the minors is an inevitability, and hopefully he'll be able to figure out what's wrong there.
soco: The dude still needs to develop, so I hope the team makes decisions that will help him and the team.
Daniel Hudson. Concerned?
Dan: Not really. I worry that his lack of a killer instinct could limit his long-term upside, but he'll remain a viable (and dirt-cheap) starter as long as he can keep throwing 95.
SenSurround: Maybe only a little, since he seems to let bad starts or innings linger a bit longer than he should, but his stuff is good enough that he'll get through it.
Jim: That's a couple of ugly starts, with a K:BB ratio of only 7:5 and four home-runs allowed in 10.1 innings. Still, at home against the Pirates should be a tonic, and hopefully he can use that to build on, going forward.
Kishi: I'm not too worried yet.
The D-backs have been really bad with runners in scoring position so far. An actual problem or a statistical aberration?
Dan: Aberration. We'll be fine.
SenSurround: The hits will come, I'm not worried.
Jim: A bit of both, perhaps. There's no doubt the team won't hit the current .176 with runners in scoring position forever, but there are some situations where the numbers are just so bad that there does seem, potentially, to be an issue with the approach. Runners on 3rd with less than two out, for instance, we are 2-for-20 with eight strikeouts. That's a situation where you have to put the ball in play, so the team needs to be better there.
soco: It'll come around.
The Dodgers have gone off at an impressive clip. It is just the weak opposition they've faced?
Clefo: Yes and no. Playing the dregs of the NL certainly can help pad a record, but good teams should beat up on the weak. It also seems like last season they would have been 4-5 on the same schedule. I definitely think they're better than they were last year, but it remains to be seen if they're for real.
Dan: As good as Matt Kemp is, he's not a .419/.457/.806 hitter. A.J. Ellis won't have a .385 OBP all year. Andre Ethier won't slug .655 all year. Their lineup won't keep this up, and they still haven't had to use a #5 starter. They'll be okay, but they still have #4/#5 pitch-to-contact starters in their #3, #4, and #5 slots.
SenSurround: They're not as good as they've played so far, but no teams play .900 ball very long. If Timmeh is injured or can't be his usual self, I think the Dodgers will be our primary competition all season. They've still got a bunch of that young core that scared us back in 2008, and if the ownership group is legit there could be reinforcements on the way.
Jim: Dan's right. Kemp's not a .419 hitter. His line is now .487/.523/1.026... Ok, I think we can expect that to regress a bit, but they are a better team than many thought and there's a reason I felt they'd probably be the toughest challenge in the West. On the other hand, Padres and Pirates? Get back to me when you've played some real teams.
soco: I'm not surprised. They ended last season great, there is less distractions, and everyone wrote them off. They'll probably back sooner than later, but they're no powder puffs.
How much will the likely loss of Brian Wilson change the dynamics of the West?
Clefo: One fewer person with annoying facial hair to stare at.
Dan: Not a whole lot. He's just one closer, and San Fran has plenty of solid relief.
SenSurround: Non issue, they'll just plug equally crazy Sergio Romo back there.
Jim: I'm thinking it could be a bigger issue than simply replacing him with another arm. I get the feeling he won't be much fun moping around the clubhouse. It certainly won't help the Giants, and I am in favor of that.
The team returns home this week, for three against Pittsburgh and four facing Atlanta. How will things go?
Dan: My crystal ball tells me 4-3.
Clefo: Hmmmm.... 5-2.
SenSurround: 4-3, 2-1 with Pitt and a split with the Braves.
Jim: Really got to beat up on the ‘rates, the same way the Dodgers did. If an umpire wouldn't mind blowing a call and handing us three ninth-inning outs too, that'd keep things nice and fair. I'm with Clefo, 5-2. Most likely route would be to sweep Pittsburgh and split the Braves' games.
soco: 5-2, I'm not impressed with the Braves right now.