Chip Hale must be satisfied with the team's performance over the first month of the season, the Diamondbacks having done a good job of keeping pace with the expected favorites in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They currently sit in an effective tie with Los Angeles, one game back of San Francisco, and possess the best run differential in the division, though the Giants have played two fewer games. It's a very tight race so far, with the Padres sitting just one-half game back of the Dodgers and D-backs, but there is then a long drop off to the woeful Rockies, who are on pace to lose well over 100 games again, and appear already to be making tee reservations.
Particularly impressive was the series just completed over the Phillies, who came to Chase with the best record in the majors. The Diamondbacks destroyed the visitors in the first two games, and lost a hard-fought decision by one run yesterday, when going for the sweep [oh, if that replay had just gone the other way...] Overall, they outscored Philadelphia by a margin of almost three to one, scoring 30 runs and conceding only 11. Hopefully, this indicates they can hang tough against the good teams: They've also bounced back well after starting 1-5, though the real test will come when they play the rest of the division, as they have only faced the NL West three times so far.
The Diamondbacks offense has been stellar, their 122 runs scored being the highest figure in the National League (albeit just one ahead of the Phillies who, again, have played two fewer). As we expected, Paul Goldschmidt has been the engine-room of the offense - just not in the way expected. 26 games in, he has just one home-run, and it has been increasingly clear pitchers would rather given him a sure trip to first than risk all four bases. Goldie has already received 21 free-passes, almost twice as many as the next man (A.J. Pollock's 11), helping him to an insane OBP thus far of .464.
Stepping up to the plate (literally) instead has been off-season signing Welington Castillo, who in less than a month is already more than half-way to last season's homer tally, having gone deep eight times, one-third of Arizona's entire tally thus far. Equally as productive has been David Peralta, who has already driven in 21 runs, with a line of .413/.440/.675. This is certainly BABIP-inflated (.536!), and as a note of caution, the team's overall figure of .347 is probably also ripe for regression going forward. But for now, also doing well is Aaron Hill, whose .808 OPS might help the team move him as we approach the trade deadline.
It's is not entirely sunshine and roses, however. Rookie Yasmany Tomas hasn't enjoyed his first taste of major-league pitching too much. While the .265 average looks okay on the surface, his lack of plate discipline is apparent in a 27:2 strikeout to walk ratio, resulting in a disappointing .286 on-base percentage. Most of our middle-infield bar Hill are also struggling, with Chris Owings and Cliff Pennington both below a .700 OPS, and Nick Ahmed is certainly living up to his reputation as an "all glove, no hit" shortstop, with a triple-slash to this point of .163/.188/.250, for a .438 OPS that's among the worst of any regular position player in the league.
Overall, our pitching has been solid enough, with a 3.47 ERA that's fourth in the National League. The reality is they probably aren't quite as good as that, with peripherals which tend to be nearer the middle of the pack: WHIP, for example, we're seventh at 1.237, and an OPS against of .709, which has been eighth-best; our .293 BABIP is also ten points below league average. But the bottom line so far has been that they've done a good job at keeping the opponents off the board. That's particularly true for the bullpen, whose 2.95 ERA is fourth-lowest, and has held batters to a line of .223/.286/.336; only the Cardinals relief corps has a lower OPS.
Leading it are Andrew Chafin, Randall Delgado and, before a surprising early-season trade, leftie Oliver Perez, who have thrown 22.1 scoreless innings. Dethroned closer Addison Reed, removed from the role after disappointing pre-season performances has pulled himself up by his bootstraps, with one run over his eight innings, and a K:BB ratio of 8:0. Despite a higher ERA of 3.18, his replacement, Brad Ziegler, has been solid; a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities, all four earned runs allowed have come in non-save situations. There's been the usual early churn, with Dominic Leone, Enrique Burgos and Matt Stites already sent back down after underwhelming results.
The rotation has been a bit of a mixed bag. Rubby De La Rosa has the best ERA,. at 2.73, but is walking too many people (K:BB of 17:12 in 32 innings). Patrick Corbin (3.55) and Jeremy Hellickson (3.72) have been decent enough, and Corbin should continue to improve as he comes back from his long-layoff. Robbie Ray is winless in his five attempts, with a 4.88 ERA, but has fanned more batters than anyone else.(33 in 27.2 IP). Chase Anderson wasn't ready for the season start, and stand-in Zack Godley actually pitched significantly better over his three games than Chase in his, so we'll see how long a leash the team might have with Anderson.
After a severely shaky start, being swept at home by San Francisco, then losing a series to Miami, I think this first month has been encouraging, with the team just a game out of a playoff spot. The good health we have seen has helped, the only significant injury being to Anderson, and his replacement performed well above replacement level. The next few weeks seem to represent a good chance for the team to gain ground: only one of the next five series, at home against the Cardinals, is against a side who have also got their season off to a winning start. With our division rivals dominating the calendar thereafter, hopefully the D-backs can take advantage of this soft schedule.