There's no doubt that it happening right at the beginning of the season magnifies its impact considerably. OMG, our pitching staff has an ERA Of 8.25! But if we look at the historical record, you'll find no shortage of similar, or even worse spells. Allowing 34+ runs in four games has happened more recently than you'd thin. A lot more recently. As in, did we already forget the final four games of last season? Because the Diamondbacks gave up 36 runs there, including a horrendous drubbing at the hands of the Astros. The difference is timing: coming at the end of the year, who cared? It only increased our season ERA by seven-hundredths of a run, rom 3.97 to 4.04.
Here's a full list of the worst four-game streaks we've had each season:
- 2015: 36 runs (Oct 1-4)
- 2014: 35 runs (Sep 18-21)
- 2013: 31 runs (June 29-July 2)
- 2012: 28 runs (June 19-23)
- 2011: 39 runs (Apr 10-13)
- 2010: 43 runs (May 8-11)
- 2009: 35 runs (June 25-28)
- 2008: 36 runs (June 14-18)
- 2007: 31 runs (June 29-July 2)
- 2006: 37 runs (June 8-11)
- 2005: 49 runs (Aug 21-24)
- 2004: 39 runs (Sep 2-5)
- 2003: 36 runs (Sep 23-26)
- 2002: 48 runs (Sep 20-23)
- 2001: 37 runs (July 25-28)
- 2000: 41 runs (Aug 21-25)
- 1999: 35 runs (Sep 17-20)
- 1998: 37 runs (April 26-May 1)
So, the current streak wouldn't be the worst of the season in 15 out of the 18 previous campaigns - including the World Series champion team of 2001, or the side that won 100 times in 1990 [admittedly, both in rather more offensively-minded eras]. Even our last playoff team, in 2011, had a more brutal spell - within their first dozen games too - where they conceded 8, 8, 8, and 15 runs against Cincinnati and St. Louis at Chase Field. Also as here, the offense was putting up good numbers, and the 2011 version actually won two of those four games. And as an aside, guess who we played our first two series that year, going 1-3 over the first four? The Rockies and Cubs...
Still, there's no doubt that, as a way to kickoff a campaign - especially one where we were hoping to contend - this has been horrendous. The 33 earned runs given up to date is a new franchise record to this point, four more than the previous worst, set all the way back in our rookie season of 1998. It's the highest tally by any team in the National League since the 2005 Rockies (36), and if you want to take Coors Field out of the equation, back to the 2001 Cardinals (also 36). To avoid a franchise-worst mark through five games, we need Robbie Ray and the bullpen to hold the Cubs to two earned runs or fewer, the current standard being 36, in both 2004 and 2005.
There have been other aspects where the pitching in these opening contests has been record-settingly bad. The 11 home-runs allowed to date is a new high-water mark. Though actually, I'm not perhaps so concerned about that, given a HR/FB% of 25.6% - the next worst in the NL is currently the Brewers, at 18.2%, I'm a bit more worried about a K:BB ratio of 21:15, which is ahead only of the Brewers too. Last night's fiasco, with 10 BBs and only 5 Ks, is obviously significant: it' s the first double-digit walk regulation leng game we've played since June 2010. We used five pitchers last night, and four had more walks than strikeouts. That is concerning.
So, cause for panic? Not yet. We've seen worse spells of pitching, almost every season since the D-backs came into existence, even years the team made the playoffs. There's 158 games left, plenty of time to turn things around, and I'll lay good odds this start will probably be all but forgotten before the All-Star break. But cause for worry? Absolutely. We knew this month was going to be a tough one, schedule-wise, and a bad start definitely has a psychological impact that can linger for a while. Each poor outing increases the pressure on the next pitcher up, making it tougher for them. But the road back up could start with Robbie Ray tonight. We can but hope.