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Arizona Diamondbacks Game Preview, #142: Walk away

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After an all-time record low number of walks in July, the Diamondbacks are showing better patience at the plate.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Matt Moore
LHP, 2-4, 2.31
Zack Greinke
RHP, 12-5, 4.54
Denard Span - CF Jean Segura - 2B
Angel Pagan - LF Chris Owings - SS
Buster Posey - C Paul Goldschmidt - 1B
Brandon Crawford - SS Welington Castillo - C
Hunter Pence - RF Yasmany Tomas - RF
Brandon Belt - 1B Jake Lamb - 3B
Joe Panik - 2B Brandon Drury - LF
Eduardo Nunez - 3B Mitch Hanidger - CF
Matt Moore - LHP Zack Greinke - RHP

July this season had the fewest walks of any full calendar month in Diamondbacks history. In 900 plate-appearances, the team drew just 49 bases on balls: that's a rate of 5.4%, a full third below the National League average for the month of 8.1%. However, things have turned around of late. Since August 1, Arizona has 114 walks in 1426 PA, an 8% rate that's almost half as much again as the team managed in July. Where has this turnaround come from? The table below shows the players who had 20+ PA either in July, or since August 1, together with the numbers of walks, their walk-rates and the change.

Name July PA July BB July BB% Post PA Post BB Post BB% BB% Chg
Nick Ahmed 46 3 6.5%
Michael Bourn 98 1 1.0%
Socrates Brito 32 1 3.1%
Welington Castillo 65 5 7.7% 96 9 9.4% +1.7%
Brandon Drury 81 4 4.9% 97 8 8.2% +3.3%
Paul Goldschmidt 103 9 8.7% 158 28 17.7% +9.0%
Tuffy Gosewisch 29 1 3.4% 47 3 6.4% +3.0%
Phil Gosselin 51 3 5.9% 53 4 7.5% +1.6%
Chris Herrmann 20 1 5.0%
Mitch Haniger 51 5 9.8%
Jake Lamb 81 8 9.9% 139 13 9.4% -0.5%
Chris Owings 29 0 0.0% 151 4 2.6% +2.6%
A.J. Pollock 46 5 10.9%
Jean Segura 105 4 3.8% 150 7 4.7% +0.9%
Yasmany Tomas 90 2 2.2% 123 8 6.5% +4.3%
Rickie Weeks 33 5 15.2% 58 6 10.3% -4.9%

There are a couple of factors here. One is the change in personnel. We've swapped out Bourn, Ahmed and Herrman - all of whom were below average (way below average in Bourn's case) - for Haniger, Pollock and Brito, two of whom have shown good plate discipline. Adding each trio together, in July the old three had 164 PA and only five walks, a rate of 3.0%. Their replacements since August 1 have had 129 PA and 11 walks, a vastly-better rate of 8.5% It's hard to say if this is sustainable going forward: Pollock will replace Bourn in 2017, obviously, and that should help, but Herrmann and Ahmed will likely still be around.

However, it also appears that most of the team has been being more patient at the plate, with Weeks the only one to show a significant downturn (and that, in a pretty small sample size). Surprisingly, it's Goldie who has shown the greatest improvement, but Tomas has also done a much better job. That helped his overall value: August, his BA was a season low .232, mostly due to a .173 BABIP, but the extra walks (and, admittedly, his power surge) meant his OPS was a season high. Also, the team walks uptick hasn't been achieved with a similar increase in K's. The July rate was 23.3%, since August 1 it has actually dropped to 21.3%

Hopefully, this is something which the team can continue to do. As we saw earlier this week, great offense can mean you can make the post-season with only mediocre pitching. Basically, every run the team scores - and walks are a significant factor - is another run the team can afford to allow.  And the way our pitching is at the moment, we need to score every run we can get...