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The Arizona Diamondbacks, 20 games into spring

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We’re looking a bit better than we did, 10 games in...

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Since the last time we checked, the Diamondbacks have recovered from a rough 3-7 start. Arizona has won eight of its last ten games, including a spell of six straight, and is now back above .500. Let’s take a look and see what has powered the improvement, and also check in to see how the team leaders on both sides of the ball have been doing.

Hitting

Not much change here, though the runs per game has improved from 5.0 to 5.6. They still sit almost exactly in the middle of the pack for all the offensive stats, but have moved up a couple of spots in OPS, rising from 18th to 16th. Their triple-slash of .262/.348/.425, gives then an OPS of .773. Hitting generally seems to have improved a bit, which would be in line with the generally-held wisdom that pitchers are ahead of hitters at the beginning of spring training. Interesting point to ponder: the Cactus League seems considerably more hitter-friendly than the Grapefruit League, with every one of the current top eight teams by OPS, plying their pre-season trade in Arizona. Conversely, the bottom seven are all in Florida.

The good (min 20 PA)

  • Rey Fuentes: 12-for-30, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1.271 OPS
  • David Peralta: 14-for-28, HR, 7 RBI, 1.232 OPS
  • Ketel Marte: 10-for-23, 3:5 K:BB, 1.144 OPS
  • Yasmany Tomas: 11-for-26, 5 2B, 3:4 K:BB, 1.115 OPS

Several members of the outfield have definitely been getting it done in spring training. Right now, it’s difficult to see how Fuentes and Tomas could be kept off the roster. In 30 AB, Fuentes has hit as many home-runs this spring as in all 100 games of his MLB career to date. But it’s almost certain at least one of them will miss out, and quite possibly both, with A.J. Pollock, Peralta, Steven Souza and Jarrod Dyson all but guaranteed roster spots ahead of them. It’s good to see both Marte and Tomas walking more often than they strikeout, and that’s been a tendency for the team as a whole this spring. The 83 walks taken by the Diamondbacks is tied with the Brewers for the Cactus League best.

Bonus random fun-fact. Jeremy Hazelbaker has four HBP. The rest of the roster combined, has seven. He has been a real three true outcomes guy, covering the majority of his 34 PA thus far: 11 trots to first (seven walks and the four HBP), 7 strikeouts and a pair of home-runs.

The bad (min 20 PA)

  • Jack Reinheimer: 3-for-27, 3 BB, .411 OPS
  • Ildemaro Vargas: 6-for-35, 3 BB, .437 OPS
  • Chris Owings: 4-for-24, 3 BB. .452 OPS
  • Daniel Descalso: 6-for-27, 1 BB, .472 OPS

Outside of Marte (and Ahmed, who has a 1.010 OPS), the Arizona middle infield appears largely to have been struggling. There have been suggestions that Owings or Descalso could see time at third-base, platooning against left-handed pitching with Jake Lamb. But on the evidence of their spring numbers, we’d be as well letting Lamb take his hacks. Though neither of the farm prospects behind them, appear to be forcing the issue and making any kind of push for a roster spot. Of the expected regulars Pollock has also been performing below expectations, with a .619 OPS. He has just one walk in 28 PA thus far, which is not what you’d expect from him.

Pitching

In particular, the recent improvement in overall performance has been driven by the pitching staff. Let’s just review where we were after 10 games: “The team’s ERA is 8.35: only the A’s (7.83) are within two runs of that figure. The 129 hits allowed are the most in the majors... by a margin of twenty-eight. Opponents are batting .339 against Arizona, who have a WHIP of 1.90. The 21 home-runs allowed are 40% more than anyone else to this date. Overall opponents’ OPS against us? .999.” Let’s see how our team figures now compare against that parade of unpleasantness

  • ERA: 5.63 (8.35)
  • Hits over last ten games: 79 (129)
  • Opponent’s batting average: .291 (.339)
  • HR over last ten games: 12 (21)
  • OPS against: .860 (.999)

While some of those figures are still higher than you’d like, they’re at least trending in the right direction, and are coming down almost into “respectable” territory. Let’s look at the individual stars over the first twenty games.

The good (min 4 IP)

  • Zack Godley: 8.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 8:4 K:BB
  • T.J. McFarland: 7.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5:3 K:BB
  • Fernando Salas: 6.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 6:1 K:BB
  • Joey Krehbiel: 6.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 5:1 K:BB

Three of the above four have retained their position from our first review, with Godley, McFarland and Salas all remaining unscored upon this spring. Throw in Antonio Bastardo (5.1 IP, 1.69 ERA, 8:1 K:BB) and Neftali Feliz (5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 3:1 K:BB), who would have been next two on the list and the competition for back of the bullpen spots is going to be very interesting. We’ll see how factors like opt-out dates for some of these non-roster invitees also come into play, now that we’re down to being less than two weeks until Opening Day. Despite the high ERA, the team is at least throwing strikes, with their 62 walks tied for 22nd most in the majors, while their 165 strikeouts are 17th.

The bad (min 4 IP)

  • Andrew Chafin: 6.0 IP, 10.50 ERA, 8:5 K:BB
  • Jake Buchanan: 6.0 IP, 10.50 ERA, 4:1 K:BB
  • Jorge De La Rosa: 4.2 IP, 9.64 ERA, 8:2 K:BB
  • Silvino Bracho: 6.0 IP, 9.00 ERA, 9:2 K:BB

What’s interesting about the above, is that they’ve mostly been striking out a LOT of people. The three “real” bullpen candidates, Chafin, De La Rosa and Bracho, have combined for 16.2 innings of work, and 25 strikeouts. Normally, that rate would not translate into an ERA close to double-digits. The six home-runs don’t help, though Chafin’s ERA has been achieved without a single ball leaving the park. For him it has been a combination of poor control (five walks in six innings) and bad luck: 70% of all the base-runners he has allowed have crossed home-plate, quite impressive, especially given the lack of home-runs. Still, it’s worth remembering Chafin did not have a good spring last year, posting a 6.11 ERA despite another good K:BB ratio of 10:2 over 10.1 innings.