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Fundamentals and Tangible Intangibles Saving Diamondbacks Season

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Last night a friend of mine asked me, "how in the world are the DBacks 6th in NL in runs scored when they rank at or near the bottom in BA/OBP/SLG ?" He went on to mention their numbers with Runners in scoring position were also average or mediocre, and that it just didn't make sense.

So I've been taking a closer look at this. At first glance there does seem to be a disconnect.

See table below. All Ranks are NL only. If there is a small b in front of the stat it's from Baseball-Reference.com and if there is a small f it is from Fangraphs.com

If there are any stats you are unfamiliar with or need clarification, please ask in the comments section.

Category Rank
Runs 6
wRC+ 12
OPS+ 14
BA 15
OBP 14
SLG 12
BA/RISP 10
wRC+/RISP 7
wRC+/Hi Lev 11
BA/2out RISP 10
fWPA 10
bWPA 9

Well, looking at that table, there does appear to be a huge disconnect between how many runs they are scoring and the inputs that typically back it up. The park adjusted metrics like wRC+ and OPS+, the triple slash, BA/OBP/SLG are all at or near the bottom.

They rank 10th in Batting avg w/RISP , although slightly better in wRC+, 7th, thanks to a lot of walks w/RISP

High leverage, BA W/ 2 OUT RISP are not sources of excellent performance either. And the WPA (Win percentage Added) doesn't seem to help close the gap.

So how the heck are they doing this ?

THE DIAMONDBACKS ARE ONE OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTALLY SOUND TEAMS IN THE NL

They are one of the best base running teams, they are one of the best in avoiding Double Plays, and they are one of the best in executing productive outs. And despite the metrics shown above, they have actually been "Clutch".

Category Rank
bBSR 3
fBSR 5
bDP/R 2
bDP% 4
ROE 3
bProd Outs 3
fClutch 4
bClutch

7

So what I am showing here first is the Base running Runs from both BB-REF and FG. As you can see, they are adding value on bases above and beyond their rankings in most other categories. Because they also run well they avoid DP's AND Reach on Error at a better rate than almost all other teams. AND they rank 3rd in Productive outs.

All of these little things add up to close the gap between their raw batting inputs and their runs scored. I also have a theory that these things, combined with their excellent defense, which ranks 2nd at FG and 3rd at BR , all put pressure on opponents in little ways that cause opponents to make mistakes. I bet, although I can't find it, that the DBacks even have a slight edge in Un Earned Runs Scored.

A few words about the last number for "Clutch". Despite not ranking highly in things like RISP, Hi levg, etc, the team DOES rank high in Clutch as measured by comparing WPA in situational vs. Context neutral situations. You can read about that HERE .

SUMMARY:

The team has actually fallen back into an Offensive Funk the last couple of weeks. Not as bad as May of course, but after being red hot from Memorial day to mid June, they definitely have had to scratch out runs of late. And as we have seen, the ups and downs with this team have been severe. Looking at "average" may not be the best way to evaluate them. But at the end of the day, the bigger the sample, the better we can project.

One other report that is worth taking a look at is the Adjusted Standings Report from Baseball Prospectus. Specifically, look at 2nd order wins. This looks at projected Runs vs. Actual runs. (You can mouse over column heading to get more detailed explanation) This shows the Dbacks having roughly 2 more wins than would be projected based off their raw inputs. Somewhat fortunate , but not extreme like Seattle. (On the other end of that scale...the Astros....my lord......are they actually MUCH better than their current .655 Win % ???)

It's my view that the excellent coaching this team has, and the willingness of the players to buy in, focus, play hard all the time, and the ability to run well, make good decisions, and execute the little things, has kept them afloat. Of course the pitching has been excellent and is a key to their success, but all that good pitching would be wasted due to inconsistent offense were it not for the position players making up for it by doing all the "little things".

They still need a boost on offense if they are to hold off the Dodgers, AND have a chance to advance in the post season. Hopefully AJ Pollock can hit the ground running when he comes back from his minor league rehab assignment. Hopefully Steven Souza can also get into one of his productive streaks. While he is not a great offensive player, he has shown he is capable of a good half season a couple times in his career. No time like the present.