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Navigating the Gauntlet: The Diamondbacks early season schedule is daunting

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With almost 70% of team’s 1st 41 games coming vs 90 win teams from 2018, could Mike Hazen’s hand be forced early?

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Diamondbacks are very much at a crossroads as an organization, and it’s likely to come to sharper point in the first half of the season. As is well documented by now, and reiterated again in Steve Gilbert’s article yesterday, General Manager Mike Hazen and his baseball operations group have determined that despite the losses of Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, and AJ Pollock, the team is still in position to contend for a playoff spot in 2019. Hazen decided not punt the 2019 season, instead banking on

  • Sustained performance by David Peralta, Eduardo Escobar, Zach Greinke
  • Rebounds by holdover players such as Jake Lamb, Steven Souza Jr, Archie Bradley, Robbie Ray
  • Continued growth and building off career years by Nick Ahmed, & Ketel Marte
  • Development by young players acquired in the Goldschmidt trade, Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly, into good, contributing players

I could go on with the bullet points, but I think you get the picture. There are pathways here, but it’s not going to be easy, and it won’t be made any easier by an early season schedule that has the potential to be extremely difficult. The team will play 41 games, or 14 of the season between March 28th and May 12th. The majority of these games will be against 2018 playoff and 90+ win teams. Here is the breakout

  • 28 of 41 games, 68%, are vs. teams that won 90 or more games in 2018
  • 25 of 41 games, 61%, are vs. teams that made the post season in 2018
  • Accumulative 2018 record of first 41 games opponents : 3559-3092, .535 W%
  • Projected record of opponents (FG Depth Chart) through first 41 G is .521 W%

The weakest or “softest” spots on the schedule are presumably 7 games vs. the San Diego Padres. It remains to be seen if they are truly improved with the addition of Manny Machado or whether their young players have progressed. But they do have the potential to be much better than last year. Of course some of the teams the D-Backs face may not be as strong as last year either. Will the Rays be a 90 win team again, will the Braves regress ?

As I mentioned in a comment on March 5th Snake Bytes, if the Diamondbacks get to mid season and are not looking to be in the race for a post season berth, they’ll start to make some sell moves. But if they manage to navigate the first 6 weeks of the season at .500 or better, the schedule does level out a bit going forward and they might just be looking to add some pieces by the all star break or trade deadline.

The team is projected to win 79 games by Fangraphs and 82 games by Basebal Prospectus But it seems the odds are pretty low they actually finish within that number range. Either they will surprise us, and do much better than that, as Mike Hazen believes is possible, or they will struggle in the first half and end up selling off pieces and enter into a belated “rebuilding” phase by mid season. Then again, as Fangdango pointed out , the team “went for it” last year, but collapsed in September anyway to finish 82-80. And there have been cases in the past where a team “sold” at the deadline, handing over playing time to young developing players, only to see an energized team do better than expected. So you just never know.

Either way, this is a very interesting team to follow.