The first real speed-bump on the season since the opening series in Los Angeles appears to have been encountered. The taco famine has now reached seven consecutive games, with Arizona managing only 18 runs in total. Since we last checked in, things started off brightly in Colorado, but Archie’s meltdown in the finale - not his last either - appears to have precipitated a 2-6 skid since. The defeats have mostly been close, with two by one run, and two more by a pair. But defeat in the series against Atlanta gives Arizona a losing record at home field, which is something you’ll rarely see playoff teams endure. That will have to get turned around quickly.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to a dip in the playoff odds. Here are the numbers for the four systems (note that these all exclude yesterday’s defeat in the finale against the Braves, which won’t have helped matters any).
- Fangraphs: 19.5% (division: 3.5%; wild-card 16.0%)
- Baseball Prospectus: 31.0% (division: 7.4%; wild-card 23.6%)
- FiveThirtyEight: 37% (division 12%; wild-card 25%)
- Numberfire: 30.6% (division: 4.0%; wild-card 26.6%)
On the plus side, after 40 games the team still sat in second in the division and would play off against the Padres/Cards for the second NL wild-card. But there have been small but non-negligible drops across the board here, ranging from two percent at FiveThirtyEighty to a more weighty 6.5 percent from Baseball Prospectus. Personally, that feels a little light, but that’s probably recency bias kicking in. As fans, we tend to feel the team is only as good (or bad) as its last series, while the projections take a longer-term view, simply because of their nature. Every team will have a 2-6 streak over the course of the season, so its existence doesn’t tell us very much about the underlying nature of the 2019 Diamondbacks.
The graph below charts the progress through the season so far, and shows the downtick across the board for Arizona
More generally, since game #31 (and including everything to this point), the last ten games have been about what we expected before the season. The three best teams in the American League over that stretch have been the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros, while those spots in the National League are occupied by the Dodgers, Cubs and Brewers. The biggest drop of late belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals who have been having a far rougher stretch than the Diamondbacks. The Cards have lost nine of eleven, including going 1-6 against the divisional rival Pirates and Cubs, This has seen their three-game lead in the NL Central turn into fourth place, in what looks once more like it is going to be a very tight division.
The D-backs started off the current batch with another loss to Atlanta, but have a chance to right the ship with further home series against the Pirates and slumping Giants, before hitting the road for a return to San Diego. A winning record over these three series seems the minimum Arizona would want, and the further into positive territory they can go, the bigger the impact when we check back next. That will be on the off-day after the Padres’ series ends, with game #50.