The end results for the 2018 and 2019 teams were somewhat similar, with the 2019 team being 3 games better. But the feel and texture of these two seasons were quite different
The 2018 D-backs, coming of a successful 2017 in which they won the NL Wild Card, making it to the NLDS, had high hopes of competing for the division in 2018. Things could not have gotten off to a better start, as the team went 21-8 through May 1st, opening up a 6 game lead over the Colorado Rockies, with the hated Dodgers languishing in 4th place at 12-17.
Then came May. I’m still traumatized, waiting for the team to score some runs that month. Not expected to be a great offense, what was certainly a competent one went into a team wide slump of epic proportions. Their .193 batting average, and 77 runs scored for May were not only the worst in team history, the .193 mark was the 4th worst team monthly B.A. for any team in MLB since the D-Backs came into existence in 1998. This led to an 8-19 record for the month, dropping them out of first place. Then they got hot again, going 19-9 in June to get back into 1st place. That was followed by two months of barely over .500 play, 27-25, and then the bottom fell out of the offense again in September as they crashed to a 8-19 mark for the month, ultimately finishing in 3rd place, 9.5 games back of LA.
While it’s often the case that the team’s best player gets unfairly blamed when a team struggles, no one player epitomized the offensive struggles the team had than Paul Goldschmidt. Through May 22nd he was batting a lowly .198/.320/.355, .675 OPS with just 5 HR and 13 RBI in 203 PA. And it wasn’t just BABIP issues plaguing our slugger. As Buster Olney wrote on May 20th:
the Diamondbacks’ first baseman had seen 77 pitches of 96 mph or faster without logging a hit, the most in the majors.
But Goldy being Goldy, he confounded his doubters once again. Over the next 96 games, 435 PA he hit an astounding .348/.442/.655 with 28 HR and 78 RBI. He then finished the season in another slump, as did the rest of the team, going 9 for 50, .180 BA with 0 HR. The end result was a .290/.389/.533 slash line , 142 OPS+ with 33 HR, but just 83 RBI.
While the team ERA+ did not match the previous year’s high, 113 ERA+ was still an excellent mark. The rotation was lead by Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin who both put up seasons that had them in the Cy Young Voting. The bullpen had issues at closer again, as Brad Boxberger was not able to sustain early season success, eventually losing the role and then losing his roster spot on the team. Archie Bradley was not able to recreate the 2017 magic and had a very rough second half. The combination of poor hitting in late innings and late inning bullpen meltdowns resulted in that poor 1 run game record. In all, a very strange rollercoaster season.
With just one year left before free agency, Mike Hazen made the controversial decision to trade Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals rather than ink him to a long-term extension. The return was catcher Carson Kelly, Pitcher Luke Weaver, and minor leaguer Andy Young.
Jake Lamb was supposed to take over at first base, but went down with injury early in the year and never found his footing once he returned. However Christian Walker stepped into the breach and delivered a season that can only be described as “Solidly above average”. He posted a .825 OPS, 111 OPS+, and tallied +11 Fielding Runs, placing 3rd in the NL Gold Glove awards. It was good for 3 WAR, actually matching Goldy’s production in St. Louis for the year.
New arrival Weaver got off to an excellent start, but went down with an elbow injury that created a hole in the rotation that was never satisfactorily filled. The loss of Patrick Corbin to free agency hurt the team. While Zack Greinke was excellent through the trade deadline, there was just not enough strength top to bottom in the rotation to match the previous two years strength in that department. Once again the bullpen was an issue, as the chosen closer for 2019, Greg Holland, followed in Boxberger’s footsteps and melted down after a good start. This time Archie Bradley, who had continued his struggles from the previous year, managed to right his ship and stepped into the closer role over the last portion of the season. But it was too little too late.
The big story of the year for the D-Backs however was Ketel Marte’s breakout. The versatile infielder turned Centerfielder posted an incredible season, batting .329/.389/.592, with 77 extra base hits including 32 HR. It added up to a 149 OPS+, 7.2 WAR and an all-star berth. That performance, combined with a career year from Eduardo Escobar, and solid performance from Carson Kelly and Nick Ahmed propelled the team to a slightly above league average offense.
It wasn’t enough to keep the team close to the Dodgers however and with the team at 54-54 and sitting 16.5 games behind LA and another half dozen teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race, Mike Hazen pulled the trigger once again. With just minutes to spare before the trade deadline he traded Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros for a strong collection of prospects considered by many in the industry to be a haul.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, the team did not give up, going 31-25 the rest of the way. They actually inched to within 1.5 games of the wild card spot before falling back again in mid-September. Zac Gallen, acquired from the Marlins in a separate trade showed real promise as he posted a 2.89 ERA in 8 starts. This all gave hope for a better future as the young players acquired by Mike Hazen have begun to produce at the Major League level and the farm system pipeline has been steadily improving.
Alas, the 2020 season is on hold, and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens now.
For today’s match-up, you have the 2018 Corbin going against the 2019 Greinke. It should be a good match-up. The speedy ball magnet Tim Locastro gets the nod in right over Adam Jones who is nursing a sore hamstring. Much to a certain local radio host’s consternation, Alex Avila will get the start behind the plate to catch Corbin. ;)
#10 2018 Arizona Diamondbacks 8, #7 2019 Arizona Diamondbacks 4
Tenth seeds 2018 pulled off a moderate upset, beating the seventh-seeded 2019 roster, largely due Paul Goldschmidt. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and went one better in the second, smacking a three-run shot. Goldy delivered likely the best performance of the tournament to date, going 4-for-4 with six runs driven in. Zack Greinke took the loss, allowing six runs in five innings. Patrick Corbin got the W, despite allowing four runs; three of those came on one Christian Walker swing of the bat, but it wasn’t enough to stave off elimination for the the most recent D-backs roster.
The crowd at Chase Field were still settling in when 2018 jumped out to a quick lead. A.J. Pollock led off the game with a single, and after Ketel Marte grounded out, Goldschmidt connected for the first of his pair of home-runs, lined over the wall in left-center for a two-run shot. After Patrick Corbin retired the opposition in order in the bottom of the first, Paul delivered once more in the second. Singles by Corbin and Marte brough Goldschmidt up with two men on, and he victimized Greinke again, this time off the batter’s eye, making the score 5-0.
2019 slashed the deficit in the fourth inning. Wilmer Flores walked to lead things off, and Marte v.2019 following with a single. Eduardo Escobar struck out, but Walker then leaned into a pitch from Corbin, and it just cleared the line over the wall in center field. While Corbin retired the next two batters to end the fourth, 2019 were back in the game, now trailing by a score of only 5-3. However, 2018 got one of those runs back immediately. Stephen Souza singling home Marte v. 2018 with two outs in the top of the fifth.
They scored two more in the sixth, after Greinke had left the game. He went five innings, and struck out nine, but was charged with six runs, all earned, on eight hits and a pair of walks. Yoan Lopez took over on the mound for 2019, and gave up a pair of run-scoring knocks with two outs. Pollock had an RBI double, and then scored on Goldschmidt’s on fourth hit of the day, his sixth run driven in. That made the score 8-3, and although 2019 pulled on closer in the sixth on an RBI groundout by Peralta v. 2018, neither side was able to score thereafter.
Yoshihisa Hirano pitched effectively in relief for both sides. He threw two scoreless innings for 2019, and retired all five batters faced for 2018, the latter coming in relief of Corbin. Patrick went seven frames, scattering six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Though he allowed four runs, it was good enough on the day. Archie Bradley got the final out, retiring pinch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas to propel the 2018 roster into the quarter-finals. Marte backed up Goldschmidt with three hits, scoring four times for 2018, and also had two hits and two more runs on the 2019 team.
2018 goes into the Elite Eight, and they will face a tough opponent there, in the shape of the second-seeded 2002 roster. Below you can see how the bracket shaping up [link for mobile users], with three-quarters of the first round now completed.
We enter the last quarter in the next game, and again we will have teams from consecutive seasons facing each other. It will be the #19 seeds, the 2010 D-backs, who upset the 2015 roster in preliminay action, going up against #3 seeds, the 2011 D-backs. The latter will be hotly favored, yet as today’s game shows, you never know... However, you will have to wait a while for that, as the Diamondbacks’ next off-day is not scheduled for two weeks, until Monday May 18. Maybe there’ll be some word of actual baseball by then?
Who will win?
This poll is closed