The first series of the season is in the books for the Diamondbacks, and it wasn't pretty, as the home team lost three of four. They were likely lucky to win that one, needing three straight batters to reach base without a hit in the ninth inning. It is, of course, a long season. We are not even one-fourtieth of the way through the season. So it's the equivalent of about 8 1/2 minutes into the second quarter of an NFL team's opening match. But why should that stop us from engaging in knee-jerk judgments? It's what we do as fans! So, as we head into tomorrow's off-day, let's go, based strictly off what we saw over the first four games.
The Diamondbacks are on pace to lose 120 games.
You'd be very hard pressed to say Arizona were hard done by over the San Diego series. They were outscored by a margin of 20-11, and it would have been worse, save for the four runs the D-backs scored in garbage time this afternoon. Up until that point, the team had a real shot at setting a new National League low for hits over the first four games. The offense has largely been stagnant. They have an OPS of just .516 to this point, which ranks 28th in the majors. Arizona's .129 average is dead last, and it's not even close. The next lowest is the Nationals, and they are 35 points higher.
Now, there is no way the Diamondbacks will bat .129 for the whole season. Hell, they could be above .200 by the end of the upcoming series against the Astros. But what concerns me is the largely uncompetitive nature of Arizona's at-bats. While the 19 walks are nice - second-most in the majors - it feels like when the ball has been put in play, it has not been with authority. We don't have full Statcast data yet, but that would continue a trend from last year. In 2021, the D-backs average exit velocity was 87.7 mph, ahead of only the Pirates (87.5). Their percentage of hard-hit balls were also among the worst.
Arizona starters won't win a game
The main problem here would be that the rotation simply hasn't been in the game long enough to earn a decision. Zach Davies is the only one to have got through the necessary five innings so far. But after four games, the Diamondbacks' starters have thrown just 13 innings in total. Part of that may be the short spring, as well as Torey Lovullo having a quick hook, knowing he has a 10-man bullpen to lean on. However, when rosters shrink back to 26, as they must on May 1, he'll have two fewer pitchers with which to work. You just cannot rely on your bullpen for six or so innings on an everyday basis.
Ian Kennedy and Mark Melancon are toast
Particular hot takes here, considering we have only seen one inning from each man. But the concern over Melancon in particular has been rumbling throughout spring training, with notably lower velocity. That wasn't too much of an issue on Saturday: his fastball averaged 91.7 mph, only about half a mile per hour below last season. Kennedy had a similar slight tick down. However, the results are what matters, and they weren't good. The men combined to allow four hits, a walk and three earned runs over their two innings of work, Kennedy getting the loss. With those pair being Mike Hazen's main acquisitions this winter, I'm sure he was hoping for more auspicious debuts.
Fundamentally sound baseball would be nice.
Three errors have already been charged to the Diamondbacks' defense, a number surpassed in the majors only by the Giants. There were also a number of plays that probably should have been made, but did not lead to actual E's. A double-play not turned on Saturday comes to mind, and perhaps proved pivotal in the eventual loss. The team's defensive efficiency (percentage of balls in play converted into outs) is also below league average (68.5% vs 72.2%). That's actually the same figure for Arizona as last year, but given how 2021 turned out, that's likely not a good thing. The long awaited return of Dave McKay doesn't seem to have had much impact yet.
At the risk of repeating the bleedin' obvious, it's still early. But the above seem the most obvious narratives from a fan perspective to date. Whether they still will be, at this time next week, remains to be seen, and is entirely in the hands of the Diamondbacks.