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D-backs Game Preview, #6: 4/13 vs. Astros

Free tacos? How long ago they seem...

Carman column - La Tingeria

Today's Lineups

ASTROS DIAMONDBACKS
Jose Altuve - 2B Cooper Hummel - DH
Michael Brantley - DH Ketel Marte - 2B
Alex Bregman - 3B David Peralta - LF
Kyle Tucker - RF Christian Walker - 1B
Yuli Gurriel - 1B Carson Kelly - C
Aledmys Diaz - LF Pavin Smith - RF
Chas McCormick - CF Jake McCarthy - CF
Jeremy Pena - SS Yonny Hernandez - 3B
Martin Maldonado - C Geraldo Perdomo - SS
Framber Valdez - LHP Merrill Kelly - RHP

Five games in, and the team’s free taco quotient is 20%, with the 10-5 defeat to the Padres on Saturday night being the sole instance thereof in 2022. Even that required a four-run ninth inning to achieve, and we are one swing of the bat away from a tacoless season to this point. You don’t need me to tell you how absolutely wretched the D-backs offense has been. So far, they have batted a feeble .130. All of Arizona’s hitters have a total 19 hits: Wander Franco of the Rays and Steven Kwan of the Guardians have combined for more than that (21). As a yardstick, the all-time low for batting average over a calendar month in the live-ball era is .171, by the Padres in June 2014.

The weird thing is, the D-backs have been showing great patience and plate discipline. Their walk rate is 14%, easily the BEST in the majors, and more than half as much again above MLB average (9.3%). That kind of walk-rate hasn’t been sustained for a whole month since the forties. I’d also wager it has been a long time - if ever - since a team has had more walks than hits after the first five games in a season, as the Diamondbacks have had so far (24 to 19). But with that and reasonable power (their HR% of 2.9% is also above league average), the D-backs’ overall offensive production barely cracks the top 10 worst by sOPS+ i.e. relative to the league, for a calendar month in the live-ball era (min 150 PA).

The worst were the 1966 Athletics, then in Kansas City, who started off the year by hitting .177/.243/.217 across 12 games in April, for a .459 OPS and a 38 sOPS+. The Diamondbacks are at .130/.257/.260 for a .518 OPS and a relatively robust 51 sOPS+. What’s most remarkable about the Athletics that year, was that they hit precisely one home-run over their first twenty-two games, covering a total of 699 at-bats. There’s no denying Arizona’s hitting has been this year, not least with runners in scoring position. They have just three hits with RISP so far, in 22 at-bats, and their plate discipline also vanishes, with a K:BB of 7:1. But as the ‘66 Athletics show, it could be a good deal worse!