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Diamondbacks Game Preview #65: 6/15 vs. Reds

The Diamondbacks historically low batting average remains a cause for concern.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

REDS DIAMONDBACKS
Jonathan India - 2B Daulton Varsho - RF
Brandon Drury - 3B Josh Rojas - 3B
Kyle Farmer - SS Ketel Marte - 2B
Joey Votto - DH Christian Walker - 1B
Matt Reynolds - RF David Peralta - LF
Nick Senzel - CF Pavin Smith - DH
Mike Moustakas - 1B Alek Thomas - CF
Aramis Garcia - C Geraldo Perdomo - SS
TJ Friedl - LF Jose Herrera - C
Luis Castillo - RHP Zac Gallen - RHP

Something mentioned on the broadcast last night made me do a bit of digging. There are peripheral stats which perhaps factor into why the D-backs’ offense has struggled so mightily this season. The Diamondbacks come into today’s game with an OPS of .675 on the season, ahead only of the Pirates in the National League. After adjustment for park and league factors, their OPS+ of 92 is ranked 12th, though that is actually five points higher than the same figure in 2021. It largely comes down to their phenomenally low batting average of .216. If sustained, it would be the lowest over a full (> 60 game+) season by any NL team in the live-ball era, The last with a worse BA was the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas, who hit .213.

That’s a little odd, because they are still taking walks. Only the Dodgers have more bases on balls than the D-backs this year, and the team is hitting for power, with the 73 home-runs ranked fourth in the league. It’s simply the average. and a significant part of that is a low BABIP. For Arizona has a .263 BABIP, the worst in the league by nine clear points, and 29 points below the NL average of .292.. If we take a look at the Batted Ball Profile section on Baseball Savant, a couple of things stand out as factors. Firstly, Arizona has the worst Line Drive rate in the majors. That matters, because those are much more likely to become hits than fly or ground balls. LDs have a .616 BABIP; flies are at .100 and ground-balls at .235.

The other area where the Diamondbacks rank dead last is in balls hit the opposite way. [This is what the broadcast last night mentioned, and go me going down the rabbit-hole] League average is 25.2%, while the D-backs are down at 21.6%; conversely, they lead the league in pulling balls at 40.8% (they’re middle of the pack for going up the middle). In the shift-happy environment which is the majors in 2022 - at least until Rob Manfred gets round to outlawing it - pulling the ball is not a recipe for success for left-hand heavy teams like the D-backs. BABIP on LHB pull hits is only .255, more than fifty points below the figure when they go the other way (.309).

The question is, whether anything much can be DONE about these trends. What’s odd about the line drive rate is, the Diamondbacks are not particularly bad at getting good contact, being middle-of-the-pack in what Baseball Savant defines both as “barrels” and “solid” categories, and not that far below average in overall “hard-hit” percentage. It does seems to be a case, less of how the team hits, than where they hit them. Can hitting coach Joe Mather address these apparent issues? Only time will tell...