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The Diamondbacks’ Journey Back From Nearly Out-of-Contention

Manager Torey Lovullo.
Manager Torey Lovullo.
Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What an incredible story of the impact of perseverance, teamwork, and holding a winning mental mindset! As it developed, the story was told by my answers to Jim McLennan’s questions in the weekly AZ Snake Pit Roundtables.

13 August: With playoff hopes all but gone, what do you want from the last 45 games?

I want the team to figure out what went wrong, and fix it. I want the Diamondbacks to win more than half the remaining games. I want their players to keep their mindsets and keep their culture of winning. And what I want is very similar to what I wanted earlier in the season.

13 August: How are you coping with the team’s performance?

I’m staying strong.

  • By necessity, I will make more distinctions and reach a deeper understanding of the Diamondbacks. The new insights will make me a stronger writer.
  • With joy, I will think about each hint of a turnaround, such as Saturday’s win against the Padres (3-0).
  • I may embrace ideas that may not be inherently true (the Diamondbacks were incredibly unlucky or the Diamondbacks will be better next season because of this season).
  • I certainly realize this level of performance (and the window of contention) is sustainable because the team did not trade away their best prospects. In other words, the Diamondbacks will likely contend again next season.
  • And I will count my blessings by realizing that it could be worse if a few star players had been seriously injured (but luckily they were not).
  • I will be a winner because winning is contagious! Sunday morning, I played in a two hour pickleball tournament. I won all six games, and came in first place with 68 points.

20 August: Are we feeling better this week?

Yes, most certainly. After surviving a 9-game losing streak, in the next 9 games the Diamondbacks had a win-loss record of 7-2. They are strongly competing for a wild-card in the playoffs.

20 August: What were the factors in the team’s turnaround?

Better batting and better pitching. Table follows:

Data from Baseball Savant and Team

Three points:

  • The Diamondbacks’ batters got on base more frequently (higher OBP) and less runners were left in scoring position at the end of innings.
  • The Diamondbacks’ pitchers kept opponents off the bases (lower OBP) and more opponents’ runners were left in scoring position at the end of innings.
  • The balance of Diamondbacks’ pitchers and batters changed from unfavorable to favorable. In other words, batters’ OBP changed from less than the pitchers’ OBP to more than the pitchers’ OBP.

27 August: The D-backs are back in a playoff spot, two weeks after their season was being written off. Discuss.

The chances of being a wild card are about 50%... With that in mind, I purchased tickets behind the third base dugout for the last two regular season games at Chase. Also, I have airline and hotel reservations. One or two wins in those games could possibly be needed for the Diamondbacks to reach the playoffs. The Diamondbacks will need my cheering! I am very much up for the challenge!

3 September: That series in LA. Anything more to say but, “Yuck”?

When the Diamondbacks reach the playoffs as a wild card team, the focus will be on playing excellent baseball. That specific Dodgers series will be a distant memory and easily forgotten.

3 September: Four weeks left. Will the D-backs make the post-season?

Yes. They are highly talented, they are young and they are constantly improving. Torey Lovullo keeps them focused and mentally strong when they hit the inevitable bumps in the road.

10 September: Are the D-backs good again?

A window of contention is opening for the Diamondbacks. They play exciting (and good or better than good) baseball almost every game.

18 September: Was that a good or bad week for the D-backs?

It was a good week swinging from almost hitting bottom to authentic & ecstatic joy. The angst of losing three games to the Mets was followed by perhaps the best game of the season, won in the 13th inning. Sweeping the Cubs was joy beyond words.

18 September: Tell us why Arizona will make the playoffs.

As Torey Lovullo said in the postgame presser, the pitching was solid and the bullpen was solid. One aspect is explored in Diamondbacks Secret Weapon : Left-Handed Relief Pitching.

As of Friday morning, their chances looked just as good as three other teams contending for the third NL wild card. For details see Are the Diamondbacks Contending in September?

Things got better when the Diamondbacks swept the Cubs. The following table shows teams contending for the second and third NL wild cards.

Data from Baseball Reference,

What are the characteristics of a team that can come back like the Diamondbacks? How did Torey Lovullo describe the team?

16 September to 20 September: A few of the things I heard follow:

The players have heart, determination, and never quit until the final strike.

Forward thinking in the dugout.

Fearless, adaptable, and prepared.

Unbelievable effort.

A late-night emotional game.

A really good team win.

Pitching was solid, bullpen was solid.

The players were ready to play.

The players were all over the place and picked up the baseball.

A team effort.

Good hitting.

Timely baserunning.

A crucial run was tacked on to keep 4 runs ahead immediately after the Giants scored.

The pitcher had really good momentum and pitched to his game plan.

Aggressive and alert.

The team was rugged to win a really important game one of the series.

Played the game at high speed.

The starting pitcher attacked.

The bullpen continued to get big outs.

Quality at-bats.

Four-hit night by more than one batter.

Connected everything; staying connected at all times throughout the nine innings of every game we play.

Clutch hitting.

Middle field approach that is versatile, dynamic, and unpredictable.

After losing three games to the Mets, we came out on the baseball field like we never lost a game all year.

Adjustable, adaptable, and committed.

Innately a bunch of confident baseball players.

The Diamondbacks are in strong contention.

Let’s wrap it up with the following table that shows how the Diamondbacks, after sweeping the Giants, are strongly competing for the second and third NL wild cards.

Data from Baseball Reference.