Sitting 2.5 games behind division-leader LA, and 4 games behind in the Wild Card, Arizona is the team in the NL that sits the furthest out that I would consider to have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. The Diamondbacks were most recently in the playoffs in 2011, when they lost an exciting NLDS to the Milwaukee Brewers. The last time they won a playoff series was in 2007, when they swept the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS, before being swept out of the NLCS themselves by the Colorado Rockies (who were, in turn, swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series). So, a deep run into the playoffs would be new territory for most everyone on their current roster.
- Love the Glove – Arizona has some stellar defense. As a team, they are tied with the Cardinals for the fewest errors in the NL. In the outfield, they have 3 of the top 16 fielding pct.’s in the NL, and have combined for a total of just 4 errors between all 3 starters (best in the NL). And, on the infield, both corners are manned by guys ranking in the top 3 in fielding pct. at their respective positions. Behind the plate, Miguel Montero is throwing out better than 35% of basestealers – good for 4th in the NL.
- Paul Goldschmidt – in just his second full season, Goldschmidt is on his way to an MVP-worthy year. He could finish the season with a .300 avg., 35+ HR, 125+ RBI, and a .927 OPS, if things continue the way they are. Those are the kinds of numbers that will get you noticed if you lead your team into the playoffs.
- Take Your Base – the D’backs have the best combination of BB% (8.2% – 4th in the NL) and K% (18.4% – 3rd in the NL) in the National League. Baserunners are usually at a premium in the playoffs, so you want to get on and create problems for the opposing pitcher and defense. The catch, of course, is capitalizing on those opportunities (see #3 below).
3 Why Not
- Mediocre Starting Pitching – they aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either. Of the 7 pitchers they’ve used to start games, only one has a winning record (second-year guy Patrick Corbin is an impressive 12-2). And, they’re pretty much middle-of-the-pack in the NL with a 3.99 starters’ ERA. They don’t have a clear ace, and no one in that rotation scares you. It’s a rotation that can survive a regular season – but not one that will carry you far in the postseason.
- Can’t Finish – only the Chicago Cubs (22) have more blown saves than the Diamondbacks (19). They might be 5th in the NL in bullpen ERA (3.26) and saves (29), but just think how much better off they would be, had they not blown it at the end of so many games. In fact, you take out those two teams (Chicago & Arizona), and the rest of the NL has averaged just 11 blown saves. If the Diamondbacks were in that range, they’d be leading the NL West. You have to be able to shut the door on your opponents in the postseason.
- Besides Goldschmidt? – I’m not sure there’s anyone in this lineup that’s a threat offensively, besides Goldschmidt. Eric Chavez is the only other .300 hitter in the lineup every day, but Chavez has been batting barely above .250 with all of 1 home run since his return from the DL at the end of June. Aaron Hill can provide some pop, but in the month of July (the only full month he’s played all season), he hit 2 home runs, and slugged a mediocre .440. And, if you thought getting on base and stealing was their game in Arizona, think again. No one besides Goldschmidt has an OBP above .350, and Goldschmidt leads the team with all of 10 stolen bases. In the playoffs, it’s much too easy to pitch around one guy in the lineup. And, right now, there’s only one guy consistently producing in Arizona.
Where will Arizona finish their season? Let your voice be heard below.