Dodgers? Giants? Don’t overlook the Diamondbacks in the NL West.
The Diamondbacks have trimmed their deficit in the NL East from 9 games to 6 1/2 in just the last few days. But they’ve been playing well for awhile now, winning 11 of 16 and 20 of 33. Lately, their offense has been throwing a lot of runs on the board–46 in the five games before today’s contest against the Cubs. They’re leading the Majors in runs since June 5. In addition, their .998 fielding percentage if baseball’s best.
Manager Kirk Gibson pushed his team hard on fundamentals the last two springs. One byproduct was back-to-back lousy spring training records. Another is that the Diamondbacks are as fundamentally sound as almost any team in baseball. Gibson still has his players on the field early some days to work on the basics. Hard to argue with the results.
Gibson just used the same lineup for consecutive games for the first time this season. One of his most productive arrangements has been at first base, where Paul Goldschmidt and Lyle Overbay have combined to hit .310–only the Reds have a higher batting average at first–with 40 extra base hits (second) and a .389 OBP (third).
The Diamondbacks have gotten solid work from their bullpen. It held opponents scoreless in 11 of 18 games this month, with a 3-1 record, three saves and a 3.47 ERA.
His remaining headache is in the rotation, where Daniel Hudson has a 6.60 ERA and Ian Kennedy had a tough start . Short starts have left a good bullpen taxed. Hudson was part of Arizona’s rise last season, going 16-12 with a 3.49 ERA and 222 innings.With Joe Saunders on the disabled list, fans are clamoring for 2011 No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer to get a shot, but he has allowed 60 base runners in 42 innings at Class AAA. His broader numbers are outstanding: 2.79 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 42 innings. He might also benefit from better competition because he surely feels he’s ready for the Major Leagues.
Regardless, after a very slow start (just like last season), the Diamondbacks look like a team that’ll be competitive for the long haul.