Now that we are ushering out June and the Arizona Diamondbacks have completed 82 games, 1 more than half way through the season, it is time to look at the state of the Dbacks. Even after the way things have gone the past couple series, fear not friends, the Dbacks are still in a much better state now than they were one year ago.
After 82 games, let’s look at the comparisons between this season and last:
Record: 44-38, 2 games out of first
Record: 32-50, 17 games out of first
So, taking a look right there, they are 12 games better overall and 15 games better in the division standings. Improvement has been made. Amazingly enough, the Dbacks have scored fewer runs through 82 games this season, a total of 371, than last season, 376. The big difference? Pitching. Last year at this time they had given up 468 runs. This season after 82 games? Yeah, just a little less, 363, a difference of 105.
Let’s start with that pitching…
Starters: Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson have been great. One or both of them might be on that All-Star Roster. Joe Saunders has really turned things around after a rough 2010 and start to 2011. The 4th and 5th starters have had pitchers come and go. Barry Enright couldn’t hold a spot early but recent indications are he might return soon. Josh Collmenter was a pleasant surprise early, but hitters have recently caught on to him. Micah Owings had a couple of decent outings before the return of Zach Duke, who has been nothing short of a disaster the past several outings. Grade: B-
Bullpen: Until recently, the Dbacks bullpen had done a pretty good job of making us forget about 2010. Closer J.J. Putz was a monster in April in may, converting 16 of his first 16 save opportunities. Since then though, he has blown 4 saves in the month of June. Manager Kirk Gibson attributes it to a tired arm. Let’s hope that’s all it really is. David Hernandez has been good in set up situations in the 8th, but bring him in mid-inning, like Duke, has been nothing short of disaster. It has been a revolving door otherwise in the pen, most recently Esmerling Vasquez and Bryan Shaw being shown the door to AAA Reno. They will need to add veteran arms if they wish to contend all season. Grade: C
Offense: As I mentioned earlier, the Dbacks have actually scored fewer runs at this point in the season than they had last season. That can be deceiving though. The Dbacks scored a lot of add-on runs last season when games were already out of reach for them or they scored their runs while the bullpen kept giving up more. Justin Upton has reached.300 with his average and has played his way recently into the All-Star conversation. Chris Young started off slow with the average, but has seen it climb back to over .250. The disappointment has been Kelly Johnson, toiling between .205 and .220 for the balance of the season. Sure he has the flare for the dramatic with his 13 home runs, but his rising number of strikeouts is alarming. Too many unproductive outs. Wily Mo Pena, recalled last week, has provided some monster power, but he can’t play the field, so his at-bats will be limited, very limited. The Dbacks will need to most likely look around to add some more power if they feel like Pena can’t find his way onto the diamond. Grade: B-
Defense: For the most part, the defense hasn’t been that bad. It has looked silly at times. The infield has looked like the three stooges at times, but overall solid play from Ryan Roberts and Juan Miranda and usually spectacular play from Stephen Drew. Grade: B+
Overall Grade: B
There is still much room for improvement and if the Dbacks wish to be contenders in September, they will need to make moves before the trade deadline, like it or not. By sticking to the AAA and AA rosters, it probably does not gain the Dbacks a division title this year, although they should remain in the the top 3 of the division to at least be part of the contention talk. We’ll see though. Of course I hope they bring home the division title, but even a Wild Card berth is a possibility in the 2011 National League that lives and breathes parity.