Where are all the Snake Bites?
The Dbacks offense is missing something. It really is. I know, they just put up six runs two nights ago. Yes, they’re averaging 4.2 runs a game through 30 games. I know, statistically they’re sitting in the middle of the pack in the National League in most offensive categories and near the top in runs scored. But something is missing. In fact, a lot is missing.
Oct. 5 2011; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts (14) celebrates after hitting a grand slam during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers in game four of the 2011 NLDS at Chase Field. Image: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
I for one miss the head first slide on a hustle double- the hitter jumping up and throwing the signature ‘snake bite’ hand signal to the dugout with the crowd high-fiving in light of the great play. You saw the move often in 2011. It was fun-a lot of fun. Where is that intensity?
Hopefully it’s just a few games away and this will all be for naught. In the meantime, let’s try to work through this May nervousness while keeping in mind there are 130 games remaining.
So what is it?
Well, the most obvious choice would be Chris Young heading to the DL on April 18th creating a hole in the lineup that was being filled by a .410 hitter through the teams first 11 games. Injuries can kill a team’s momentum and depending on how they respond, send them reeling. Maybe that’s it? Let’s keep reading just in case…
What about Paul Goldschmidt? I mentioned yesterday that the 1st Baseman hasn’t homered since the first inning of Opening Day- a stretch of 85 at-bats through Tuesday. The 24 year old has managed a meager .294 OBP striking out 25 times in the 26 games he’s played. A far cry from what is expected of the young phenom.
Ryan Roberts has yet to get his game back. As I watch his at-bats, there are a lot of fly balls to right field as well as ground balls that are smashed right into the ground creating an easy cherry hop for the 3rd baseman. It just seems like he’s not hitting the barrel of the bat nearly as often as he usually does. You can tell when a guy is just having bad luck hitting the ball hard and when a guy just hasn’t found his stroke. Roberts has looked better as of late but with limited at bats-rightfully so- it makes it all the more difficult to get back into a rhythm. In my honest opinion, Roberts is a BIG catalyst to this offense and his energy and personality are infectious in the dugout and with the fans. When Roberts goes- the offense goes. I like to compare Roberts’ presence to that of Nick Swisher’s in New York. He may not be the best player on the team, but is valuable in so many ways. There is an undeniable energy in them both that can change the dynamic of a clubhouse.
Justin Upton has been struggling through the first five weeks of the season as well- .235/.319/.367. His average and on base percentage sit 40 points below his career average- .275/ .355. The 2011 all-star has just 3 homeruns and 9 RBI’s striking out 29 times in his 28 games. This is our #3 hitter. In all fairness, he did fight through a jammed thumb, only missing 3 games at a time in which most of us thought a trip to the DL was on the horizon. And frankly, if not for Young heading there the same week, he probably would have been shut down to let it heal. Upton does have 22 runs scored already and has walked 11 times with 5 stolen bases. But otherwise he has not been nearly the threat he was in 2011. While Goldschmidt was one of those ‘I sure hope the rookie can continue those stats in a full season’ guys, Upton NEEDS to carry those stats year to year. The team doesn’t need him to do more than last year- but a drop in offensive production is proving costly while the rest of the offense struggles for consistency.
Let’s move on to the catcher, Miguel Montero. Miggy is in the midst of a 17 game drought without a homerun and has been striking out pretty much every day. He has 27 strikeouts in 27 games and has made the lonely walk back to the dugout 12 times in the last 9 games. In fact, the 3-4-5 hitters for the Dbacks have been fanned 37 times during that 9-game span. Big picture though shows Montero is doing just fine at the plate, starting the month of May with a .333 clip.
What about our ‘leadoff’ spot? This has been a carousal of players with Gerardo Parra landing the role as of late. The leadoff guy on any particular day for the Dbacks has a .221 average through 31 games played. Parra has actually been quite successful there putting together a .290 clip and a .303 OBP. Even better- in the first inning- he has a .375 average with a terrific .420 OBP. I think we can agree this isn’t where the problem lies. Willie Bloomquist has played the most in the leadoff spot but didn’t fare as well with a .213 AVG and .263 OBP. These numbers were what the Dbacks were getting in the leadoff role for 19 of their 31 games. Not a great way to gain momentum early on. However, don’t get fired up at Gibby for putting the shortstop there- in 2011 when Bloomquist was asked to suddenly be an everyday player in the wake of Drew’s injury- he played a major role in the team’s success and hit at a respectable .270 clip in that leadoff spot over 316 at bats. However, over Bloomquist’s last 10 games this season, he is hitting a paltry .208.
Now I know that John McDonald is historically a horrible hitter, but he is actually swinging a pretty darn good bat right now. And you know his defense is as good as anyone’s. The 13 year veteran has a .310 average on the year and is hitting .370 in his last 10 games. If you’re going with the hot bat, Willie would be taking a few days off and McDonald would at least be riding out his hot streak. I have no problem with our two best offensive weapons right now being 36 year old journeyman Cody Ransom and 37 year old McDonald. As long as it’s temporary.
We all know it’s too early to get fired up over a player’s stats or a team’s success. After all, the second half of a season can be somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde formula from the first half—just ask Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010 or the Boston Red Sox last year. The Diamondbacks need to remember that this year’s team is not the 2011 team that won 94 games. They are the 2012 team with an unfinished season trying to write a new story-just like the rest of the league.
A bright spot for the offense may be as simple as their runs/game average of 4.2. If they’re averaging this without the help of Young, Goldschmidt, Upton and Roberts-where will this team be when they do start stringing together hits and winning series? Let’s hope it’s right back in the fall classic slinging snake bites our way.