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What’s a clutch hit? Don’t ask the 2016 Diamondbacks

By Joseph Jacquez
Paul Goldscmidt. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Goldscmidt. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Traditional stats would tell you that the Diamondbacks’ offense is one of the best in the majors.

The D-backs are third in the majors with 315 hits. They are also fourth in the majors in slugging. D-backs hitters are hitting .320 off fastballs this year, the third best mark in the majors, and the Diamondbacks 121 extra-base hits are tied for the third most in the majors with the Rockies.

Arizona had at least one extra-base knock in the first 29 games, the team’s second longest streak to begin a season since 2010 (37). The Snakes 45 home runs are second in the majors behind the Mets.

Even with all these positives, the Diamondbacks have scored just the seventh-most runs (146) in the majors despite having the most at-bats (1204). To put this into context: the Cubs have scored 38 more runs than Arizona despite having 179 fewer chances!

A complete lack of situational and clutch hitting explains this phenomenon to a tee, and quite frankly is the difference in production from last year to this year. The D-backs also had the most at-bats last season, but they scored the second most runs in the N.L.

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Last season, the Diamondbacks hit .252 as a team with runners in scoring position, with the second-most RBI among NL clubs, the fourth-most hits, and the fourth-most doubles. With RISP and two outs, the D-backs were third in the senior circuit in hits, doubles, and RBIs. Finally, with the bases loaded the D-backs hit .276 in 2015, and they scored the fifth most runs in the N.L. in the seventh inning or later.

This season, with nobody on base, the D-backs are hitting .296, the fourth-highest average in the NL. Once guys get on second or third, its been a completely different story. They are hitting .215 as a team with RISP, with the third fewest hits, the second lowest OBP (.296), and the sixth lowest slugging percentage (.373). Arizona has hit seven home runs in these situations, but they aren’t manufacturing runs, and sacrificing guys over.

It get’s even more depressing when there is a man-in-scoring position and two outs. As a team, the Snakes are hitting .189 in those situations, the third-lowest average in the N.L only ahead of the Mets and the Dodgers, and with the bases loaded their average is .200.

One reason for this, is how different the type of contact D-backs hitters are generating in “clutch” situations compared to the overall picture. In all situations this year, the D-backs 32.4 Hard% is the ninth-best in the majors. However, with RISP, no team in the big leagues is more likely to hit the ball softly (31.0 Soft%), and they have the third highest groundball percentage (50.7 GB%).Along with the lowest wRC+ (59), and the second lowest wOBA (.270), Paul Goldschmidt’s regression in these situations is the most troubling part of these struggles.

When he is right, Goldschmidt is one of the best hitters in all of baseball, but its obvious to everybody that he is not himself right now. He seems very tentative, and is taking far to many first pitch strikes. Goldy has reached an 0-2 count in 60 percent of his plate appearances.

Goldschmidt is a career .314 hitter with RISP, but this season he is hitting .185 in 27 at-bats. His on-base percentage, and power is all there, and he is the majors leader with 33 walks, but his K% is up, his BB% is down, and he has just nine extra-base hits which is unbelievable.

Other disturbing numbers about Goldy from Nick Piecoro of azcentral.com: The number of strikes he has seen looking is up from 31.7 percent for his career to 37.5 percent, and he is swinging at the first pitch just 17.3 percent of the time, down from 23.9 percent.

This won’t continue for long, but here is the bottom line: the production of Yasmany Tomas, Welington Castillo, and Jake Lamb isn’t going to matter when the middle of the order is doing nothing. David Peralta, the normal cleanup man, in 37 at-bats with RISP is hitting .182.

The D-backs are just 3.5 games back after sweeping the Braves over the weekend, but changes to the lineup are going to have to be made if the rut continues.

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