After several impactful winter moves made by Dave Stewart, Tony La Russa, and company, the 2016 version of the Diamondbacks was supposed to contend for the playoffs.
Instead, this team has severely underperformed, spending the first 44 games in the back of the pack in the N.L. West. Despite what most fans are saying, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the D-backs. Paul Goldschmidt looked good against the Bronx Bombers, the rotation has been much better in May sporting a 3.77 ERA compared to a 5.62 mark in April, and the offense is near the top in most statistical categories this month.
With all that being said, there is cause for optimism. Here are three positive suprises to this point in the season, some that will surely shock many of you.
Suprise #1: Chris Owings in center field
Chris Owings has been surprisingly effective as the Diamondbacks’ primary center fielder so far this season, replacing the injured A.J. Pollock and the struggling Socrates Brito.
In fact, Owings has turned into one of the best defensive players at his position in 2016. His 0.9 dWAR is the best in baseball, and his eight defensive runs saved at the position is near the top.
Owings has turned a double play from center, and has a perfect fielding percentage. He has committed zero errors, and he is credited with three assists, which is second in the game.
C.O is also hitting .347 over his last 13 games with five extra-base hits, and six RBI. Owings is finally looking like the player the organization hoped he would be.
Suprise #2: Nick Ahmed’s Clutch Hitting
Everybody knows how great of a defender Nick Ahmed is at short, and that is where the majority if not all of his overall value is coming from.
However, what most don’t realize is how clutch Ahmed has been with RISP, situations that the team as a whole has struggled in. Ahmed is hitting .278 in 36 at-bats, and he was hitting better than .300 earlier this year.
Some have called for Ahmed to be sent down or relegated to occasional at-bats off the bench, and while he is hitting .188 overall, Ahmed seems to be a different hitter with runners on second and third, and the D-backs need as many of those kind of players as they can get right now.
Surprise #3: The Babe Herrmann Effect
Raise your hand if you thought Chis Herrmann would be more valuable to this point in the year than Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, and dare I say– even Paul Goldschmidt.
That’s what I thought; most people called the Diamondbacks crazy for choosing Herrmann over Tuffy Gosewisch as the primary backup, but his value was their on paper: a left-handed bat that can hit for power, and he calls games well behind the plate.
That is what was expected, but he has been that and much more, to the point where it’s hard to not find him a spot in the everyday lineup. He has started in the outfield as well as catching, and he always seems to do something productive.
This season he is hitting .290/.333/.609 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 23 games. What is most impressive about Herrmann is his two-strike approach. He is hitting .273 with 12 of his 19 RBI when two strikes are against him.
Behind the plate, Herrmann’s CERA (Catchers ERA) of 3.51 is better than Welington Castillo’s 4.86 mark in 16 less games.