Atrox Weekly: Halfway Through

We’re at the mid point of the 2017 season and oh, what a season it has been. While they haven’t been the best team in baseball, no other team has seen quite the meteoric rise this year of Arizona. After starting out the season with an 8.2% chance of making the play-offs (Fangraphs), they go into the second half with an 88% chance and a 9.5 game lead in the Wild Card over the Cubs.

Biggest Jump in Play-Off Odds Pre-2017 ASG 2017 Difference
Arizona 8.2% 88.0% 79.8%
Colorado 10.4% 62.2% 51.8%
New York (AL) 15.9% 54.8% 38.9%
Milwaukee 1.1% 30.3% 29.2%
Houston 78.4% 100.0% 21.6%
Kansas City 6.3% 23.6% 17.3%

In fact, the NL West has been a surprise as a whole with the top and bottom playing as expected and the middle being all jumbled up. While there’s always the chance that a team comes out of nowhere to upset the status quo (probably the Cubs, but potentially the Cardinals), the NL appears as set for the play-offs as any season since the advent of the second Wild Card.

The Diamondbacks’ four All-Stars give some clue as to their first half success as two starting pitchers and two position players went to the Mid-Summer Classic. Altogether, the DBacks rotation ranks second in all of baseball behind only the Dodgers thanks to truly incredible starts to the year from Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray (both All-Stars) and great starts to the season for Zack Godley and Randall Delgado although they haven’t pitched nearly as much. In all, despite multiple injuries and having to use eight different starters this year, only Patrick Corbin has consistently been a problem.

The second biggest strength of this team was represented by Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb in the All-Star Game as they went into the break 7th in the Majors in runs scored and a top 10 offense overall. Specifically, Goldschmidt is currently the best player in the NL in terms of offensive value above average and second only to Aaron Judge in MLB. While he drags behind a few of the insane home run totals, his overall value has been dynamic, slugging .577, reaching base more than 42% of the time and sitting at a pace close to his largely undervalued 32 steals from 2016.

Matching Goldschmidt perfectly, Lamb finished the first half with 20 home runs and 67 RBI, but looking even the slightest bit deeper shows that he’s had nowhere near the season of the perennial MVP candidate. That being said, Lamb has still been a top 25 player in the NL offensively with a .279/.376/.546 slash line.

Of course, you can’t just knock in yourself and David Peralta and Chris Owings have also had well above average seasons. Both have shown a little bit of power, but more importantly, they’re getting on base often for the big bats to follow.

Probably the most underrated aspect of the team, the DBacks are also 6th in the NL in defense and 10th in the Majors. This helps explain at least partially why down the line the DBacks starters all have better ERA’s than their FIP and is a reason to believe that trend could potentially last for the entire season. Right now, Arizona has the third biggest positive difference between ERA and FIP in the NL at 0.32 behind only the Brewers and Dodgers.

Robbie Ray and Zack Godley have felt the most extreme effects of this with 0.79 and 0.52 differences respectfully although Godley’s most likely has more to do with his unsustainable .236 BABIP than the defense.

Rey Fuentes hasn’t played as much as many of the regulars, but has been a significant contributor by improving center field defense and Goldschmidt remains one of the leagues best at first. The outfield as a whole has been strong with A.J. Pollock and David Peralta also having positive seasons, likely inspiring that difference between ERA and FIP for the high K, fly ball pitchers like Ray and Greinke.

As great as the start to the season was, things fizzled a bit at the end, losing 8 of their last 11 including two of three to the Reds, who they should have beaten, and two of three to the Dodgers, who they could have made a move in the division against. With the All-Star break perfectly timed, they’ll now have a fairly easy road trip, going to Atlanta and Cincinnati for six.

While they do play series against Washington and Houston in the second half, they also play 34 games against Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, San Francisco, New York (NL) and Miami. In whole, it’s a fairly easy schedule and the Diamondbacks have already built up a pretty healthy lead in the Wild Card. It may be a tight race down the line between the Dodgers, Rockies and DBacks, but most likely all three will be in the postseason for at least one game and rather than fighting to get in, Arizona will be fighting to win the division and avoid a one game play-off.

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Joseph Coblitz is a writer and editor at BurningRiverBaseball.com and the creator of the incredibly successful Cleveland Indians trivia game, Do You Wahoo? He can be found on twitter @BurningRiverBB and in real life on the back fields of Goodyear Ballpark.

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