Before the season started, the NL West had the potential to be the best division in baseball. Aside from the AL East, there wasn’t a hard decision to choose the champs and there really wasn’t candidate for an upset. While the Dodgers were (and still are) the clear favorites, both previous Wild Card winners looked to contend again.
Depending on how optimistic you were about the Giants, there were still two to three other playoff contenders in the division. The AL East was going to be duel between the Yankees and Red Sox, but the NL West was going to be a battle royale between three good to great teams for wild card spots/a chance at upsetting the Dodgers. If Fortnite is any indication, the best way to get the youths into baseball is a battle royale.
But in the first week of June, the NL West isn’t anywhere near the best division in baseball. It’s not even good. After Sunday, the Giants are 2.5 games back of first and a game below .500. I guess it’s still shaping up to be a battle royale since the NL West has the narrowest gap between first and last. But the Dodgers, led by perennial Cy Young and MVP candidates
Clayton Kershaw Ross Stripling and Justin Turner Matt Kemp, are going to separate from the pack of mediocrity eventually.
If there was one team that could challenge the Dodgers at the beginning of the season, it was the Diamondbacks. Arizona still sits on top of the division but only because they got off to a great start. In March and April, the Diamondbacks went 20-8, and the saying goes that they don’t have to give those wins back.
They gave those wins back, though.
Since then, they’re 11-19. They’re 5-1 over their last two series but those came against the Reds and the Marlins. The Reds’ entire pitching staff hovering slightly above replacement level, and the Marlins are so bad there are Out of the Park 19 challenge runners just trying to get that team to the postseason.
Much of the Diamondbacks’ struggles can be attributed to their hitting. As a team, the Diamondbacks are hitting .217/.295/.383. That’s the third worst OPS in the majors, ahead of only the Padres and the Marlins. Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t been himself. AJ Pollock is hurt. Jake Lamb was hurt.
Among Diamondbacks players with at least 20 plate appearances, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin have higher a wOBA than Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings, and Jarrod Dyson. That’s probably unfair to compare small sample sizes to everyday players but Greinke’s wOBA of .288 isn’t exactly a high bar to jump.
What better team for Madison Bumgarner to make his first start of the season against than the Diamondbacks then. I’m not worried that Bumgarner isn’t ready nor do I think he’s being rushed back considering how well he pitched in his rehab starts. There are, however, always questions about a pitcher coming back from injury. How will his arm strength be? Will he have a feel for his pitches? Will the velocity be there?
The answers to those questions might not matter against a lineup that’s at least 5/9 empty space.
Hitter to Watch
Not all who put on the hideous Diamondbacks uniforms are lost. John Ryan Murphy, a tertiary character from a William Faulkner novel and tertiary catcher on Arizona’s depth chart, is hitting .265/.291/.614. In just 87 plate appearances, he’s hit 8 home runs and put together a .349 ISO. One of those home runs, he hit against the Giants. It’s been all-or-nothing for him, though, as he has a 27% strikeout rate and a 3% walk rate. Basically, he’s been Gorkys Hernandez but with more power and less batted-ball luck.
Pitcher to Watch
In two starts against the Giants, one of which being a complete-game shutout, Patrick Corbin has pitched 14.1 IP, struck out 17, while only giving up 3 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. Corbin has found a lot of success this year by throwing his slider much more often and relying on his sinker rather than his fastball. Even after getting knocked around for 6 runs his last time out, he still has an ERA under 3.00 (but just barely at 2.99).
He’s starting Tuesday night against Bumgarner, so if you love baseball but hate all the run-scoring, that’s the game to watch.
Being cautiously optimistic worked out the last time, so I’m going to let it ride. The Giants are going to take two out of three despite scoring fewer than 10 runs over the whole series.