Cleat Geeks

How Are The D-back’s Winning? The Answers Might Surprise You

The Arizona Diamondbacks sit atop the National League West standings, with a 24-13 record, thanks in large part to their pitching and defense, all the while their perennial MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt is hitting a meager .226.

The D’backs lead the N.L. in both team ERA (3.08) and fielding percentage (.991). The Diamondbacks trail only the Houston Astros in team ERA and are tied with Houston for the best fielding percentage in baseball (and took 2 out of 3 games from them in Arizona last week). For comparison sake, the 93-win Diamondback team from a year ago finished 3rd in MLB in overall pitching (3.66) and 24th in fielding percentage (.982). The 12 errors this season puts the team on pace for only 57 errors, almost cut in half from the 108 they made last season.

The biggest reason for the jump from 24th to 2nd in team fielding is that 4 of the teams worst fielders from a year ago have either moved positions, been traded or have been on the D.L. for most of the season.

Image result for Chris Owings 2018

Photo by; ABC News

  • Chris Owings – Being forced into action at SS last season, due to Nick Ahmed’s injury, Chris made 11 errors in 54 games at that position for a percentage of .943. This season, while playing mostly in the outfield, and 0 games at short, he has not committed an error in 28 total games.
  • Brandon Drury – 114 games at 2B and finished 2017 with the second worst fielding percentage on the team (.959). Was traded to the Yankees over the off-season.
  • Daniel Descalso – In 45 games at 2B in 2017, Daniel made 7 defensive errors, good for a .963 fielding percentage. On the season, he made a total of 11 errors. Ketel Marte – 0 errors on the season – has taken over the everyday job at 2B this season, limiting Descalso to only 5 games at his old position. Filling in Admirably for the injured Jake Lamb at 3B this year, Daniel has made 1 error in 18 games at the hot corner.
  • Jake Lamb – Lamb & Owings led the team in total errors last season, with 14. Lamb has only started 4 games this season due to injury and didn’t make an error before heading to the D.L.

Although the D’backs are off to their best 35-game start in franchise history, heading into Tuesday’s 2-game series against the rival Dodgers, the team is hitting a franchise low .228. Never in the teams first 19 years of existence have they ever been below .246 for a whole season, and that was their inaugural season in 1998. Even though most novice fans would like to put most of the hitting woes on mainly Goldschmidt’s shoulders, the fact of the matter is there are only two hitters on the roster hitting at least .260, David Peralta, and reigning Player of the Month & Player of the Week in A.J. Pollock.

Image result for A.J. Pollock 2018

Pollock, who’s 30-years-old and on the last year of his contract, is the only Diamondback hitting above 288, at .308 in 130 at-bats. He’s currently second in the N.L. in HRs (11), fourth in stolen bases (8), and is tied with the Angels Mike Trout for the most HRs + SB in all of baseball, with 19. A.J.’s also second in the N.L. with 31 RBI – only trailing the Cubs Javier Baez (32) – while Trout – 2X MVP & 3X runner-up – has only 24 runs batted in on the year. The Diamondbacks center fielder has also taken his game to an even higher level with runners in scoring position, as he’s hitting .333 with 16 RBI’s in 30 at-bats with RISP. In 2017, in 425 at-bats, Pollock hit .266, with only 14 HRs and 49 RBI, while swiping 20 bags. Last season, A.J. had a slugging percentage of .471 and an OPS of .801. So far in 2018 A.J. is leading the N.L. in slugging at .677, OPS at 1.038 and total bases with 88. While we’re barely 20% of the way through the long, 162-game season, Pollock has, deservedly, put his name at the very top of the early-season MVP talk in the National League.

While Paul Goldschmidt was in a 0 for 21 slump to start the month of May prior to Tuesday’s victory over the Dodgers, where Goldy went 1 for 4 on the evening. The biggest concern with him at the plate right now is that his strikeout’s are way up compared to previous years. Through the first 35 games this season, Paul has struck out 46 times, good for 1.31K’s/game. Since his second year in the league, in 2012, he has never finished with a worse K per game average of 0.95. Keep in mind that since 2012 Paul has never hit below .286, and since 2013 he has never hit below .297. Over the last 5 seasons, Goldy is a 5X All-Star while finishing top-3 in MVP voting in three of those seasons – two runner-ups and has received MVP votes in four of those five seasons – all the while accumulating three Silver Slugger awards over the past half-decade. Just like how every hitter goes in a slump, when it’s all said and done, the great hitters of our game tend to finish with similar numbers to what they have always had, as long as they are in their prime still, as Goldschmidt is. Just like in 2016 when he started the first 30+ games hitting .247, Goldy ended up turning it around and finished with a .297 average. Once he hits himself out of this slump, expect him to make pitchers pay the rest of the season.

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