D-backs at one-month mark: good hitting, off-and-on starting pitching, costly bullpen.
By JACK MAGRUDERFS Arizona
PHOENIX -- There are plenty of reasons to like the numbers the
Diamondbacks have put up through the first month of the season. There are just as many to tell the numbers to shut up.
Jekyll one day, Hyde (and hide) the next.
It has been a fair start. The D-backs are still two games above .500, a good thing, especially considering they have played all season without nominal leadoff man Adam Eaton and platoon shortstop Willie Bloomquist and half of it without Aaron Hill, Cody Ross and Jason Kubel.
At the same time, had a few things had gone more smoothly, the record seemingly could be that much better.
Here are some of the good and not-so-good things as the D-backs appreciate their first off day since taxes were due April 15.
At 15-13, the D-backs are only two games out of first place in the NL West. Only four teams have scored more runs than their 121 -- there was never going to an offensive letdown, even without Justin Upton -- and they have played well on the road, sweeping the Brewers in Milwaukee and winning a series in San Francisco with two extra-inning comebacks. They've held their own in the NL West, splitting division games while beating the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and getting 20 hits and 13 runs in 17 innings off the Giants’ Matt Cain (two starts) and Tim Lincecum.
The D-backs could have won several more games and been in the division lead had the bullpen performed as their track record suggested. The relievers -- despite strong performances from middle-inning guys Josh Collmenter and Matt Reynolds -- have a majors-high 10 failed save conversions, and while that number can be skewed because of an occasional lost lead in the sixth or seventh inning, this one is a pretty fair reflection of how costly they have been. The D-backs had a blown save in five of their first six games against the Giants, although their resilience showed when they won two of those games in San Francisco. Five of their blown saves have come in the ninth inning, and two have come in the eighth. Those are the ones you feel.
The D-backs have gotten strong starting pitching from their two left-handers, Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin. The two are 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA, and they have nine quality starts in their first 10 appearances. Corbin was one of three major leaguers to have five starts of six innings or more while allowing two runs or fewer in April; Travis Wood of the Cubs and Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox were the others. Miley and Corbin also have suffered two no-decisions apiece when the bullpen could not hold a late lead. And Trevor Cahill (1-3) has pitched well enough to deserve better -- the D-backs have scored 10 runs behind him while he has been in the game in his six starts.
On the other hand, Ian Kennedy and Brandon McCarthy have not been themselves in the early going. Kennedy seems close, having made three quality starts, and he has been a pitch away from getting out of trouble time and again. He has given up nine of his 20 runs with two outs. McCarthy has yet to find the form that led to a career-low 3.24 ERA in 18 starts with the Athletics last year. He has missed up, and opponents have not missed those pitches. He has given up 19 extra-base hits, the most in the NL.
The defense has been solid, at times spectacular. The D-backs have committed only six errors, tied with the Tigers for the major league low. Cliff Pennington has played an impressive shortstop, especially on balls in the hole, and A.J. Pollock has shown a center fielder’s range in the first extended playing time of his career. Both made exceptional plays in the last two games of the most recent Giants series. Pennington has the highest defensive WAR rating among major league shortstops.
Defense and pitching win games, and the bullpen has had some glaring failures. You know about those.