From mid-May through early June the Arizona Diamondbacks played like the Yankees. They were the hottest team in baseball. They won 18 of 22 games and vaulted into first place in the National League West. The impressive 3-week upswing seemed to fly in the blushing faces of the game’s wise men. They predicted another poor season, only a slightly better finish than last year when the team continued its long slide by stumbling to one of the worst records in Major League Baseball.
So is it time to begin to unroll the red carpet and dust off the crown for a pennant run?
Contrary to the Dbacks’ small cadre of wild-eye fans, I think not.
During those three weeks of glory, the Dbacks played eight one-run games — and won them all! In addition, the Dbacks scored two runs or less in five of those games and, thanks to unbelievable pitching, they came out on top in four of them. It’s enough luck to make one believe in tooth fairies until you look at their opponents. Six of the eight had losing records and four were cellar-dwellers (Houston, San Diego, Minnesota and Washington).
Currently, the Dbacks are in a bit of a funk. They have lost two in a row to the usually low-flying Pirates and three in a row overall.
While the new general manager, Kevin Towers, has started to reshape this low-budget organization the right way, with good pitching, this team has far too many holes to fill in a single season.
Among the eight positions, only three are clearly manned by players capable of starting on pennant contenders: Shortstop Stephen Drew, center fielder Chris Young and right fielder Justin Upton. The need for high-caliber players at first base and third is obvious. And despite leading the NL in home runs, the hitting is streaky and often doesn’t materialize with runners in scoring position.
There will likely be enormous pressure on the pitching staff’s aces, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, if the Dbacks continue to stay in contention. The other starters are suspect. That includes Josh Collmenter whose unusual overhead delivery has reaped a 4-1 record and 1.25 ERA. Zach Duke, who came to Arizona last winter from Pittsburgh, could be the key for the Dbacks’ hopes for contention in the West. How well he does long-term after returning from hand surgery remains to be seen. The bullpen behind closer J. J. Putz has done a decent job so far.
So what’s reality here? This will likely be an inconsistent team the rest of the season unless changes are made in the coming weeks. As is, I see a team that may win half its games and finish 10-15 games behind the pennant-winner. That’s best-case scenario. A far cry, for sure, from last season. The focus and hard work of manager Kirk Gibson deserve’s a lion’s share of the credit. He has his team playing about the best it can.
But, in final analysis, the ony thing the May-June winning binge did was to delay by a few weeks the inevitable changes that must occur. That is not to say those changes will occur.