|On Base Percentage
Both of these offenses are scoring runs by stringing together singles and
doubles, not by simply waiting around for the three run homer. The main
difference in their offensive approaches is that the Dodgers have Rafael Furcal,
Kenny Lofton, and Jason Repko thieving bases everywhere they go (they are a
combined 31-for-39), while the Diamondbacks mostly play it station-to-station.
This makes sense when the Diamondbacks play in hitter-friendly Chase Field. The
D'Backs have no trouble scoring there, and quite frankly, neither do their
opponents, unless Brandon Webb is starting that day. Why play for one run if the
final score is likely to be around 8-5?
The trouble comes when Arizona is on the road. Their money must be faded from
that Arizona sun, because they can’t seem to buy a hit in any other city. The
good news is that the Diamondbacks’ 3.37 road ERA is best in all of baseball by
a good margin. This produces a lot of 3-2 ballgames, ballgames in which it makes
sense to play for one run.
But Bob Melvin hasn’t altered his strategies to account for this disparity. In
fairness, he simply doesn’t have anyone with the speed of Rafael Furcal (who has
scored more runs than any Diamondback despite hitting just .257 on the season)
or the baserunning savvy of Kenny Lofton (21st all time in SB, one behind Ozzie
Smith). They do have a remarkably efficient runner in leadoff man Eric Byrnes,
who hasn’t been thrown out in seven attempts so far this year, and boasts an
astonishing 89% career success rate. He could probably stand to attempt a few
more steals on the road.
Is there help on the way? Sort of. The Diamondbacks have some speedy players in
Tucson, but none have swiped over five bases yet. The only player in Tennessee
with more than three steals is Danny Richar, who’s six-for-six. Richar plays
second base, by the way, and could certainly work in a home/road platoon with
the struggling Orlando Hudson (still using Hudson for his incredible defense
when a groundball pitcher is on the mound, of course).
The other whisper…actually, more of a shout… is that the club should call up
five-tooler Stephen Drew and move Craig Counsell over to second base. One
problem I have with this is that Drew is just 1-for-4 in the stolen base
department so far this year, and 4-for-11 in his professional career. He’s
obviously got a lot to learn about reading pitchers from first base, which makes
me suspect that he needs more time to learn about reading pitchers from the
batter’s box as well.
But even if the organization decides not to address the speed issue, there are
other ways to manufacture runs on the road. Going into Saturday, the club had
only eight successful sacrifices on the road; only Milwaukee and Cincinnati had
fewer in the National League. Melvin has used the Hit and Run some, but not
enough on the road. Johnny Estrada, Conor Jackson, and Luis Gonzalez all have
excellent strikeout rates this year, and should be counted on more often to
protect runners on the Hit and Run play.
Basically, if the Diamondbacks want to be better than a .500 team away from
home, they’re going to have to do everything they can to move across the few
runners that they put on base. While lacking in team speed, I honestly think
that they have the personnel with strong enough fundamentals to do it. All they
need is for Bob Melvin to deploy an old school offense away from Chase Field.