Stats from June 5th through June 22nd:
|Player||Age||Games||Games Started||At Bats||Runs||Hits||2B||3B||HR||RBI||BB||IBB||K||BA||OBP||SLG|
Oh dear. Only two Diamondback players have hit better than .255 during this horrid stretch, and only one player has reached base in more than one third of his plate appearances. Perhaps the most telling stat of all is that no Diamondback has been intentionally walked in this time. Opposing pitchers would just as soon face these frigid hitters as they would the Diamondbacks' pitchers.
But there is also a meaningful pattern to notice. In general, Diamondbacks hitters older than 30 have struggled the most. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The club has only had one off day during these 19 days since we first heard about Grimsley. In total, they've played 28 games in the past 29 days. Plus, more than half of these games are played in Arizona (The desert can get kind of hot this time of year). It's only logical that older players need more rest than younger ones, particularly in the summer heat, and especially with the aforementioned mental fatigue set on by recent events.
Therefore, at least part of the solution to snap the D'backs out of this funk is to call up some young, hungry minor leaguers. GM Josh Byrnes had the right idea in bringing up Scott Hairston to spell Luis Gonzalez against left handers (Gonzo is hitting .198 against southpaws, and is the oldest player on the squad). Regrettably, Hairston suffered a left biceps strain in his first game after the callup, and has been placed on the Disabled List. This shouldn't dissuade Byrnes from making another move. Nobody else at Tuscon is putting up the kind of gaudy numbers that Hairston was, but they do have several players performing well. Either Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Chris Young, Chris Carter, or Alberto Callaspo would make a fine addition to the big league club right now.
Want more evidence? The one saving grace for Arizona right now is that no other team has run away with the NL West during the current slide. In the same span in which we saw the Diamondbacks go 2-16, the Rockies and Padres are each 9-8, while the Giants and Dodgers have each lost ten games. Each of these teams has had at least two days off during this period, and not even the Padres can possibly claim temperatures comparable to those in Phoenix. But again, we see the same age pattern among these rivals, as the Padres, and especially the Rockies, are younger teams than the Dodgers, and especially the Giants, are.
What is worse is that some of these younger players might address specific needs. Orlando Hudson has been by far the best of the bunch lately, but with Craig Counsell's OBP barely holding on above .300 maybe it's time to bring Sidewinders second baseman Alberto Callaspo and his insane .442 On Base Percentage up, and give him a shot at the lead off spot. Everybody knows that Gonzo's gone a million years without a homer (he has five in 250+ at bats this year), while Chris Young, who battled injuries at the start of the season, has 10 in 207 at bats. You don't score unless there are runners on or you hit the ball out of the park. The vets aren't doing either, the youngsters are doing both.
Now I am by no means saying that fatigue among older players is the only reason for the poor play of the Diamondbacks over the past three weeks: Grimsley and Kendrick did their damage, Russ Ortiz making two starts didn't help anything, and I'd like the name and address of the scoundrel who tapped Brandon Webb on the shoulder and reminded him that he is mortal. But we mustn't overlook the age factor and the need to pepper in several youngsters to play with the veterans. Days off may be more plentiful with the All Star Break around the corner, but July and August don't promise to be any cooler, and Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green certainly aren't getting any younger.