Diamondbacks Debate: Good Start or Not?

Diamondbacks Debate: Good Start or Not?

A four game skid puts the fourth place Arizona Diamondbacks at .500 after 20 games. Should we be encouraged by this 10-10 mark, or should we be disappointed that it could be better than that? The FutureBacks.com staff sounds off.

Reason for Optimism:

20 games into the season, the D-backs' offense has been based off of a small ball lineup. They are scoring runs with moving runners over, sac flies, bunting and stealing bases. If the D-Backs can continue to produce runs in this matter and let the homeruns and RBI doubles come into the mix a little later then, the D-Backs will be a true force in the National league.

So far, the bullpen has been the strongest part of the pitching staff. The bullpen's record is solid at 4-2 with a cumulative ERA of 2.43 (subtracting J.D. Durbin).  This has surprised everybody. The lefty specialist Doug Slaten has been the biggest surprise yet with a 0.00 ERA after 9 appearances in 6 innings of work. Brandon Lyon and Tony Pena have also been very nice additions as setup men thus far. The bullpen cannot be recognized without Big Papa Grande himself, Jose Valverde. He is 7 out 8 in save chances, allowing only 1 earned run in 7.2 innings of work. If this bullpen can get a little more rest with starters going a little deeper into games, then they will contribute far more than anyone's predictions before the start of the season.

As for the starters, 10 starts out of 20 games have been quality starts so far this season. If that stays true, that would be a better percentage than the last two World Series winners. This also does not include Randy Johnson who will be back in the rotation this week. When Johnson comes back to mid-season form and is going deep into games again this rotation should easily be the best 5 starters in the National League West.

Over the course of last season, and now into this season, the D-Backs have been determined to increase their fielding ability. Currently, they are leading in assists in the National league. Orlando Hudson and Stephen Drew will continue to make double plays at record pace. With the combination of speed and arm strength, Quentin, Young, and Byrnes should be one of the best trios of defensive outfielders in baseball. Help will be provided all year with Clark coming in at first, Callaspo coming in wherever, and Hammock as a third catcher (who once caught Randy Johnson's perfect game).

Overall, the D-Backs have a bright future ahead of them. There is a mix of youth and experience that has meshed well together so far. Many Division titles and playoff appearances are imminent; it's just a matter of how many exactly…

--A.J. Adler

Reason for Pessimism:

The Washington Nationals are a truly awful franchise.  Even after swindling the Diamondbacks in the Livan Hernandez trade and the Reds in the Austin Kearns trade, the Nasty Nats are still easily the worst team in baseball.  They will lose at least 100 games in a weak division. 

Why bash the Nats?  Number one, it's just good fun; you should try it sometime.  Number two, out of the NL West teams, only the Diamondbacks have had the fortune of playing this lousy excuse for a ballclub.  Take those four games away, and the Diamondbacks would be sitting on a 6-10 record.  Once the other NL West teams get their knocks at the Nats, The Diamondbacks won't seem so impressive.

Going along those same lines, the Diamondbacks have gone just 4-9 versus fellow NL West teams.  In fact, three of the fifth place Rockies' seven wins came courtesy of the Diamondbacks.  The NL West is probably the strongest division in the National League, so how a team performs against that division serves as a litmus test.  Not to mention that well over a third of the Diamondbacks' schedule comes against those four rival teams, so they're going to need to learn how to beat them regardless.

Coming into the year, we knew that the Dodgers and the Padres had more depth than the Diamondbacks, and we know that the Dodgers and the Giants have more spending power at the trade deadline.  How can the D'Backs keep pace with these teams if they do a worse job staying healthy than the teams with more depth and flexibility?  Injuries are simply devastating to a young ballclub.  Rookies have enough pressure on themselves without trying to replace the production of injured teammates.  These Baby Backs have already seen five players spend time on the disabled list this season, and Chris Young and Conor Jackson have each been banged up as well. 

The Diamondbacks offense cannot afford such losses.  They began their season at Coors Field, and play half of their contests at a ballpark that's just as hitter-friendly.  Despite these favorable batting conditions, the ballclub has a .243 batting average over 20 games.  The non-Orlando Hudsons are hitting just .228 combined.  This is unacceptable.  O-Dog came into the season a .275 career hitter, and even if he makes this his breakout year, he's not going to continue to flirt with .400.  To put it another way, Hudson has a worse chance of continuing his incredible start than Chris Young does of suddenly being able to hit major league pitching for the first time.

Young, Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew, and Miguel Montero should all develop into solid hitters at some point.  The question for the Diamondbacks entering this season was whether that development would occur this year. Everything might click for those youngsters later in the summer, but the indication from the first 20 games is not good.  With supposed stabilizing forces Chad Tracy and Conor Jackson also struggling to hit, this could be a long season indeed for the Diamondbacks' offense.

--Keith Glab

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