Diamondbacks’ bats in August will make or break season
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been a pleasant surprise in 2017, exceeding expectations to the tune of a 60-45 record.
For a team that was expected to win 75-80 games by most, it would be a successful season, but those expectations have now changed.
A team built to win now — and had major damage done by its previous regime in order to do so — is finally meeting expectations thanks to big contributions from young players and win-now cornerstones having terrific seasons.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers pulling away in the NL West and adding Yu Darvish to the rotation before the trade deadline, all eyes are now set on one of the two Wild Card spots, rightfully so with the way the team has played.
As of Monday, the Diamondbacks sit a half-game ahead of the Colorado Rockies for the top spot in the Wild Card race. They are six games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, who are third in the chase.
It’s a decent cushion, but the trouble is, the D-backs enter August more wounded than ever and facing by far their toughest stretch of the season.
They won’t have Yasmany Tomas, will be without Nick Ahmed until at least late August and the hope is Randall Delgado will be back soon. Most importantly, the status of All-Star Robbie Ray is in doubt after he was struck in the head by a line drive, and starting shortstop Chris Owings was moved to the 60-day disabled list with a fractured his right middle finger.
The team plays 29 games in the month of August, 16 of them against the Dodgers, Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. The first two teams have the most wins in baseball and the other is last year’s World Series champion.
With Ray missing at least one start and the team already counting on its bullpen and back of the rotation, the month and probably season will be swung by the offense.
Arizona’s reliance on its bats was more evident than ever in the latest series in St. Louis, when the team tied the franchise record for the least runs allowed in a four-game series (five) yet managed to leave with only two wins.
In July as a whole, the offense was a mixed bag.
The studs the Diamondbacks knew they had coming into the season have delivered.
Paul Goldschmidt continues his MVP campaign, hitting .316 on the season and .313 last month. Despite July being A.J. Pollock’s first nearly full month of playing time since April, he’s continued to hit well, racking up 23 hits in his 75 at-bats. David Peralta had his worst hitting month of the season, but it was still pretty good for that with a .272 average.
Where Arizona’s balanced hitting has fallen off are with the players outside of the core three.
All-Star Jake Lamb is slumping massively once again in the second half, hitting just .178, but he’s still reaching base a good amount, walking 19 times to get his on-base percentage to .351.
Owings, who had 60 hits in the first two months of the season, hit just .169 in July.
Brandon Drury was a pick by many for a breakout player this year, but his momentum stalled completely last month with a .237 average.
Chris Herrmann hasn’t hit well all year, and he had three hits in his 44 at-bats in July.
Ketel Marte is a young player that everyone should be excited about, but one would assume his 57 at-bats in July will go up in August with the news of Owings’ injury — it won’t until he returns to the team following the death of his mother. He and newly-acquired Adam Rosales have big shoes to fill. They must provide some offensive pop in the middle infield to make up for the loss of Owings and the slumping Drury.
If those players don’t combine into an overall positive outcome at the plate in August, their success may come down to their big-time acquisition, J.D. Martinez. His power is as advertised with five home runs in his first 32 at-bats with the D-backs. Trouble is, Martinez only has two more hits outside of those long balls. Arizona will need a big month from the former Silver Slugger.
On paper, the D-backs look like an offensive juggernaut, but as of Monday, they rank 12th in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, 14th in homers and sixth in runs.
Those stats are good, but they will need to be great for the team to start September in playoff position.