Diamondbacks continue to rule the first inning: By the numbers
Aug 17, 2018, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:07 am
(AP Photo/Orlando Ramirez)
Pay attention to the Arizona Diamondbacks over the last four games, and their biggest strength hasn’t shined more brightly.
The D-backs love the first inning.
Arizona has scored at least one run in the top of the first in each of their last four games, all of which were on the road. No fast start was more impressive than a five-run first on Thursday night in a 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres highlighted by David Peralta’s three-run blast.
But this isn’t a recent trend.
Over the last few years, the top of the D-backs’ order has been one of MLB’s better lineups in the first inning. This year, they’re the best.
Here’s a look at just how good Arizona is in the first inning and how important it is to their success.
The D-backs are the best first-inning scoring team in baseball, averaging 0.84 runs. The Cleveland Indians rank second at 0.77 runs per first frame.
Arizona scores 4.48 runs per game, good for 17th most in MLB, meaning 18.8 percent of their runs per game are produced in the opening inning.
The D-backs are just 27th in MLB with a team batting average of .238. But before the third out is recorded, they rake with a .300 average, .387 on-base percentage and .910 OPS. For comparison’s sake, that’s basically equivalent to Dodgers slugger Manny Machado’s batting profile for the year. He has a .306 average (12th-best in MLB), .382 on-base percentage (15th) and .921 OPS (14th).
So who’s to applaud for the early-game success? Center fielder A.J. Pollock, who has mostly hit fourth in the order this year, is slashing .383/.456/.617 in the first. He, along with other top-of-the-order bats Jon Jay, Paul Goldschmidt, Eduardo Escobar and Peralta are hitting .298 or above to open games in 2018.
Jay, a midseason trade acquisition, is the main culprit for the run production with 26 first-inning runs scored. The lead-off man is batting .368 in the opening frame with a .444 on-base percentage.
Pollock and Goldschmidt each have 14 first-inning RBI, but Pollock reached that number despite missing games from May 14 to July 2 due to a thumb injury. Peralta is close behind with 13 RBI.
Twice this season, the D-backs have sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning. They did so on Thursday night and before that, on Aug. 3, sent 11 to bat against the San Francisco Giants. In the 21st year as a franchise, Arizona has sent 11 or more players to the plate just nine times. The team set a record of 14 last year against the Padres.
After the first inning, the top of the Diamondbacks’ order provides another kick by scoring 0.57 runs in each of the third and fourth frames. Arizona bats .245 in the third and .260 in the fourth.
Reality for Arizona’s offense sets in late in games. As a team, it bats no better than .232 from the fifth to the ninth inning, though in nine games this season, the D-backs have hit .274 in extra innings.
From the fifth frame on, the D-backs produce runs per inning at a rate no better than 17th-best MLB wide.
Here’s where Arizona isn’t so hot at the plate: it scores the fewest runs per inning in the fifth frame (0.39 runs, fourth-worst in MLB), sixth (0.37, fourth-worst) and ninth (0.25, fifth-worst). The D-backs bat less than .210 in each of those innings.