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Offense, newcomers key to D-backs through 50 games

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Luke Weaver watches a delivery to a Pittsburgh Pirates batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

At 25-25, this Arizona Diamondbacks season so far feels about right. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA preseason projections had the D-backs finishing at 81-81 on the season, perfectly average and perfectly on pace to expectations.

It’s still early in the season, but nevertheless we’ve learned some things about this D-backs team. Here are the two biggest takeaways from the first third-or-so of the season.

The Goldschmidt trade may not be as bad as it seemed

The Paul Goldschmidt trade was a deafening blow to the franchise and its fans, stinging bad when the team received what felt like not nearly enough back for “America’s First Basemen” and the franchise’s most beloved player in years, and stinging worse when he hit three home runs in the second game of the season against the Brewers.

While catcher Carson Kelly, starting pitcher Luke Weaver, infielder prospect Andy Young and a draft pick didn’t fit the top prospects or blue chip player the D-backs fans were looking for in return for Goldschmidt, the trade package wasn’t nearly as bad as some expected.

Goldschmidt has tailed off in St. Louis since that hot start. He’s slashing .253/.349/.780 with a 112 OPS+ on the season. The Cardinals, like the D-backs, are hanging around the .500 mark, and Goldschmidt hasn’t been the guy to help push them over the edge.

It’s probably fair to say that the players Arizona received in the trade have had a bigger impact, despite the records being practically identical. Weaver has a 3.14 ERA, 3.06 FIP — an impressive feat considering FIPs usually run much higher than ERAs as the scale for a good FIP is large — and has an ERA+ of 140. He, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray have given the Diamondbacks three quality starters in the rotation.

Kelly and Young have both struggled. Kelly is hitting only .247/.330/.823 with a 113 OPS+ and ranks 49th out of 79th in Baseball Prospectus’s framing runs, a defensive catching statistic, while Young is also hitting poorly in Double-A.

Still, Weaver’s fantastic season makes him the potential and unexpected gem of what was an underwhelming package.

The Diamondbacks are showing classic traits of an average offense

For the most part, the pitching has been there for the Diamondbacks. The starters are ninth in total WAR in the majors, per Fangraphs, while the bullpen falls behind but not to a drastic, disastrous degree at 20th.

The offense has been holding the Diamondbacks back, and especially so lately. Over the past 28 days, the offense as a whole has slashed .228/.303/.409 and mustered a total of seven runs in the last four games.

This is a stark transformation from earlier in the season, when the Diamondbacks offense had Christian Walker turning into a power hitter and David Peralta putting up his typical production. A seven game stretch saw the Diamondbacks score five or more runs in five games, re-kindling an offense that was ignited during the Boston and first San Diego series at the start of April.

Because of the hot start, this Diamondbacks team, which was never supposed to be producing what it was, is now in a massive cooldown stage, which has led to a rough stretch. That is a perfect representation of average.

The numbers back that up well. The Diamondbacks are 12th in runs scored, 12th in batting average and 12th in home runs hit. They rank 15th in team offensive WAR and wRC+.

None of those statistics are bad in any sense. But they aren’t special, and they aren’t helping the Diamondbacks in any way.

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