The success of the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks has been highly publicized, and deservedly so.
Arizona is currently 45-38 and only two and a half games out of first place in the National League West. It may only be halfway through the year, yet the D-backs are exceeding everyone’s expectations and having a great season.
On their own, the 2011 D-backs are special because Arizona sports fans are enjoying the wins while forgetting about the disappointments that were the Suns and Cardinals.
However, if the 2011 season is compared to the 2010 season, it begins to look even more special.
Just one year ago the D-backs were 32-49 and over 15 games back in the division.
At the 2010 All-Star break the offense was lead by Rusty Ryan’s .282 average, Mark Reynolds’ 20 home runs and Chris Young’s 61 RBI.
In 2011, Justin Upton is hitting .304, Young has 15 home runs and Upton and Stephen Drew each have 43 RBI.
While the team lead for home runs and RBI may have been higher last year, it is often said that good things happen when teams put the ball in play.
Last season, Arizona had struck out an astonishing 817 times at the break while they have only been strikeout victims 628 times this season.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the 2010 and the 2011 Diamondbacks is the pitching staff, most notably the bullpen.
The 2010 bullpen ERA was 5.74, while the it sits at 4.02 so far this season.
Chad Qualls led the team in saves at the All-Star break with 12 last year, J.J. Putz already has 21, in 2011.
Aaron Heilman’s 3.83 ERA was the best in the pen, while Sam Demel (1.72), Joe Paterson (3.06), Putz (3.12) and David Hernandez (3.65) have all performed better.
As a staff, the team’s ERA has dropped from 5.27 to 4.04.
It may only be halfway through the long baseball season and it is certainly too early to proclaim the D-backs the division champions or the best story in baseball.
However, if the strikeouts and team ERA remain low, the D-backs will be playing meaningful baseball in August and September.