D-backs’ walks turnaround contributing to offensive improvement
May 7, 2023, 10:00 PM | Updated: 10:50 pm
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The Arizona Diamondbacks walked 11 times in Sunday’s 9-8 loss vs. the Washington Nationals, and four such runners came around to score.
Reaching base on balls gave the D-backs chances to add to their run total, specifically in the seventh inning when four batters walked but only one scored.
Arizona started the year with the lowest walk rate in baseball at 4.9% through 16 games, which contributed to MLB’s 26th-ranked offense via the metric weighted runs created plus (wRC+) at 87 (100 league average).
In the D-backs’ last 17 games entering Sunday, they had a 8.8% walk rate (No. 11), and the offensive production improvements have been noticeable.
Arizona entered Sunday with the fourth-best wRC+ at 120 since April 17, a stretch in which it scored at least five runs in 11 of 17 games.
Only the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox outscored the D-backs in that span.
Hitting coach Joe Mather said the adjustment was natural based on what pitchers were giving his batters.
“With some new bats in the lineup, new players to the team, I think that newness can cause guys to swing just settling in,” Mather told reporters on Saturday. “I think as pitching staffs looked at swing percentages, they saw we swing a lot.
“And when they left the zone, we stopped swinging because I think it was pretty one-to-one ratio as far as us recognizing that they’re not throwing as many pitches in the zone and starting to take them.”
The D-backs even won a ballgame on Saturday with a walk-off walk by Pavin Smith.
A WALK-OFF WALK FOR THE SNAKES! pic.twitter.com/cuOpkYh5kp
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 7, 2023
Manager Torey Lovullo said earlier this season that the lack of walks was a concern and something the team was aware of. He stated the D-backs needed to create more scoring chances and did not see the most mature at-bats out of the gate.
“You can build innings by being patient and drawing a base on balls and just hand it off to the next guy,” Lovullo said earlier this year. “I think good hitters walk. I don’t think a good hitter goes up there and goes to try and walk. I think they just know what they’re looking for. And they’ll check off pitches early if it’s not the one they want, which results in deeper counts.”
Getting more runners aboard for the D-backs specifically has added to a dangerous weapon in their baserunning. While Arizona’s steals are down from the first three weeks of the season, its ability to take the extra base is not.
The D-backs lead the league in extra bases taken percentage at 57%, showing that their “create chaos” mantra works in several ways.
A member of the D-backs lineup who has boosted his impact with patient hitting has been shortstop Geraldo Perdomo.
The 23-year-old’s hard hit or barrel rates don’t jump off the page, but his ability to lay off balls and put strikes in plays has propelled him to the top of the league in several offensive categories.
For batters with at least 80 plate appearances, he entered Sunday second in MLB with a .397 batting average only behind Marlins INF Luis Arraez (.430), second in on-base percentage at .474 and No. 16 in fWAR at 1.5.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Mather said. “He sees a pitch right out of hand, whether it’s pitch type or location of it. Some of the stuff that he’ll come back and say that he saw, I’ve never heard or I’ve heard very few guys talk about stuff that he talks about. Just as far as feeling it and seeing it and knowing if it’s gonna be a pitch he wants to hit. It’s pretty incredible.”
He, like many other in the lineup, have done well at not chasing pitches.
The D-backs as a team have not swung through many pitches compared to other clubs, ranking second with a 22.5% whiff rate, according to Statcast.
A factor is their 26.9% team chase rate (No. 11).
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Ketel Marte, Josh Rojas and Corbin Carroll are among the league’s top 75 hitters in lowest rates of swings and misses.
Playoff teams have found ways to get on base, even without elite power of the past two seasons.
Last year, 10 of the top 12 teams in OBP made the postseason. In 2021, seven of the top 11 teams in getting on base made the playoffs.
The D-backs entered Sunday at No. 12.