Ain’t No Fang podcast: Diamondbacks’ midseason standouts

Jun 29, 2024, 8:06 AM

PHOENIX — Hard to believe, but the Arizona Diamondbacks’ season is halfway over.

At 39-42, the D-backs entered the second half behind preseason expectations following a World Series run but firmly in the mix for a wild card spot. Numerous injuries and underperformance from several key pieces have impacted the team’s record.

The phrase “staying afloat” and many of similar sentiment have been kicked around, with manager Torey Lovullo explaining he has higher hopes than teetering around .500.

“We’re still finding out about ourselves and we’re learning about ourselves, but it’s time to go out and start to execute the way we can,” Lovullo said Friday.

“We have spurts of it, but we got to be consistent. There’s no reason why we can’t go out and win eight out of 10 games. We’re good enough to do that. We got to put it together and believe that it’s going to happen.”

Lovullo also said there have been many moments to be proud of, and these players have kept the D-backs above water over the first half:

Diamondbacks 1st half standouts (stats after Game 81)

Best player: Ketel Marte

Marte has done it all for the D-backs over the first half of the season from power at the plate to stellar defense.

The 30-year-old leads the club in total bases (158), slugging (.518), hits (86), doubles (17), home runs (17, tied with Christian Walker) and is far and away the leader in bWAR at 4.1. Walker is next with 1.9.

On defense, Marte has put together a Gold Glove-caliber campaign with eight outs above average and 10 defensive runs saved.

Marte is a finalist to start the All-Star Game at second base, and his success on offense and defense places him in the NL MVP conversation. Shohei Ohtani is the only NL player with more WAR (4.7).

Top pitcher: Ryan Thompson

This was the hardest to decipher, and it comes down to whether a reliever can be the team Cy Young. Thompson should get All-Star Game consideration for his season. His 1.13 ERA is the lowest by any D-backs reliever through their first 30 games in a season in team history.

Thompson also leads all D-backs pitchers with 1.5 bWAR and is second to Paul Sewald in WPA (win probability added). Eighteen of his last 20 appearances have been scoreless.

Zac Gallen has made 11 starts with a strong 3.12 ERA. He has spent a month on the injured list (hamstring) but is still fourth on the team in innings with 57.2 and has been clearly the most effective starter when available.

Update: On the show I went with Gallen, but upon further consideration, Thompson would be my pick.

Best defender: Ketel Marte

The D-backs have two clear Gold Glove frontrunners with Walker and Marte, a duo that locks down the right side of the infield. They are the only pair of teammates in MLB with eight OAA each. They have five errors in 1,265.1 combined innings.

With Walker having won two Gold Gloves and Marte hitting another level as a defender, the nod goes to the latter. Marte has been smooth at second base, extending his range to the right and seamlessly turning double plays working with several shortstops (Geraldo Perdomo, Kevin Newman, Blaze Alexander and Jace Peterson).

Most impactful rookie: Justin Martinez

Alexander sprinted out of the gate for this award with a huge first week in the big leagues (5-for-14 with a homer) and great offensive production throughout April (.941 OPS). His playing time took a dip after he made a series of errors early, and the bat has cooled off.

Martinez, meanwhile, put together a 15-game scoreless streak out of the bullpen. The 22-year-old has significantly improved his control, giving him the ability to balance his 100 mph sinker, wicked splitter and slider to strikeout 25% of batters.

His ERA sits at 1.24 at the halfway point.

Leading newcomer: Joc Pederson

The D-backs sought a thumper who could punish right-handers from the DH spot, and Pederson has fit the bill precisely. His .876 OPS leads the team, and he has 10 home runs despite only starting against righties.

He has his quirks, including using anone’s bat but his own, but he quickly ingratiated himself in the clubhouse with card games, ordering a food truck at spring training and hosting team get togethers.

Arizona inked Pederson to a one-year deal with a mutual option.

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