Sunday, May 29, 2011

Are the Diamondbacks a Legitimate Contender?

The Diamondbacks beat the lowly Astros this afternoon and with the Giants' loss they moved into first place in the NL West.  Many people expected Arizona to lose 90-100 games in 2011, but they have quietly won nine of their last 10 games to move their record to 29-24.  If you asked many people outside the state of Arizona, they probably would assume that the Diamondbacks were still cellar dwellers.  However, manager Kirk Gibson has done a spectacular job early on this season.

Of course, many people will assume that this is a fluke, and it probably is one.  The Diamondbacks only rank in the middle of the pack in the bigs in terms of batting average and on-base percentage.  They are third in big leagues in home runs (57), which means that they rely (probably too much) on the long ball for runs.  Outfielders Chris Young and Justin Upton lead the team with nine homers apiece, but they are only batting .234 and .241, respectively.  The player with the best average on the team, Ryan Roberts, is only hitting .279.  Sure, the Diamondbacks have some power, but they don't get on base enough to contend deep into the season.

Arizona's pitching staff has a decent team ERA of 3.94, but that ranks in the lower half of all pitching staffs in the majors.  Besides starter Ian Kennedy, the rest of the rotation has been average to poor.  Daniel Hudson has an ERA of 4.13, Joe Saunders has one of 4.65, and the other two starters with at least six starts apiece this season, Armando Galarrago and Barry Enright, were so bad that they aren't even on the roster anymore.  The Diamondbacks just don't have a solid enough rotation to compete for a division title and while they have been able to compete for now, I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up in fourth place by the end of the season (yeah, the Dodgers are six games under .500 and struggling, but I still like them better than the D-backs).

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