The month of May has been the toughest stretch for the Diamondbacks the past two seasons. After starting the season 20-8, the D-Backs have struggled mightily with a 7-18 record in May. The snakes are only 1.5 games behind the Rockies who are at the top of division compared to one game behind the Dodgers last season on May 29th. Starting on June 11th, the Dodgers went 43-7 to storm past all NL West opponents for the rest of the season.
The difference this year is that no NL West team has recently shown the ability to dominate like the Dodgers did last year. The D-Backs had a great first month of play, but the sample size wasn’t long enough as the team has shown in May.
Let’s take a look at the difference between this year and last year’s team to find out how to make a similar run we made in March and April.
31-22 after May 29th, 2017
April 2017 – 5.2 runs a game, 3.81 ERA
|HR: 31||RBI: 133||BB: 84||SO: 242||SB: 32||CS: 8||BA: .269||OBP: .332||SLG: .438||OBP .770|
|IP: 241||H: 223||R: 112||ER: 102||HR: 28||BB: 85||SO: 252||BAA: .242||WHIP: 1.28|
May 2017 – 4.6 runs a game, 3.38 ERA
|HR: 43||RBI: 122||BB: 91||SO: 244||SB: 16||CS: 4||BA: .256||OBP: .324||SLG: .458||OBP: .782|
|IP: 253||H: 210||R: 104||ER: 95||HR: 30||BB: 88||SO: 254||BAA: .225||WHIP: 1.18|
27-26 before May 29th
April 2018 – 4.56 runs a game, 2.88 ERA
|HR: 33||RBI: 110||BB: 94||SO: 235||SB: 12||CS: 7||BA: .232||OBP: .310||SLG: .428||OPS: .738|
|IP: 228.1||H: 178||R: 78||ER: 73||HR: 19||BB: 72||SO: 246||BAA: .215||WHIP: 1.09|
May 2018 – 2.72 runs a game, 3.82 ERA
|HR: 19||RBI: 66||BB: 75||SO: 243||SB: 18||CS: 6||BA: .188||OBP: .260||SLG: .307||OPS: .568|
|IP: 221.1||H: 196||R: 99||ER: 94||HR: 33||BB: 84||SO: 181||BAA: .236||WHIP: 1.27|
The offense has gotten the brute of the attention, but we will first discuss the pitching. April was a great month for the Diamondbacks pitching staff as they led in many of the categories above in the National League. They also saved ten out of ten save opportunities with new closer Brad Boxberger.
In May, the pitching staff has been average in the National League just like in April of 2017. The number that stands out to me in the though is the strikeouts at just 181. The injuries to Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker clearly hurt as the replacements are struggling to replacement their firepower. Matt Koch has had good outings, but two bad starts have skewed his stats a bit. His strikeout numbers are atrocious too with 25 K’s in 48 innings. Clay Buchholz has had two good starts, but it will be hard for him to keep it up considering his age and inconsistencies of the past few years.
The good news is that Robbie Ray threw a bullpen today, and Shelby Miller is making his return tonight in High A to start his rehab assignment. Plus, the bullpen has been fantastic for the most part as new additions Yoshi Hirano and Brad Boxberger have been great. The bullpen has blown five out of eight save opportunities in May though which is a bit concerning. Archie Bradley was responsible for two, Boxberger for one, and Hirano and Jorge De La Rosa for one apiece.
Injuries have hurt the rotation, but the lineup clearly isn’t producing with the missed time from AJ Pollock and Steven Souza. While this might seem like the biggest issue, the healthy everyday players have really been struggling.
Goldschmidt is batting .208 with 70 strikeouts which is second most in the league. Ketel Marte is batting .220 and is putting the pull on the ground nearly 60% of the time. Chris Owings (.183) and Nick Ahmed (.211) have had their struggles, but newly acquired Alex Avila has been one of the worse hitters in the league at .123 with 43 K’s in 81 AB’s.
AVG and OBP are 50 points lower from April to May, but they are nearly 70 points lower than the averages from last year. Last year, we felt the need the to trade for JD Martinez at the trade deadline, so this year should be no different except two new bats may be needed.
How to flip the switch?
The Diamondbacks need to stay patient with the offense especially with Goldschmidt and Souza Jr once he gets back, but the time might be now for the catcher position to get changed. The Diamondbacks need to consider playing Murphy the majority of the time with spot starts for Mathis, but a trade shouldn’t be out of the question.
John Ryan Murphy has hit for power and his catch framing metrics are above average at 1.2 RAA. Murphy needs to start, and they must search for an offensive weapon on the trade market behind the plate.
JT Realmuto has two more years after this season, and he is hitting .323 right now in 130 AB’s. As one of the top offensive catchers of the past two years, the asking price will be high, but one the front office should consider because he would provide the pop that the front office was expecting with Avila.
As for other trade targets, Manny Machado might be a little pricier than Martinez last year because of his premium position, but he might be the answer up the middle with Ahmed and Marte struggling. Sunrise Sports has previously discussed the possibility of trading for Machado, and it could be a difference maker just like JD last year.
The bottom line is that Ahmed, Owings, Marte, Dyson, and Descalso won’t produce enough to pick up the slack from injuries and the slump of Goldschmidt, so maybe it is the time to look for help outside of the organization.
The NL West is wide open and will be a dogfight this summer. So by end of the trade deadline, I would fully expect the front office to make a major move to try to take control of a struggling division.
If we were willing to trade for a somewhat pricey rental last season to win a Wild Card spot, then Mike Hazen should pounce on the right deal to fight for the division title.