There are some bad teams that aren't very good. The Pirates aren't very good. The Athletics aren't very good. The Royals and the Padres aren't very good. But there are some bad teams that are pretty good. The Nationals will end up with the worst record in the majors. But they have a pretty good offense. The Blue Jays do a lot of things well. The Orioles have a dynamic line up. The Indians just need a few dozen pitchers. Another of those bad teams that are pretty darn good are the Diamondbacks.
For some reason, the Diamondbacks don't get out of bed very well. Some people are like that. The Fan's son used to be impossible to get out of bed. His dad one time resorted to pouring water over his head to get him up for school. He used to use his stereo as an alarm clock. The trouble was that it would blare and disturb the whole four generations of the house, but he never woke up. The Diamondbacks are like that.
Well, that has to be qualified a bit. Last year, the Diamondbacks got out of bed really well. They started 19-8 in April. But May and June were pitiful and they ended up a game under .500 at the halfway mark. They played .522 baseball the rest of the way out. This year, they really started poorly. After the first three months of the 2009 season, the D-backs were 31-46. But in July, the were 14-12 and were no pushovers. A part of the reason is batting. Their month by month OPS goes like this, starting in April: .703, .732, .738 and .776 (July).
The pitching follows a similar pattern. The OPS against the pitching staff for each month, starting in April: .745, .777, .720, .709. As is pretty logical, if the pitching OPS against is higher than the batting OPS, it pretty much ends up in more losses than wins. The starters have been fairly consistent, but the relief staff started out horribly and by July have improved to an OPS against of only .673. That's a marked improvement.
When you look at the team as a whole, it just doesn't feel like they should have this bad a record. Five of their starters have an OPS+ over 100. Mark Reynolds, strikeouts notwithstanding, has become a stud. He hit two more homers Monday night and now has 32. His OPS is around .950, which is outstanding. Stephen Drew hasn't quite blossomed yet as expected, but his batting is above league average. Second baseman, Felipe Lopez is batting over .300 with a .369 OBP. Justin Upton is becoming a star and his .922 OPS is just the beginning of what he is going to be able to do. And finally, Miguel Montero has become an excellent offensive catcher.
They have three real problems: Center, Left and First Base. Center field has been a bit of a disaster. Chris Young is sitting at a 67 OPS+. Equally disastrous has been first base. Chad Tracy flopped as did Tony Clark, who was eventually released. Josh Whitesell might be the answer. He hasn't started to hit much yet, but his OBP of .359 holds promise and is far above Tracy and Clark. Left field started with Eric Byrnes. A likeable player who was a star of the highlight shows in the past has a 58 OPS+ and just couldn't get untracked. Gerardo Parra has been out there lately and his average isn't bad at .274, but he's only walked 15 times in 292 plate appearances.
The starting rotation has four out of the five spots doing fairly well. All four are above league average in ERA+ and they are led by Danny Haren who is a serious Cy Young contender. The fifth spot has been awful. They've tried Petit (6.75 ERA), Buckner (8.63 ERA) and Brian Augentein (7.94 ERA). Between the three of those guys, they have thrown 100 innings and have given up 23 homers.
As mentioned earlier, the relief corp has really jelled. The team now has seven relievers with an ERA+ over 100. Only Scott Schoeneweis has been off his career average and it seems understandable considering the personal issues he has dealt with this year. Chad Qualls, meanwhile, has become an effective closer and has only walked a Rivera-like five batters in 49 innings of work.
There are a lot of good parts to this Arizona team and they will not be easy to face down the stretch. If Whitesell can hit a little to go along with his patience and the D-backs perhaps move up some talent to try in left and center and this is a pretty talented team. At least a lot better than their current record seems to indicate.