After some investigation, I believe the D-backs are now the first team to have been in sole possession of worst record in the majors for a season’s first ten games. It’s not altogether unusual for a team to be in sole possession of worst after one game — frequently, one game is played on Sunday before other teams play on Monday — but it appears to be unprecedented that any such team has stayed in sole possession of worst record for this long. This is a surprising distinction for a club that managed to be exactly average for two seasons in a row.
Now 4 and 11, the D-backs sport a .267 winning percentage, a stretch below the next-worst teams, the Reds and the Cubs. Like those other teams, the D-backs are only 6 games back in their division. Unlike those teams, it would take a 7-game winning streak (instead of just 4) to get up to .500. The team also has a -32 differential, easily the worst in the majors (Astros are next-worst, with -21), although that’s easier to do when you’ve played more games.
At 4.13 runs scored per game, the D-backs are doing just fine on offense (8th in the NL). It’s pitching that’s the problem. 6.27 runs allowed per game is easily the worst in the majors (behind the White Sox, at 5.85), and almost a full run worse than the next-worst team in the NL (Rockies, 5.31 runs allowed per game). As I’ve said before, an outlier number this extreme is nearly always a combination of talent and luck. Even if the D-backs made no changes, it can’t possibly stay this bad.
With the current staff, FanGraphs projects 4.29 runs allowed per game for the rest of the season, almost two full runs better than the current 6.27 RA/G. So, yeah, bad luck. But there are some changes in the offing, as well.
One is a return to the rotation for Josh Collmenter. I’ve already made my feelings on that pretty clear, before the change was official, but suffice it to say: this is a fine move, so long as Collmenter gets a quick hook, because of his apparently significant Times Through the Order Penalty. But as a deception guy — I wonder if the advantage enjoyed by Collmenter isn’t just about the contrast between his delivery and what’s normal, or his delivery and the guy that comes next. It might also be, partly, about the contrast from the guy just before him. And now that he’s starting, there’s no one before him.
The Collmenter move will end up being a good one if he gets a quick hook (and, probably, a caddy to handle innings 5-7 or 6-8), and if Randall Delgado becomes an asset in the bullpen, instead of just a mop up guy. And in just one appearances, the results were good. His average fourseam fastball was 94.91 mph, up from 92.89 and 93.77 in his first two starts. The sinker took a huge jump, from 90.95 and 90.75 to a whopping 93.29 mph. We’ll have to see what kind of success Delgado has in this role, but the early returns are good, and it looks like Delgado’s sinker kept its vertical movement despite the velocity jump.
Josh Collmenter is a lot of things, but under no circumstances can he be an upgrade to all five spots in the rotation. That’s why I really like the recent signing of Randy Wolf as rotation depth for just $1 million in base salary, despite an obvious opening in the rotation. What would happen right now if another starter got hurt? That’s what I think Wolf is around for, especially if it does indeed take 2-3 more months before Archie Bradley is called up (by the way, I’m starting to think an earlier call-up is more likely). Wolf was reportedly looking really good in spring training with the Mariners, but cut ties with them because he was asked to sign a contract that included a probationary period, which Wolf thought went against the agreement he’d made with the Seattle front office. He’s just six months or so older than Bronson Arroyo, and before going down with the injury that brought on Tommy John surgery, Wolf had put up 210+ inning seasons for three years in a row.
Barring injury, I don’t see how Wolf would pitch in the majors, though. Delgado’s slot was an obvious place to upgrade, but while Wade Miley and Bronson Arroyo aren’t going anywhere, is the team really willing to move Brandon McCarthy or Trevor Cahill out of the rotation? I doubt that. It seems to me that McCarthy has faced more than his share of bad luck, both with BABIP and with some critical ball-strike calls that did not go in his favor. As for Cahill… if “feel” is the missing link for him, and if it abandons him easily, how in the world would you ever trust him as a reliever? At least as a starter, you tend to get some good innings out of him, with the bad. Still, after saying it on Twitter I’ll say it again: I think Cahill could be moved without eating money or selling a prospect. He’s got talent, and while he may be broken, the D-backs have proven recently that one of their pitchers being broken doesn’t mean he can’t be fixed by another team. Oddly enough, that recent track record may help them get close to market value for their struggling pitchers down the road.
Three games with the Mets, Mon-Weds, before another series with the Dodgers, this time in Los Angeles. Despite the team’s current record, it’s still early in the season, and the D-backs still have more than 90% of the season left to play.
On to the links:
- Enormous drop by the D-backs in ESPN’s latest Power Rankings. As in, dead last.
- At Grantland, Jonah Keri published an outstanding article about the D-backs and the front office, analyzing recent efforts to improve the team and the direction it’s heading in. I think we’ll end up reacting to this in more depth once we see whether the amazing starts to the season by Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton have legs. From the piece:
Many would argue that baseball requires more patience than Towers has shown, and that in trading away young players like Upton, Bauer, Skaggs, and Eaton in particular, the GM’s impulsiveness has been to the team’s detriment. Towers found some success in San Diego while employing this gunslinger mentality, however, and the Diamondbacks knew that’s what they were getting when they hired him. Plus, while it’s easy to question Towers’s moves, it’s not easy to say they were all poor. While the Diamondbacks are in a bad spot at the moment, the early returns on several of those deals show that Towers might’ve been right, and that smart alecks like me might’ve been wrong.
- Jeff Sullivan has all the details on Paul Goldschmidt‘s ownership of Tim Lincecum. Just wow.
- Enjoyed this piece by Nick Piecoro on Allen Campbell, who’s been with the D-backs since the very beginning, and who is now handling replay responsibilities for the team. Intense. And is it just me, or does he look a little like Brad Ziegler?
- Trevor Cahill got the Kevin Towers vote of confidence.
- Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Archie Bradley was dominant in his second turn in the rotation for Reno, as Venom Strikes’ Thomas Lynch writes.
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FanGraphs Stats Glossary
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Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).