This winter, we evaluated the Diamondbacks and thought it would be a tough season. More specifically, we concluded that the team could be competitive but that they needed pretty much everything to break right for them in order to be a playoff contender. Then came some trades that were perhaps underwhelming from a value standpoint, if not from a production standpoint. Add the Patrick Corbin news, some unforeseen drops in performance over the first month and, well, here we are, one month into the season and firmly in the cellar.
But should you give up hope on this squad? While I’d technically say no, whatever glimmers of hope remain are slipping away pretty quickly. The odds of this team reaching the playoffs aren’t completely gone, but they’ve diminished by a magnitude that can make one want to throw in the towel before May.
One month into the season, the team has played 30 games and has an 8-22 record to show for it (through Tuesday). That’s a winning percentage of .267. Note the fact that since 2004, only 13 teams have gotten off to a winning percentage of .300 or worse over their first 30 games. None of them have made the playoffs. In that same time, only 8 of those teams have gotten off to a sub-.300 winning percentage (like Arizona is sporting right now) so the Diamondbacks are in some pretty unique company, albeit in the worst way imaginable. The level of ineptitude here is staggering when given the last ten years of baseball for context. It’s not news that anyone wants to hear, but it’s the news we’re left with.
Over at Beyond the Box Score on Monday, my colleague Scott Lindholm broke down a similar trend, showing how early season win totals affect playoff odds. It’s a terrific read that I’d strongly recommend and applies to teams across baseball. Scott was kind enough to lend us his data so we could apply it to the Diamondbacks. Be warned: the results aren’t pretty. Of teams with a sub-.400 winning percentage over their first 30 games, only 4.3% of them have gone on to make a playoff appearance since 1995. The D’backs clearly fall into this category. Yes, it’s only 30 games and no this doesn’t mean that there is zero chance of a playoff run, but the picture looks bleaker every day.
What if we expand the scope and look 40 games out? What about 60? What happens to the playoff odds if we stick with this squad at their current performance level? Take a look and see:
At 40 games with a sub-.400 winning percentage, the odds are almost non-existent and after 60 games, they’re gone entirely. This tells us that a turnaround has to happen in the next month or else we can officially resign the season, that is unless the team is about to re-write history. Baseball is weird and strange things happen, but over the last 18 MLB seasons, there’s no precedent for a team making the playoffs after having a sub-.400 winning percentage 60 games into the season.
How big of a turnaround would we need to see? The team would need to win at least 16 of it’s next 30 games just to reach .400. That’s not a crazy streak by any means, but that’s just to enter into the “so you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance” realm. A month of .533 ball would sure feel good right about now and it is feasible. Anything less and we can historically rule out a playoff run. Maybe optimizing the team’s lineup can help get them to .400, but even if they do, they’ve still got an incredibly long ways to go. As the old adage goes, you can’t win a pennant in April, but you sure as hell can lose one.
What happens if they don’t get to .400 after 60 games? I’d say kick off the fire sale with leadership changes, but who knows? Guys like Aaron Hill, Mark Trumbo, Cody Ross, Martin Prado, Gerardo Parra, Eric Chavez, JJ Putz, Addison Reed and others might all become shoppable assets. It’s perhaps best to re-assess after the next 30 games, but moves in some capacity appear inevitable, even if the team has already exchanged valuable assets to acquire several of the players above. Pride can be a tough pill to swallow and the D’backs will have to do a lot of that if they want to move forward.
This season has gone anything but to plan, but here we are, praying for a winning month of baseball. If it doesn’t come, expect the inevitable and start planning for 2015.
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