And things were going so well. After a sweep at the hands of the Pirates, the D-backs stand with an 8-10 record a little over a tenth into the season, more or less on the 70-something pace for wins that we might have expected coming into this season. If there’s any consolation, the pitching has been not just better than expected, but fairly good; the team ranks 19th in ERA (3.98), but 13th in Fielding-Independent Pitching (3.72).
It’s just not the staff we anticipated. As noted on Thursday, what should have been a fly ball leaning staff is a very ground ball leaning staff (the team is still 4th in GB%, at 49.8%). Even with Rubby De La Rosa and Archie Bradley issuing more than their fair share of free passes, the staff ranks 9th with a 2.71 BB/9. It’s not all good news — the team home run rate is lower than we’d expect, even with the high ground ball percentage (9th, 0.77 HR/9). And the strike out rate is extremely low — a 6.24 K/9 that ranks second-lowest in baseball.
Right now, this is a pitching staff built like a ground ball version of Josh Collmenter — not a whole lot of walks, but not a whole lot of whiffs. Batters haven’t been swinging and missing much, a 8.3% whiff rate 6th-lowest in baseball. More of the batters are making contact, but hitting the ball on the ground.
D-backs hitters, meanwhile, have been hitting the ball hard. Our little baseball community is still only starting to work through the new batted ball velocity data that MLBAM is sharing every day. But thanks to Baseball Savant, we can start to present them. Please note that batted ball velocity data is still missing for some games.
|Name||# of batted balls over 100 mph||# of batted balls over 105||% of tracked balls hit over 100 mph||wRC+|
Let’s do a top 5 leaderboard this season, shall we? Why not. Again, this didn’t catch everything; the Mark Trumbo home run in San Francisco is missing, as are two of Goldy’s five bombs.
|#1||Mark Trumbo||4/21/15||117.0||Line drive single to CF|
|#2||David Peralta||4/7/15||115.0||Line drive home run to right center|
|#3||Mark Trumbo||4/10/15||114.0||Ground ball single to third base, advanced to second on throwing error|
|#4||A.J. Pollock||4/21/15||111.0||Ground ball single to CF|
|#5||Mark Trumbo||4/13/15||110.0||Ground ball single to LF|
- Just when we were at our most concerned about the sustainability of keeping Yasmany Tomas on the major league roster in a reserve role, the worst possible thing happened, either in this universe or in any possible universe: Jake Lamb was sidelined by a stress reaction in his foot, and is unlikely to play for a few weeks. The guy was raking, regardless of whether he was playing enough. Maybe the D-backs find a new cobbler or cleat-mongerer? But the silver lining is that it’s not (yet?) a stress fracture that could cost Lamb as much as Trumbo’s cost him last year. As Zach Buchanan wrote, Lamb’s absence means more playing time for Tomas. I wonder if he’ll be playing more, like in a David Peralta type situation, or starting most days; if the former, then this is still not a great long-term idea.
- As Nick Piecoro wrote on Friday, Tomas has been swinging frequently. He doesn’t seem to be hitting the ball all that hard; in addition to one ball Tomas hit over 100 mph (103 mph, reached on error), Tomas has a 98 mph single, a 78 mph single, and has hit into outs at 88 mph, 84 mph, and 53 mph. In my very less than expert opinion, he’s not setting himself up to hit the ball all that hard.
- One of the coolest things in this last 5-game week was Rubby De La Rosa’s turn; if he can have that kind of success even just occasionally, he will help to prop up this staff as a legitimate #3 type. As Nick Piecoro wrote yesterday, RDLR’s change seemed to make all the difference. Who knew that with so many fastballs in the mix, the key might be a pitch other than the fastball?
- Touki Toussaint was interviewed by Kiley McDaniel on the Fangraphs podcast last week; check it out. Great stuff about how he picked up his changeup, the interplay between velocity and command, throwing his excellent curve at the age of 15, what he’s working on now, and tons more.
- The D-backs have done a (surprisingly?) good job of limiting mistakes, according to a Mistake Index developed by Scott Lindholm at Beyond the Box Score. Just another example about how our perception can be misleading — especially when it comes to unusual events.
- Shifts are up even more across the sport. According to The Fielding Bible’s John Dewan, the D-backs were (as of early last week) on a pace to nearly double their number of shifts from last season. Not bad — and yet the D-backs still lag far behind many other teams. Digging in a bit more, this looks like the D-backs have really only been shifting one or two hitters per game.
- In an excellent piece, Jim McLennan broke down the D-backs offense last Thursday — check it out. Sure, we’re in small sample land. But the work of pinch hitters is encouraging not just because it matters, but because it confirms something we suspect about this team: they may not have a ton of top talent, but the fringes of the 25-man can beat the fringes of other team’s roster any day of the week. With pinch hitters, we see a bit more not just that there’s depth on this squad, but that much of it happens to be complementary. David Peralta for the win!
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