Arizona Diamondbacks Hitting and Pitching Woes
When the Arizona Diamondbacks started the season with 17 wins and 13 losses, it was considered a good start for them. They got both timely hitting and pitching. This was a surprise because with the difficult schedule they had in April—both teams from last year’s World Series, add in the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Atlanta Braves — all who earned playoff spots last year — it was said that it was going to be a difficult for them to play even .500 ball, and they’d be in fourth or fifth place. However, that start had people talking and believing this team could be competitive for the rest of the season.
May Rolled in with Three Wins, but…
Then May hit! For the second season in a row, May was unkind to the Diamondbacks. They started off the month of May with three wins in a row but a lack of situational hitting, a starting staff that struggled, and a bullpen that was overused led them to an 11-17 win-loss record for the month. That included two five-game losing streaks. The starters struggled with pitch counts and were not able to get past even five innings on most occasions. Then when the team had a lead, the bullpen faltered and gave it up leading to losses.
The Bullpen Shows Fatigue
With the starters struggling, manager Torey Lovullo was forced to go to his bullpen early in games, and the fatigue of being stretched thin showed on the guys. It’s hard to win consistently when you’re giving away nearly half of your close leads. Teams need guys in the bullpen who can come in to pitch in a close game. They need to be able to stare down the opponents’ batting order and get the job done. This bullpen has done it before. It’s not anything new to them.
Just Some of the Difficulties Being Faced
- Zack Godley was removed from the starting staff in favor of Taylor Clarke.
- Luke Weaver, who was settling in as a dependable starter, was injured (tightness in his arm). He went for a second opinion and found out he will miss a significant amount of time.
- Archie Bradley seems to have lost his confidence and has an ERA over 5.00. Bradley also seems to be using only his fastball, and the opposing hitters know that.
- Andrew Chafin suddenly cannot find the strike zone and has allowed two home runs (he gave up zero last year). Opponents have a .368 on base percentage against him.
- T.J. McFarland has an ERA over 6.00 since his return.
- Matt Andriese has given up 16 runs and allowed five homeruns.
- Yoshi Hirano, who currently has an ERA over 5, seems to have lost his ability to find the strike zone and has given up eight walks in only 21 innings.
- The bullpen has had difficulty getting the ball to Greg Holland. He’s pitched just four times over the past two weeks.
Even with a nine-man bullpen, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo is running out of arms that he can turn to in his bullpen. The only two bullpen arms who remained consistent are closer Greg Holland and set-up man Yoan López. The bullpen is near the bottom of the rankings in strikeouts and opposing batting average and they are in the top ten in all of MLB in innings pitched by a bullpen.
The Pitching Needs to Improve
The answers to the struggling pitching staff could be a simple fix, but getting results needs to happen quickly for the team to be considered a contender for a playoff spot. The most imperative fix is getting a consistent starting staff. They must go at least six innings on a regular basis and keep their pitch count down to avoid overusing the bullpen. Starters need to go out and execute their pitches. They must make quality pitches and, most importantly, pitches inside the strike zone. However, that is easier said than done.
It appears that each pitcher is dealing with his own mechanical or physical issues. Mechanical issues normally are corrected with the pitching coach and even other players; physical issues with time, rest, and rehab. But, what if the issue is psychological? That’s something the pitcher needs to work through on his own, with or without his clubhouse friends and teammates.
Then there’s inexperience. With Godley and Weaver out of the rotation, rookies Taylor Clarke and Jon Duplantier are starters. They both come with impressive minor league credentials and praise and both have looked OK in starts. However, they’ve also shown that they are rookies who are learning as they pitch at the major league level. Each will be forced to quickly make the changes needed to be and remain competitive at this level.
Sadly, the team doesn’t have the luxury of time. The pitchers need to work through whatever issues they’re having and soon.
Moving Forward with the Bullpen
If the bullpen is going to be better, it will most likely have to be with the guys they already have. Yes, there are relievers performing well in the minors—such as Jimmie Sherfy and Rubby De La Rosa—but they can only be added at the expense of someone else’s roster spot. And while the roster features several relievers with minor-league options—Bradley, Andriese, Hirano, and Chafin—none of those players want to be demoted. Also, if the Diamondbacks coaches decide to option a bullpen player to the minors, the move could bring disharmony to the clubhouse, especially if the players view the move(s) as an insult to their tenure with the big-league club.
June and Beyond
As June rolls into the All-Star break, this team must decide if they are contenders for a playoff spot. Keeping that in perspective is important for every player, but it’s also very difficult to maintain. They have to believe that can do it and start playing as if they deserve it. Though pitching has been a big issue this season, hot and cold bats haven’t helped either.
If this team continues to fall out of the playoff race, the next question everyone will have is what pitchers (or players) will be traded away before the July 31 trade deadline.
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