Will the Arizona Diamondbacks contend in 2020? Let’s begin by saying this will be a challenging abbreviated season if they get the season completed. It could also be a lot of fun. We know Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo is an “Out of the Box Thinking” manager. He is already planning how his players will be impacted with the shortened, high-intensity season. He’s evaluating his bullpen usage as well as the few days off they will have between games. With only 60 games, all have a sense of urgency and player strength—physical and mental—needs to be at top peak. On top of that, there will be the empty ballparks, so no crowd to strengthen players’ morale when the team is losing. It is certainly uncharted territory.
Team Needs to Be Healthy
Make no mistake, getting on the field and staying there will be the hard part for any MLB team in 2020. The always ever-important quality for a team’s success is health. The players must remain injury free and, if injured, take no extra time on the injured list. Their mental health, their ability to not let bad plays, losses, and slumps get them down, will be key too. There is no time to wallow.
Additionally, there’s the COVID-19 rule where players are tested every other day and if a player comes back positive it has the potential to devastate any team. The importance of following the proper protocols and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for players cannot be stressed enough. One positive test could turn into an outbreak and could completely derail their season.
Last season, the Diamondbacks did not perform well in one-run games, going 24-26. It didn’t help that they were the only team in the division to be below .500 either. The main thing to win these one-run games is to have a bullpen that can be counted upon to keep games close. The second thing is hitters who can come through in those late situations with good on-base and RBI numbers. Both will only help this team.
Win at Home
We know that MLB has been around for a long time. And while many things have changed about the game one thing has remained very consistent over time: the value of home-field advantage. And in this abbreviated season, it becomes one of the most crucial aspects of the game. However, part of that advantage is having fans boosting morale when things are close or not going well. Though clubs may allow fans with the approval of MLB, that won’t be happening anytime soon. Is there still a home field advantage when there are no home field fans? Having no fans would seem to put the teams on a more even level. It also leaves players relying on their teammates more for that “crowd” moral support.
In 2019 the Diamondbacks were fifth in baseball in fielding, led by 2019 Gold Glove- winning shortstop Nick Ahmed and left fielder David Peralta. The team also has an ever-improving Christian Walker at first base with Ketel Marte returning to his natural position at second base. Toss in the reliable Eduardo Escobar at third base and catcher Carson Kelly and this is a strong defensive infield. On top of that, center field has Starling Marte and right field has Kole Calhoun, both of whom have won Gold Gloves. The Diamondbacks defense looks pretty good.
Avoid the Slump and 17 Straight Games
The Diamondbacks need to try to avoid bad things happening. Now we know some of that will be out of their control; however, hitters need to avoid the dreaded long slump because there isn’t enough time to pull out of it. There is no one cure that fits all hitting slumps. Every player’s situation is exclusive and everyone is going to want to help but hopefully players can keep their minds clear and not overthink things.
We know playing 60 games in 66 days is a unique challenge, and it means the Diamondbacks face one very long stretch without an off day. They will begin a three-game homestand on August 14 and won’t get another day off until August 31. That is 17 straight games in 17 days. The schedule is going to test mental and physical resolve.
Take Advantage of the Roster
When all of those games occur in August, the Diamondbacks will be working with an expanded roster. Yes, rosters will shrink from 30 to 28 right after that 17-game stretch begins, but they will not reduce to 26 until after that stretch is over. The Diamondbacks need to use their pitching staff to their advantage. If the team is going to play 17 straight, they’d like that ability of carrying a few extra pitchers.
Use the DH Wisely
National League games will include the use of the designated hitter for the first time in history. The DH could be a rescuer for some teams and a challenge for others. For the Diamondbacks, a player like Jake Lamb, who has missed more than half of each of the last two seasons due to injury, could be a good answer. If Lamb is healthy for 2020—and if he can come close to his All-Star 2017 performance—he will be the perfect fit to take on designated hitting for this team.
To Get in the Playoffs
Most predictors are saying 33 wins get you in the playoffs. The Diamondbacks were 30-30 after their first 60 games of the 2019 season. That may not be enough to get into the playoffs this year. However, they do have the depth and a well-rounded roster to get them there. Also, the regional schedule being used for this shortened season means lots of games against the Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners, teams not expected to contend. That should work in their favor. With a few additional breaks during this abbreviated season this team could see themselves in a playoff spot for 2020.
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