Diamondbacks Hitting Has Shown Vast Improvement
The Arizona Diamondbacks just returned from a seven-game road trip to St. Louis and Miami, going 5–2 thanks to stingy pitching and vastly improved hitting. This has been a welcome relief for the Diamondbacks, who still sit 14th out of 15 National League teams in run production. Only the Cincinnati Reds are lower, and they are currently 3–22. However, over the past week, the Diamondbacks are fourth in the NL in hitting as measured by run production. Here are the key reasons.
NL Team Hitting through May 5
NL Team Hitting, Apr 29 through May 5
Diamondbacks Hitting Overview
As mentioned in the intro, the biggest weakness of the 2022 season for the Diamondbacks has been their hitting. Not so over the past week. As a team, their batting average over the past week was .232 — 41 points higher than their season average. Their on-base percentage was .305 over the past week versus .281 on the season. Slugging percentage has also greatly increased. Over the last seven days, it has been .468, while their season-long slugging percentage has been .347.
Naturally, their weighted on-base average (wOBA) is also up. On the season, it’s .286. Over the last seven days, it has been .341. As a team, their weighted runs above average (wRAA) over the last seven days has been 6.1 — fourth in the NL over that stretch. On the season, their wRAA is still -13.9, meaning that their hitters are producing nearly 14 fewer runs than the average hitter in the league.
It’s not like they’re beating up on lousy pitching staffs, either. Their games over the last seven days have been against the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. As a team, the Cardinals are second in ERA-minus, with 78. The Marlins are fifth with 87. (100 is league average. 78 means that the Cardinals ERA is 22 percentage points better than the league average.) The NL teams ahead of the Diamondbacks in hitting over the last seven days have been the Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, and Colorado Rockies. The Brewers have feasted on two of the worst pitching staffs in the NL: the struggling Chicago Cubs and the hapless Cincinnati Reds, so their numbers might be inflated.
Finding Holes and Gaps
A big part of the improved Diamondbacks hitting production is that they’re seeing better luck with their batted balls. One handy statistic is batting average on balls in play (BABIP). This statistic calculates batting average only on balls that are hit and stay in the field of play. In other words, it removes home runs and strikeouts from the equation. It also counts sacrifice flies as at-bats. On the season, their BABIP is .229. Anything below .300, especially by large amounts, is showing bad luck hitting-wise. Their BABIP over the last seven days has been .273, which is closer to .300 than their season BABIP of .229.
Finding gaps has translated into a larger percentage of their hits going for extra bases. Almost 11% of the Diamondbacks hits over the past week were extra-base hits. The only team in the NL with a higher extra base hit percentage over the last week has been the Brewers. Furthermore, the Diamondbacks were second in the NL in home runs (11), behind the Brewers (20). And as we’ve mentioned earlier, the Brewers were facing two of the worst pitching staffs in the NL.
(* = left-handed hitter, # = switch hitter, (R) = rookie, Italics indicate player has been sent down or released)
Another part of their success has been the improved hitting of Ketel Marte. On the season, Marte is slashing .174/.252/.315, with a wOBA of .257 and a wRAA of -3.7. However, over the last week, he has slashed .333/.429/.778 with a wOBA of .507 and wRAA of 3.2. Five of his six hits have been for extra bases: three doubles, a triple, and a home run.
Marte’s hitting over the last week has been second to the also red-hot Daulton Varsho. Varsho is slashing .400/.500/.750 with a wOBA of .533 and wRAA of 4.2. Of Varsho’s eight hits, five have been for extra bases: four doubles and a homer.
The return of Jordan Luplow from an oblique injury has also sparked the offense. Over the last week, Luplow has slashed .294/.368/.647 with a wOBA of .440 and wRAA of 2.0. He has gone 5-for-17 with two of the five hits being for extra bases. Both were home runs.
Where Diamondbacks Hitting Can Still Improve
Of concern is the team’s high strikeout rate. On the season, 25.7% of all Diamondbacks plate appearances have ended in a strikeout. That is second highest in the NL to the (gulp) Reds, who sit at 26.6%. It is also nearly three percentage points higher than the league average of 22.8%.
Over the past week, the Diamondbacks percentage has been even higher — 27.0%. Only the Cubs (34.9%) and Atlanta Braves (28.2%) struck out at a higher rate. No player has been immune from this, as every player struck out at least three times over the past week. (Exception: Matt Davidson, who only batted once and has since been designated for assignment.)
All the success over the past week could be even higher. The team BABIP over the past week was .273, still 30 points below normal. Seth Beer has also been on a cold streak, going 0-for-14 over the past week with two walks, five strikeouts, and one double-play grounder. Carson Kelly is still mired in the cold streak that has plagued him all season, with his 1-for-11 performance over the past week and 6-for-57 performance on the season frustrating him to no end.
The team is on the right track, and that’s not factoring in the return of Josh Rojas. If their strikeouts can decrease, and if Beer and Kelly can return to the form they’re capable of, look for Diamondbacks hitting to be toward the top end of the NL in run production.