Help Wanted: Must Have a Bat

Chase Field is the second highest stadium in Major League Baseball. The only playing surface at a higher altitude is Coors Field which sits at a mile above sea level. The altitude coupled with the good sight lines and warm temperatures make it a great hitter’s park. Despite the large expanse of outfield grass balls seem to carry well at Chase Field for more than its fair share of home runs and extra base hits. Unlike the Colorado Rockies, the Diamondbacks have not instituted the use of a humidor for storing baseballs thus giving an advantage to the hitters. Since Arizona plays 81 games a year at Chase Field some would say they have an advantage over their opponents in being able to get runners on base. This has not necessarily been the case over the course of the first decade in the desert but this year does appear to be a factor.

Diamondbacks hitters are batting nearly 70 points higher at home than they are on the road. This discrepancy was never more evident than this trip to Florida and Georgia. With the exception of last night the Diamondbacks have scored only 4 runs in the 4 losses they have had during this trip. These 4 runs have come on 20 hits meaning that the team has only been able to turn 20 percent of their hits into runs. The inefficiency is further compounded by the fact that three Diamondbacks hitters rank in the top 5 in strike outs trailing only Ryan Howard to hold the top spots in this dubious category. Some of this inconsistency can be attributed to the lack of experience and youth on the Diamondbacks roster. Arizona hitters are not necessarily impatient but rather they appear to be making poor choices in pitch selection. At times they come to the plate swinging at the first pitch they see where at other times they come up with the mindset of taking pitches regardless of how good they are. The poster child for this behavior has been Eric Byrnes who in most cases swings at the first pitch regardless of location then taking on pitches that almost appear grooved down the center of the plate.

Hitting coach Rick Schu has spent countless hours in the cage with Diamondbacks hitters trying to provide them with a plan for attacking the plate. Despite all of this extra work, the hitters continue to swing at pitches out of the strike zone while taking obvious strikes. During the first month of the season the pitch selection worked in the Diamondbacks favor and they took advantage of hitters counts spraying the ball around the field. This month is quite the opposite. Justin Upton is in a particularly long funk having gone 2-17 during this road trip with 13 strike outs. That’s a trend that just cannot continue if the Diamondbacks have any hopes of staying atop the National League Western Division. Last season the team went into a similar hitting slump that extended for a couple of months. This led to hitting coach Kevin Seitzer being fired and replaced with Rick Schu. Perhaps it wasn’t Seitzer’s fault after all. Just maybe it is a mental breakdown where players are not approaching each game with the proper discipline to know what pitches are being thrown in what situation or working themselves into appropriate pitch counts that increase the probability of success. In the mean time we’ll have to endure this rollercoaster ride we see every night not knowing which Diamondbacks offense will show up; the one that scores 4 runs in 4 games or the one that scores 11 runs in a single game.

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