Half Empty or Half Full

The conclusion of today’s game marked the halfway point to the 2008 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. They have now played 81 games of the 162-game season. Early on we were told that the season was a grind, a marathon, and we should not jump to any judgments (good or bad) about this team. We didn’t have enough data to make a determination of what kind of team the 2008 Diamondbacks were going to be. When the team began to falter in May and were playing poorly we were again admonished not to read too much into it. The season was still young and there was still time to turn things around. Now though we are half over and you have to begin to wonder what we should expect over the course of the remainder of the season.

After starting 20-8 through April there were a lot of hopes that this team would be one of destiny. A team who was hungry to erase the NLCS sweep they suffered at the hands of the Colorado Rockies last October. Then came May and June which saw the team play some of the worst baseball they had all season. There were defensive miscues left and right and what was one of the strongest offenses in the league quickly fell down to the bottom of most statistical categories.

The Diamondbacks record for the first half is a very average 41-40. If things continue to trend out as they have so far we should expect the Diamondbacks to finish 82-80. While that may be good enough to win the dismal National League Western Division, it is not exactly the dominating record we were expecting. Let’s compare this to the 2007 Diamondbacks. Last year at the mid-way point the Diamondbacks were 46-35, eleven games above .500. They were struggling at the plate at this point in 2007 and found themselves battling the Los Angeles Dodgers for second place behind the San Diego Padres. This year they are only one game over .500 and are in first place over the Dodgers. San Diego is battling with Colorado for last place in the division.

The 2008 Diamondbacks starting pitching is proving to be as good as advertised. Brandon Webb and Dan Haren are everything we expected and more. Having them at the top of the rotation has been very beneficial and the starting pitching is probably the only thing keeping the Diamondbacks in first place. Doug Davis has had his season interrupted with medical issues but has come back very strong and is pitching well. Micah Owings has been somewhat inconsistent but has shown signs of brilliance. With his latest injury it is unclear how this will impact him going forward. Randy Johnson has struggled a little bit lately but has shown he is good for 6-7 strong innings every start. The problem has been that none of the pitchers are getting much run support since May 1st making every outing feel like if the starting pitcher gives up more than 1 run they won’t win. This cannot continue without having a severe impact on the pitching staff. I am really surprised that we have not seen the pitching staff go off on the offense calling them to task. That in my opinion is a credit to how closely knit this team is in the clubhouse. That is not to say they are not being held accountable. Bob Melvin went off on them after last night’s loss to the Marlins. Hopefully that will act as a wakeup call and things will change for the better.

The bullpen has been suspect which again is something that was brought up in Spring Training. How would the team fare after trading their closer to the Houston Astros. For the most part Brandon Lyon has been a good closer. He has not blown a save since April and although there are nights where he does his Jose Valverde impression and put the tying and winning runs on base; he has been able to pitch out of that. Each of the relievers has done an adequate job but on any given night they are either lights out of completely dismal. That has to drive the players crazy; I know it does the fans.

I have made the point repeatedly that the offense has really struggled. The team is currently ranked in the lower quarter of nearly all offensive statistical categories. The team batting average and run production is below what the 2007 team had done at this point and the front office made a change replacing the hitting coach. I’m not sure what to think about this disturbing trend. The poor offense is bad enough but suddenly the Diamondbacks are giving up errors and playing poor defense giving the opponents extra outs that they are taking advantage of. This is a trend that really needs to stop if the Diamondbacks have any hopes of reaching the 2008 post season.

I’d love to be an optimist and say that the season is still half full of opportunities for the team to turn things around. The Diamondbacks are usually a team that has a better second half than first so there is plenty of games for them to get their act together and play better. But watching ever game I am leaning towards a more pessimistic view that what we have seen in May and June could be the team we have in 2008. I don’t anticipate Josh Byrnes or the Diamondbacks being active in the trading deadline. The roster we currently have will be what we’ll have for the remainder of the season barring any injuries. It is going to be a roller coaster ride for the next 81 games. I just hope this ride doesn’t make me sick.

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