Pinpointing the Struggles of AZ in 2016

Not all things go as planned. The Arizona Diamondbacks learned this lesson the hard way in 2016. At 48-67 going into August 14th’s game against the Red Sox, fifth in the NL West, and 17 games back of the Giants for first place is not where they wanted to be in the middle of August. Additions of Zack Greinke, and Shelby Miller to the rotation, plus a returning and healthy Patrick Corbin were thought to bolster a rotation that ranked 17th in ERA a year ago. The rotation has actually been worse in 2016, and ranks 29th in the game with a 5.00 collective ERA, up nearly a full run from last year (4.04 in 2015). With that being said, let’s begin with the reasoning behind the Arizona struggles in 2016.

 

After Greinke, What Happened to Consistency in the Rotation?

Greinke’s beginnings in Arizona as the ace began with a shaky, shaky, April. The 32-year-old held a 5.50 ERA six starts into the year and had given up five home runs. A solid May, and a great June helped revitalize him, and he looks the part (at least for now) to solidify the D-Backs number one spot in the rotation for the future years to come.

 

After Greinke, an avalanche rapidly tears its way down the rotation. The “projected number two” Shelby Miller, has been anything but a number two starter this season. Prior to this season, Miller had never logged an ERA greater than 3.74. He’s nearly doubled that this season, with a 7.14 ERA in only 14 starts. From 2013 to 2015, Miller had started at least 31 games. An All-Star a year ago with the Braves, Miller hasn’t pitched since July 6th, against the Padres. He’s been on assignment in Reno, looking to rebuild his confidence looking ahead into 2017.

 

Before going down to injury back in late May, Ruby De La Rosa had a five-game streak in May, where held a 1.93 ERA over that span. He has yet to start back to back seasons with 20 or more starts, and has started 30 games plus just once in his career. The elbow issues have been a reoccurring problem for De La Rosa, and the D-Backs will need him healthy if they wish to contend for any playoff spot in 2017.

 

While looking at the game logs for Robbie Ray this season, one can see just how inconsistent he’s been. Prior to his last outing against the Mets where he threw seven innings while not allowing a run, he had allowed 13 runs over the prior three starts, while throwing 16.2 innings in those starts. He’s thrown for games where he hasn’t allowed an earned run but has six games where his ERA has been 7.00 or greater. He’s produced just three back to back quality starts (4.50 ERA or lower) over 23 starts.

 

The ace for the Snakes in 2015, Corbin’s 5.58 ERA in 2016 has no right for the title “ace.” After his last outing, Corbin has now gone seven straight games without a quality start. He’s 0-5 with a 7.09 ERA in that period. He ranks 89th of the 90 qualified pitchers for ERA. Surprisingly, he’s been respectable on the road. Away from Phoenix, he’s 4-4 on the road and now holds a 4.42 ERA after his latest disaster outing against Boston where he threw just 1.2 innings, giving up eight runs, with four of them being earned. At home, however, he’s yet to win a start in his 61 innings logged at Chase Field.

 

Archie Bradley, in 16 starts, is 4-7 and has a 4.60 BB/9. His 4.80 ERA is dented with a home ERA of 6.25, compared to on the road where it’s 3.38. He had a solid July, five starts, 3.60 ERA and 30 innings pitched, but  has flopped in his last two starts where he threw only seven innings over two starts and gave up 10 earned runs between the two starts.

 

I highlighted the key starters this year, as the D-Backs have utilized nine starters this season. Braden Shipley was called up back on the 25th of July; he already has two shutouts in just four starts. He’ll likely be a key contributor for this starting rotation moving forward.

 

A.J. Pollock Going Down Before It Even Started

Pollock broke his right elbow sliding into home and the very end of Spring Training. He likely won’t return this season either. And sitting in fifth place in the cellar of the NL West, there’s really no need for him to even be brought up this year. Pollock was second to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in nearly every offensive category, including average, home runs, and triples. He led the team in runs, hits, and stolen bases. He did severe damage as both a leadoff and a number two hitter. Between batting leadoff and second, Pollock hit 16 home runs, hit 29 doubles, and drove in 60 runs. He also had 54 plate appearances batting cleanup, where he hit one home run and hit .391.

 

A valuable asset to the Diamondbacks offense, they never were really able to replace Pollock this year. They’ve tried shuffling around Michael Bourn, Chris Owings, and Socrates Brito. But combined, the trio has hit just .236 with six home runs. A healthy Pollock will really boost this offense. In 2015, the D-Backs were eighth in baseball in runs, fourth in hits, and ninth in RBI’s. The numbers have dropped this season, as they are 15th in runs and 17th in home runs. The bats haven’t been terrible, but they’re not good enough to overcome the 29th worst rotation in baseball.

 

Down year by Paul Goldschmidt’s Standards

Hitting a slash line of .299/.413/.499 and 18 home runs, 74 RBI’s, and 124 hits three-quarters through the season isn’t considered a down year for most players. But Goldschmidt isn’t like most players. From 2013 to 2015 he hit for an average of .307 and hit 88 long balls. Statistically speaking, he’s having his worst season since 2012 where he hit .286. He’s still got a month and a half to boost his average and tack on a few more homers, but Goldschmidt’s down year came at the wrong time, especially with the absence of Pollock. Obviously, a few more home runs and few more points on his average wouldn’t make a night to day difference, but it’s worth noting his offensive WAR is down 3.7 points from last season.
Matt Kerns is a passionate sports writer on the Bullpen Aces team and is currently pursuing a degree in Journalism at Humboldt State University.

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