The Diamondbacks were baseball’s most entertaining team this winter by a long shot. The huge signings, the weird trades, the insane uniform redesign – everything they did made you take notice. It was the kind of offseason baseball writers dream about, where a team decides to throw everything they have against the wall and hope it all sticks.
But would they be any good once the season started? That was the most important question, and so far the answer is a resounding… who knows? The D-Backs’ early results have been just as puzzling as their offseason was.
Arizona was dealt a huge blow early on, losing A.J. Pollock for the year to a fractured elbow, and it looked like that might doom them before the season even started. Pollock made the rest of the lineup go, and a number of D-Backs hitters fell victim to slow starts. Their big pitching additions weren’t much better, either: both Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller struggled mightily in the early going and it looked like Arizona’s rotation makeover might be a bust. Coming into this week, their record was 5-8 and they didn’t look like a team that could compete for a playoff spot.
Then, a four-game series in San Francisco against the suddenly struggling Giants seemed to turn everything around. The D-Backs swept the series behind timely hitting, good starting pitching, and a suffocating bullpen. They’re within 1.5 games of the division lead and seem to have some momentum going. But is it just a mirage, or did the beat down they delivered in San Francisco snap the D-Backs out of their malaise?
There are signs it could be a real resurgence. Paul Goldschmidt may only be hitting .237, but he has an .836 OPS and had a few big hits this week. Jean Segura, brought over in a trade that didn’t seem to make much sense at the time, has been a revelation at the top of the lineup and has taken away some of the sting of losing Pollock. Greinke had by far his best game as a Diamondback against the Giants, and Robbie Ray looks like the real deal. And the bullpen trio of Daniel Hudson, Tyler Clippard, and Brad Ziegler could be one of the best in the league.
Of course, there’s a flip side. Much of the Arizona lineup has under-performed, and scoring runs could prove to be a problem. There have to be concerns about Miller, who cost them a ransom in prospects this winter and has looked like someone who doesn’t belong in a major league rotation this year. And while a four game sweep on the road is always impressive, it was against a Giants team whose entire offense is struggling mightily.
So which is the real Diamondbacks team? The one that looked like a pretender early on, or the one that looked like a world beater this week? The safe answer is “somewhere in between,” but that’s probably not the case.
Arizona definitely has enough talent to compete, even without Pollock. If their lineup shakes off the cobwebs and starts hitting like they’re capable of hitting, they’ll put up a bunch of runs and be backed by a strong pitching staff. That would put them right in the middle of things in the NL West, up there with the Dodgers and Giants. But if their lineup continues to disappoint and Miller in particular continues to struggle, they’ll be in a lot of trouble.
The Diamondbacks were fascinating in the winter, and so far in April that hasn’t changed a bit. They’re a tough team to figure out, but it’ll sure be fun trying.