Big changes since I last did a Diamondback preview on May 13th as the Diamondbacks were 15 - 21 and looked headed for our season. Instead they used that weekend to springboard into contention. Their record now is 49 - 43 as they battle the Giants for the right to represent the NL West in the postseason. How has this team managed to turn around their season to the turn of a 34 - 22 record since May 13th?
For one thing they have Kirk Gibson as their manager a man who is only about winning, he seems to have taken the same force he used in Detroit, and Los Angeles to forge a winning team out of a group of players that didn't seem to have it in them.
Outlook: The offense has no black holes. Everyone contributes, some more then others but you cannot find an easy out in the lineup. Everyone has an OPS+ over 95, six over 100, and one sitting at 99. The top of the rotation is getting it done (Hudson / Kennedy). Saunders has not been as bad. Josh Collmenter had some Elymania action going in May, hit some trouble in June, but had a great last start before the break. To compete it would appear this team needs another solid pitcher as their best prospects are simply not ready.
Disabled List: JJ Putz and Juan Gutierrez
1st Base: The Juan Miranda story has ended for the Diamondbacks. They have brought up Brandon Allen who will give the major leagues a third try as he tries to prove he's not simply a Juan Miranda clone. Allen has power and contact issues. He was tearing up AAA and here is Baseball HQ's scouting report on him.
The 25-year-old Allen has long had similar contact issues while showing solid patience and good power--all of which are on display in his 70% ct%, 17% bb% and 18 HR over 304 AB in AAA Reno. Allen's numbers in two prior MLB stints are also eerily similar to Miranda's, most notably a .221/.319/.389 line with five HR in 149 AB. Still, he'll likely see the large portion of the ARI 1B ABs over the near-term -- sharing time with right-handed-hitting Xavier Nady -- while perhaps also seeing some PT in LF.
I expect Allen is just holding the bag until Paul Goldschmidt is ready to take the reigns.
2nd Base: Kelly Johnson was having a forgetful year until May 20th. On May 20th Kelly had a .565 OPS, it now sits at .740 thanks to a tremendous run in which he has had 26 extra base hits in only 189 plate appearances. His OPS from May20th to the break was .922. So when you see his current TSL of .218/.300/.440 don't be fooled, Kelly is dealing.
Shortstop: Steven Drew is going in the opposite direction of Kelly Johnson. His OPS per month .973 / .673 / .698 / .477.
3rd Base: Ryan Roberts is no longer the talk of the town but he played well enough, long enough that Melvin Mora was sent packing to find another team to help him feed his quintuplets. Roberts is now sharing time with one time wonderkid Sean Burroughs who was one of the first ballyhooed 3rd base prospect to face plant in the major leagues this decade.
Catcher: Miguel Montero continues to be a solid offensive catcher, ranking near the top in all NL offensive categories for catchers.
Right Fielder: Justin Upton exploded in June and is finally looking like the player we all thought he was going to be. His overall TSL of .304 / .370 / .518 is getting it done.
Center Fielder: Chris Young is having the best year of his career. He has dropped his K rate from a high of 26% in 2009 to 18% in 2011 and the extra contact is paying off for him. Check out this on base progression this year by month. .272 / .323 / 375 / 405 while hitting sixteen home runs. Patience has paid off for the Diamondbacks as they now have the center fielder they thought they had back in 2007.
Left Fielder: Gerardo Parra is holding his own in LF offensively, and defensively according to fangraphs, he's the best LF in the NL with a rating of 9.5. His OPS is only .771 but among the sad group of left fielders in the NL that is not bad. .
Bench: Willie Bloomquist is the super utility man who can play everywhere, Henry Blanco is the back up catcher..
|1||Saunders versus Clayton Kershaw||LA||54.65||8.2|
|2||Ian Kennedy versus Hiroki Kuroda||LA|
|3||Daniel Hudson versus Ted Lilly||LA|
Clayton Kershaw won the last matchup with Saunders but it was due more to the quality pitching of Clayton then the offense we generated against Saunders. Saunders is like the sacrificial lamb Gibson is throwing at us while letting his best two pitchers work toward victories against Kuroda and Lilly on Saturday and Sunday. That said knowing how this team struggles against LHP, we have to hope Juan Rivera can provide some pop so that we give something for Clayton to work with.
Hudson and Kennedy have scaled back a bit on their awesomeness since we last saw them but they are still a formidable duo. We missed Hudson during the last series but saw more then we wanted from Kennedy as he dominated the Dodgers for six innings in his last start against them.
Setup: Ghame Over is back and he's doing good work. Yhencey Brazoban has pitched the most out of the bullpen in July, putting up a 12 K/9 rate. Others in the bullpen are Micah Owings, Sam Dremel, with lefties Joe Paterson and Alberto Castillo filling out the bullpen. Aaron Heilman is also available for your consideration.
Closer: David Hernandez took over for the injured JJ Putz and as is often the case, the ex -starter is doing a bang up job as the Diamondback closer. He's been wildly effective so expect some Marmol type innings if they have to call on him.
Matchup Notes: The Dodgers scored only five runs in the last three game series they played at Chase with Saunders giving up four of them in his loss to Kershaw . That means that Kennedy and Collmeter pretty much shut down the team after that. Can't say I'm a fan of Donnie boy letting Lilly pitch on Sunday instead of Monday but that is how he has made out the rotation to start the second half.