MLB: A Look at the Second Half for the Diamondbacks
As MLB moves into the All Star break, let’s take a look at what the Arizona Diamondbacks need to do during the second half of the 2015 season to stay in contention for a playoff spot. Yes, a playoff spot! The Diamondbacks are currently only five games out for a Wild Card spot.
Manager Chip Hale has already announced that his starting rotation will change as the team begins the second half of the season. They will start the second half with the rotation of (1)Robbie Ray;(2)Jeremy Hellickson;(3)Patrick Corbin;(4)Rubby De La Rosa; and (5)Chase Anderson. The change to the starting rotation was made to avoid Anderson and Hellickson, who have similar pitching styles, pitching back to back games. And, to let Hellickson recover from the blister on his hand.
The Diamondbacks are at 42-45 as the first half of the season ends, which is a much better record than this team had at this time last year. The 2015 Diamondbacks team has kept the fans’ interest, with TV ratings the highest in they have seen in four years, and attendance up almost 3000 fans per game over last season.
This team has improved in a number of areas over last year, including improved hitting with runners in scoring position; a defense that is ranked third in all of baseball, and who are in the top ten in turning double plays; stolen bases are up from last year, with the Diamondbacks currently ranked second in baseball.
They begin a ten game home stand on Friday, July 17th. And, if they want to stay in the race for the playoffs, they will need to improve in some other areas as well.
First, they need to win more games at home. Their home-win record is better than last year at this time, at 22-21, but they must improve, and that begins with better starting pitching. Hopefully, Patrick Corbin’s return provides some needed support to the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation. Corbin’s fastball has been in the mid 90’s and his slider has been consistent; and it also looks like his sinker, which is his main pitch, is generating outs. It has only been two games, but so far things are looking positive for him. Rubby De La Rosa has shown flashes of being a quality starter, but unfortunately, he has also shown how inconsistent he can be. Hopefully with some rest he can come back and be able to show his fastball more and cut down on the walks. Jeremy Hellickson has made a very solid contribution in his recent outings, and Robbie Ray’s recent successes show some signs of a quality starter. Chase Anderson may still be the rotation’s best pitcher, but he has struggled in his last four games with giving up homeruns. In fact the whole starting staff, which has given up the second most homeruns in baseball, has to avoid that along with giving up first inning runs. Those issues have changed the way this team has had to approach games in order to overcome early deficits.
The bullpen, which has been much improved since the end of May, must continue that level of performance. Yes, they will give up runs, but hopefully it will not cost the team leads and lead to losses. Brad Ziegler has settled into the closer spot very well and this team will need him to continue to get the saves.
In addition to pitching, the Diamondbacks will need to continue to be solid at the plate. Yasmany Tomas needs to improve on his situational hitting, as he is hitting around .160 with runners in scoring position. If he does not improve the team will need to find somebody else to hit behind Goldschmidt.
The hitters will have to step up if Paul Goldschmidt goes into a hitting slump. In July Goldschmidt has seen his strikeouts. Let’s hope the All Star break rest (after Tuesday) will rejuvenate him, because we know this team plays better when Goldschmidt is hitting.
A.J. Pollock has taken his spot among the game’s leading position players both offensively and defensively. Nick Ahmed has played two months of solid baseball after a very slow April and early May. Jake Lamb looks to be back after a slow start after his return from an early season injury; and Welington Castillo has exceeded expectations on offense and defense and has adjusted well to calling games. Ender Inciarte is no longer feeling pain in his hamstring and will be back right after the break, with hopes of return to his produce prior to his injury. This entire team must continue where they left off at the end of the first half to keep this team in contention.
It certainly is a long shot, but if all of these scenarios can happen and this team has a bit of luck, they could be playing some meaningful games at the end of September. And, that would certainly be a much different scenario than predicted for this team before the season started.
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