We’re only one month into the 2014 season, but the Arizona Diamondbacks, which own the worst record in MLB (8-21) heading into Tuesday night’s home game against the Colorado Rockies, have already been written off by many fans and experts.
Will the D-Backs find a way to turn their season around and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2011? It seems unlikely, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
Here are five reasons for fans to remain optimistic:
1. It has been done before. While many AZ fans have already begun the familiar “there’s always next year” mantra, the fact remains that the Diamondbacks have only played 29 of their 162 scheduled regular-season games (less than 18%) through April 28.
Last season, the Los Angeles Dodgers were 12 games below .500 (30-42) on June 12. They went 62-30 the rest of the way and ran away with the National League West division championship. Such dramatic turnarounds are uncommon, but the Dodgers reminded us that they can happen.
2. The starting rotation is coming around. Through the first three weeks of the season, the Diamondbacks’ starting pitching staff combined for a 7.46 ERA – by far the worst in all of baseball, and one of the worst starts in MLB history. But Monday night’s stinker from Wade Miley (seven earned runs in six innings pitched) aside, the rotation appears to finally be turning a corner.
In the D-Backs’ home series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday-Sunday, starters Josh Collmenter, Bronson Arroyo and Brandon McCarthy combined for just four earned runs in 19.1 innings (1.86 ERA). If those performances turn into a trend for each pitcher, who have all enjoyed multiple seasons with an ERA under 4, the D-Backs will begin to pile up some wins.
3. The bullpen isn’t that bad. While the D-Backs haven’t had many save opportunities in 2014, the combination of relievers Brad Ziegler (1.35 ERA), Joe Thatcher (2.79), J.J. Putz (3.72) and Addison Reed (3.75) have proven themselves capable thus far.
Through Monday’s games, Arizona’s bullpen has a combined 3.68 ERA – a respectable 15th out of 30 MLB teams – proving that, if the D-Backs can take more leads into the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, they just might be in good hands.
4. Prado will improve at the plate. Third-baseman and 2010 All-Star Martin Prado has a career .292 batting average and .341 on-base percentage – but so far this season, he’s hitting just .245 with a .291 OBP. However, recent history says Prado will soon see an uptick in both categories.
In April of last season, Prado hit just .217 with a .266 OBP; in May, those numbers improved to .313 and .358, respectively. If history repeats itself, Prado will soon recover nicely and add some additional offense for the D-Backs.
As for Prado’s struggles in the infield (six errors in 28 games)? That’s a whole other issue.
5. Archie Bradley awaits. In recent years, the Diamondbacks have traded many of their top pitching prospects – most recently, Tyler Skaggs, who is 2-0 with a 3.34 ERA this season with the Los Angeles Angels. Fortunately, 21-year-old Archie Bradley – who is rated as the nation’s ninth-best overall prospect by Baseball America and went 12-5 with a 1.97 ERA for the D-Backs’ AA affiliate in Mobile, Ala., in 2013 – is still waiting in the wings.
Bradley suffered a recent elbow strain that could keep him sidelined for several weeks. But if he’s able to fully recover, it’s hard to imagine he’ll spend the rest of the season in the minors.