This is the fourth rough stretch I’ve written about this year. So far, I’ve inadvertently timed these pieces to come at the beginning of a hot streak. When I wrote about Oakland’s 1-6 start, they won 14 out of their next 16 games. After this piece about the Dodgers’ low point was published, they won 13 out of their next 15. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Padres haven’t lost since I wrote about them scuffling last week. Either I have the power to reverse jinx teams out of a funk, or I’m a dummy that likes to overreact to a few weeks of subpar play from otherwise good teams. If it’s the former, it’s my solemn duty to fix the Diamondbacks because, oh my god, it’s hard to watch.
So here goes:
Good god, the Diamondbacks are bad.
By now, you’ve heard rumors of the Diamondbacks’ demise, and, well, they haven’t been exaggerated. Arizona has been every bit as bad as their 21-55 record would show, and lately, they’ve been even worse. The Diamondbacks began the season 15-13 but have gone 6-42 since. Their -109 run differential is the worst in MLB. At one point, Arizona lost 17 games in a row. Last week, they set a record for most consecutive road losses at 23, and they can extend it this weekend when they go to San Diego.
The worst part is that the Diamondbacks weren’t supposed to be this bad. They weren’t supposed to be contenders, but they also weren’t meant to sink to the bottom of a league filled with some truly putrid teams. A successful season for the Diamondbacks meant a repeat performance from Zac Gallen, bounce-backs from Madison Bumgarner and Luke Weaver, and a step up for Carson Kelly. That’s all they wanted, but that was apparently too much to ask. Gallen has been good, but he’s been hurt most of the year. As soon as Bumgarner put things back together, he tossed a couple of stinkers and got hurt. Weaver improved on his 2020 numbers even if he fell short of his 2019 form, but now he’s on the 60-day IL with a shoulder injury. Kelly was having a career year before Walker Buehler hit him with a pitch and fractured his wrist.
The silver lining is that Gallen’s elbow problems haven’t turned into something worse. On a per-inning basis, Gallen’s been just as good as he was in the previous two years, if not better. In seven starts spanning 34 1⁄3 innings, he’s struck out 43 batters and walked 15. He’s allowed 15 runs and only three homers. When healthy, Gallen has been the pitcher Arizona hoped he would be.
The problem is the Diamondbacks have had to use a ton of pitchers to cover for him, and none have been good. Arizona has used 12 different starters this year, and the season isn’t even halfway over. With Gallen’s seven starts, the Diamondbacks rank last in ERA at 5.36, 25th in FIP at 4.81, and 29th in xFIP at 4.58. Without him, those numbers rise to 5.77, 4.99, and 4.66.
For as bad as the starting pitching has been, the relief corps has been worse. Arizona relievers rank 28th in ERA, FIP, and xFIP at 5.16, 4.76, and 4.77 respectively. They rank dead last in fWAR at -0.8. Counting saves isn’t a good way to evaluate relievers, but the Diamondbacks only have six as a team. Six! It’s June 24! There are 33 pitchers with as many saves as the Diamondbacks have. Considering they just DFA’d their saves leader, the Diamondbacks have a decent chance of breaking the record for fewest saves in a 162-game season. The 1979 Toronto Blue Jays only recorded 11.
The offense also ranks in the bottom five of MLB. Collectively, the Diamondbacks have an 85 wRC+ and are hitting .230/.303/.370 as a team. They’d look a lot worse without Ketel Marte, who would deserve to be an All-Star even if every team wasn’t required to have at least one. Marte is hitting .366/.415/.577 for a 163 wRC+. Marte has missed about half the season with a hamstring strain, and he’s currently day-to-day with another hamstring problem. Carson Kelly has been their second-best hitter, but we already went over how he’s hurt. Kole Calhoun has been their third-best. Of course, he’s hurt, too.
Eduardo Escobar, Josh Rojas, Pavin Smith, Stephen Vogt, Asdrubal Cabrera, and David Peralta have all been fine. The highest wRC+ among them is 108; the lowest is 99. Then there’s Nick Ahmed, Christian Walker, and Tim Locastro, who have all fallen into an abyss from which there is no escape. Ahmed is having the best season of the three, and he has a .557 OPS.
With the trade deadline approaching, talent will only be leaving the roster. The White Sox were reportedly sniffing around Eduardo Escobar earlier this week. Cabrera, Vogt, and Joakim Soria could all be on the move as well since they are all impending free agents. Arizona has actively sold in recent years and this year should be no different. Things may get worse before they get better, but they will get better.
They will get better, right?
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.