The Arizona Diamondbacks have always been a fairly mediocre team. Sure, they won a World Series back in 2001 (thanks to some late game heroics by Luis Gonzalez) but besides that, the Diamondbacks have only made the playoffs 5 times in their 20-year existence and have a .492 winning percentage. Not bad at all, but surely Arizona baseball fans would love to see more out of their team.
The past 5 years have been especially rough for Arizona, having not made the playoffs, or even getting over .500 in that time span. Since 2011 (the last time Arizona made the playoffs) the Diamondbacks have gone 374-443 with their worst season coming in 2014, where they went an abysmal 64-98.
2017 rolled around and obviously, new manager Torey Lovullo is doing something right because the Diamondbacks have exploded back into playoff contention this year with an 87-65 record.
As of September 20th, the Diamondbacks hold a 4.5 game lead over the Colorado Rockies in the Wild Card and have yet to allow the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch the NL West (something the Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Astros have all already accomplished). So the question in Arizona is: What’s different, and how can we bottle it up and keep it going?
Though ace Zack Greinke didn’t have a bad 2016, going 13-7 with a 4.37 ERA, he’s having an absolutely unbelievable season so far in 2017. He has posted a career-high with 17 wins and improving his WHIP from 1.27 to 1.01. His ERA is also down to 2.87 and his H/9 has gone down from 9.1 to 7.3. Greinke has also increased his K/9 from 7.6 to 9.6. Anytime you can go from allowing 2 more hits per game to having 2 more strikeouts per game, success will follow.
However, Greinke is not the only star in the rotation this year for Arizona, as Robbie Ray is having quite the year at the young age of 25. So far this year, Ray has gone 14-5 with a 2.74 ERA and 206 strikeouts while only walking 64 hitters. His ERA puts him 6th in the Major League, and he’s 8th in the league in strikeouts. Compared to last year’s awful year where Ray went 8-15 with a 4.90 ERA, it’s clear his bounce-back campaign is a huge reason for Arizona’s newfound success.
Not only does Arizona have a solid rotation, but they also have a great bullpen highlighted by closer Fernando Rodney and setup man Archie Bradley. Rodney is having a great year at age 40, with 38 saves (3rd in MLB), and 10.2 K/9. He has only blown 6 saves, which puts his save percentage at 86.4%.
Archie Bradley has also had a phenomenal year, posting a 1.20 ERA and a ridiculous 0.93 WHIP. He also strikes out 10 batters per 9 innings, and only allows .4 HR/9. His 67.2 innings pitched puts him first on the team for relievers, and his 4.0 WAR puts him 3rd on the team for all pitchers (behind Greinke and Ray). At just 24 years old, Arizona will look to keep Bradley around for as long as possible and hope his incredible season is just a sign for things to come
Paul Goldschmidt has always been an All-Star caliber player, there’s no argument about that. But 2017 has really been a notable year for the Arizona slugger as he’s on pace to set a career high in home runs and slugging percentage if he keeps it up. Goldschmidt has hit 35 longballs this year, one behind his career best, and has driven in 115 runs while slugging .571; well above his career high of .551. Goldschmidt is batting a solid .301 and ranks 8th in the league in offensive WAR. He also has drastically cut down on his strikeouts, from 151 and 150 in 2015 and 2016 respectively to 135 in 2017. Arizona will look to make a good run off of Goldschmidt’s bat as they enter October.
Another solid hitter for the Diamondbacks this year has been Jake Lamb. Long known as a power threat, Lamb has been able to show off those muscles in 2017, hitting 27 home runs while slugging .478 and driving in 101 runs. He’s also scored 81 times and collected 126 hits in 2017, putting him 2nd on the team in both categories. Certainly helping his case is the fact that he hits behind Ketel Marte and Brandon Drury, two people who just always seem to get on base. Add into this lineup an always dangerous J.D. Martinez and a surprisingly great Chris Iannetta, and the Arizona Diamondbacks look as scary as any team this October.
As shown by their recent 13 game winning streak, which included 2 sweeps of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona doesn’t fear anybody in the league. They know they have a good team, and they want to go out and play the best baseball they can every single day. So far, it’s been working great for the Diamondbacks. With people like Greinke, Ray, and Goldschmidt having phenomenal years, it seems like 2017 could be the Year of the Snake as Arizona seems destined for playoff baseball and beyond.
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