For the first time since clinching the NL West in 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks are back in the postseason. This is the first time they will reach the playoffs as a Wild Card team, unlike the first five times when they won their division to reach the playoffs. Coming into the season, there was no doubt the Diamondbacks had the pieces to reach the playoffs, but the biggest question was would they live up to expectations unlike in 2016.
Obviously, Arizona did far more than what most people in baseball expected. Thanks to a 13-game winning streak from August 24 to September 8, they were able to pull away from the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card race and will now host the NL Wild Card game on October 4. But how did the Diamondbacks get from a 69-win 2016 to a playoff berth in 2017?
Change in management & roster
Immediately following a disastrous 2016, the front office parted ways with then GM Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale and brought in former Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen to run the front office and Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo as the new manager.
The team also decided to part ways with catcher Welington Castillo in order to put an emphasis on bringing in catchers who can “steal strikes” for pitchers. The club signed veteran Jeff Mathis to a two-year deal and Chris Iannetta on a one-year deal. They kept Chris Herrmann as well, starting the year with three catchers on the roster.
They also completed a blockbuster deal with the Mariners just before Thanksgiving that sent second baseman Jean Segura and outfielder Mitch Haniger to the Mariners for starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte.
The biggest contributors
Every player on offense and in the pitching staff made an impact on the season for the Diamondbacks but some players stood out more than others all year long.
America’s first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, put up another MVP-caliber year and has a chance to pass his career high in home runs during the final week of the season. Goldschmidt leads every offensive category, with 36 home runs, 120 RBI’s and a .306 batting average. The club had a tiny scare earlier this month when he sat out four straight games with a sore elbow but it appears that didn’t slow him down, nor the club.
Jake Lamb had a monster first half but fell apart in the second half for the second straight season. Luckily, JD Martinez came to the rescue and made the struggles of Lamb look insignificant. Lamb still had some big hits for the D-backs down the stretch but Martinez has been the biggest story, hitting a franchise record 14 home runs in one month (September), and becoming the 18th player in MLB history to hit four home runs in one game (September 4).
On the pitching side, ace Zack Greinke bounced back from a rough 2016, where he went 13-7 with a 4.37 ERA. Greinke lowered his ERA by a full run (3.18) and is tied for second in wins with 17. Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker have also put up solid seasons for the team and a dominant second half from Patrick Corbin helped the club get through a bumpy six weeks in July through the middle of August. Oh, and don’t forget about the starter converted reliever, Archie Bradley, whose ERA never went over 2.00 during the season.
After five straight mediocre seasons, the Diamondbacks finally pieced everything together, and it all started on Opening Day. After taking down Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants on a walk-off single from Chris Owings, the Diamondbacks were off and running. For the first time since 2002, they were never below .500 at any point in the season.
It also helped that the Diamondbacks reversed their home luck from a year ago. They had the second-worst home record in the NL last season, with the Atlanta Braves having fewer. This season they have the second-best home record in the NL, only behind the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The Diamondbacks are currently the only team in the National League that hasn’t been swept at home all season.
Can this team make a run in October? The fact that they don’t fear anyone in the league goes to tell you sticking to their season-long game plan might very well get them on a roll in October, but they’ll have to fight every step of the way to reach the ultimate goal.
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