Let’s look at five things.
An Additional Core Starting Pitcher.
In the first half season (before the All-Star break) the D-backs had 4 pitchers who started at least 15 games with a season ERA+ over 100 (Kelly, Gallen, Bumgarner, and Davies). I want to see another starting pitcher, whose ERA is less than 5, who starts at least 10 games with a game score of at least 50. Possible players who are ready or close to ready include Thomas Henry, Corbin Martin, and Ryne Nelson per this AZ Snake Pit article.
“The team is about 2-3 weeks late in promoting him [Tommy Henry] to MLB in my view.” — Jack Sommers
What was starting pitching like in the first series of the second half? Gallen pitched a gem of a game (7 innings with 2 hits, zero earned runs, 7 strikeouts and zero walks. Then Bumgarner pitched a gem of a game (8 innings with 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 9 strikeouts and zero walks. Then Corbin Martin had his first start of the season. An encouraging aspect was he allowed 1 earned run in 4 innings. A concerning aspect was the 1 strikeout and 5 walks. His game score was less than 50. Likely he will get more starts.
An Additional Debut in the Majors.
So far this season five Diamondbacks made their debut in the Majors. The two youngest are the ones that I am most excited about: Alek Thomas (age 22, OPS+ of 106) and Buddy Kennedy (age 23, OPS+ of 92). Alek Thomas’s swing ranked second best on the Diamondbacks per this AZ Snake Pit article. Although Buddy Kennedy had too few PAs (11) to be ranked, he would have ranked second bumping Thomas to third.
Other players who made their debut were Cooper Hummel, Jose Herrera (two sparkling defensive plays on 24 July), and Tyler Holten.
Looking to the rest of the season, I want to see Corbin Carroll in the Majors because I was favorably impressed by Carroll in the All-Stars Future Game.
“In the first inning, he hit a double (his speed impressed me). …In the second inning, he walked on 5 pitches showing he is a patient batter. On a single up the middle, he took an extra base to arrive at third base.” — Makakilo
I want to see excellent defense in an additional position. In the first half, there were three positions of defensive excellence. They were (data from The Fielding Bible and FanGraphs):
- First base (15 DRS ranking first in the Majors). Key was Christian Walker with 13 DRA and 9 OAA. Christian Walker may win a gold glove per this AZ Snake Pit article.
- Center field (6 DRS ranking a tie for 4th -6th in the Majors). Key were Daulton Varsho (3 DRS and 4 OAA) and Alek Thomas (3 DRS and 5 OAA).
- Pitchers (3 DRS ranking in a tie for 4th -6th in the Majors).
Excellent defense at shortstop would be most welcome. This season Geraldo Perdomo performed admirably at shortstop in Nick Ahmed’s absence. I’d like to see his defense at shortstop (negative 7 DRS, 2 OAA) improve.
What was defense like in the first series of the second half? Two observations:
- The Diamondbacks defense was spectacular in the Nationals series. Their team DRS increased from 5 to 14, and their rank improved from 20 to 13. There is a caveat that such a huge change in 3 games could be a sign that the Fielding Bible made a methodology change (my internet search found nothing about a methodology change). FanGraphs’ 12 DRS and rank of 15th was only slightly less positive than The Fielding Bible.
- I’m pleased that Geraldo Perdomo showed improved defense at shortstop in the Nationals series. His season DRS improved from negative 7 to negative 6 per the Fielding Bible.
David Peralta. At the start of the season, David Peralta was my choice for a breakout season. So far, his 116 OPS+ is his best since 2018, and his OPS+ is third highest on the team (behind Marte and Rojas). In May, his breakout was discussed in this AZ Snake Pit article. He was discussed as a candidate for first-half Diamondback MVP. Spencer wrote that he was the undisputed player-leader. So far, his breakout performance is good but less than spectacular. I’d like to see spectacular.
Daulton Varsho. On 22 July, Torey Lovullo commented on improvements that Daulton Varsho made. I’d like to see him continue to improve beyond his stellar levels. Considering his excellent defense in center field and ability to play catcher, I’d like to see his batting beyond 103 OPS+.
Varsho’s June slump was discussed in this AZ Snake Pit Roundtable. Most participants were not too concerned. They were proven correct because he bounced back in July (BA improved from .176 to .259, OBP improved from .202 to .33, and SLG improved from .286 to .482).
Zac Gallen. It wasn’t so long ago (2020) that he won the AZ Snake Pit’s Pitcher of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. With the arrival of Brent Strom, my expectations soared. This season, he and Merrill Kelly’s pitching performances were neck-and neck. On 22 July his amazing start was discussed in this AZ Snake Pit article. That start shows he might be breaking out. He pitched 7 innings while allowing 2 hits and zero earned runs. I’d like to see Zack Gallen pitch more games like that!
“Zac Gallen was outstanding, taking a no hitter into the 6th inning on the way to 7 shutout innings. He didn’t walk a batter, struck out 7, and was in control the entire game. Spotting his fastball, he said he used all 4-5 of his pitches and had pretty good command, saying he “had everything working for the most part” and felt only the curve wasn’t as sharp as the others “but you still have to use it”. — Jack Sommers
In the first half, the Diamondbacks batters left too many runners stranded in scoring position. In the first half, their 3.39 runners left in scoring position per game ranked 19th in the Majors. I’d like to see that statistic improve. Data from Team Rankings.com.
What did I see in the first series of the second half? In the first 3-game series they left 10 runners in scoring position. The 3.33 runners left in scoring position per game was consistent with the first half of the season. The first two games were better than their average and the last game was worse.
I want to see more RBIs to clear those runners off the basepaths.
What did I see in the first series of the second half? In the first game 6 different Diamondbacks had RBIs, In the second game 5 different Diamondbacks had RBIs. It was encouraging because the Diamondbacks may not need to constantly rely on 2-3 batters for RBIs. In the third game 3 different Diamondbacks had RBIs.
A subtle but significant statistic is balls-in-play per swing (swing efficiency). Although the weakness in that measure that a ball-in-play is not necessarily a hit or an RBI, my view is that it is an important statistic.
In the first half, Diamondback batters had better swing efficiency than the league (.3768 vs .3664). In the first series, there was no significant change in swing efficiency. Data from Baseball Reference. My view of which Diamondbacks have the best swings is in this AZ Snake Pit article.
In the first half, opposing batters put too many balls in play. In the first half Diamondback pitchers had worse allowed swing efficiency than the league (.3860 vs .3686). I’d like to see that statistic improve. Data from Baseball Reference.
What did I see in the first series of the second half? In the first series, the allowed swing efficiency improved (opposing batters were less swing efficient). The season statistic improved from .3860 to .3851.
I’d like to see an additional core starting pitcher (Corbin Martin, Thomas Henry, or Ryne Nelson), Corbin Carroll debut in the Majors, additional excellent defense (perhaps at shortstop), breakout seasons from three players (David Peralta, Daulton Varsho, and Zac Gallen), and two statistics improve (fewer runners left in scoring position, and fewer balls in play by opposing batters). My optimism increased for some things because of positive developments in the Nationals series.