I don't do this often, because I think my comments to the ESPN Power Rankings more or less speak for themselves. But when I rip on a team coming off a 6-0 week, I suppose it's worth an explanation. Here's what I had to say about the Diamondbacks:
A six-game winning streak like the one the Diamondbacks are currently riding is always nice, but it's worth noting that four of the those six wins were by one run, and three of the six came against the Twins. Their stay at .500 may be a short one.
And here, in addition to the good luck and bad opponents they've faced this week, is why they're no good:
First: Ryan Roberts. Mark Reynolds' replacement is 30 years old and has spent most of the previous five seasons in AAA, where he's hit an OK-but-uninspiring .275/.363/.441. He'd managed 443 plate appearances in the majors heading into this season, in which he'd hit just .251/.333/.389. Now, in a year in which offense is at its lowest levels in nearly two decades, he's completely carrying Arizona's offense, hitting .277/.396/.487 (143 wRC+). He's very unlikely to keep this up.
Second, Chris Young. After finally making good on some of his promise this year, he's been a huge drain on the offense this year with a .275 OBP. His walk rate is about half of what it was in 2011, and he's hitting more balls in the air, which may lead to a few more home runs, but also leads to a lot more outs (his .241 2011 BABIP is probably a bit unlucky, but it's mostly just the way he hits). He could snap out of it and be his 2010 self again, but he had similar struggles, to varying degrees, in 2006, 2007, and 2009; it looks like 2010 is the outlier, and this is just who he is. I'd be a lot more confident in Roberts reverting to form than in Young suddenly being a good hitter again. But because of his last season and his athletic ability, he'll keep getting PAs somewhere in the first five spots in the order, which, even with his power, is just murder to the offense.
Third, the back end of the rotation. Daniel Hudson looks phenomenal, and Ian Kennedy has been legitimately really good so far (it will be interesting to see if his uncharacteristically low walk and home run rates can hold up). But after that, they're stuck giving starts to the likes of Joe Saunders and Barry Enright, who are probably best suited as #5 starters on really bad teams. Josh Collmenter has been excellent so far and could establish himself as an above-average starter, but he could also be a worse version of Saunders.
And the fourth reason, I guess, is that there isn't that much else about the team that says it's a good one. Kelly Johnson will probably be better than he has been, but they've also gotten 98 very good plate appearances from 28 year old Juan Miranda, who will drop off. Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero have been pretty much the best hitters we have any right to believe they can be, and Geraldo Parra has probably been playing over his head. The defense has been good so far (especially in the outfield), but probably isn't as good as the numbers so far have made it look.
The one hope, really -- and one that I really hope comes to pass -- is that Justin Upton suddenly rediscovers his better-than-averageness and reverts to 2009 form at the plate. Even then, though, you've got:
- one potential star hitter (Upton);
- two who are above average for their positions (Montero and Drew);
- three who are average or (more likely) slightly below for their positions (Miranda, Roberts and Parra); and
- one who wastes outs like it's his job (Young).
You've got a defense that might be average. You've got one very good starter (Hudson), one who might be pretty good (Kennedy), one who you can hope will be a decent #3 (Collmenter), and two awful ones. You've got J.J. Putz and an otherwise pretty nondescript bullpen.
It just sounds like an 85- to 90-loss team to me. It certainly isn't one that compares well to the Giants or Rockies, and with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and vastly superior pitching talent, it's hard to see the Dodgers not being better, too.
I'd be perfectly happy to be wrong, but nothing that's happened so far -- and certainly not a six-game winning streak that included four one-run wins and a sweep of the Twins, who I really thought should've been 30th of 30 -- has suggested that this is a particularly good team.