The Mets make their final west coast road trip of the year, starting with three games against the NL West division leaders. Here are some things to know about the Diamondbacks (I say DIE-mon-backs, but is it supposed to be Die-monD-backs? I say the word “diamond” without the “d” sound at that end, and I know that’s incorrect, but that D-to-B sound is in “Diamondbacks” brutal):
Record: 65-53, first place NL West
Manager: Kirk Gibson, lifetime 99-102 (.493%) managerial record.
Park: Chase Field. Hitter’s park, plenty of doubles, triples and home runs to go around, especially in August.
Can they hit? Yup
Can they pitch? Here and there
Can they field? Averagely
Who’s their best player? Justin Upton. If the Diamondbacks win the West, the younger Upton is going to receive some MVP consideration.
SS – Willie Bloomquist – R
3B – Ryan Roberts – R
RF – Justin Upton – R
C – Miguel Montero – L
CF – Chris Young – R
2B – Kelly Johnson – L
1B – Paul Goldschmidt – R
LF – Gerardo Parra – L
The best mix of power and speed in the National League. Arizona leads the league in home runs, is third in steals and has grounded into the fewest double plays. They have four players with at least 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases — Kelly Johnson, Ryan Roberts, Chris Young and Justin Upton – plus a catcher with 12 home runs and a utility man with 11 steals. Their core group of young, talented players is the reason they’ve overtaken the Giants.
Fun player to look out for: 23-year-old first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, called up a week ago from Double-A. Goldschmidt wasn’t considered a top prospect coming into the season, despite hitting .314 with 35 home runs in High-A last season, but earned a ticket to the show after hitting .306 with 35 home runs in 366 at-bats in Double-A this year. He hit the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning last night, his second major league home run. But I’m still not sure he’s real: “Paul Goldschmidt” sounds like a name Michael Jordan might use to make reservations at a hotel.
August 12: RHP Ian Kennedy (14-3, 3.20 ERA) vs Dillon Gee (10-3, 3.93 ERA)
Part of the Yankees’ Hughes-Chamberlain-Kennedy trio that was supposed to rejuvenate their rotation in 2008 — it turns out Kennedy was the pitcher they felt comfortable parting with in the Curtis Granderson trade. Unfortunately for the Yankees, it’s looking like Kennedy is the best of the three, posting a 3.53 ERA in two seasons with Arizona in a tough home park. He’s not lighting up radar guns with a 89 MPH heater, but he knows how to use it: Per Fangraphs, Kennedy’s fastball is one the most effective in all baseball this season.
August 13: RHP Daniel Hudson (11-8, 3.83 ERA) vs Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.53 ERA)
Acquired from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson, Hudson has emerged as one of the NL’s best control pitchers, with just 34 walks in 157.1 innings this season, and he’s in the top ten in both walk rate and strikeout-to-walk rate. The hard-throwing Hudson posted a 2.45 ERA last season with a .241 BABIP, but both figures rose to 3.83 and .319 this season — split the difference, and it’s a 3.11 ERA, which is a reasonable expectation for Hudson going forward. The Diamondbacks’ core of hitters and these two young pitchers is both very good and very real.
August 14: RHP Jason Marquis (8-6, 4.48 ERA) vs Chris Capuano (9-10, 4.51 ERA)
Marquis, brought over at the deadline from the Nationals, is yet another starting pitcher acquired in a trade by the Diamondbacks. Josh Collmenter is the only home-grown starter, and shortstop Stephen Drew, catcher Miguel Montero, and outfielders Gerrardo Parra and Justin Upton are the only other home-grown contributors. Everyone else came via trade or as a buy-low free agent. So there are a lot of ways to build a winner. As for Marquis, he had a 3.95 ERA when the Diamondbacks traded for him. Two starts later, it’s magically a 4.48 ERA. So you can pretty much guess how those starts went.
The Mets miss RHP Josh Collmenter and LHP Joe Saunders this series.
C – Henry Blanco – R
1B/OF – Xavier Nady – R
3B – Sean Burroughs – L
IF – Cody Ransom – R
OF – Collin Cowgill – R
I like to imagine that Collin Cowgill is an aquatic version of Colin Cowherd. Xavier Nady and Hank White bring some former-Met intrigue to this series, if you care about those sorts of things. Oh, and Micah Owings (lifetime .516 slugging percentage) is in the bullpen, but he’s pinch hit once already this season and probably will again.
RHP – J.J. Putz
RHP – David Hernandez
LHP – Joe Paterson
RHP – Bryan Shaw
RHP – Micah Owings
RHP – Brad Ziegler
LHP – Zach Duke
They’re not as bad as the numbers suggest. Arizona’s bullpen is 12th in the league in ERA (3.83) with a matching FIP (3.80), but that hasn’t cost them many games in the standings, with just 12 blown saves (only two teams have fewer blown saves) and 13 losses in relief (only the Phillies have fewer losses by relievers). The Diamondback’s front three of Putz, Hernandez and Rule 5 lefty Joe Paterson has pitched well, which is why the high bullpen ERA hasn’t hurt them; they can use their good relievers in big spots and let the rest mop up. And really, most of the awfulness that has ballooned their numbers was centered around a certain former Mets pitcher from Notre Dame who will not be named. He gave up 28 runs in 32 appearances, and with him out of the mix, it’s really a decent pen. Not great – there are a lot of failed starters — but an improvement over last season’s historically bad bunch, and the front three will get the job done.
And those were some things about the Arizona Diamondbacks.