With three straight losses and having to play without Chris Young and Justin Upton due to injury, the Arizona Diamondbacks and their fans are likely feeling a lit bit of heartburn as they sit over their lunches planning their weekend. The Atlanta Braves are in town, and after last night’s 10-2 shellacking at Chase Field, things don’t look like they will be getting any easier for the Diamondbacks any time soon.
The question now among the fanbase (when they aren’t watching the Phoenix Suns vie for a playoff spot or the Phoenix Coyotes get to within a game of advancing in the playoffs for the first time since 1987) is a simple one: is it time to panic?
This may seem like a silly question, seeing as though we are only 13 games into a 162 game season, but it is one that is coming up a lot anyway. Yes, the San Francisco Giants are currently dealing with replacing closer Brian Wilson, who is out for the season with an elbow injury, but they still have twin aces in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and also have guys like Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey who can cause issues in the NL West.
In addition, you have the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have started out the year red hot at 10-3 and are looking to surprise everyone behind the stellar play of twin MVP candidates Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.
To adequately determine what state of panic the fanbase should be at in the Valley, we have devised a scale to measure the “Panic Index”. It is a simple 1-5 scale, with one being the most serene and five being the most agitated. Here is the scale in full:
One: Everything is hunky dory!
Two: Slight concern
Three: Uh oh
Four: UH OH!
Five: PANIC IN THE STREETS!
We won’t just measure the team as a whole either. Instead, we will measure the situation in five different areas: offense, defense, starting pitching, bullpen, and what the rest of the division is doing. We will then average the score out and tell you, as a Diamondbacks fan, how worried you should be about the club.
Without further adieu, here is the first ever measure of Arizona’s “Panic Index”:
The offense gets a resounding UH OH for several reasons. The first and biggest among those is the continuing health issues of the team’s stars. Young is on the disabled list and will miss about two to three weeks after running into the outfield wall during a game with Pittsburgh this week. Upton has a sore thumb that he injured during the Opening Weekend series against San Francisco, and Geoff Blum has a torn oblique muscle and is out for an extended period.
On top of the injuries, the team just isn’t hitting well as a general rule. They still have yet to score a run in the ninth inning this year despite being the best team in baseball last year in comeback victories, and outside of the first inning (where they have scored in 10 of 13 opportunities), they just have shown a patent inability to add on.
Losing Young stinks, but being able to call up AJ Pollock is going to help soothe that wound. Willie Bloomquist is still doing a pretty good job at shortstop in relief of the injured Stephen Drew, and best of all, Miguel Montero looks like a man possessed behind the dish, gunning out would-be base stealers left and right.
The only downside that can be seen on defense is the play of Ryan Roberts at third base. He has already made two errors in 32 chances so far this year, and he has been having to work on his throws because he’s been making life difficult for Paul Goldschmidt and Lyle Overbay at first. It’s not a big deal at all, but with the way the team is struggling to score runs, he needs to be able to get the ball across the infield consistently.
Starting Pitching: 1
This team’s strongest asset right now has got to be its starting pitching. Trevor Cahill and Daniel Hudson have both looked really good to start the year, Ian Kennedy is going to be a perennial Cy Young candidate, and even Joe Saunders has looked good.
Josh Collmenter has had his fair share of struggles so far, but he definitely bought himself another start or two with his solid performance on Thursday against Atlanta. He did give up two early runs, but he settled down nicely and was only pulled after allowing a couple of bloop singles.
Even if Collmenter struggles, or if another member of the rotation goes down with an injury, Arizona has some great insurance plans in Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer, and Patrick Corbin, who are all thriving right now in the minors.
The Diamondbacks bullpen has had a bit of an up and down year so far. Craig Breslow and Bryan Shaw have been solid, posting sub 1.00 ERAs, and Wade Miley has had a couple of good outings in long relief despite getting roughed up a bit yesterday.
What is nerve-wracking is the performance of eighth inning specialist David Hernandez and their closer JJ Putz. They both were pretty much bulletproof a season ago, but this year has been a different story, as their ERAs have ballooned as they have struggled to retire batters with any consistency.
No one in the bullpen is getting lit up every single time that they go out, however, and the rotation has done a good job of preventing them from working too much too often. Both of those factors could easily swing the momentum back onto the favorable side for the team, but until then, it’s pretty much hold your breath and jump time every time the pen gets warming up.
Rest of Division: 3
Taking a quick perusal of the NL West standings reveals that the Diamondbacks already in rough shape. The Dodgers have taken a quick three game lead early on, and they seem to be winning despite only Kemp and Ethier really doing anything for their lineup. In addition, the Giants and Rockies are both lurking only a half game behind the D’Backs (tied in the loss column), and San Diego is doing its part in bringing up the rear.
Obviously, injuries and crappy weather have done the Diamondbacks in so far, but the fact of the matter is that they have lost several winnable games early on, and the division very well could come down to the wire, so every victory or loss counts.
It’s much too early to make any broad conclusions based on the standings, but it doesn’t help the mindset of anyone to see the hated Dodgers jump out the way they have.
Panic Index: 2.6
The Diamondbacks are barely above the halfway point of the panic scale, inching towards “Uh oh” territory. Obviously everything is not rainbows and kittens right now, but things could easily change as the team gets healthier and some of their big bats start producing in the way they are capable of doing.
On the flip side, if injuries continue to befall them, and if guys like Goldschmidt can’t start hitting, then they may dig themselves a little bit too big of a hole, and they may not have the clutch offense to dig their way out like they did a season ago.
Expectations are high in the Valley, and Kirk Gibson and company have to hope that those high and lofty goals aren’t causing the team to sit there stargazing instead of doing what is necessary to win these early games.