Despite improvements from 2021, Diamondbacks still struggling with NL West opponents

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, left, has found it a challenge to keep up with a talented National League West, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The 2022 Arizona Diamondbacks have come a long way in just a year. The team is already closing in on last season’s win total (51) with a 37-44 record approaching the MLB All-Star break.

Health has played a major factor in the team’s improvement after last year’s starting pitching rotation broke down with concurrent injuries. Arizona’s depth suffered as a result.

“We lost three-fifths of our rotation within a week or 10-day period, and then we lost the fourth one. That was painful,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I think we didn’t have the right amount of depth to go that deep.”

While Arizona has had a much-improved season with a healthier pitching rotation, one hurdle has kept the team from having a .500 record: the top of the NL West.

Sitting 14 1/2 games back of the division lead, the Diamondbacks hold a 4-16 record against the Los Angeles Dodgers (51-29) and the San Diego Padres (47-36). A 2-0 start to this week in the first series of the season against the third-place San Francisco Giants (40-39) provides hope of the Diamondbacks reversing the trend against the NL West’s best, but even the last-place Rockies hold a 3-3 record against Lovullo’s club.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told MLB Network he “doesn’t see a division that’s better.”

“You can talk about the AL East, but top to bottom, every night we’re playing within the division it’s a battle to win a baseball game,” Roberts said.

The Diamondbacks have relied on walk-off wins in their two victories against the Padres. In the first game of the season, designated hitter Seth Beer hit a walk-off home run. On June 28, the Diamondbacks won their second game against the Padres in what first baseman Christian Walker described as one of the weirdest three-inning stretches to rally from a six-run deficit. The Diamondbacks had a 1.3 percent chance to win after the fifth inning.

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“When you play a good team like that and you feel the momentum, everyone wants to hit the three-run homer, but to let the momentum keep going, to have guys on base so that we get an opportunity when we get hit by pitches it means something,” Walker said. “I love to see that out of the team.”

Arizona’s additional few wins have come from miraculous and unsustainable ways. To take the next step and be more competitive in the best division in baseball, Arizona needs more consistency from both run support and pitching at the same time.

Arizona’s run averages skew about one run each way against NL West opponents. This year, the Diamondbacks average 4.23 runs per game and average 4.74 runs allowed per game. When just focusing on the NL West, the Diamondbacks’ average runs fall to 3.61 runs per game and jump to 5.00 runs allowed per game. The Diamondbacks have a negative run differential against these teams of 101 runs to 140 runs allowed.

Consistency this season has typically come from Gallen and Davies on the mound and Alek Thomas, David Peralta and Ketel Marte from the batter’s box. The three hitters have the best batting average on the team of players with more than 50 games played. Walker leads the team in home runs and slugging percentage. However, his play at the plate has been inconsistent as he is third on the team in strikeouts.

Beer also has had a rough time at the plate since his heroics in the season opener. With the Diamondbacks, he was batting .210 in 81 plate appearances. The walk-off was his only home run during his time in the majors. Beer was called back to the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate in Reno and has still struggled to hit there with a .219 average.

Overall, the Diamondbacks have taken a big step forward this year, but there are plenty left to take. With more consistency, the team can start to take more games from the top teams in the NL West in effort to make up ground in the division race.

David Rodish(he/him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

David Rodish expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a master’s degree in mass communication degree.