Snake Bitten: Hitters

The Arizona Diamondbacks came out of the gates quickly in 2008, punishing their opponents in April and looking like the early team to beat. Their offense was scoring runs in bunches and their pitching was stellar, leading to a lot of lopsided wins. On April 28th, they stood 19-7. Even after yesterday’s win, they are now just 35-30. Today, we’ll take a two part look at what’s gone wrong in the desert in the last six weeks.

In April, the D’Backs hit .268/.345/.468, posting an OPS that was 21 percent better than the league average and second best in the National League, trailing only the Cubs in offensive production. They were led by huge months from Conor Jackson (.348/.430/.630) and Justin Upton (.327/.372/.554) while getting solid performances from just about everyone else. However, neither player has been able to sustain their hot starts, with Jackson hitting .253/.273/.385 since May 1st and Upton struggling to a .196/.353/.355 mark in that same time frame.

In fact, the D’Backs don’t have a single hitter who has been consistently good all season. Mark Reynolds was great at the beginning of April, struggled badly from the end of April through May, and has caught fire again in June, and along with Jackson, he’s been the most productive D’Backs hitter so far this season. But some good runs mixed with long slumps (Reynolds posted a .441 OPS between April 23rd and May 17th) simply won’t do for middle of the order hitters on a contending club.

Arizona’s offense is comprised of a bunch of good-but-not-great hitters. There isn’t an MVP hitter on this team, and so they’re going to have to get production from all eight spots (plus Micah Owings) to score enough runs to be a legitimate contender. If the offensive yo-yo continues, Josh Byrnes and company might have to look into acquiring another hitter for the stretch run.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Conor Glassey

Dave – the question then becomes: Where do you put another hitter? The D-Backs are very young, so unless they move one of their youngsters for another bat, there isn’t a lot of room for that bat. Eric Byrnes has been the worst hitter on that team (granted, he’s battling injuries too), but I don’t see them getting an outfielder to replace their $30 million man. What would you suggest?