MLB Playoff Preview – Arizona Diamondbacks
By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage
With all of the division races over the Arizona Diamondbacks stand out as the most surprising division winner this season. Not only did they have to beat out the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, but they did so with a young and unproven bunch; a bunch that was not expected by most to compete this year, let alone make it to the postseason.
So how did the D’backs do it? They were led by their emerging star, 24 year old right fielder Justin Upton. After a breakout year in 2009 Upton regressed a bit last season, but with a .291 average, 31 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 2011 he has proven that he is a star on the rise. Alongside Upton the Diamondbacks are a fairly feast or famine offense, currently sitting 8th in the league in average but 4th in runs and homers. A poster child for the Arizona offense is centerfielder Chris Young who has 20 home runs but is hitting just .234. Much like Upton, however, Young possesses speed which adds another dimension of offense and his 22 steals lead the team.
While the offensive numbers aren’t a complete shock, the pitching seems to have caught everyone by surprise. Ian Kennedy has led the charge and along with a 2.88 ERA he has a 21-4 record, good for a first place tie in the league in wins. Kennedy probably is a step behind Cy Young frontrunners Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but the fact that he has been mentioned with that group might be a bigger surprise than the team’s success as a whole.
After Kennedy the rotation has found more surprising success from Daniel Hudson (16-11, 3.43), Joe Saunders (12-12, 3.58) and Josh Collmenter (10-10, 3.38). The bullpen has quietly been anchored by J.J. Putz (45 saves, 2.21) who is enjoying his best season since 2007 when he had a dominating season with the Seattle Mariners. David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler and Joe Paterson lead the team in appearances so it will likely be up to them to bridge the gap between the starters and Putz in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.
How the Diamondbacks can lose:
The pitching is always tougher in the playoffs and if the Diamondbacks aren’t hitting the ball out of the park they will probably have a tough time scoring runs, leading to an elimination. The other weakness for Arizona is it’s pitching staff, especially when compared to others around the league. Despite the team’s feel good story the staff still doesn’t match up with the depth and talent of the Phillies and Brewers, the top two teams in the league. Unless the D’backs staff pitches a bit above their heads it may not matter much what the offense does.
How the Diamondbacks can win:
Arizona will most likely be matched up with the Phillies or Brewers in the first round, and thus will undoubtedly be underdogs. If they can use this to their advantage to find an extra motivational edge and possibly catch their opponent taking them lightly they may be able to steal a game early and shift the tide of the series. As a young team it can be hard, but patience can go a long way if they are to pull a first round upset. Drawing a few walks then using their power to put a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard is the best chance Arizona has. Surely it’s a tall task, but not something out of the reach of the Diamondbacks.
Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage. The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern. Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.