As far as I’m concerned, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been the least interesting, most anonymous team in baseball for quite some time now. I am a night owl with an MLB.TV account, which means I’m something of a connoisseur of West Coast baseball; every season, I end up watching more of the Mariners, Dodgers, and Angels than just about another team that doesn’t play with a red ‘B’ on its hats. But the DBacks? Not interested. I hate their dumb, weirdly dark ballpark; I hate their largely interchangeable collection of mediocre ballplayers; I hate that they took an interesting guy like Zack Grienke and rendered him irrelevant. They stink!
So one might think, then, that the Diamondbacks are actually the perfect team for the struggling Red Sox to play right now. At the tail end of an emotional road trip in which they faced off against a guy who, just a few months ago, was the face of the franchise, and then had to face the guy who’s the face of the entire sport, three games out of the spotlight against a mid team sounds wonderful. There’s just one problem: Apparently the Diamondbacks are good now?
At 29-21, the Snakes currently sit in second place in the NL West, ahead of the vaunted Padres, and they’ve won 9 of their last 12 games. On the pitching side, they are led once again by Zac Gallen, an ace of aces, a guy who puts up Ks everywhere except in his own name. But last year, Gallen was given a wingman in the form of Merrill Kelly, a guy whose 145+ ERA+ is currently the 20th-best mark in all of baseball.
On the offensive side of things, Arizona features a dynamic lineup of young, variously skilled players, some of whom aren’t even approaching their primes yet. Corbin Carroll has immediately turned his super-prospect status into real production, with 7 homers and a 143 OPS+ to pair with his outstanding outfield defense. Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo wasn’t nearly has highly regarded as Carrol (though he was still a top-100 guy) and he struggled mightily at the plate last year. But the Diamondbacks kept running him back out there all season long, even as he finished with a batting average below the Mendoza line, and it’s paid off in a big way this year. Perdomo has arguably put up the best stats of any shortstop in baseball: a .315/.413/.519 slash line with just 23 strikeouts to go with an elite glove. The underlying metrics suggest he’s been getting extremely lucky with the bat (he does not hit the ball hard, at all), but nevertheless, the production is in the books, and the glove and contact skills aren’t going anywhere. Ketel Marte, Lourdes Gurriel, and Christian Walker are all providing respectable veteran play to back up the kids.
So, damn, maybe this series isn’t the pressure-free slump-buster I was hoping for.
The good news is that the Red Sox will miss Gallen. And tonight’s starter, Brandon Pfaadt, has really been struggling, particularly at keeping the ball in the yard. So in that sense, tonight is a perfect opportunity for the Sox’ somnambulant bats to wake up. Will it happen with Chris Sale on the mound? That’s one of the things Dan and Bryan discussed on this week’s Monsters of Sox Podcast.
They also touched on:
- The sudden struggles of Jarren Duran, Masataka Yoshida, and Triston Casas;
- The fact that, for the first time in the calendar year, the Red Sox actually know what their five-man rotation is; and
- What exactly makes a “great at-bat” and whether there should be an officially designated aesthetic judge who scores each player’s performance every game (it sounded like a good idea to Dan the other night, when it was late, and he was tired and possibly using a little something to relax.)
As always, thanks for listening!