Diamondbacks Game Preview #65: 6/15 vs. Reds

Something mentioned on the show last night made me dig a little. There are peripheral stats that perhaps explain why the D-backs offense has struggled so much this season. The Diamondbacks enter today’s game with a .675 OPS on the season, trailing only the Pirates in the National League. After adjusting for park and league factors, their OPS+ of 92 is ranked 12th, although it’s actually five points upper than the same number in 2021. Much of it comes down to their phenomenally low .216 batting average. If maintained, it would be the lowest over a full season (>60 games+) by any NL team in the live ball eraThe last with a worse BA was the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas, which hit .213.

It’s a little weird, because they’re still walking around. Only the Dodgers have more bases on the balls than D-backs this year, and the team is hitting for power, with all 73 home runs ranked fourth in the league. It’s just the average. and a major part of that is low BABIP. Because Arizona has a BABIP of .263, the worst in the league by nine points, and 29 points below the NL average of .292. If we take a look at the Batted Ball Profile section on baseball scholar, some elements stand out as factors. First, Arizona has the worst Line Drive rate in the majors. This matters, as these are far more likely to become hits than fly or ground balls. LDs have a BABIP of 0.616; flies are at .100 and ground balls at .235.

The other area where the Diamondbacks rank last is on balls hit the opposite direction. [This is what the broadcast last night mentioned, and go me going down the rabbit-hole] The league average is 25.2%, while D-backs are down to 21.6%; conversely, they lead the league in shooting 40.8% (they are in the middle of the pack to move up the middle). In the happy environment of change that is the majors in 2022 – at least until Rob Manfred decides to ban it – shooting the ball is not a recipe for success for left-heavy teams like the D- backs. BABIP on LHB shots fired is just 0.255, more than fifty points below the figure when going the other way (0.309).

The question is whether anything can be DONE about these trends. What’s odd about the line drive rate is that the Diamondbacks aren’t particularly bad at getting good contact, being in the middle of the pack in this baseball scholar defines both as “barrels” and “solids” categories, and not that far below the overall “hard hit” percentage average. It seems to be a case, less of how the team hits than where they hit them. Can hitting coach Joe Mather solve these apparent problems? Only time will tell…

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Raymond I. Langston