If you’re a Diamondbacks fan, chances are you’ve become familiar with the notion that the D-backs were a surprise to many of the pundits when they tore out of the gate this season. Heck, they were a surprise to most of the fans too.
If there’s a ‘secret sauce’ to most winning major-league teams, it’s that they’re usually really good at winning the close games. You know, those one-run nail-biters that have you twisting and turning inside until your team pulls out a walk-off win, or your closer just plain shuts the door on the opponents. Yep, those.
The 2017 D-backs started the year by absolutely crushing it in one-run games. In the first half of the season they were 18-8 in those games. Hold on, that wasn’t exactly the first half of the season (which I consider to be pre-All-Star break). It was actually right up until they played the Dodgers July 4-6.
It was in that Dodgers series that the D-backs suddenly lost their mojo and dropped each one of those games by, yep, one run. Since then, and including that series, the D-backs are 1-9 in one-run games. That puts them right at 19-17 on the year. And while that all sound bad, it really isn’t nearly as bad as it seems.
For some context, I pulled the record of each division leader in one-run games so far this year. Here’s what that looks like. I’ll meet you on the other side.
First thing that jumps out is that, when compared to division leaders, the D-backs 19-17 record (.528 winning percentage) is actually quite comparable. In fact, their pre-Dodgers series record of 18-8 was pretty elite and would have been better than every team on this list. So some regression should have been expected and that’s exactly what we’ve seen.
My point to all of this is that baseball can be very cyclical over a 162-game season. Most teams go through streaks and the process of getting to the postseason isn’t always pretty. Obviously, the trick is getting to the postseason at all. Once there, a team has to have the pieces in place to win.
With the addition of J.D. Martinez to the lineup, the D-backs have one of the most prolific one-through-five lineups in the game. Of course, they’ll have ups and downs, but guys like Peralta, Pollock, Lamb, Goldschmidt and Martinez are what championship teams look like.