Heyman | How the Diamondbacks got off the NL’s best start
The Arizona Diamondbacks have something special going on there.
They’ve hired a lot of great baseball people over the years, and they obviously have high standards based on the number of changes they’ve made at the top of the baseball hierarchy. But based on the results of the first year-and-a-month of the Mike Hazen regime, it’ll be hard to find any fault here; their decisions are almost uniformly right, and at 21-8 (including 7-1 against the rival Dodgers) they’ve played better than anyone, including the seven so-called super teams.
The Diamondbacks are tied for baseball’s best record, and it’s no accident. They are doing everything very well, and they’ve done it with significant injuries (Steven Souza and Jake Lamb have missed significant time, and now Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray are out — Walker for the year, so their pitching depth will be severely tested).
So much has gone, right, though, such as:
1. The starting rotation, the most improved group in the game last year, has picked up right where they left off.
2. Patrick Corbin, in particular, has been brilliant. They have re-emphasized his slider, and he’s become one of the best pitchers in the game since the second half last year.
3. The bullpen, excellent last year, is even better with the additions of Yoshihisa Hirano and Brad Boxberger, who is closing and thriving.
4. The idea to turn the catching position into a defense-mostly position has paid off. They are big on pitch framing, but also on pitch calling and everything else that goes on behind the plate. Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis and John Ryan Murphy are a nice trio who all emphasize the defensive aspect of the position.
5. They hired pitching and hitting gurus who set the tone for what they do, and they picked two of the very best – the ex-MLB star Dan Haren and J.D. Martinez’s hitting guru Robert Van Scoyoc (at least they got to keep something related to Martinez, who was a brilliant pickup at last year’s trade deadline; the D-Backs thought they had a legit shot at Martinez himself at a couple junctures this winter but were ultimately out of the running once Boston bumped up its offer to $110 million from $100 million).
6. A.J. Pollock and Nick Ahmed have emphasized launch angle under Van Scoyoc (and hitting coaches Dave Magadan and Tim Laker), and Pollock leads the NL with 10 home runs and Ahmed, a defensive player in the past, has six of his own.
7. The outfield defense has gone from the best in the game to the worst and now back to among the best again, with David Peralta plus either Chris Owings or Jarrod Dyson bookending the ultra-talented center fielder Pollock. Souza was also reinstated from the DL on Thursday.
8. The infield defense currently features three guys who are excellent shortstops with Deven Marrero at third, Ahmed at short and Ketel Marte at second. Lamb should be back in May to man third and provide more power.
9. Paul Goldschmidt remains a stud but he’s far from along, as it’s seemed at times in past years.
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