The Diamondbacks aren’t getting a whole lot of love heading into the 2019 season. In fairness, it’s hard to be viewed in a positive light with the losses of arguably your three best players. Paul Goldschmidt left via trade and AJ Pollock and Patrick Corbin left via free agency. The Diamondbacks still have a formidable starting rotation and there are some bounce back candidates in the lineup, which means that we should get some opportunities to bet on the Snakes this season.
The Diamondbacks were an 82-80 team that hit the skids at the wrong time last year. Their Pythagorean Win-Loss record pointed more towards an 86-76 team. Arizona finished the season 10-20 over its last 30 games to miss the playoffs badly and finish well off the pace in the NL West. This is an Arizona team that was 40-41 at home, 42-39 on the road, and struggled in one-run games at 20-31.
With a lot of left-handers in the division, the Diamondbacks were 28-30 against southpaw starters. Of the three teams that faced more, two were the Dodgers and Giants. The D-Backs were 54-50 against right-handed starters. They played well enough against .500 or better teams at 42-48, but a 40-32 record against teams with losing records ranked 19th in win percentage.
As a whole, the NL West was an under division. The Diamondbacks fit that mold going 82-74-6 to the under. San Francisco and Colorado slanted very heavily to the under.
Money Line Spots
The Diamondbacks entered September tied for first place. They finished nine games behind the Dodgers. They spent 125 days in first place and were never under .500. Now the team is in a state of quasi rebuild. The rotation is still strong and there are some hitters with track records that missed most of last season. It’s fair to wonder if people are too down on the Diamondbacks.
At the first, the humidor seemed to help Arizona, as the Snakes darted out to an 11-3 home record. That quickly normalized, so maybe it had nothing to do with the humidor at all. With Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, and Zack Greinke, there should be spots to back this team. It’s a little tough to project the offense right now with Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr. coming off of lost seasons, but Wilmer Flores has good projections and those two had great 2017 seasons.
I see the Diamondbacks being a good 1st 5 bet at times this season. The bullpen is iffy. Greg Holland will close at the start, with Archie Bradley in the primary setup role and a bunch of guys after him. I won’t have many full-game Diamondbacks bets, but I believe in the rotation. Luke Weaver and Merrill Kelly are very interesting guys as well. In fact, Arizona was 80-56-26 for the first five innings, which was one of the best marks in baseball last season.
With that in mind, it’s also worth pointing out that the offense, even with Goldschmidt, wasn’t very good. I think we’re looking at 1st 5 money lines and 1st 5 unders.
Speaking of unders, let’s examine the humidor a little more. The Diamondbacks posted a .242/.321/.398 slash at home last season. They batted .274/.350/.492 at home in 2017. Is this humidor related? Noise related? Personnel related? As we look at 2018, Goldschmidt led with 342 home plate appearances and was actually awful (by his standards) at home with a .238/.363/.420 slash. He had a .321/.443/.639 slash at home in 2017. The Diamondbacks also had JD Martinez in 2017, who posted a .536 wOBA in 125 home PA.
David Peralta, Nick Ahmed, Ketel Marte, AJ Pollock, and Daniel Descalso were the others with at least 200 home PA lst season. Peralta, Marte, Pollock, and Descalso all posted wRC+ marks of 116 or higher. The most PAs in 2017 went to Goldy, Jake Lamb, Peralta, Brandon Drury, Pollock, and Descalso. Their wRC+ marks ranged from Goldy’s 165 to Pollock’s 108.
I’m not sure I can definitively say it was the humidor or if it was just noise and personnel. Goldschmidt’s big home collapse skews the numbers substantially. The humidor is scientifically proven to cut down distance and exit velocity. The Diamondbacks went from a .449 SLG at home in 2017 to a .394 SLG in 2018. The average exit velocity was the exact same and the average distance was just two feet shorter.
I think we need another season’s worth of data, though I do expect the rotation to perform well and the offense to have its issues, so we may see another round of numbers on the low end.
The pitching numbers did not improve. They were pretty similar overall, with a mild drop in K% and a minor spike in BB%. The Diamondbacks did see an increase from 13.9 percent to 14.2 percent in HR/FB% in the humidor, which is surprising to me. Overall, the Diamondbacks were 41-37-3 to the under at home with an average total of 8.1 runs. The over was 42-34-7 in 2017 with an average total of 9.4 runs.
It looks like the books did adjust to the humidor.
Individual Players to Watch
Robbie Ray – Robbie Ray is something of an enigma. The left-hander has missed time early in the season each of the last two years and has struggled out of the gate, but has gotten back on track as the season has gone along. Ray had a 3.93 ERA with a 4.31 FIP and a 3.77 xFIP in his 123.2 innings. He had an 80.5 percent LOB% with a 31.4 percent K%, but he also had a 13.3 percent BB% and posted another high HR/FB% at 17.4 percent.
He held opposing batters to a .290 wOBA in the second half over 75.1 innings with a 3.23 ERA. The problem with Ray is that he runs his pitch count up so high with strikeouts and walks that he doesn’t work deep into games. He was also much worse at home, allowing a .452 SLG and 15 of his 19 home runs in 64.2 innings. He only allowed four homers and a .295 SLG on the road in 59 innings. You would think a humidor would benefit him, but it did not.
He’s a good 1st 5 bet, but playing full games is scary, especially because 107 batters hit .301/.393/.677(!!!) the third time through the lineup. That’s when he allowed 11 of his 19 homers.
Zack Godley – Zack Godley posted a 4.74 ERA with a 3.82 FIP and a 3.96 xFIP last season. He’ll be a guy that gets some love in the betting markets with a noticeable ERA/xFIP split and a 67.5 percent LOB%. His K/9 rate was on par with last season, but he had major walk issues and his K% actually fell almost three percent. His BB% bumped from 8.5 percent to 10.2 percent. His BABIP jumped to .324 because he was in the zone less and behind in the count more.
After a first-pitch ball, Godley allowed a .317/.442/.474 slash. In 2017, when he started 1-0, hitters only posted a .219/.346/.338 slash. There was some regression coming in that department, but it hit hard and played a big role. His first-pitch strike percentage was pretty similar over both seasons, so hopefully he’ll run better in that spot this year. League average, for what it’s worth, after a first-pitch ball was .262/.379/.444.