The Arizona Diamondbacks end April in a three-way tie for most wins in the National League and a half game ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West. What makes these numbers truly impressive is that the Diamondbacks have not been firing on all cylinders early on.
Injuries have played a large role, as Randy Johnson, Carlos Quentin, Micah Owings, and Juan Cruz all spent part of the month on the disabled list. Jeff DaVanon spent the entire month sidelined, and could begin a rehab assignment in early May. Chris Young and Conor Jackson have each missed a couple of games due to injury as well.
To combat all of these injuries, General Manager Josh Byrnes played a game of musical chairs throughout the month, swapping players between Tucson and Phoenix seemingly at random. It paid off in some instances, however. Yusmeiro Petit may not have won his spot start in place of Micah Owings, but by pitching seven solid innings, Petit kept the bullpen rested, and the team proceeded to win six of its next seven contests.
The Diamondbacks offense has been disappointing as well, with only Orlando Hudson and Tony Clark exceeding expectations, and only Chad Tracy and Eric Byrnes after that performing about as expected. Stephen Drew and Chris Young appear to be coming around, however, with Drew hitting safely in 11 of his last 12 games, and Young belting two homers in the final day of the month.
The real surprise has been the pitching. This was the area that really solidified in the offseason, but no one could have anticipated the first month to go this well, particularly with Randy Johnson not making his first start until April 24th. Jose Valverde appears to have moved past his bout of inconsistency last summer, and has developed into one of the most reliable closers in baseball. The rotation is so deep that once Micah Owings comes off the DL this week, either he or Edgar Gonzalez, both of whom have pitched extremely well, will need to move to the bullpen.
While it is unlikely that the staff will continue to perform this well all year, the offense is also going to come around at some point. The biggest concern entering May would have to be the lack of depth on the offense. Utility players Scott Hairston, Alberto Callaspo, Robby Hammock, and Brian Barden combined to bat .205 in 151 April at bats. The pitching staff may be deep enough to sustain injuries right now, but should anything happen to Hudson or Tracy, the offense would be in dire circumstances indeed.
But it is easier to acquire hitting than pitching in midseason, and if the club finds itself competitive and short on pitching, there's a good chance that Josh Byrnes will make a move. Alternatively, Chris Carter, Jamie D'Antona, and Jeff Salazar are all knocking the stuffing out of the ball in Triple-A, and could be called upon for key major league roles.
National League Ranks
Runs Allowed: 8th (108)
Wins: t-1st (16)
ERA: 4th (3.57)
WHIP: 10th (1.41)
Strikeouts: t-2nd (188)
Saves: t-1st (11)
Diamondbacks HittersRuns Scored:
Batting Average: 10th (.251)
On Base Percentage: 7th (.331)
Slugging Percentage: 10th (.384)
Home Runs: t-8th (20)
Stolen Bases: 11th (10)
Senior Editor Keith Glab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org