With the 2019 Major League Baseball season well underway, it’s time to take a look at the start made by our own Arizona Diamondbacks. It seems like it’s been a long time since they became the fastest expansion team to win the World Series (when they beat the mighty New York Yankees in 2001). This year they are ranked 14th out of 30 teams in Oddschecker’s World Series Rankings, and they currently sit fourth of five in the National League West. Yet, it could all have been so different.
The story so far
As of the end of May, the D-Backs; results showed that they were living up to their mid-list ranking with an almost 50/50 tally of 28 wins and 29 losses. They had fared better on the road than at home, winning 17 of 33 games away and just 11 of 24 at Chase Field. They sat 12 games back from the leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were sitting proudly at the top of the table with a 42 and 19 record, having won 25 of 32 home games.
Still in contention
Yet, for all the Dodgers’ domination, things are not as bad as they seem for the D-Backs. Above them in the National League West, the San Diego Padres have only a marginally better record, with 31 wins and 29 losses, and above the Padres, the Colorado Rockies are only 31 and 27, meaning that both their main rivals have only won one more game than the D-Backs. The San Francisco Giants may be out of it—floundering at the foot of the table with just 24 wins—but the three mid-table teams still have everything to play for.
Added optimism can be taken from the D-Backs’ record against their National League West opponents, with a 5-5 record so far against the Padres and several close calls against the Rockies, including scores of 3-4, 4-5 and 10-11 in their late May series.
Close but no cigar
Close losses have been the story of the season so far for the D-Backs, with no less than 15 of their games up to the end of May lost by a single run. That is more than a quarter of all their games and means that more than half of their losses have come down to the finest of margins. It might seem incredibly frustrating, but the positive take is that it shows that the team is not completely off the pace and that the smallest increase in form, or just the bounce of the ball, could turn things in their favour very quickly.
A sport of fine margins
To put the D-Backs’ early season form in perspective, winning just a third of those close games would have seen them sitting pretty in second place, with clear water between them and the Rockies. Winning two-thirds would have seen them fighting for league leadership and planning for the post season. Yet, baseball can be so cruel when it comes to such fine margins. Look at last season, when the Tampa Bay Rays’ percentage of 0.556 equaled the Atlanta Braves’ NL East winning total, yet failed to get them into even runners-up position in the AL East and saw them miss out on the post season. Similarly, the Cleveland Indians’ 0.562 would not have been nearly good enough in the NL Central, yet it put them at the top of the AL Central.
Heads down and keep going
It may not have gone to plan so far this season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they need to keep their heads down and keep up the momentum. Third place was good enough for the Rockies in 2017—when the D-Backs also qualified for the post-season with second place—so there is still everything to play for. And with three sides in real contention to move on with the Dodgers, that place is still within their grasp. After all, with so many close calls, the D-Backs’ fortunes have to change soon, surely?