Arizona Diamondbacks: Solving the starting pitching problem

Arizona Diamondbacks

When you sport the worst record in the league, it is very hard to pinpoint just one aspect, much less one player as the cause of the ball club’s troubles. Such is the case for the Arizona Diamondbacks early on in the 2014 season. With a 5.17 team ERA, record of 8-20, and run differential of minus-59 – all of which are league worsts, there seems to be no end in sight for the Diamondbacks’ woes.

Again, it’s unreasonable to put everything on one player as the cause for such a horrible start. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. The Diamondbacks haven’t been pitching well as a staff, and haven’t been winning games. Specifically, the starters have not been doing their job.

Combined as a staff, the starters are 5-17 with a 6.15 ERA, .294 BAA with 124 strikeouts to 57 walks. If that looks like a nightmare stat line for a pitcher’s season, you’d be right. With 28 games played, that’s about a season’s worth of poor starting pitching – all in the first month.

When the starters are giving up a lot of runs and aren’t pitching deep into games, it causes a ripple effect. The offense has more pressure to put up runs of their own, the bullpen has to shoulder the load, which subsequently affects the next day’s starter. As of April 28th, no bullpen in all of baseball has been more used than that of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But enough about the bad times. Surely this isn’t sustainable. Surely good times are ahead, right?

Maybe they are. The league is a funny thing; the last four starts from Diamondback pitchers have all been quality starts – not just the stat, but actual good starts. Let’s take a look:

Apr 24th – Michael Bolsinger (W, 5-2 over the Cubs) – 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K on 97 pitches
Apr 25th – Josh Collmenter (W, 5-4 over the Phillies) – 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K on 98 pitches
Apr 26th – Bronson Arroyo (L, 6-5 to the Phillies) – 6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K on 97 pitches
Apr 27th – Brandon McCarthy (L, 2-0 to the Phillies) – 7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K (career high) on 103 pitches

The fifth pitcher – Wade Miley – has been the least egregious of the starters anyway, and looks to be in midseason form despite an ERA north of 4.00.

Even if the Diamondbacks didn’t win all four of those games, each performance was what is expected out of a starting pitcher: keep the ball in the yard, keep the score manageable, and make it as easy as you can for the bullpen.

It took demotions to Trevor Cahill (1-5 with a 7.66 ERA) and Randall Delgado (0-1 with a 5.63 ERA) to somewhat stabilize the staff, but the early results are encouraging that the Diamondbacks pitching will turn it around, and that the early season struggles are a thing of the past.

With the offense and bullpen performing the way they are, that could be enough to put some wins together and get out of the league’s basement at the very least.

If not, there’s always the Archie Bradley call up to look forward to. (Can’t make it through a Diamondbacks pitching article without mentioning him, right?))