Stagnant offense drops D-backs to .500

May 30th, 2019

DENVER -- The D-backs fell to 28-28 with their 5-4 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday night, their third straight defeat in Colorado and eighth in 11 games overall. They are a .500 ballclub for the first time since April 21, and a major factor in their decline has been a dormant offense.

Entering play on May 18, when Arizona was 25-20, the club ranked fourth in the National League with a 104 wRC+, behind the Dodgers, Cubs and Braves. Entering play Wednesday, it was 13th in the NL, ahead of only the Cardinals and Giants, with an 83 wRC+ since May 18.

Ironically, a trip to the pitcher-friendly Oracle Park last weekend appeared as though it may have cured the hitters’ ills, with the D-backs scoring 34 runs in a three-game sweep of the Giants. But they’ve struggled to score over their three losses at Coors Field, the most hitter-friendly park in baseball, scoring nine runs total.

“Baseball is an anomaly,” said , who hit a solo home run for his 11th of the season in the fifth inning Wednesday.

“There’s no equation, there’s nothing that can figure this out.”

It isn’t that Arizona hasn’t been putting hits on the board in Denver -- they have 29 of them over the first three games of the series. But when it comes to runners in scoring position, they’ve hit just .143 (4-for-28).

And it’s not as if the D-backs have run into the Rockies’ best starters, who have had their struggles this season. They’ve seen Jon Gray, who has pitched respectably following a rough 2018 campaign, Antonio Senzatela, who took the rotation spot of an injured Tyler Anderson and has a 5.81 ERA, and Wednesday’s starter Jeff Hoffman, who had made 25 career starts with a 6.03 ERA.

“I felt like when we came in here, we were ready to score a lot of runs,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “Maybe it’s coming into a situation where we’re trying to do a little bit too much, we’re trying to duplicate what we did in San Francisco. What we did in San Francisco was, we showed patience, used the whole field, took something off our swing to execute and get runners across.”

For Jones’ part, he doesn’t think it’s really a matter of guys gripping the bat too tightly.

“Even [Monday], we lined out five or six times,” he said. “You take away half of those and put them as base hits, it changes the game. And you never consider the plays [the Rockies] make on defense. I think we’re just grinding. I think we’re swinging the bats well.”

To some extent, Jones may be right. From May 18 until Arizona opened its series at Oracle Park on Friday, the club didn’t hit well, with a .286 xwOBA per Statcast, which is based on launch angle and exit velocity of batted balls. That’s nothing to write home about. But they were also somewhat unlucky, with their actual wOBA coming out to .228 (around .320 is considered average).

On the other hand, luck was on their side to some extent for the season up to that point. D-backs hitters had a .337 wOBA through May 17, but their xwOBA was 30 points lower, representing the largest differential in the Majors.

Moving forward, the question becomes: Are the D-backs more of a middle-of-the-pack offensive team, or will there be a resurgence among Arizona’s hitters?

The club’s best hitter so far in 2019, , is putting together the best offensive season of his career and went 3-for-8 with a homer over the first two games of the series with Colorado. But he struck out four times in a game for the first time in his career Wednesday, as part of an 0-for-5 night.

“No one hits every day,” he said. “If everyone hit every day, it would be easy. But tomorrow’s a new day.”