PHOENIX -- The D-backs entered 2016 with eight new sets of uniforms, two big-ticket pitching acquisitions and expectations that this year would be different from the past few.Yet it's the end of June and not only is Arizona's record not far better than the 40-41 record the club had at
PHOENIX -- The D-backs entered 2016 with eight new sets of uniforms, two big-ticket pitching acquisitions and expectations that this year would be different from the past few.
Yet it's the end of June and not only is Arizona's record not far better than the 40-41 record the club had at the halfway point last season, but it's worse.
The D-backs are 36-45, fourth in the National League West, and 13 1/2 games back of the first-place Giants entering Thursday.
"A lot of teams have been in the same spot we are, ended up winning divisions and Wild Cards and won World Series," Arizona manager Chip Hale said. "But we have to play better. There's no doubt about it. We're not saying, 'Hey, look at these teams, they did it, we can do it.' Of course that's the hope, but you have to do something about it."
Hale knows from experience. In 2012, he was the bench coach in Oakland. The Athletics were 37-42 and 13 games back in the AL West at the end of June. They went 57-26 the rest of the season and ended up winning the American League West.
The D-backs will need a similar second half if they want to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
But why have they not lived up to the heightened expectations already?
One reason is the starting pitching has not been great. Shelby Miller (2-7, 6.79 ERA) has struggled since coming over from the Braves, also spending some time on the disabled list.
Rubby De La Rosa (UCL sprain) is also on the DL, and it's uncertain when the right-hander, who seemed to finally be stringing together consistent outings, will be back in the rotation.
Archie Bradley (4.50 ERA), Robbie Ray (4.69 ERA) and Patrick Corbin (4.99 ERA) all have been inconsistent, each with their own individual struggles at times.
Zack Greinke, who was signed to a six-year, $206.5 million deal in the offseason, has lived up to expectations after a rough start to April. But now, the right-handed ace has an injured oblique and it has yet to be announced if he will be spending some time on the DL.
Whether it's inefficient starting pitching or a lack of situational hitting, the D-backs have found ways to lose games in the first half of the season. In getting swept by the Phillies in three games earlier this week, the bullpen couldn't hold leads in the eighth inning or later in each of the last two losses.
"It's like one night we don't hit, the next night we don't pitch," Hale said. "We put it together and I think we can go on a nice run."
All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt insists the team's confidence has never wavered at any point so far this season -- even with outfielders A.J. Pollock (fractured right elbow) and David Peralta (lower back strain), and infielder/outfielder Chris Owings (left foot plantar fasciitis) all on the DL.
Arizona's offense has still had its positives. Offseason acquisition Jean Segura leads the team with a .311 batting average. Jake Lamb has broken through with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs, both team bests. And Goldschmidt, after an uncharacteristic slow start, is now batting .298 with a .428 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 53 RBIs.
The veteran first baseman said he still believes the best is yet to come for the D-backs this season.
"We just haven't consistently been able to play up to our abilities, just probably as a whole," Goldschmidt said. "There's not one reason. Guys have been positive, guys have been working hard. It's hopefully just a matter of time before we start playing better."
Jake Rill is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arizona.