The Braves are riding high on their breezy part of the summer schedule: They’ve now swept two division rivals (albeit bad ones) on the way to a 7 game winning streak, and are currently rolling back into Atlanta to celebrate Independence Day against yet another bad team in the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On paper, the Daimondbacks should be a contending team. Maybe not a division winner, but at least a shot of a winning record. With a guy like Paul Goldschmidt manning first base, a solid catcher in Miguel Montero, and Braves favorite Martin Prado, the Diamondbacks have a handful of good offensive players. Unfortunately, they do not throw the ball particularly well.
The Diamondbacks come screaming into town carrying a 4.33 team ERA, good for 14th out of 15 National League teams. The problems stem from usual cogs in both the bullpen and rotation. Brandon McCarthy is having a hard time missing bats in the desert heat, as he has allowed 131 hits in just 109 innings, resulting in an atrocious 5.01 ERA. McCarthy’s FIP (3.77) and solid K/BB ratio tell a slightly different story, so maybe a bit of it is bad luck, but the Braves won’t have a chance to test their luck this time around.
First up for the Braves is Josh Collmenter, who is far and away the Diamondbacks best starter this year. His strikeout rate has certainly dipped this year (5.5 per 9, compared to an 8.0 and 8.3 in comparable service time the past two seasons), but he also does not walk many (26 men in 91 innings). Collmenter seems to use his good infield defense to his advantage, as his groundball percentage is higher than ever at near 40%.
Mike Bolsinger has been less than stellar in his time filling in for the injured Bronson Arroyo. Almost striking similar to McCarthy, Bolsinger hasn’t walked many and has struck out a fair few, but his inability to miss bats has lead to 48 hits in 43.2 innings. Ir’s not that Bolsinger has been bad, he just hasn’t been particularly effective. The Braves bats shouldn’t have too much trouble this series.
Wade Miley might be the biggest disappointment so far for the Diamondbacks in 2014. Miley has enjoyed success comparable to a number 3 starter in the past two seasons, but his effectiveness has come crashing down despite a boost in strikeout numbers and a decreased walk rate. It’s almost a mystery as to what is causing this rough patch for Miley, but this is almost a metaphor for the entire Diamondbacks season, which has been effectively over since the 3rd week of play.
It speaks volumes about the Diamonbacks bullpen that their two best relievers are both 32 year old LOOGY’s. Coincidentally, both could be trade targets for the Braves. Outside of Joe Thatcher, Oliver Perez, and the submarine tossing Brad Ziegler, the DBacks bullpen’s performance pretty much rhymes with shmumpster hire.
The DBacks offensive makeup has been previously mentioned already. Paul Goldschmidt is a premier player and is on his way to beating out Freddie Freeman to start at first base for the National League in this years All-Star game. Miguel Montero is currently enjoying a bounceback season, as he has almost matched his last season performance in 40 less games. Aside from that, the Diamondbacks offense have pretty much followed path of DBacks pitching.
Martin Prado has struggled as of late, slashing just .268/.313/.360 and hitting just .227 over the past month. Gerardo Para has also struggled and is hitting only .252 with only 3 hits in the past two calendar weeks. TWO WEEKS. Aaron Hill is on base at only a .285 clip, and that isn’t exactly helping either.
With shortstop Chris Ownings having a solid year, it certainly was a kick while down when he was disabled with a bruised shoulder. Former Braves farm hand Nick Ahmed (remember this guy?) has been called up to fill in. Ahmed has been okay enough in his limited time, but overall he is still the player that made many analysts believe that the Justin Upton deal was done for pennies on the dollar.
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