Wayne Root: Diamondbacks Shock NL West
A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM
By the KING of Las Vegas WAYNE ALLYN ROOT
ARIZONA COMES FROM NOWHERE IN SHOCKING RUN TO TOP!
After the games of May 13th, the Arizona Diamondbacks were sitting at 15-22 in the NL West standings, just a half game ahead of last place San Diego. They had just lost five straight games. It looked to all the world like it was going to be another dead year in the desert.
Arizona was still horrible. They were going to be a non-story once again in 2011.
Since then...the Diamondbacks are 15-2, and have won 13 of their last 14 games. They surged all the way up to first place in the NL West this past Sunday...then maintained a half game lead at least through the games of Monday Night with a blowout of Florida. Suddenly, fans are talking about a return to the playoffs...and a return to prominence for a team that's been off the radar for a long time.
What happened? How did Arizona SHOCK THE SYSTEM in Major League Baseball and become so dominant?
Well, this is a team I've been watching closely the past few weeks. I had anticipated some improvement this year. I do think Arizona is better than they were last year. I'm not ready to sign on yet with this team as a true playoff caliber squad.
Arizona's hot streak has come against a very soft schedule. They just swept Houston in Houston, and the Astros are horrible. Earlier they swept a three-game home series against Minnesota, the worst team in the American League. So, 6-0 of the 13-1 and 14-2 runs were from beating up on bad teams who are in the doldrums. The stretch also includes a 3-1 mark against the LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres within their own division. Those teams are dealing with hard times this year too. That's 9-1...a pretty big hunk of the hot streak!
The Diamondbacks did impress me with a 3-1 trip to Colorado. It's tough to win at that site. Even though Ubaldo Jiminez isn't in Cy Young form this year, the Rockies are still a cut above those other teams Arizona was beating. In fact, Colorado was in first place in the NL West back on 5/13 when Arizona ignited.
And, a 2-0 mini-sweep of Atlanta was nice. They did draw an off-rotation pitcher in one of those games. Jair Jurrjens is dangerous though, and they beat him 2-1.
In my opinion, we're looking at an improving team who happened to put some things together during an easy schedule stretch. They're not as good as the recent record would suggest. But, they ARE clearly better than dregs of the sport like Minnesota, Houston, and San Diego. And, when things are clicking, they can certainly win a series against the likes of Colorado or Atlanta.
How do they match up against division favorite San Francisco? Should Philadelphia or St. Louis be scared? It will be awhile before we'll have a firm answer. Arizona's immediate schedule is still pretty easy!
Thursday-Sunday: vs. Washington
Tuesday-Thursday: at Pittsburgh
Friday-Sunday June 10-12: at Florida
Tuesday-Thursday June 14-16: vs. San Francisco
If Arizona is for real...they'll keep this hot streak going through the games with Washington and Pittsburgh...hold their own on the road at Florida...then come home and send a message to San Francisco. If this was just a two-week hot streak that represents a level way over their heads, then Arizona will lose focus against Washington and Pittsburgh, drop two of three in Florida, then play a nervous series at home against the proven Giants.
Maybe Arizona will keep shocking the system. Maybe Arizona is about to be shocked!
I definitely have some plans for this team one way or the other over the next two weeks. There are a couple of pitchers in particular who I feel really in sync with. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a major release or two in an Arizona game before that schedule stretch I outlined above comes to an end. I'M THE KING OF VEGAS because I can see surprises coming from a mile away!
I'm the only handicapper currently on the "Walk of Fame" in Vegas. There may be a mile of celebrity names in pavement before another handicapper is even considered. It's hard to measure up to WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!
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