The Diamondbacks aren't exactly playing the role of Royal Opposition To The Dodgers as many thought they'd be. At 6-9, Arizona languishes in fourth place, four games back of the Dodgers. You can't blame the starting pitching, by which I mean Dan Haren. He's allowed just four runs in just 26 innings, but you can look squarely into the pouting, adorable eyes of the lineup, who scraped together two runs just to give Haren's first win of the season, improving his record to 1-3.
Yep, it's the lineup.
Save for the Cincinnati Reds, the Diamondbacks have the poorest batting average in the league, collectively hitting .226. In on-base percentage, something prophets with computers proclaim is more important than just the average, the D'backs rank dead last with .294. They're the only team getting on base less than 30 percent of the time. By comparison, the Dodgers are batting .296. Their OBP is almost 90 points higher than their arid opponents.
Only two guys really aren't at fault here: Mark Reynolds and Felipe Lopez. Reynolds, while he continues to strike out, generating enough wind energy to power all of downtown Phoenix, is making the most of the times he doesn't whiff, hitting .292 and leading the team in home runs with four. Lopez, the new guy, is playing unlike any Felipe Lopez man has ever known. His .361 batting average is currently 11th in the National League. I guess it could also be argued that Chad Tracy is having a decent April too.
But what about Conor Jackson, Chris Young, Justin Upton, Eric Byrnes, and Stephen Drew? Collectively, they're hitting .189. And that's without throwing in catcher Chris Snyder, who's hitting .115. (I didn't want to make them look that bad.)
The logical scapegoat is hitting coach Rick Schu, because it's always the hitting coach's fault. Manager Bob Melvin just doesn't know that yet. Everyone knows firing the hitting coach during a slump always fixes the problem. Give him the boot and expect Augie Ojeda to lead the league in home runs by June.
So how does a team fix a problem where batters have trouble getting on base, and when they do, they are left for dead on the bone-dry basepaths? Often one hears "it starts at the top," but the leadoff batter is Lopez, and we've already established it's not really his fault. (In fact, I fear just how bad this team's record would look had he not gotten off to a hot toddy of a start. I envision the Washington Nationals pointing and laughing hysterically.)
I also subscribe to the "snowball effect," in which the team knows they're struggling and try to accomplish too much in their at bats. (Bases empty grand slams are rare these days.) But then again, it's Arizona, so snowballs may not be the reason.
No matter how one dissects the metrics, the hitting stinks. It's like one of those awful smells that permeates every molecule of a couch, and you try to sell the couch on Craigslist but there are still no takers because the prospective buyers can still get a whiff of the smell from their computer. If the 2009 D'backs are going to be one of those teams known for light hitting and decent pitching, they might as well take the couch off the market and use it to watch the Dodgers in the World Series.