The first half of the 2010 season was a mostly forgettable one for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But it's mid-July, and the Snakes' playoff hopes are essentially finished. With a 34-55 record, the D-Backs are already 17.5 games out of the division lead.
In an effort to reverse the club's fortunes, changes have been made at the top with the firing of GM Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch.
Now, the fiery Kirk Gibson is the new manager with a plan to alter the culture of the franchise. After a year and a half of dreadful baseball, hopefully Gibson can provide a spark during the second half and prove to D-Backs brass that he deserves to shed the interim label.
In order to be successful in the second half, there are two glaring weaknesses that the Snakes need to work on.
Strikeouts and the bullpen.
It's well-known that Mark Reynolds is going to swing and miss a lot. Reynolds leads the majors with 122 strikeouts.
Second on the list? Justin Upton with 111 Ks.
Eighth? Adam LaRoche with 90.
Strikeouts happen, they're unavoidable. But there have been numerous games where the Snakes have struck out in double-digits as a team.
Who cares if you make on out? Just put the ball in play, and good things will happen.
And then there's the much-maligned bullpen, which only has 17 saves on the season. Only the Milwaukee Brewers have fewer with 16.
Because the late-inning pitchers have been historically bad (see Chad Qualls with an 8.60 ERA), the Snakes rank dead last in the majors with a 5.27 team ERA.
While the starting pitchers haven't been lights-out, they have done a solid job during the first half. But there's not really anything they can do when the bullpen blows a game or two a week.
Can the current staff turn it around? Maybe changes and trades are on the way?
But the bullpen is the weakest link on the team. And you are only as strong as your weakest link.
On the bright side for this team, the core members made a deep run in the postseason just a few seasons ago.
And Gibson seems to have his players believing in his system, even if the wins have yet to show up.
The Diamondbacks have the talent to play .500 baseball for the remaining games on the schedule. The problem is that they never seem to have that "it" factor to propel them over the top.
Playing even baseball the rest of the way (going 36-35) will be tough, though, as the team faces the Padres, Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies (all of whom are within four games of each other in the division race).
If they do that, then there will be hope and some confidence heading into the offseason.
But if they don't, avoiding 100 losses would be a nice start.
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