The Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they were going to be sellers just a few days before the trade deadline. And to the mass, they were as they traded their ace Zack Greinke to the Astros for four prospects. However, take a deeper look at their transactions pre-July 31st and you’ll come to the conclusion that they weren’t selling at all.
A month and a half later they are still in serious contention for a postseason place, being two and a half games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second National League Wildcard spot. Not only that but their chances look very good. Despite some of their top bats quietening, they’ve won 13 of their last 16 games and have the second easiest strength of remaining schedule (.460; per PlayOffStatus.com).
What the Diamondbacks did before the deadline was a well-structured plan to turn an ace into two solid arms in Mike Leake and Zac Gallen. Gallen in particular has been very impressive since his callup by the Marlins, and Leake is a proven starter who had a stellar campaign with Seattle but has struggled a bit since coming to the desert. But this, in addition to Robbie Ray, Alex Young and Merill Kelly, gives Arizona a better rotation top-to-bottom, even considering the great season Greinke had.
The Diamondbacks starting pitching has had 4.99 ERA since acquiring the two new arms, 7th-best in the National League in that span. A quick reminder – a team with deep rotation is poised for success does it reach the playoffs.
Noted above, the focus of the Greinke deal wasn’t only on the future and a salary relief. Not only did Josh Rojas debut almost immediately after joining the team but he’s had a sudden impact. He’s batted .308 in his last twelve games and has driven in eight runs for the Diamondbacks. Ketel Marte has been in the MVP conversation the whole year but has been in his own universe since the break, with his .663 slugging percentage being the 2nd-best only behind Eugenio Suarez’s .699.
And he’s not alone on the top 30 list– Eduardo Escobar also has a slugging percentage over .500. Despite losing the first two games of their series in Flushing, Gallen and Kelly didn’t allow more than three runs in either start. Meanwhile, three of their four remaining series are against three of the four lowest-scoring teams in the NL – the Marlins, the Reds and, twice, the Padres. St. Louis is the only opponent in that span with a winning record.
The bullpen is an underrated part of the pitching staff. But most importantly, it is also trending up. Archie Bradley has converted five straight save opportunities and hasn’t blown a save in seven appearances on the mound. Considering Greg Holland’s early struggles, finding a closer was vital. He started the year as a middle-inning reliever after a down 2018 and worked his way into the job, and has been lights out ever since.
Moreover, three relievers who have pitched at least 10 innings in the last calendar month have an ERA under 3.00. The group is the 9th-best in that span with 4.10 ERA.
The Diamondbacks have been dramatically improving in every aspect. A mix of quality pitching and power bats, Arizona is a huge threat to the Cubs’ second spot in the NLWC. The Brewers have lost Christian Yelich. The Phillies have had inconsistent starting pitching. The bullpen has blown the Mets’ season. The Cubs haven’t played good baseball recently. Those things make the headlines. The Diamondbacks have been quiet – and have quietly been a hot team on both sides of the ball that has a high ceiling in the postseason provided that they actually get there and keep it up.