23 April 2009

Fifteen Games In

Fifteen games in, preparing to host the Giants for three more at The Lovely Morgan, the Dbacks find themselves at an unusually early crossroad. After dropping seven of their first dozen at home, and April's final set looming against the Cubs, it's imperative Arizona take two of three from the anemic Bay Boyz.

Imperative? In April? If the Dbacks dont take two of three from Lincecum, Johnson and Cain, with the back end of their currently Webb-less rotation, they'll find themselves no better than 7 and 11, with 144 games remaining. As mentioned, the first three of those will be against Chicago, arguably the NL's best team. After that, 78 of the final 141 contests (55%) are on the road.

Not too daunting? Baseball's home advantage pales next to that of football or hoops? Plenty recovery time for Arizona? Consider that this corps of young Diamondbacks have consistently struggled on the road since wresting playing time from their 2006 elders. The last two years, comprised of 162 home games and 162 road games, illustrate a stark contrast:

Home 98-64 .604%
Away 74-88 .456%

Arizona's certainly not predestined to play .456 away ball - each year's an independent pool of games and these kids are a year older. But this isnt a small sample either. It's 324 games, leaving little doubt that more than coincidence has driven this large a disparity.

Given LA's 11-5 start, mostly away from Chavez Ravine, let's conservatively assume the Dbacks need to win 88 games to have much postseason chance. A 7-11 start would require an 81- 63 (.562) finish - with 78 of those on the road. If they win half those remaining road games (39W, 39L), 88 W's still require them to finish 42-24 (.636) in Phoenix. You're asking them to win more (as a % going forward) than the historically fluky 90 win club - who actually got outscored in 2007 - and you're probably asking them to win more both at home and on the road. It's a bad division, once again, but that's not much of a window.

Not for a team that's parlayed its league's fifth weakest schedule (to date), almost exclusively at home, into that league's worst run differential. We're not this bad and the Dodgers arent this good - not over the long haul. But the long haul doesnt matter now. Or it wont, if the Diamondbacks dont take care of the short haul pretty quickly.

The medium haul doesnt look too comforting either. Starting with Lincecum tonight, the Dbacks play forty games in forty one nights. Lincecum, Johnson and Cain. We need to win two out of three, right now, or the Valley's typically unbearable summer may start a little early this year.

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