The NL West race isn’t over yet, but unless the Giants can hit the turbo boosters soon, they’ll be left in the dust created by the Arizona Diamondbacks over the past week. After losing the first of a four-game set at Washington last Tuesday, the Diamondbacks swept the final three games, then swept three games against San Diego, and then swept another three game series against Colorado. The Diamondbacks began this stretch with a mere two game lead over San Francisco. They enter this weekend’s series in the Bay with a six game lead, and even if disaster strikes and the Giants sweep, the Diamondbacks will still hold a three game lead for the final month of the season.
It just feels as though — and I’m sure Giants fans agree — the Diamondbacks can do no wrong right now.
A little over a week ago, the Diamondbacks dealt Kelly Johnson to the Blue Jays for Aaron Hill and John MacDonald — almost certainly downgrading their talent at second base but receiving a much-needed utility infielder in MacDonald. But now Aaron Hill is the one powering the Diamondbacks’ surge. Hill joined the team already one game into their current winning streak. Over that time, he is 11-31 at the plate with four extra base hits and two walks, putting together a .355/.412/.581 line.
Hill is hardly alone. Every position player with at least 15 plate appearances over the last week has a wRC+ over 120. Justin Upton has done it through walks and a .400 OBP; Miguel Montero’s done it with two home runs; Gerardo Parra’s done it with a .500 BABIP. If there’s any way to be productive over a short period of time, you can bet at least one Diamondback hitter has it down over the last week.
The pitchers have been nearly flawless as well. Only Bryan Shaw has an ERA over 4.50. No other pitcher on the staff has an ERA over 2.70 over the past week. Dan Hudson has thrown 15.2 innings with 14 strikeouts and a 1.15 ERA. Ian Kennedy has 15 strikeouts in 14 innings with a 0.64 ERA. Josh Collmenter has thrown 11.1 walkless innings with a 1.59 ERA. Joe Saunders hasn’t allowed an earned run despite being Joe Saunders. You get the picture.
Maybe there isn’t a ton of predictive value in this week, but the Diamondbacks will tell you where you can shove your predictive values and small sample sizes. The distance the Diamondbacks have created now has their playoff odds at 83% according to Baseball Prospectus (up 50% over the last seven days!) and 95.2% according to Coolstandings.
For as many question marks as the Diamondbacks brought into 2011, they are leaving us little doubt as to their talent level now. Perhaps their record is a bit deceiving — they’ve outplayed their Pythagorean record by five games and their Third-Order record by 10, but they have a potent offense, a young but talented pitching staff, and a bullpen that can actually finish games. Their reward appears to be an NL West championship, and if they can keep up the hot streak for three more games, the Diamondbacks could put the final nail in the coffin of the World Series champions and usurp their place at the top of the NL West.
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