This past weekend, I went to a pair of Diamondbacks games against the St. Louis Cardinals, I and learned some about what and who makes this ballclub what they are and aren't.
Granted, the Diamondbacks won two of the three games with St. Louis but are 26-38 heading into Tuesday's game in Boston. In keeping with that ages-old "bad news first" thing, let's start there.
1. The worst of this team is the bullpen. That is obvious with the worst bullpen ERA in the majors. This team needs a true closer. Where's Matt Mantei or Jose Valverde when you need them?
I won't even start on Juan Gutierrez or Cesar Valdez or Blaine Boyer. It's almost every one of them.
2. Far too many strikeouts from Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds. They're becoming the very definition of "feast-or-famine" hitters.
3. The starting pitching has been decent for the most part, but the run support is inconsistent, and 16 runners were left on base on Friday. Ouch.
4. Mohawks for Chad Qualls, Boyer and catcher Chris Snyder. Only Snyder seems to have improved since getting the new 'do.
5. Adam LaRoche. Stay with me on this one.
LaRoche is not a terrible hitter, and he has some pop and is a good RBI man. He showed that in the three-game series against St. Louis. But hits and driving in runs is not everything. Consider this:
-LaRoche failed to tag out Yadier Molina, one of the slowest runners in the game, on what should have been a flyout-force out double play in Friday's second inning. Upton's throw from right field was somewhat nonchalant, but it was in time, and LaRoche ole'd the tag on Molina, who twisted his body around LaRoche's glove. The D-backs didn't give up any runs in that inning, but manager A.J. Hinch had a few words with LaRoche in the dugout, and it's probably safe to presume they weren't compliments.
-LaRoche might have made up for that gaffe in the fifth when he doubled in two runs after Mark Reynolds was intentionally walked. But in the ninth with the D-backs needing runs, he failed to score on a double by Chris Snyder with two outs. If LaRoche scores, the next batter is the tying run anyway, and Stephen Drew walked to load the bases. But LaRoche didn't pick up the wave-in sign from third base coach Bo Porter on Snyder's double. He looked back at the ball and had to stay on third.
-On Sunday, LaRoche didn't hustle to first base when right fielder Gerardo Parra had a chance to throw out pitcher Chris Carpenter on a hard line single. Parra had a play but had to hold onto the ball because LaRoche wasn't near the bag.
Little things like that end up costing teams that aren't playing well to begin with, and lead to accusations of dogging it.
The good of all of this is that not every Diamondbacks player hears boos from the fans. Augie Ojeda and Parra are two examples. Parra's hustle and potential made the struggling Conor Jackson expendable, and now Jackson has been traded.
-Dontrelle Willis and Rodrigo Lopez are giving it all they have each time out, and Dan Haren and Ian Kennedy have pitched very well.
-Chris Young, Kelly Johnson and Drew are delivering from the plate, and Tony Abreu, another hustle guy who can hit, is back from injury.
-Catcher Miguel Montero is back, and on his first full work day in which he was in the lineup and caught the entire game, he went 2-for-4. His leadership and presence are needed.
"He's one of our better players, and when you take that guy out of the equation, it's a tough blow," Hinch said. "He'll be a chatterbox in here, he'll be excited. He's the most energetic guy that we have. He and Dontrelle will challenge each other for that, so we'll see how that sparks our team. His bat's very potent in the middle of the order now ... and I expect him to pick up where he left off."