|Point/Counterpoint: The Arizona Diamondbacks Aren't the Best||| Print ||
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on May 16, 2008
However, you cannot say they are the best team in the NL. That distinction would belong to the Chicago Cubs, who recently swept a three-game series from the D-Backs. If that three-game stretch isn’t enough for you to make a decision on, and it shouldn’t be, we should look at some statistics. (Yes, it is too early to put much credence into 40 games’ worth of stats, but they can help guide our study.)
Offensively, the Cubs lead the major leagues in runs scored. Their offense is much better than the D-Backs’. What’s that you say? Arizona has scored only 14 less runs through the same number of games? That’s true, but take a look at the difference in on-base percentage. The Cubs have a 30 point advantage in OBP over the D-Backs. Their offense should be able to sustain future success better than the D-Backs, who also feature several young players who are more prone to hot and cold streaks.
The biggest argument for the Diamondbacks is their pitching is great. Match Brandon Webb with Danny Haren and you’ve got a great 1-2 punch. However, the Cubs’ pitching is almost as good. Their starters’ ERA is only 0.16 runs worse than the D-Backs’, despite having thrown more innings this year. The D-Backs have only a 0.06 advantage in relief pitcher ERA. No matter how you break it down, the D-Backs’ biggest advantage is not really that big.
If veteran leadership is another category you want to look at, then the Cubs are the way to go. They have players with pedigrees like Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano. Pair them with a ton of veteran bullpen arms and a few solid starting pitchers, and the Cubs appear to have it all.
Now that I said that, look for the Curse of the Billy Goat to appear. Eek!
Jonathan’s Point of View
Are the D’Backs the best team in baseball right now? The answer may be yes. Certainly their one-two punch in pitching is the best in baseball right now with Brandon Webb fronting Danny Haren, throw in Micah Owings, Randy Johnson and the young phenom Max Scherzer and this actually might be the best rotation anywhere in baseball.
Admittedly both Owings and Scherzer are young but the leadership roles here are well filled and they have Doug Davis who at least nominally is the fifth starter over Scherzer (although how long that will last is anyone’s guess).
Then there is the offense – young and talented and with tremendous upside. Currently they are second in runs scored in the Majors behind only the Chicago Cubs. This is despite the growing pains of young hitters who can be .300 hitters one day and .200 hitters seemingly overnight.
And when you compare them to the powerhouse teams such as the Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Indians, Tigers, Yankees and Cubs, it’s hard to explain why those teams are better - save for experience when you look at how they have all struggled so far along the way.
You don’t even have the excuse that the D’Backs play in a weak division because they obviously don’t considering that they are in the same division with solid teams like the Dodgers and Padres and even the Rockies. No, the team that has the easiest job this year is the Cubs; they get to play in a hitter’s friendly division. That explains their padded offensive numbers.
As of yet it’s hard to say that the Cubs have dominated their division - they only have gone 15-10 in the Central, while the D’Backs are 20-5 within theirs. They’ve smashed down the competition and at least for the moment look like they could be the best team in the game.
However, they have to sustain this pace and that might be a harder thing for a young team to do.