Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Rise and Paul


When it became apparent that the Yankees would not be a postseason team this year, I hoped they'd play the part of the spoiler, and take down middle-of-the-pack teams that thought they could make it this year. Hilariously, the opposite happened; thanks to a 3-game series against the Yankees, the Diamondbacks now have a firmer grasp on a wild card spot than they did last week. If the Diamondbacks make the playoffs, it will be largely the Yankees' fault.

We...seem to have that effect on the franchise.

As it stands right now, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a decent foothold on a wild card spot, though only one game ahead of the Marlins, who are the closest wild card competitors outside the bubble. If the season ended today, it'd be the D-Backs and Cubs hanging onto those last two spots, meaning a wild card race would actually result in an extra team for each division, rather than just the AL East/West invasion we've had recently. And while, as I write this, both the D-Backs and Cubs are winning their games while Miami sits, it's looking better and better for Arizona.

The Diamondbacks this year were a long-shot team whose rise to prominence made more sense the more I thought about it. The pieces had been forming, and last year had an early spike for them despite a lot of work still needing to be done. This year, some of those younger pieces, like Corbin Carroll, Gerardo Perdomo and Alek Thomas, switched into place, while some wise acquisitions like Lourdes Gurriel, Gabriel Moreno and Evan Longoria added depth and confidence. It's even made past moves look good, like the then-baffling move to grab Emmanuel Rivera last year, which has given them a strong everyday third baseman to cover for Longo's usual injuries.

And some of these moves are beginning to make other GMs look foolish. The Jays' Varsho deal may have worked out well for them, but the pieces that landed in Arizona immediately paid dividends and added two crucial pieces that have helped the D-Backs compete. And while I still think the D-Backs shouldn't have traded Andrew Chapin, especially considering that Peter Strzelecki hadn't done much for them at all, convincing the Mariners to give up their closer in the midst of a wild card chase was a daring move. Now, in response, Paul Sewald has given the D-Backs his grade-A closing material, and he's notched 12 saves in 19 games. Already the fans love Sewald, as one might assume they would. 

If the Diamondbacks do, in fact, stick it out and make the playoffs, they'll be a very scrappy, underrated competitor that could take out a genuinely great team. It helps that they're up against the White Sox this week, and may finish things off with a duel with Houston, where the stakes might be higher for the Astros than they are for the D-Backs. They're looking at an eventual playoff series with Milwaukee if things fall where I think they will [or possibly Philly, who knows where they'll land], and they could surprise some people in both, even if I don't see them going all the way.

Coming Tomorrow- A handy utility piece for a team that's had to resort to a lot of backup plans this year.

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