Arizona Diamondbacks: Real or Fools Gold?
by Harry Brewer - 06/13/2007
If you are looking to cash in on good teams at a decent price, you probably won't be looking to back division-leading teams. These are usually very good squads with star power and plenty of press to drive the chalk up. The problem for many bettors is that they overvalue big name players and well-known teams when handicapping. The books are on to that and rightfully jack up the price.
That's why there can be plenty of value in finding a lesser-known team that you expect to play well throughout the season. The Arizona Diamondbacks are looking tough in the NL West. Coming into the season, the Dodgers were the big favorites in that division. The word on the Padres was that they are good, and would spend some time atop the division before crumbling down the stretch. The Giants and Bonds always get noticed for one reason or another. Colorado will always be more known for their field. There was however, very little to be heard about the Diamondbacks. Talk about undervalued.
You can't find them on top of any charts. Outfielder Eric Byrnes is batting .319 with nine home runs and is the only player on the team in the top 10 in any major category. As a team they are in the middle of the pack in the NL in home runs and batting average. Randy Johnson is not leading the league in strikeouts nor are any of their pitchers leading in wins. Brandon Webb is tops with six wins and an E.R.A. of 3.19. This is truly a case of individuals playing like a team and doing their jobs. If you are a stat man, you will promptly find them on top in NL saves, and close to the top with a team E.R.A. of 3.64. Only the Padres and Mets have a better team E.R.A. It is also worth noting that they are second in strikeouts. I'm sure that any manager would rather have a team high in strikeouts rather than Randy Johnson coming out every fifth day and getting 12.
"Blue Collar" is the catch phrase that is used for this kind of team. The reason they are winning is not because they load up base pads and hit dingers. It is because they don't allow runs. E.R.A. speaks to more than just pitching. It has very much to do with good fielding, discipline (a lost art) and balance.
While Byrnes is their best hitter, Chris B. Young, Chad Tracy, Conor Jackson, Orlando Hudson, Marc Reynolds, and Stephen Drew all chip in with less than stellar averages. It's not a great line-up, but enough to put up four runs and win.
With the kind of pitching they have they will be able to keep a lot of games close. Jose Valverde has 21 saves with an E.R.A. of 3.33 and Tony Pena and Brandon Lyon are both logging innings with an E.R.A. under 3. This means that starters like Webb, Johnson and Livan Hernandez have to do what they have been doing which is keep the runs down and stay healthy.
It may be a bit much to ask for more runs from this line-up but if they start hitting they could throw a monkey wrench in the NL West and in the wildcard race. In the meantime they could make you some money by giving you good winning opportunities against good hitting teams with below average pitching. They are the fourth most profitable team in baseball heading into Tuesday's games and it seems the public hasn't caught on yet.