First baseman Paul Goldschmidt can not hit third for the foreseeable future.
The Arizona Diamondbacks would not be in the position they are as a franchise without Torey Lovullo.
Last season as a rookie manager, he guided the D-Backs into the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The team defeated the Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card Game and although they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Divisional Series, Arizona won 24 more games than it did in 2017, flipping their record from 69-93 to 93-69 with basically the same cast of characters. Lovullo won NL Manager of the Year for his efforts, an honor that was well deserved.
Flash forward to 2018 and after a 21-8 month of April, the D-Backs owned the best record in the senior circuit. But Lovullo’s ball club is only 4-7 in May. As a result, the D-Backs (24-15) enter their Sunday Night Baseball contest with the Washington Nationals tied for the best record in the NL with the surprising Atlanta Braves.
The offense is the biggest reason why the D-Backs have cooled off in month two of a long baseball season. They rank 29th in runs scored (28), last in batting average (.196), second to last in on-base percentage (.273), last in OPS (.589), and 28th in home runs (9) in 11 games going into Sunday.
Is the offense the only reason for the D-Backs struggles this month? Certainly not.
After finishing April as the only unit with an ERA under 2.00, the D-Backs bullpen owns a 3.32 ERA in May, which ranks 10th in the majors. Has the bullpen run into trouble more often in May? But, 3.32 is still respectable, especially when the offense is putting pressure on them to hold one run leads every game.
If It Is Broke Don’t Fix It
Ever heard of the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Logic would suggest that something has not produced the desired results over a long period of time, then changes should be made. But whether he cares to admit it or not, Lovullo is stubborn when it comes to experimenting with his lineup.
Here is the lineup Lovullo is going with on Sunday:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) May 13, 2018
Sometimes, brutal honesty is required and in this case, it most certainly is. Lovullo is a great off-field manager. Few build team chemistry, communicate and get players to buy in to their message better than the second-year D-Backs skipper. However when it comes to gameday and in-game adjustments, Lovullo could do better in a number of areas, including lineup construction, bullpen management and substitutions.
At the end of the day the players have to hit the ball, but Lovullo’s job is to put his hitters in the right positions to succeed.
What Changes Should Lovullo Make?
Based on current performance in May, here is how I would fill out the lineup card:
2B Ketel Marte
CF A.J. Pollock
SS Nick Ahmed
When the offense is going through the kind of team slump the D-Backs are, making changes based on whether a right-hander or left-hander on the mound is mostly pointless. I might move Steven Souza Jr. up against lefties, but that is about it.
Yes, Goldschmidt is batting sixth, and I contemplated hitting him lower. He is batting under .100 this month and is striking out way too much. It honestly is hurting the entire lineup. Goldschmidt probably should have his vision checked, because that is the only explanation I could come up with for his inability to catch up with center cut fastballs.
Ketel Marte has not hit the ball well all season, but he still has a .341 on-base percentage this month because of six walks.
Descalso has been the D-Backs best hitter besides Pollock and Peralta, and Murphy should hit everyday. Not only is he a way better hitter, regardless of if a righty or lefty is on the mound, but he is by far and away, the better defensive catcher. It probably is time to consider trading Alex Avila. That acquisition certainly was not general manager Mike Hazen’s finest hour.