Diamondbacks keep winning despite a severe schedule disadvantage faced by no other team
The Diamondbacks have played far and away the fewest games against losing teams in the majors
The Arizona Diamondbacks had an offseason defined by loss. They traded franchise player Paul Goldschmidt (only to see him sign a reasonable extension with the St. Louis Cardinals) and permitted both A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin to leave through free agency. None of the three were replaced by a big free-agent signing or top prospect. Yet Arizona entered Saturday with a 25-20 record -- good for second place in the National League West and an early lead in the race for the second wild card spot.
The most impressive part of the Diamondbacks' season isn't what they've done, but how they've done it. We don't mean getting more production than anticipated from Christian Walker, Adam Jones, Greg Holland, and Luke Weaver, either -- though all of that is impressive in its own right. Rather, we mean posting a winning record despite having played a brutal schedule to date.
Through the first 45 games of the season, the Diamondbacks have played just six contests against teams with a sub-.500 record. That's the fewest in the majors by a fair margin, as every other team has played at least 13 games against losing teams. Arizona, to its credit, has a 4-2 record in those games, including a win on Friday against the San Francisco Giants.
Whereas the Diamondbacks offseason was defined by loss, their season thus far has been defined by playing well against good clubs. The D-Backs' .538 winning percentage against teams with .500 or better records ranks fourth in baseball, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Chicago Cubs. Arizona's mark is better than those posted by the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees.
Basically, the Diamondbacks are in the middle of the teams considered serious contenders. Few considered Arizona a real threat entering the season -- and for good reason -- but soon it may be time to reconsider their merits given how well they've played against such stiff competition.
At minimum, the road ahead should be easier. According to Baseball-Reference's calculations, only the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves have lighter remaining schedules among NL teams. The Diamondbacks, for their part, have earned the right to some easy wins.
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