Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?

Last year, through the month of April, the Diamondbacks were 9 and 13 and well on their way to a dismal 111 loss season. This season, after the third day of May, Arizona is 15 and 11, and has at one point in the season actually had the division lead. How did a team that said goodbye to Randy Johnson last year turn themselves from a laughingstock to a contender?

Partly, they've used the New Detroit Tiger theory. This was also recently employed to a lesser extent in Seattle and in New York in the NL. This, simply, is to overpay for (mediocre, in some cases) talent. Even though the Diamondbacks have proved themselves to be a franchise that values winning, they don't have the (healthy) star slugger that powers a lineup (and draws fans). The ridiculous contracts are ridiculous by design. Ownership wanted to pay Ortiz, Glauss, Vazquez and Green far more than they would see elsewhere so that they could lock them in and field a team that might hit .500. The Mets and Mariners could sign better players for the payroll that went to those four players (almost 47 million dollars, take your pick, Beltre, Vazquez or Beltran, all between 11 and 12 for this year) so their strategy looks a bit different.

Now to these new D'backs. Vazquez has been a bust, with and ERA over 5 (but he does have a record of 3 and 2). Ortiz has been "Old-slow-and-steady" with a ERA around 3.5. Green and Glauss have been hitting in the low .270s and Glauss has had some power. Certainly adding Green and Glauss (if they don't get hurt) is a needed power infusion for the lineup, but if everyone in the NL West was healthy, this is probably the least dangerous offense, with the possible exception of the Padres, or the Rockies away from Coors. The staff is, at best, margnially improved. All due respect to Johan Santana (but not to Clemens, who got damn lucky that the Cy Young voters don't know any math more complicated than addition, subtraction, division and multiplication), but Johnson was the best pitcher last year. Somehow everyone overlooked that he threw one of only 17 perfect games ever pitched. He dominated every statistical category but wins. I know that his trade set up the trade for Green, but I think this is a much better team with Johnson and Ortiz as the starting two. While I don't fault the Diamondbacks for trying to get younger, they could have tried to get someone better than Vazquez in return.

Halsey (2-0, 3.21) and Webb (3-0, 3.24) have been the bright spots in the rotation thus far, both young and relatively unknown. Luis Gonzalez has started to get back to his old form and is hitting .298/.376/.479 so far. These numbers don't look great, but I'm sure that Gonzo sees them as an improvement over 2004 when he went .259/.373/.493 in only 105 games. The most dominant player on the team has been Lyon, who has ten saves in eleven chances.

This is a team that is, even with the loss of Johnson, better than they were last year. That having been said, this appears to be a team that has been very lucky. So far the Diamondbacks have scored only 111 runs so far, and have given up 121. Even a glance at these numbers would suggest that the D'backs have been getting fortunate breaks.

Just a little chart for you here

TeamRuns ScoredRuns AllowedRecord

The Dodgers, Twins and Braves are there to illustrate the RS (runs scored) and RA (runs allowed) of teams with similar records, and the Cubs are there to show that teams with worse records have better ratios.

There's a measure known as Pythagorean Win-Loss Records, which is caculated by RS^2 / RA^2 + RS^2 and is designed to measure how good a team is excluding luck.

Here are the predicted winning percentages for those last teams, and the record they would have at this point in the season

TeamEXP W%EXP RecordDif

Why are the Diamond backs even close, then? Well, the Dodgers have seen more streaking lately than a college campus during pledge week, the Padres are hurt and still adjusting to Petco, and the most dangerous man in baseball is still rehabbing his knee. Expect the Diamondback to fade into the desert night, unless they start playing better. You can only outrun the inevitable for so long.

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