Injuries, poor starts take toll on D-backs in first half

Injuries, poor starts take toll on D-backs in first half

The D-backs' season got off on the wrong foot three days before Opening Day -- outfielder A.J. Pollock fractured his elbow while sliding headfirst into home plate in the team's second-to-last exhibition game.

That set the tone for what would be a disappointing first half filled with injuries and underperformance that left Arizona near the bottom of the National League West.

What really hurt the D-backs was their performance at home. While they finished the first half with a winning record on the road, they had the second-worst home mark in baseball at 15-32. It's all added up to an organization that entered the break wondering how it all went so wrong.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt rebounded from an uncharacteristically poor start to find himself among the NL's best hitters. Second baseman Jean Segura has been everything Arizona hoped for, and more, after acquiring him from Milwaukee in the offseason. The D-backs have received excellent offensive production from their catchers, Welington Castillo and Chris Herrmann, while third baseman Jake Lamb leads the league in slugging percentage. Zack Greinke started slow, but he rediscovered his old form in his final eight starts before injuring his left oblique in late June.

Goldschmidt's RBI double

Injuries to outfielders Pollock, Chris Owings, David Peralta and Socrates Brito forced the D-backs to play infielders -- and in the case of Herrmann, a catcher -- in the outfield at various times, compromising their defense. The revamped starting rotation was supposed to pitch deep into games to spare the bullpen from being overworked, but Shelby Miller didn't meet expectations, and the rest of the starters performed inconsistently.

The D-backs still have some work to do if they want to be contenders. The organization went all-in during the offseason, but not just with 2016 in mind. Some of their younger players still have to mature in order for the team to take the next step -- position players need improvement at situational hitting and pitchers need to make early leads last.

Lamb made some mechanical adjustments in his setup at the plate in the offseason, and the results were impressive. Of his 20 homers, 11 either tied the game or gave the D-backs the lead. His first-half performance was All-Star worthy, but he lost out in the Esurance 2016 All-Star Game Final Vote.

Lamb's two-run homer

Greinke had a 5.26 ERA after his first eight starts, but he turned things around. He won seven straight starts, and he had a 2.26 ERA over his nine final starts of the first half. He is expected to return to the rotation shortly after the All-Star break.

Greinke's all-around game

With a loaded infield as Spring Training opened, it looked like Brandon Drury would start the regular season in the Minors. However, he played so well the D-backs put him in the outfield -- a position he had never played in his professional career. While Drury's defense is still very much a work in progress, he has performed well at the plate.

Drury's two-run homer

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.