The Arizona Diamondbacks are, so far, MLB’s worst team in 2021, with a 25-64 record.
We are not even at the All-Star break and they are 30.5 games behind the National League West division leaders, the San Francisco Giants.
The situation has gotten so bad that the D-Backs are 4.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in MLB besides themselves.
Given the known benefits of tanking, one has to wonder if the Diamondbacks are doing that or if they are just bad.
As it happens sometimes, the answer can be something in between, or to be more specific, a little of both.
Evidence Suggests There Might Be Some Tanking Efforts
In late June, the Diamondbacks got some heat because it was evident they let their relief pitcher hit in a tied game with the bases loaded, for example.
The Arizona Diamondbacks just let their relief pitcher hit in a tie game with the bases loaded.
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) June 29, 2021
That happened on June 28.
On June 22, Milwaukee Brewers slugger Daniel Vogelbach was rounding third when he injured his leg and hobbled all the way to home plate amid the absence of a throw.
Daniel Vogelbach suffers a leg injury rounding 3B but the Dbacks refuse to throw it home ¯_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/Aftk5Z31wc
— MLBdream (@MLBdream) June 23, 2021
There is no way to know that the infielder refused to throw home on purpose, and it could have been just negligence or a lack of interest.
But it has been that kind of year in Arizona.
No one will ever know for sure if the club is tanking in 2021 in an effort to have the first pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, but at times, it has seemed like it.
The team seems likely to sell some assets at the trade deadline, most notably infielder Eduardo Escobar.
It remains to be seen if they deal Ketel Marte, but they would have to be overwhelmed by an offer since he is signed cheaply and with teams options for several more years.
The D-Backs Are Also Very, Very Bad
Besides any possible efforts to tank, the Diamondbacks are just not a good baseball team.
Their pitching staff is dead last in pitching Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, with just 2.0.
The offense ranks 28th out of 30 teams in weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, a stat created to measure offensive performance.
Arizona’s 85 wRC+ is well-below the average (100) and is only higher than the Pittsburgh Pirates (83) and the Colorado Rockies (78).
There have been very few bright spots in the D-backs’ season.
Infielder Josh Rojas is certainly one of them, with a .248/.328/.422 line, 10 homers, and five steals.
Catcher Carson Kelly has also had a good season, with a .260/.385/.460 line and eight dingers.
Outside of them and Escobar (19 home runs), there isn’t too much going on in Arizona as far as MLB talent concerns.
The good news is that the farm system has some impact prospects who will be ready to contribute in 2022 or 2023.
Any hypothetical trades would also go a long way in improving the existing talent.
But right now, their perceived tanking efforts and the lack of impact players are making the D-Backs the worst team in baseball.