Mark your calendars, sports fans.
The 3rd of August is the day on which we stop assuming that the San Francisco Giants are going to win the National League West.
Sure, there was some doubt in April and May, when the Colorado Rockies were riding high. Seems like a long time ago, now.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks -- roughly the same Arizona Diamondbacks who lost 97 games just last year -- were lurking in the weeds. In late May and early June, they actually spent nearly a week in first place. They crawled back into first for a few days later in June, too. But the Diamondbacks were three games behind the Giants at the All-Star break, and fell 4-1/2 behind after losing their first post-break game.
Order restored. Universe safe. Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Except wait a minute. The D'backs have won 12 of their 17 games. The Giants have lost nine of their last 17, including their last five. The defending World Champions are now tied first place with the defending Western Baseman Champions. And if you can find one non-Diamondbacks fan who predicted this state of affairs, please let me know.
I'll say this, though ... While I certainly didn't think the Diamondbacks would be in first place in early August, back in May I did find reasons for optimism. I can't actually find what I wrote, but what I remember thinking is that while the club seemed to be playing over its head, most of the individual players who were playing well might actually continue playing that well. With Ryan Roberts being an obvious exception.
Well, Roberts was terrible in June ... but excellent in July. So go figure. Meanwhile, Kelly Johnson was terrible in April, rebounded (naturally) in May ... then was terrible again in June before (naturally) rebounding in July. Baseball players are a funny lot. Or at least their statistics are.
The Diamondbacks rank second in the National League in scoring, and 11th in ERA. Some of that's obviously about their home ballpark, but some's about some pitchers who really haven't pitched well.
What's left are five guys -- Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders, rookie Josh Collmenter, and newcomer Jason Marquis (who makes his D'backs debut this afternoon) -- with ERAs in the threes. There's not a Cy Young candidate among them, but there aren't any Disaster Start candidates in there, either.
Well, with the possible exception of Saunders. You have to admire his 3.56 ERA, but the rest of his statistics suggest a high-speed train wreck waiting to happen. But the only help is probably at the Class AA level right now, which means it's really a year or so away. The Diamondbacks' chances just might hinge on (gulp) the soft-throwing left arm of Mr. Saunders, lousy strikeout-to-walk ratio be damned.
Okay, so the Giants still profile as big favorites, despite being outscored this season.
Why? History. This season counts, but so does last season and last season the Giants were a LOT better than the Diamondbacks. We don't just throw that information into the recycling bin. That information informs us about future outcomes, and the most likely outcome is that the Giants take control of this thing and win the West by four or five or six games.
Baseball players are a funny lot, though. Sometimes they don't do what the projections tell them to do. And I'm pretty sure the Giants won't keep winning two-thirds of their one-run games ...