The Arizona Diamondbacks’ season has been a trainwreck on fire, basically from the very start. If one aspect of the team has been measurably, remarkably, exceptionally awful, though, it’s been the starting pitching. And specifically, it’s been the starting pitching, from the 10th opposing batter onward. Check this out:

http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/xqWEk

Arizona starters are, shockingly, better than the adjusted league average the first time they pass through the opposing lineup. It’s only once the batting order turns over once that opponents start teeing off like they’re all Matt Holliday.

That isn’t true across the board, of course. Of the seven men who have started for Arizona this season, Brandon McCarthy and Mike Bolsinger are the only ones who have dominated early in their starts and taken it on the chin later. Bronson Arroyo and Josh Collmenter have actually done their best work during their second trips through the lineup, and Wade Miley has had flat performances the first two trips past, before collapsing late in his outings. Randall Delgado and Trevor Cahill have been moved to the bullpen, each having been beaten to a pulp as starters, but their velocity and stuff have ratcheted up since their moves, and each seems to have dominant potential in short relief.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy explanation or remedy for the issue, at a macro level. Bolsinger and Collmenter rely so heavily on deception and command, given their tepid stuff, that they’ll probably never be viable traditional starters. McCarthy, Arroyo and Cahill have no history of an unusual times-through-the-order split. None has made a drastic change to their arsenal. Unless there’s an unseen issue of conditioning or pre-start preparation–which you’d figure would have been discovered and fixed by now–this is a mystery.

With the season now a total loss, but with many of their core pieces under team control beyond 2014, I wonder if Arizona will experiment at all, maybe going so far as to test out a tandem-starter solution for a while. It’s possible that Collmenter and Bolsinger could benefit from being seen less, and that McCarthy and Miley might not have the endurance to go deep into games on their own. Certainly, since Cahill and Delgado seem simply to need the shorter bursts to have their stuff play up, pairing them is a tempting thought. That doesn’t mean it would work; it just feels like it’s worth a shot, for the worst team in baseball.

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