Last year, Scott Diamond emerged from the wreckage of an awful rotation to establish himself as the unit's lone long-term building block. At the conclusion of the season, Terry Ryan was clear in stating that only Diamond was assured a spot among the 2013 starting five.
As it turned out, Diamond was not be a member of the Opening Day rotation this year; his recovery from offseason elbow surgery stretched a bit longer than expected, but when he rejoined the club in mid-April he was every bit the breath of fresh air that he had been a year ago. Recently, however, he’s begun to unravel as the aspects of his game most responsible for his success have gone by the wayside.
Diamond’s outstanding results last year – 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 173 innings – were met with skepticism by many for two principal reasons. For one, his previous campaign had been utterly horrendous; between Triple-A and the majors in 2011, the lefty went 5-19 with a 5.44 ERA – an inauspicious introduction to his new organization after being acquired in the Rule 5 draft. Secondly, Diamond’s vastly improved numbers came along with a 4.7 K/9 rate that ranked as the third-lowest in all baseball.
However, Diamond offset his extreme contact tendencies by excelling in the two areas where low-strikeout pitchers must stand out to sustain effectiveness: walks and ground balls. His 1.6 BB/9 rate ranked as the lowest in the American League while his 53.4 percent GB rate put him in the top 5. Because of his elite standing in these two key categories, Diamond separated himself from the rest of the organization’s contact-heavy pack and looked like a decent bet to become a rotation fixture going forward.
He certainly looked that part in his first handful of starts this season, posting a 3.03 ERA over his first five starts while issuing just three walks in 29 innings with plenty of grounders. But after hurling seven shutout innings at Fenway Park on May 7, Diamond took a sudden turn for the worse. In four outings since, he’s 0-2 with an 8.41 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. He has failed to complete six innings in any of these four starts.
Lately, the skills that had been so vital to the southpaw’s game are nowhere to be found. Opponents have hit more fly balls than grounders over those last four starts, and during that span Diamond has uncharacteristically issued eight walks in 20 1/3 innings.
What’s the explanation? Are there lingering effects from his elbow injury and surgery last year? Or are old habits manifesting? Whatever the case, Diamond needs to work with pitching coach Rick Anderson and get back to his bread and better of locating the ball down in the zone effectively. Because when he’s not consistently doing that, he becomes part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
This rotation has enough problems as it is.