Pollock injury benefits San Francisco Giants
The Arizona Diamondbacks lost one of their best players Friday night, when center fielder A.J. Pollock broke his elbow while sliding into home. And just like that, the path to a division title just got a little bit easier for the San Francisco Giants.
Pollock says he wants to make it back before the end of the season, but a fractured elbow is a difficult injury to come back from; Oakland A’s pitcher broke his elbow last season and was out for the rest of the season. Then he broke his elbow again this Spring Training. It’s not as severe as the ligament tear that requires Tommy John surgery, which usually comes with more than a year of rehabilitation. But it’s still a significant injury to a baseball player’s throwing arm.
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The Diamondbacks had one of the National League’s better offenses in 2015, but they lacked the pitching to seriously compete for the postseason. That changed when they signed Zack Greinke, the best free agent available this past offseason, and traded for Shelby Miller, whose 3.02 ERA last season only looks pedestrian compared to Greinke’s 1.66 ERA.
They are also expecting to get a boost from a fully healthy Patrick Corbin, who looked decent last year in limited work returning from Tommy John surgery.
That revamped rotation combined with a decent bullpen was expected to give Arizona enough firepower to compete with, or even overtake, the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
Losing Pollock, however, is a big blow to that quest. He was arguably the National League’s best top-of-the-order player in 2015, batting .315 with 20 home runs and 39 stolen bases. His .865 OPS and 111 runs scored show how effective he was producing at the plate and setting the table for teammates such as Paul Goldschmidt.
While the trendy picks among baseball pundits have the Dodgers as this year’s division champions while putting the Giants in the Wild Card game, the D-backs were every bit as capable of reaching the postseason.
But without Pollock, Arizona’s lineup will be made up of one superstar and seven players loaded with potential but have yet to prove themselves at the major league level. That puts more pressure on the pitching staff to carry the team as it goes up against a Giants team that still features the core of its three World Series titles, and a Dodgers team that is adding the game’s best prospect, Corey Seager, to a veteran team that makes up the highest payroll in baseball.
As the Giants have repeatedly shown this decade, a team can win without a dominant offense. The Giants have also shown what happens when a lineup is without its second-best position player—such as when they’ve sputtered with Hunter Pence out of the lineup.
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The D-backs can’t be counted out; the Pollock loss could be mitigated by improvements from second-year players Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb, along with a resurgent Jean Segura and a rapidly improving pitching-convert David Peralta. But for the Giants, the pursuit of a fourth World Series title in seven years just got a tick easier.