For D-backs, first half a search for consistency

For D-backs, first half a search for consistency

For D-backs, first half a search for consistency
PHOENIX -- Kevin Towers still believes in the team he put together during the offseason.

"I think we've got a good team," the D-backs' general manager said.

That doesn't mean they've been an easy team for Towers or manager Kirk Gibson to watch for the first half of the 2012 season.

Club breakdowns
First-half highlights

The D-backs wrapped up the first half with a 42-43 mark, good for third place in the National League West, four games behind the first-place Dodgers.

Most maddening has been the team's inconsistency. Just when it seems like it's ready to go on a run like it did in May of last year, when it won 15 of 17 games en route to the division title, it turns around and drop three straight.

It looked like the D-backs had things figured out in June, going 16-10, but then lost six in a row to fall seven games off the pace in the NL West. They recovered to win three in a row against the Dodgers just before the break to gain a little momentum.

"We've had good stretches this year, we played good in June," Gibson said. "We've had tough stretches. You just have to continue to power on. What choice do we have? It's been a struggle. Get swept by the Padres and come back here and win three out of four from the Dodgers and get us back to four off the pace right now. It's very good because it's good momentum, a good feel about ourselves. We've endured a lot and we're in good shape going into the second half."

Their run last year and the fact that they felt like they improved the team in the offseason with the acquisitions of outfielder Jason Kubel and right-hander Trevor Cahill have the D-backs believing that they have another run in them.

Gibson has continued to drive his players, demanding that they not focus on the frustration of their inconsistency and keep their collective eyes on the ultimate goal.

"We could all sit here and beat ourselves up over it, but the reality of it is we're just over halfway into the season and we're not going to give into anything," Gibson said. "We know we can go on a run, we have in the past. We've made it harder on ourselves, let's be realistic, but we still believe."

First-half awards
MVP: Jason Kubel Kubel has not only been a standout offensively, but he has surpassed expectations in the field with an accurate arm and quick release.
Cy Young: Wade Miley Has been the most consistent member of the rotation despite opening the year in the bullpen.
Rookie: Miley Was the D-backs lone All-Star representative.
Top reliever: Brad Ziegler Has been relied on heavily and has held up under the workload.

Putting a finger on the cause of the team's mediocre first half is difficult.

At times, the offense has been at fault like on a recent trip to Texas and Anaheim, where the D-backs were shut out in three games and held to one run in another.

On the other hand, there have been times when the offense has clicked, but the pitching has abandoned the club.

"It's hard to say," second baseman Aaron Hill said. "We know that this isn't exactly who we are yet. We've just got to get consistent."

Said Gibson, "I've looked at it probably a zillion different ways. It's a collective thing that's going on with this team. I don't think you can sit here and say it's the starting pitching or it's the hitting or it's the defense. We've been outplayed. You always have ebbs and flows of things kind of going your way and not going your way."

Towers has his own theory.

"I think we've been probably more inconsistent with our pitching this year than offensively," he said. "Everyone kind of points to the offense, but our starters have struggled to go deep into games and I think our bullpen has kind of been overexposed just because they're in there every night."

The rotation was expected to be a strength. Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Cahill, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter figured to form a consistent quintet.

Players to watch in second half
Justin Upton When Upton is hot he changes the entire complexion of the lineup and they need him if they are to put together a run.
Ian Kennedy Kennedy has been inconsistent throughout the first half and the D-backs need him to be the staff ace that he was in 2011.
Third base The D-backs have not gotten consistent production from third base and are in need of someone to step up and claim the position.

Kennedy, who won 21 games last year, has struggled to find his consistency, as did Hudson, who missed six weeks with a shoulder impingement and then was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery.

Cahill has pitched pretty well, but has had his share of poor outings. Saunders missed a few starts with a tight shoulder and Collmenter struggled so much at the start of the season that he lost his spot in the rotation.

Last year, only the Phillies starters threw more innings than Arizona's in the NL, but this year, the D-backs headed into the break 10th in the league in starter innings.

"Less than a handful of times where we've gotten guys into the eighth inning or a complete game," Towers said. "That's tough. Last year for months of the season, we had guys going seven most of the time."

While Hudson is not returning this year, the D-backs should get Saunders back right after the break and they are hoping the rotation will stabilize and provide the consistent innings needed.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.