Real or not? Diamondbacks could be the October surprise

As much as we try to forecast the future, baseball careers are unpredictable things. Zack Godley played college baseball at Tennessee but wasn't drafted until his senior year, when the Chicago Cubs took him in the 10th round. A starter in college, the Cubs put him in the bullpen and he had a solid season in Class A in 2014, but a 24-year-old dominating Class A isn't going to excite too many front offices.

So the Cubs traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks that offseason as part of the Miguel Montero trade. Montero was on the World Series roster last year, so Theo Epstein probably doesn't regret the deal too much, but give the much-maligned duo of Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa credit here: They appear to have bested Theo.

The former front office regime made Godley a starting pitcher. He quickly reached the majors in 2015, but after posting a 6.39 ERA with the Diamondbacks in 2016 in 74⅔ innings, he wasn't viewed as an essential part of Arizona's plans for 2017 and began the season at Triple-A Reno.

Now he's suddenly one of the hottest pitchers in the majors, throwing six shutout innings in Arizona's 3-0 win over the Cubs on Wednesday, the team's first shutout at Wrigley Field since 2007. He's 5-4 in 15 starts with a 2.86 ERA and strong peripherals: 96 strikeouts in 94⅓ innings and only 65 hits and six home runs allowed. Among pitchers with at least 80 innings, only Max Scherzer and Alex Wood have allowed a lower batting average.

Godley's emergence is a key reason the Diamondbacks could be the sleeper team of October. Yes, they'd have to get past the wild-card game -- presumably against the Rockies, though we can't assume either team has locked up a playoff spot -- before facing the mighty Dodgers.

While everyone is anticipating that the Dodgers will play the Nationals or Cubs in the National League Championship Series, a playoff rotation that would include Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray (assuming he comes back after getting hit in the head by a line drive last week), Godley and Taijuan Walker is certainly capable of a dominant run through the month. David Peralta and A.J. Pollock set the table at the top of the lineup and the addition of J.D. Martinez behind Jake Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt means the Diamondbacks have one of the best 3-4-5 groups in the majors.

In that batting-average-against list, Ray ranks ninth and Greinke 15th. There's a reason the Diamondbacks are second to the Dodgers in the majors in rotation ERA: These guys are good.

What improvements has Godley made? He came up as a sinkerballer, but his curveball and cutter have turned into enormous weapons. Check these pitch value leaderboards from FanGraphs for starting pitchers (entering Wednesday):


  1. Corey Kluber, +19.9 runs

  2. Lance McCullers Jr., +14.3 runs

  3. Godley, +12.4 runs


  1. Jon Lester, +10.5 runs

  2. Mike Leake, +9.9 runs

  3. Godley, +6.4 runs

  4. Kluber, +5.6 runs

Dominant curveball? Dominant cutter? Look who else shows up on those two lists. Let's be clear: I'M NOT SAYING ZACK GODLEY IS AS GOOD AS COREY KLUBER. But guess who else was a late bloomer: Kluber! He had a mini-breakout at 27, the same age as Godley is right now, then won his Cy Young Award at 28. This could end up being the best three months of Godley's life. This could be the beginning of something magical.

Baseball is hard to predict.

What if the Orioles get the last laugh? There were six shutouts Wednesday night, besting the season high set on May 26 and May 27 (must have been a batch of old baseballs sent out those days), but here's why that's an interesting tidbit: Five of the teams that were shut out (Cubs, Astros, Nationals, Yankees and Astros) were teams in a playoff position. It's the first time five teams who entered the day in a playoff spot were all shut out.

Anyway, the most important of those shutouts was maybe Baltimore blanking Kansas City 6-0 behind Jeremy Hellickson's seven scoreless frames to complete a sweep of the Royals. That's the starter the Orioles acquired at the deadline, the guy pitching horribly for the Phillies.

The Orioles' moves at the deadline were widely criticized, but Buck Showalter's teams are always a stubborn bunch. Now they're back up to 53-54 and are just 2½ games behind the Royals. If the sweep goes the other way, they're dead. Now they're very much alive.

Something to consider: Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo have the potential to hit 120 home runs between them. All of them are having bad years, at least compared to 2016, and Trumbo just landed on the disabled list because of a rib cage strain (the Orioles are hoping it will be a 10-day minimum stay). But what if they all get hot? And the starting pitching gets just a little bit better? What if we're all wrong about the Orioles? It has happened before.

Just a video of another long Joey Gallo home run. He's hitting .203, but he's the most fun .203 hitter ever:

Gallo is up to 28 home runs, on pace for 43. The lowest average ever in a 40-homer season belongs to -- of course -- Adam Dunn, who hit .204 in 2012.

Play of the day. Giancarlo Stanton ends the Marlins' 7-0 shutout of the Nationals in style:

Stop the presses! The Dodgers lose! The Braves snapped the Dodgers' nine-game winning streak on Tyler Flowers' two-run, pinch-hit homer off Pedro Baez in the eighth inning:

Amazingly, the Dodgers had won 53 consecutive games in which they led at any point, but that streak is also over since they had leads of 1-0 and 3-2 in this one.

Around the league. Here are some other fun factoids from Wednesday:

  • Aaron Judge went 1-for-4 and is now hitting .299, including .164 since the All-Star break. The big reason: Before the break, his .426 BABIP led all qualifiers; his .200 BABIP since the break ranks 180 out of 191 qualifiers.

  • Mike Moustakas became the last qualified regular to strike out looking, and was promptly ejected. I love baseball.

  • Dellin Betances had an "immaculate" inning for the Yankees: nine pitches, three strikeouts. He's the sixth pitcher to do it in 2017, joining Drew Storen, Craig Kimbrel, Scherzer, Kenley Jansen and Carlos Carrasco.

  • The Phillies were the sixth team to get shut out Wednesday. They, however, are not in a playoff position.