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Diamondbacks are in a hideous offensive slump

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The Diamondbacks were fourth in the NL in OPS and fifth in runs while going 20-8 during the first month of the season. May, though, has been a problem. After collecting just four hits in an 8-2 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday, the Diamondbacks find themselves batting .190 this month. Here’s the team’s offensive rankings among NL teams this month:

AVG: .190, last in NL (26 points worse than 14th-place St. Louis)
OBP: .267, last in NL (13 points worse than 14th-place New York)
SLG: .301, last in NL (55 points worse than 14th-place San Diego)
Home runs: 10, tied for last in NL with San Diego
Strikeouts: 151, most in NL (two more than San Francisco)
Runs: 38, last in NL (one fewer than a Mets team that’s played two fewer games)

Arizona’s best hitter this year, A.J. Pollock, just landed on the DL with a thumb fracture and is expected to miss at least a month. Paul Goldschmidt‘s OPS has fallen under .700. With Pollock on the DL, the only two Diamondbacks who have been even league average hitters this year are David Peralta (.279/.359/.483) and, incredibly, Daniel Descalso, who has a team-high .363 OBP and is slugging .514. The OBP is 45 points better than his career mark, while the slugging percentage is 155 points better.

The good news for the Diamondbacks is that the team is still 25-18, and no one else in the NL West is seems all that interested in stepping up. Jake Lamb will soon return from his shoulder injury, and Steven Souza should get it going after struggling in his first two weeks back from a five-week absence due to a pectoral strain.

Still, the Diamondbacks badly need Goldschmidt to figure it out, especially now that Pollock is out. His exit velocity remains strong. His strikeout rate is way up — he’s fanned in 30 percent of his plate appearances — but his swinging-strike rate isn’t all that bad. Maybe the humidor is in his head. There’s little doubt that the change in Chase Field baseball is taking a toll on Arizona’s offense at home, but the effect isn’t as severe as Goldschmidt’s numbers would suggest; he’s hitting .140 with no homers at home, compared to .294 with four homers on the road. It might actually be a good thing for the team that it starts a nine-game road swing against the Mets on Friday.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”