16 March 2011

Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training 2011

Every once in a while, I like to do one of those "by the numbers" types of posts where I showcase how the Diamondbacks are doing numbers-wise. With Spring Training about half over, my team has a 5-16 win-loss record, the worst in all of baseball right now (and as I write this, we're losing to the Angels 9-7 at Salt River Fields today). Even with our .238 win percentage, just below the Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees, I believe there is cause for some optimism. First, no team ever plays in the regular season the way they do in Spring Training (except perhaps the Pirates). Historically, while the worst teams in the spring don't really end up making the playoffs, they also do better than anticipated, so there's that to look forward to.

But by the numbers, Arizona shouldn't really necessarily have such a poor record. We have the 5th best batting average at .290 in the majors with 213 hits (4th), 43 doubles, a triple, and 28 home runs (#1 in the majors) in 814 plate appearances. We've also taken 59 walks and stolen 13 bases. Granted, we've also been caught stealing 11 times, but it's better to be aggressive and get thrown out than to sit back and not be aggressive and roll into a bunch of double plays. (Here's looking at you, Tigers, Braves, Rangers, Marlins, and Cubs, who have combined to ground into 95 double plays and stolen a combined 35 bases.)

Now, while our hitting is there (thanks in part to some big hits from the prospects in our organization like Colin Cowgill and Paul Goldschmidt), our pitching is shaky at best. Our club's team ERA is a rather dismal 5.67, second only to the Cubs' 5.73 as the worst. Breaking that number down, Our starting pitching is kind of shaky, with Barry Enright (2.25 ERA) and Daniel Hudson (3.48 ERA) leading the way. Our other potential starters are perhaps not quite ready for Opening Day yet as Ian Kennedy and Zach Duke each have 7.88 ERAs (and Duke took a liner off his pitching hand the other night, breaking two bones, so he'll be sidelined for a few weeks), Armando Galarraga and Aaron Heilman - each vying for the #5 spot on the team - have 8.18 and 5.15 ERAs respectively, and our workhorse Joe Saunders from last year's Dan Haren deal is sporting a 15.88 ERA. Ouch. That's 10 runs on 13 hits in 5.2 innings over 3 starts.

And again, we have problems with the bullpen guys. Gutierrez is getting hit very hard, and Micah Owings and Mike Hampton both have high ERAs. However, I am encouraged by the numbers from Sam Demel (a 1.50 ERA with 7 K's in 6.0 innings, Leyson Septimo (a 2.25 ERA in 4 innings), and the 1.93 ERA of lefty Jordan Norberto. Some other numbers: we're 3rd in earned runs allowed as a team with 115, above average in walks issued (67), and have a team 1.55 WHIP - tied for the second highest in baseball. Showcasing our pitchers' wildness, we are also #1 in wild pitches with 19 and balks with 4, and are tied for 2nd with 26 stolen bases against. Finally, some of the more exotic pitching numbers: pitches per inning pitched (P/IP) is 8.36, and hits against per 9 innings (H/9) is 10.64. Not great.

But to speak ill of only the pitching staff would be irresponsible. Our fielding leaves something to be desired as well. In today's game against the Angels, Chris Young booted a ball out in center field for a single and a 3-base error, allowing a runner and the batter to score. Overall, in 182.2 innings and 805 total chances, we've made 26 errors (3rd most behind the Cubs and Padres), and our fielding percentage is .969, tied for 23rd in the majors. On the plus side, we've turned 20 successful double plays (15th) and achieved 575 putouts (2nd). However, our DER (a statistical rating called the Defensive Efficiency Rating, measuring the rate at which balls put into play by the offense are converted into outs by the defense) is a very low .6722, the lowest in all of baseball.

I love my Diamondbacks, but I am again concerned that poor pitching from our relievers combined with high strikeout totals (we've whiffed 145 times so far, second in baseball) combined with sloppy play on defense could again spell C-E-L-L-A-R for the team come September. This is the third "rebuilding" year in a row now for the Diamondbacks, and I think fans of the club deserve to see results. Fortunately, with a real manager at the helm in Kirk Gibson, a plethora of solid big league managers surrounding our players, and plenty of young, raw talent, something is eventually going to click that will catapult the team back into greatness.

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