Friday, December 6, 2013

Team Postmortem: Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 81-81, -10 Run Differential

Summary: The Arizona Diamondbacks were the big losers of the Dodgers' miraculous comeback season.  On June 22nd, the Diamondbacks were 41-33 with a 6 game lead over in the division and a 9.5 game lead over the Dodgers. The Dbacks ended the year at precisely .500, 9 games back of those same Dodgers. Arizona took a small step backwards this season over last year, where the finished with an identical record but a better run differential at +46. They are still a young team with some very good players, such as Paul Goldschmit, so the season wasn't entirely a lost cause.

The Diamondbacks hit .259/.323/.391 in 2013, scoring 685 runs, making them just about average at 14th in baseball. However, it looks like they got a just a tad lucky with RISP as their 92 wRC+ drops them down to 19th. With RISP, that number was 95 and good for 13th in the game--so it's not a huge difference, but should account for the overall gap. The team had a solid walk rate at 8.2% (13th) along with the sixth lowest K% at 18.0%. That is some pretty impressive plate discipline, leading to a BB/K of 0.45 (5th). Unfortunately, they suffered from a severe lack of power wth an ISO of.133 (23rd). The offense was lead by a fantastic season by Paul Goldschmidt. The first baseman just keeps getting better; in 2013, he hit 302/.401/.551 with a wRC+ of 156. Goldschmidt tallied career bests in just about every category including HRs (36), ISO (.249), BB% (13.9%), K% (20.4%), and, unsurprisingly, fWAR (6.4).  Another bright spot was the full-season debut of rookie outfielder A.J. Pollock. Pollock might not have the strongest bat, hitting only .269/.322/.409 with a wRC+ of 98, but he also played excellent defense (UZR/150 - 27.0), netting him a 3.6 fWAR. Rookie shortstop Didi Gregorious was also made a bit of an impression. While his overall wRC+ was a mere 91, he did post have one of the better walk rates among shortstops at 9.2% (5th amoung SS with 400 PAs) and did show a bit of gap power with an .120 , complimenting his excellent defense.

The bad news starts with Miguel Montero. After a fantastic 2012 where the catcher hit .286/.391/.438 with a 124 wRC+ and 4.6 fWAR, Montero fell apart this season. He hit only .230/.318/.344 with next to no power (.114 ISO after a .152 mark in 2012 and .187 in 2011), a wRC+ of 80 and mere 0.9 fWAR. That could be a significant problem for the Diamondbacks going forward as they committed 5 years and $60M to him after his 2012 season. The worst player on the team, however, was Jason Kubel. Kubel was certainly respectable enough in 2012 (1.6 fWAR, 30 HRs), but seemingly complete forgot how to play baseball in 2013.  He hit .216/.293/.317 with terrible defense and was worth -1.7 fWAR before being designated for assignment and traded to the Indians.

While the offense had average production, the pitching staff was decidedly below. The Diamondbacks pitching staff allowed 695 runs, putting them 20th in baseball.  Advanced metrics did not like them much better with a 4.04 FIP (22nd) and 3.83 xFIP (18th). The Arizona pitting staff didn't strike many batters out (7.33 K/9, 23rd), but they did do a decent job of limiting walks (2.92 BB/9, 13th) and were one of the best teams in the game at inducing groundballs (46%, 5th). The staff was lead by a surprise breakout season by sophomore Patrick Corbin. The lefty made 32 starts and threw 208.1 innings with a 3.41 ERA, 3.43 FIP and 3.7 fWAR. He had a 7.69 K/9 and a 2.33 Bb/9. Corbin did fade a bit down the stretch, posting a 3.87 FIP, 5.19 ERA and only 78 IP in the second half, after putting up 2.35/3.17/130.7 in the first. This isn't entirely surprising as the young lefty had far surpassed his previous high in innings pitched. While, Wade Miley took a step back from last years surprise performance, he was still solid enough with a 3.98 FIP and 3.77 xFIP for 2.0 fWAR.

Trevor Cahill, on the other hand,was a bit more of a disappointment. After posting a career best 2.9 fWAR, 3.85 FIP and 3.76 xFIP last season, Cahill saw those numbers worsen to 0.9, 4.26 and 4.11. His K/9 dropped from 7.02 to a mere 6.26, while his BB/9 rose from 3.33 to 3.99. Ian Kennedy was even worse. While he was durable enough, he also put up the worst numbers of his career for a full season. He pitched in 21 games, allowing a 5.23 ERA and 4.60 FIP and 0.6 fWAR, before being traded to the San Diego Padres (where he made 10 starts and accumulated a grand total of 0.0 fWAR).

And that's the Diamondbacks. They weren't terrible, but they weren't very good either. In a world where the Dodgers didn't decide to suddenly not suck, maybe they would have backed into the postseason. Even then, while anything can happen in October, it's unlikely they would have advanced very far. Arizona is probably not quite ready to push their chips to the center of the table yet, but 2015 could be a big season for them. By mid-season, both Skaags and top prospect Archie Bradley could be in the rotation providing the Diamondbacks pitching with a much needed boost. If Montero bounces back from his disappointing year, the Diamondbacks could find themselves in a position to make a run in 2016.

Team MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, 6.4 fWAR

Team LVP: Jason Kubel, -1.7 fWAR

Down On The Farm: The Diamondbacks possess an excellent farm system, ranked 10th by Bleacher Report after the MiLB season. They were also ranked 9th by Baseball America's near-term value rankings. It's a pitcher-heavy system, boasting arms like Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley and having recently given Tyler Skaags a taste of the bigs. They do have a few intriguing bats like Matt Davidson, Chris Owings and 2012 top draft pick catcher Stryker Trahan.

Archie Bradley, 21 years old, is a right handed pitcher, the Diamondbacks' top prospect, and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He has a power fastball that sits 92-95 mph and has, on occasion, hit 99. It's a true plus pitch with excellent downward movement. Bradley compliments that with an above-aver 12-6 curveball that flashes plus-plus potential at times. Lately, hes also been developing a changeup which looks to be an average pitch, though it possesses plus potential. Bradley spent 21 starts in AA in 2013 with an excellent 8.68 K/9, but struggled with command at times (not uncommon for young pitchers) with a 4.31 BB/9. He's open 2014 in AAA and, if he successfully refines his command, profiles as a true front of the rotation starter.

Braden Shipley us a 21-year-old right handed pitching prospect and was the Diamondbacks' first round pick in the 2013 drat. He has a fastball that sits 91-95 with solid late life. The real gem of his arsenal is his amazing changeup that profiles as plus-plus and sits in the low 80s with excellent late fade. This change was considered the best one available in the entire draft. He also has a curveball, but it is still a very unrefined pitch. Shipley spent his debut year making 12 starts between A- and A with a 9.08 K/9, 3.18 BB/9 and 4.99 ERA. He is still very raw, having only started pitching full-time two years ago after also playing shortstop, so the Dbacks will take it slow with him. Shipley has the upside of a #2 starter.

Offseason Outlook: The biggest way for the Diamondbacks to improve this offseason is to hope for improvements from the guys already on the roster, and the continued development of the farm system. The team, as presently constructed, is probably not close enough to being a top tier team to justify being aggressive on the market this year. As such, the Diamondbacks are better suited to stay in a holding pattern this offseason. It certainly seems that Kevin Towers sees things the same way, as then only move he's made was to unload reliever Heath Bell. If they do make an acquisition, they could really use a power-hitting outfielder or third baseman. The Diamondbacks lack power on the roster with the exception of Goldschmit and don't have much in the farm system either.

1 comment:

  1. Mostly very good, but you skipped the Achilles heel of the team: the bullpen! David Hernandez was atrocious, Heath Bell was brutal outside of his August, JJ Putz was on the shelf and Joe Thatcher couldn’t replicate what he did in San Diego in his Dbacks debut. You nailed it when you said that the team is going to have to rely heavily on progress from the players they already have. There isn’t a ton of room to upgrade, both in payroll and available roster spots. The roster is log-jammed with multi-year commitments to aging role players, so there’s just not the space to really add pieces aside from the ‘pen and maybe a starter. Towers is seeking an “ace” and a corner outfield bat but I’m not sure he finds them. Nicely done overall!