FanPost

The NL West Team that Time Forgot: Arizona Diamondbacks Preview

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Arizona_diamondbacks_v_los_angeles_dodgers_felsgsh4-6jl_medium

via www1.pictures.gi.zimbio.com

Did any of you watch the Academy Awards? You remember the opening number when Hugh Jackman goes on about The Reader and about how he didn't see The Reader? Well that's me. I don't know anything about the Diamondbacks. But YOU don't either, so this will work out great.

Seriously, I mean...Randy Johnson and Curt Shilling pitched for them. They won that WS on the bloop hit on the untouchable Mariano. That was fun. But that's all I know. But someone canceled, and I really don't do anything with my days, so I figured I would give it a shot. And since I have to hit the hay early this evening, I'll throw this up now, and you all just figure out what to do with it.

Organizational History:

            They started up in 1998, with Buck Showalter as their manager. Does anyone else have no idea why Buck Showalter is famous? Anyways, they went 65-97 and then went off to the races. They won 100 games in 1999 thanks to signing Randy Johnson and Steve Finley, and acquiring Luis Gonzalez (he used to be a Tiger. I never knew that). Aforementioned World Series victory in '01, solid teams in '02-'03 and then they became financially insolvent and exploded to a 51-111 season in '04. Cripes. But they won their division in '07 and came awfully close last year, going 82-80. I have to say, they may have one of the more successful histories I've seen. Tip of the hat towards the desert.

 

Reds Connections:

            That '98 team had Kelly Stinnett, Jason LaRue's ballboy, on it. Chris Michalak was there too, unfortunately. Greg Swindell ended his career in Arizona, and anyone who has the 1992 APBA set remembers his Jose Rijo impersonation all year.

Nowadays, Colonel Jon Coutlangus and Scott Schoenweis will be battling for the LOOGY spot, and we all know who Ladies... wants to win it. Seth Etherton is hanging around camp, calling his college buddies and telling them he went out with Stephen Drew and picked up mad honies. Former All-Star Felipe Lopez will be trying to return to his 2005 form with Arizona (fill in the bolded with a new team every year for the next 5 years).

Sweet Jerseys of the Past:

            None. Purple pinstripes or Astros knock-offs? A big pile of "meh" if I may say so...Arizona really hasn't been able to obtain an identity yet. Having a crappy team name doesn't help. Probably because Phoenix is a faux-city built to 1990's era urban planning standards in the middle of a desert with zero long-term sustainability full of snowbirds and bad plastic surgery and tired, mediocre versions of everything New Mexico and southern Utah do better in the culture, cuisine, and nature departments.

Projected Pitching: Note that this is without any help from AZSnakePit, who kind of rock. This is all from myself, BBRef (check out their beta site! Cool!) and various things I've found online. Sorry for any mistakes, but, I mean, whatevs.

Pitching stats are (W-L/ERA/IP/WHIP) from '08.

  • 1) Brandon Webb (22-7/3.30/226.2/1.196): 74" of terrific pitcher. I always compare him to Harang in personality, but they are very different pitchers. Webb doesn't give up homers, hits, or walks. This is good. He's won 70 games in the past 4 years, won a Cy Young, came in 2nd for another couple and is from Ashland, KY. It's too bad he'll be a career Diamondback, because he'd be my favorite Red.
  • 2) Dan Haren (16-8/3.33/216/1.13): Had a batty 5.15 K/BB ratio last year. That's seriously out of control (or in control, hey-oh!). Every bit the pitcher that Webb is. Thank goodness the Cards traded him for Mulder (heh). He's pitched 200+ the past 4 seasons and would drive me to depression if I was a batter in the NL West.
  • 3) Doug Davis (6-8/4.32/146/1.534): At least he's not on the Brewers. Crafty lefty with a career 81-83 record with an ERA+ of 105. He won't be #3 by the end of the year, for reasons that will come soon...
  • 4) Jon Garland (14-8/4.90/196.2/1.505): I always liked him for the two inexplicable 18-win seasons he put up with the White Sox, only to have Buehrle drink his milkshake and convince him to check out the scenery somewhere else. League average, but this is his age 29 season, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him do something special.
  • 5) Max Scherzer (0-4/3.05/56/1.232): Must like hanging out with Haren, because 3.14 KK/B ain't nothing to sneeze at. Say what you want about Lincecum, but I wished the Reds would've gotten him in the '06 draft (btw: Stubb's first name is Robert. Hm.) I think he's going to be much, much, better than Lincecum going forwards, and I wouldn't be shocked at a 15-18 win season this year. Unfortunately, he's going to start it on the DL and likely break my heart in the end.

Bullpen:

      Chad Qualls will be doing the gutsy closer thing for these folks. I don't have a lot of faith in him, personally. He doesn't have a lot of stuff and "induces ground balls" aka doesn't have the stamina for starting. A lot of no-names are behind him (Buckner may turn into something), but here's hoping that Bob Melvin will tap Coutlangus on the head and put him in a position where he can please the Diamondback faithful. Also: Jon Rauch is tall and Tom Gordon will be with ‘em in May. They also have a dude named Leyson Septimo who is listed at 6'0" and 150 lbs. All that time in the Roman Legions must've taken its toll on the ol' Body Mass Index for Septimo Maximus.

Overall:

      This is a really, really, intimidating rotation. Davis will be 33, but the rest of them are just entering their prime years. And if you buy into the "lefties take longer to mature" we're talking about 4 pitchers prime to kick some butt and one phoenom learning from them. Unfortunately, the bullpen doesn't look that great and could be an Achilles heel for them. They don't have a lot of depth, so an injury to Webb or Haren, God forbid, would be tragic. Yusemeiro Petit and Edgar Gonzalez shouldn't be seeing more than 6 starts apiece, but there ain't much help on the farm. In Diamondbacks fashion, they'll sink or swim with the top 2 hurlers.

Tomo Ohka All-Star:

      Doug Davis deserves a reference for holding the Reds to an OPS+ of 84 in 15 games. Damned crafty lefties.

 

Projected Hitting: The Diamondbacks weren't that great last year, but their defense made up for it. This year, they're hoping that another year older will give some boosts to these guys, as their big addition was Felipe Lopez. I think they need a breakout year from someone to be a top-of-the-line ballclub. Lineup is according to Fox Sports, and stats are (avg/obp/slg/PAs) from last year.

  • 1) 2B Felipe Lopez (.283/.343/.387/432): He really isn't all that bad if you hope that his OBP can stay around .350. He'll probably be a pretty solid leadoff hitter for these guys, but I hope someone is screaming "SAMPLE SIZE!" into Bob Melvin's ear re: FeLo's .964 OPS in 169 StL plate appearances. I'm pretty sure he is now, at age 29, beginning a career of journeyman utility infielder. Adam Rosales ought to have him on speed dial.
  • 2) CF Chris Young (.248/.315/.443/699): A tall, rangy pitcher helped by San Diego's wide-open confines. Um, well, he's a flycatcher and he had 71 XBHs last year. He's still young, this is his age-25 season, and I really like him. I wouldn't put that .315 OBP in the 2-spot myself, I'd rather he hit 7, but he's a CF so he's gotta hit high in the order. I really want to like him and hope that he'll break out, but he's shown no signs of boosting his OBP, and he doesn't make a lot of contact. May God have mercy on his soul if he ends up in Cincinnati, because he would get torn to shreds here.
  • 3) SS Stephen Drew (.291/.333/.502/663): I just found out here that BBRef has fielding stats, so I'll say that I thought Drew was better than Zone Rating has him at. But he has a bat and he'll only get better (right?), so he'll be an above-average SS for the foreseeable future.
  • 4) LF Conor Jackson (.300/.376/.446/612): Hey! Let's take our guy with the highest OBP and hit him in a power spot because he plays a power position! It would be ridiculous to have him hit in front of Chris Young, because left fielders just don't hit 2nd! But Conor's pretty good: he plays great defense, can take a walk, and seems like a decent all-around chap. I won't ask for it obvertly, but if someone could kidnap him and bring him to Cincy, that would be cool.
  • 5) RF Justin Upton (.250/.353/.463/417): Think about where you were when you were 20. Now, be really depressed, because you didn't hit 15 home runs (including one to break up a Cueto no-no, of course). The average will come. The walks are impressive. He really has the potential to be a superstar of Pujolsian talents, so know the name, y'all.
  • 6) 1B Chad Tracy (.267/.308/.414/292): Meh. Had one great season in '05, and hasn't done much since. OBP fell off a cliff last year, though...I wouldn't expect much from him.
  • 7) 3B Mark Reynolds (.239/.320/.458/613): Wishes he was Joey Votto. Can hit the ball hard, but he's going to need to make more contact or walk more to make a carer out of it. Struck out 204 times last year, meaning that he struck out more than he has pounds on his body (200).
  • 8) C Chris Snyder (.237/.348/.452/404): See what happens if you can take walks, Mark Reynolds? You can be a productive player, too! In all seriousness, Chris Snyder is one of the better catchers in the game. Great D, pitchers seem to like him, and he has always been around league average with the bat (which is a huge step for catchers). Definitely a premier player and a huge part of why the Diamondbacks are as good as they are.

Bench:

      Miggie Montero is the backup catcher, and he would be great trade bait when Arizona tries to upgrade their firstbaseman. Tony Clark's Exhumed Corpse is still on the payroll until they fix the glitch. Augie Ojeda? Eric Byrnes? Are you even trying?

Overall:

      I'm far less impressed with these guys than I was before I started this whole project. Last year they had 4 guys with > 600 Plate Appearances, plus 400+ for Snyder and Upton. It's very risky to count on that kind of every-day-ity, unless the Arizona team doctors have learned something I haven't. And Arizona needs those 6, because there ain't anything on the bench if anything happens. If Upton or Jackson or Reynolds breaks out, they can be something to contend with. If anyone gets shelved for any period of time, the Dodgers have the West sealed.

Bill Hall All-Star:

      I'm not doing any actual research on this. Justin Upton broke up a perfect game, and the first Reds game I saw all year and I'm really pissed about this. He could never get a hit against the Reds again, but I would still be pissed.

 

Jacob Brumfield All-Star:

      Have I mentioned how boring this team is? Craig Counsell is from South Bend and so am I. That's nice. Reggie Sanders won a WS ring with this team, so good for him.

 

Historical Country This Team Resembles:

      Argentina. It's a relatively young country that was really born from nothingness in a marginal part of the world. They came to prominence very quickly by reaching out to immigrants - any immigrants really, but they lured some really prominent ones (Germans and Italians :: Steve Finley, Randy Johnson). This was unsustainable, obviously, and at times embarrassing (Any number of SS refugees under assumed names :: Big Unit's mullet, Curt Schilling's mouth). Took on a global superpower in a paradigm-shifting war (sure, the UK won the Falklands, but the sinking of the Belgrano changed the way countries thought of war, just how 2001 marked the rise of nontraditional baseball thinking).

Tragic bankruptcy occurred, forcing the country to look into its own commodities in order to grow (Argentinian beef industry :: Webb, Upton, Snyder, et al). And even though you never think of them as being a powerhouse, there they are, dominating the region and being competitive on a global level. They're also both full of average looking white dudes who have strong ties elsewhere (examine the Argentine national soccer team's roster and compare to Brazil's, for example). Maybe not a place you'd like to commit to (or a team you'd want to be a fan of) but definitely a respectable choice.

Also: it's impossible to find, but Epitafios used to be on HBO and was the greatest television show I've ever seen. It was an Argentine show about a serial killer in Buenos Aires. Very, very, cool and not in a "ooooh, its foreign therefore awesome because I am sooooo cultured" way, but in a "that is an AWESOME way to kill someone! I mean..." way.

 

2009 Outlook: 84-78, 2nd Place

I'd rather they win the West than the hated Dodgers, of course. But I think they're still a year away. Unless Upton gets his nasty on quickly, they don't have the horses on offense quite yet. First base is a huge hole. And the bullpen is pretty mediocre...it could stand to see an upgrade. And if anyone gets injured, the season will take a long time and you will not enjoy it. I'm not sure how they could expect MORE from Webb and Haren. They'll be competing in September, but I don't think they can pull it off.

            I really have some hate for Phoenix. It's going to be a ghost town in 20 years...you just can't have a metropolis in the middle of the desert like that. When energy becomes a serious issue, they're going to need some solar power magic beans in order to keep people's air conditioning running. And water is going to be a tremendous problem. I would bet on this team moving to Portland within my lifetime. Hopefully they can get a better nickname, too. Diamondbacks? The Brand Manager's 12-year-old son think of that one? And they let him design the uniforms too?

            So yeah, this culturally bereft city gave us this nondescript baseball team. I wish them the best, mostly because I don't wish it on the Dodgers, and the Giants and Padres are both on baby-turtle-level fearsomeness. But I'm going to forget about them about 20 minutes after I finish this sentence.

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