Diamondbacks: Believe It Or Not,
They Are Not That Bad
Injuries, Timing Are At The Root Of The Team’s Struggles, And Regardless Of Disappointment, The Organization Needs To Stay The Course For The Long Haul
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
July 8, 2016 — To say 2016 hasn’t worked out the way the Arizona Diamondbacks hoped might just be the understatement of the year.
Phrases like “flat on their faces,” and “epic fail,” immediately come to mind.
After all, they are 38-49 on July 7. Last season after 87 games, the club was 42-45. The discrepancy might not be very different, but add $200 million man Zack Greinke to the roster and the gulf could be perceived as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Many experts, pundits and everyday fans thought the team would compete for a playoff spot. Why wouldn’t they? The team got one of the best pitchers in baseball to chase a golden contract this winter and last year all they really needed was more starting pitching.
Regardless of the team’s fixing the biggest weakness from last year’s team, Sabermetricians predicted such lackluster results from the 2016 squad: most advanced systems put the Diamondbacks between 73 and 85 wins in 2016. But the truth, as always, does not lay with an accurate prediction. Rather, those stats happened to get a result right but for all of the wrong reasons.
ZiPS and other forecasts thought Greinke and Shelby Miller would be great as would Patrick Corbin. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Greinke has been very good, Miller awful and Corbin good.
They also thought Tomas, Lamb and Segura would struggle. A case can be made that Tomas has struggled — especially by the sea of Yasmany Tomas haters that seem to exist in this state — but Segura has been terrific and Lamb, well, has been a lion.
This is part of the way that Sabermetrics seems to be a fortune teller, but the truth is not the truth. The team’s fielding and offense is better than expected and the starting pitching is one blown gasket (Shelby Miller away) from several more wins.
Basically, the Sabermetricians got it wrong even though they got the record right so far. That is only possible by the one factor that can’t be accounted for in advanced metrics: injury.
Before anyone goes crazy thinking this is the “woe are the Diamondbacks” gospel hour, every team has injuries.
The difference with this squad is they were built with a several-year plan to build a solid contender, but many pieces were not ready — especially the backup guys. Everything had to go right for them to contend this year and clearly, not everything went right.
Losing AJ Pollack was — as Donald Trump would say — huuuuge in a bad way.
David Peralta’s loss was staggering. As was the loss of Rubby De La Rosa.
And Shelby Miller’s implosion is an injury-situation whether it's mental or physical.
As good as Michael Bourn has been, he’s no AJ Pollack.
To add insult to injury, when the offense is going good, the pitchers struggle. Or the fielders make errors. The team can’t get on a roll.
Of course, when a team falters, fans and pundits want to play the blame game. But the problem is no one appears to deserve the brunt of it.
In my opinion, it would be as accurate to blame Tony LaRussa, Dave Stewart, Ken Kendrick, Derrick Hall and Chip Hale as much as it would to blame Pollack’s elbow, Miller’s brain, Peralta’s back, De La Rosa’s elbow, and Owings’ foot.
This is a VERY young team that looks to get better every year.
The players have been stellar, regardless of the resulting performance. Miller aside, they have shown that they have potential and are young. Jake Barrett, Enrique Burgos, Silvino Bracho, Andrew Chafin, Archie Bradley, Randall Delgado and Robbie Ray are all 26 or under. All seem unfazed by failure and attack for success the next time out. Yes, they have struggled, but they have shown that given the time to prosper and injury notwithstanding, they will be a most formidable staff for a long time to come.
The position players have shown some good moves by the front office, including Jean Segura, Chris Herrmann, Welington Castillo, Michael Bourn and Rickie Weeks.
Brandon Drury looks like a legend in the making and Jake Lamb, again, is a king of the beasts. Lamb’s .996 OPS and 20 home runs look great, but he’s also clutch: 1.066 OPS and .290 batting average in late/close games.
Drury and Lamb can’t be credited to anyone still with the front office, but the current crop is giving these guys the keys to the car and in a few years — again injuries notwithstanding — it could make for a modern day Murderer’s Row.
As far as Chip Hale is concerned, the manager’s job is managing people, so without being in that locker room every day, who can say if he is not doing his job. He’s a quality baseball man who can't seem to get things going his team’s way even if he makes ALL the right moves.
It wouldn’t matter if John McGraw crawled out of the grave. No manager could lead a team of so many young players to the World Series.
The only saving grace is no one has given up on the kids yet, and they shouldn’t.
The future remains bright.
Gambling on youth can go sour very quick, but by sticking to it, it just may bear fruit in a year or two.
It's been disappointing, but these sour times will make the sweet times — playoff baseball — that much sweeter.
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