19 July 2010

When You Wish Upon A Star

What went wrong? How did the Diamondbacks collapse so convincingly, beneath an entire division? One could write a book. A chapter on the bullpen. Another on strikeouts. Several more sourcing front office hubris and conceit.

For now, let's contrast preseason expectations with what happened on the field. in 2010. Most projected this team around .500, usually a bit under. Behind Colorado and LA, but clearly ahead of the Padres. The lineup looked to outhit 2009, perhaps dramatically, but run prevention concerns lingered.

On the player level, instead of grading every single man, I've identified those whose established levels of performance have consistently driven wins in the past. This would certainly include:

Dan Haren
Brandon Webb
Justin Upton
Mark Reynolds
Adam Laroche
Miguel Montero

...and maybe Edwin Jackson, based on a projected IP approaching 200.

Other talents (ie Drew, CY and Kelly Johnson) may provide better value right now, but subpar 2009 seasons spurred spring doubts as to whether they still had it.

How did our elite preseason seven fare on the field? They uniformly disappointed - and represent a significant collective bust. Webb and Montero were injured when the season unraveled. Haren has been less effective than Doug Davis, circa 2007-2009, in terms of ERA. Reynolds and Upton improved defensively, but were staggering situational ciphers in the middle of the lineup as the season slipped away. Laroche, the notoriously slow starter, currently sits 20% below his 3 year OPS+ average. Edwin Jackson's ERA is a tick below 5, despite a no-hitter and transfering from the better league with the DH.

In summary, none of our top seven guys met (let alone, exceeded) their established level of performance. Not one. Adding a Qualls/Gutierrez hybrid as an eighth heavily relied upon component (remember, this is in terms of preseason expectations), and our expectations gap of our elit players grows exceedingly gruesome.

This is how a solid bounceback year from Young and admirable efforts from Ian Kennedy and Rodrigo Lopez were sabotaged, and how the team has fallen apart despite those contributions. The high profile players who typically move the W/L needle, didnt contribute enough for this team to win. Actual vs expected results range from huge (Webb) to relatively minor (Laroche), but the problem is that all these critical results point in the same direction.


When Webb, Haren, Upton and Reynolds struggle, it hardly matters that Aaron Heilman and Kelly Johnson have been productive. When Ed Jackson cant pickup a faltering Haren, who in turn cant hold a candle to a healthy Webb, it doesnt matter much what Ian Kennedy does.

The expected stars, the guys in their physical primes who (with the exception of Webb) played very well in 2009, arent playing as well now. Random variation, or regression, may help explain generic decline from excellent results, but this is such a widespread failing of quality players - who've recently posted superior seasons - that I wonder if it doesnt reflect on how the organization manages established talent.

There's been endless talk about how they dont develop young talent aching to make it in the majors. But it seems to me that this roster is more accurately characterized as guys who have made it in the majors, by one standard or another, and who were unable to sustain that value in 2010.


When You Wish Upon A Star - from Disney's Pinocchio. Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocals


Russell said...

You're right. To have one star player perform badly is unlucky, but to have these many perfrom badly and it starts to look like carelessness.

The issues go way beyond "blame it on the bullpen" and it seems like a structural change in the way the club is run is required, but I'm not holding my breath.

Diamondhacks said...

I wonder if Oscar Wilde would make a good GM?

Russell said...

I'm guessing a bad GM but would be great for a post game quote.

Diamondhacks said...

[Editor's Note]

For anyone curious why Oscar Wilde was invoked, in response to Russell's original comment

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