12 March 2011

Not So Merry Go Round

Spring training is notorious for jumping to erroneous April conclusions. Regulars dont play much, and when they do, may be shaking off winter rust and/or Scottsdale hangovers. But is there anything we can take away from the first couple weeks?

The Diamondbacks' 5-13 record (.278) is the worst in baseball. By itself, such ineptitude probably doesnt foretell much. In addition to sporadic starter play, Arizona lost a bunch of one run exhibitions, and eighteen games is a pretty small sample to begin with - a handful of single run losses flip the other way and you're right at .500.

But it might hint you're not likely a dominant or contending squad. Dominant teams seldom drop thirteen of 18, even under less than representative circumstances. It happens - it's just hard for really good teams to play sub .300 baseball for this long.

Breaking down current tendencies may help us better understand the Dbacks' future. What kind of offense and defense should we expect from a sub .300 record? Below average in both? Really bad in one or the other?

Here's some Dback spring superlatives. This is out of thirty teams:

Most Home Runs (23)

Most xtra base hits (61)

Most total bases (292)

Third in runs. Sixth in OPS.

Arizona's played two more games than league norm, inflating their counting stats. Maybe Salt River Fields plays small too. But for a 5-13 team, the hitting's been pretty darn good. It's not easy to hit more homers than all the other teams - eight teams have yet to hit ten - and still manage the game's rock bottom record.

Kirk Gibson has lamented errors, but five clubs have more miscues - again, in fewer contests. His charges rank 24th in something called Defensive Efficiency. Only Tampa Bay (26) has allowed more Stolen Bases against (25). So, defense hasnt helped.

It gets worse.

Most Hits Allowed (190)

29th in ERA (5.86), Runs, Earned Runs Allowed (Cubs are dead last in all three measures)

Most Total Bases Allowed (306)

Most HBP (12)

Most Balks (4)

Most Wild Pitches (15)

Highest SLG% Against (.484)

Togther, spring leading marks in Wild Pitches, Hit Batsmen, Balks and the second most Stolen Bases Allowed,  represent the absurd ease with which opponents advance on the bases without even hitting the ball. These were all liabilities last season as well.

How high is a .484 SLG %? Ask 2010 All Star Shin-Soo Choo.  Career SLG% for a median Hall of Famer is only .462. Our amateur infested staff is effectively transforming opponents' amateur infested spring lineups into Murderer's Rows. 

There's way too much sample noise to expect these extremes to replicate into the regular season, but for a franchise relying on significant pitching improvement in order to contend, these early go rounds portend anything but merry.


Gary said...

5-18 now or something along those lines.... {sigh} but hey! they have a brand new shiny ST Facility!! really have no interest in going out there. I'll catch them at other parks around the valley.

everyone says one shouldn't take too much from ST, but none of the teams moves in the off season screamed "improvement". I want to be optimistic, but......

Diamondhacks said...

They definitely didnt scream improvement, but progress doesnt need to scream. Even with all the lousy positional acquisitions, they're projected to score more than last year, primarily due to age-based development. With all the losing (primarily the fault of pitching), people forget how young the positional core still is.

The bullpen's better, probably the bench too. They'll go as far as the rotation takes them, and I have significant concerns about that.