Thursday, May 31, 2012

Arizona Diamondbacks: Not a Single Pitcher Adhering to Expectations

The Arizona Diamondbacks, much like the Rockies and Padres, are for all intents and purposes already out of the playoff hunt. That has to be disappointing for a team who had taken the division last season behind some pretty solid pitching and a surprisingly effective offense. This season the division around them looks to have stepped up their game, and the D-Backs haven’t been able to keep pace. The biggest culprit has been some significant regression from their very young starting rotation.

Josh Collmenter has lost his rotation spot after 4 relatively ineffective starts, but having been moved to the bullpen as a long reliever it’s an ever present reality that Collmenter may be asked to spot start in the event of injury from time to time. He has been effective as a reliever, which has likely saved him from demotion, but after 24 starts last year, the demotion to the bullpen was probably not what Collmenter was hoping for.  Collmenter has been fairly effective in relief and by all means appears to be capable of holding onto that job and contributing for the D-Backs consistently.

Daniel Hudson has regressed mightily after a strong showing last season with the D-Backs. Hudson did just return from the DL and though his first outing was a shorter one, it was a step in the right direction giving up only 2 runs over 5 innings. In his 23 innings so far he has walked 9 batters which isn’t atrocious, but his 15 strikeouts aren’t exactly impressive either. He’s getting about 50% ground balls so far, and a rather pedestrian 18% line drive rate so he’s not doing especially poorly anywhere but the 5 home runs he’s given up sting a little. Hudson could return to be more effective than he was in the early going, and if his last 3 seasons (two of them partial) are any indication, Hudson is much more effective than he has been early on and could prove to be much more valuable going forward than he has been in the early going.

Patrick Corbin looks to have been filling in for Hudson during his DL stint, and over that course showed a few relatively effective starts highlighted by a 7 inning 1 run performance against San Francisco. Corbin was of course also shelled in one of his outings and was generally ineffective in another. At 22 years old the promise of his good starts should outweigh the frustration with his less effective outings. His 21% line drive rate is less than impressive, but his 18 strikeouts over 27 & ⅓ innings and his 9 walks to go with them are pretty palatable for a young starter. Corbin may be done in the majors for the time being, but he has gotten a taste of the major leagues, and could be all the better for it. He has shown an ability to learn from his mistakes in the minors and could come back in or before September with some impressive changes made to his approach.

Wade Miley joined the rotation in place of Collmenter and has been lights out all season. His 2.41 ERA is as sparkling a stat as you will see from a 25 year old in his first full season in the majors. He’s put together 52 & ⅓ innings between relief and starting so far, and has been pretty solid across the board. While he’s not striking out a ton of batters (32 so far) he’s not walking the park either (18 walks on the season) and has been effective in not only avoiding damage, but in eating innings, having only missed completing 6 innings once since joining the rotation. He’s pitching to contact effectively enough, and avoiding line drives better than most at 16% of balls in play. He’s also near 50% ground balls so far. He’s very young, but has demonstrated a pretty solid understanding of how to pitch in the majors so far and could be one of the biggest surprises for the D-Backs so far. I don’t know that the league won’t make adjustments and we could see him come back down to earth from his 170 ERA+ but he’s certainly showing reason to believe he can help the team.

Trevor Cahill has compiled 61 & ⅓ innings of work so far, and has been consistent, if somewhat unimpressive so far. He’s pitching to a 3.96 ERA, but has given up 4 earned runs in 3 of his last 4 starts, two of which were against the San Francisco Giants. Cahill is providing value, if nothing else, and the biggest complaint against the young starter would probably be his 26 walks so far. Not exactly killing himself with walks, but certainly not helping his cause at near 4 per 9. Cahill is an extreme groundball pitcher and if he can get his walk rate down below the 10% mark, he could prove to be a very valuable starting pitcher, capable of going deep in games and with an adequate defense behind him look like quite the star. Currently he’s providing pretty solid value, but could really shine with a bit more polish.

Joe Saunders is proving us all wrong, after an impressive effort at age 30, the general consensus was that he just wasn’t that good, and would likely regress this season. That said he hasn’t. He’s walking fewer, striking out more, and providing effective innings for his team. His 113 ERA+ is a perfect example of such. His career ERA+ is 103, and he’s overall found a way to be better at everything this year, except maybe giving up hits, which he’s doing at about the same rate as always, and slightly worse than last year. He’s limiting opposing batters to 14% line drives, and has otherwise been himself as far as contact rate goes. With that rather low, and likely unsustainable line drive rate in mind, Saunders might be due for a bit of regression, but with his improved control, he might be able to sustain a number that’s not much higher, closer to his career 18% and still be quite effective. I don’t mean to say that Saunders is an actual ace, but for this staff he might be the next best thing.

Ian Kennedy hasn’t quite been able to turn himself back into that rock solid starter and Cy Young contender he was last year, he’s managed some pretty solid starts, and has been eating innings even in his tougher games so far. He is giving up more homers than one might like to see (9) but he’s still working his strikeout and walk numbers very close to last season’s rates, which is promising. IPK is pretty much looking just like the guy who was in the Cy Young race last year, except the results aren’t turning in. He’s not getting any more grounders than last season, actually at his lowest rate since his ‘07 debut with the Yankees, but still very close to the results from the past two seasons. He is keeping hitters off balance enough that they’re only putting up 17% line drives, which is better than he has produced over the past two years, but his BABIP (.317) is about 40 points higher than last year, which could be a product of a bit of bad luck and might come down some as the year progresses. IPK wasn’t exactly a media darling in New York, but he did develop a pretty thick skin, and is probably better for it. He’s likely to get through this and post a respectable season, despite the team’s already effectively dashed hopes for the post season.

I can’t honestly see the D-Backs making a real strong push for the postseason without the rotation putting it together in a hurry. Between the relatively weak starting rotation they’ve put forth all year, they’ve gotten terrible performance overall from Putz despite his 11 saves so far. Their pitching staff is 11th in the NL in ERA and could do to find a way to fix that in a hurry. Their offense is the definition of mediocre, 8th in homers, batting average, slugging percentage, and runs. They’re getting solid production from just about anyone they put out in the field, even if nobody’s been able to carry the team offensively for any stretch of time. If the Dodgers were having a worse year, Arizona would still be in the hunt despite their sub .500 record. That said, they’re 10 games out already, and while their rotation is better now than it has been at any other point this season, it’s not great, and with a middling offense, they’d need to really start blanking opponents for a while to crawl back into any playoff conversation at this point.

No comments:

Post a Comment