The Diamondbacks went 64-98 this season. Not pretty. ZiPS projected them to finish around .500, with 22 wins above replacement coming from their starting position players. Let me put in perspective just how off base the projections were. A team full of replacement-level players is supposed to win 47.7 games in a full season. The Diamondbacks won 64 games, meaning the entire team produced something like 16 WAR. Now, projecting WAR out to wins doesn’t work perfectly because there can be variance in the distribution of runs scored. Basically a team can win or lose more games than they should based on their talent. In fact, I totaled the WAR of all the players, and it came out to 11.1. With that caveat aside, the entire team added less value than just the position players were supposed to add in 2014. Injuries were surely part of the poor performance, but I wondered if there was more to the story.

Let’s start with the outfield. ZiPS had Mark Trumbo, Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock, and Cody Ross being worth eight wins collectively. Trumbo got injured and posted a -1.3 WAR in the 88 games he did play, although some of his playing time came at first base. He was projected to produce 2 WAR. Cody Ross was disappointing too; he produced -1.2 WAR in 83 games. Parra wasn’t as bad as these two, but he still had a negative WAR in over 100 games. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Pollock was fantastic when healthy. He produced 3.3 WAR in only 75 games, which is at least at the level of an All-Star. But the takeaway should be that the regulars underperformed even when healthy. Compounding the underperformance of Ross and Trumbo with some of the more inadequate fill-ins, we can begin to see why this team struggled so much. Xavier Paul, Roger Kieschnick, Tony Campana, and Alfredo Marte combined to play in 109 games. They were worth -2.1 WAR cumulatively. Ouch. Ender Inciarte and David Peralta produced like solid major-league players, but there are too many negative WARs in this paragraph to overcome.

The outfield was abysmal, and the infield was underwhelming. Prado wasn’t great before the D-backs traded him, but he’s notorious for being a second-half player. We all know about Paul Goldschmidt’s injury, but the real disappointments were Aaron Hill and Miguel Montero. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I advocated selling high on Miguel Montero. He declined just like a 31-year-old catcher is supposed to. Aaron Hill felt the ill effect of old age too, as his -0.7 WAR indicates. Unfortunately, we began to see the aging process for the stalwarts in the infield. Both men are still under contract next year as well.

A few key players stand out: Mark Trumbo, Aaron Hill, Cody Ross, and Miguel Montero. They are problematic for the D-backs because they are expensive and mediocre. Calling them mediocre may seem harsh, but the only one to produce a positive WAR was Montero. And it’s not like Montero set the world on fire with a 1.2 WAR. Hill, Ross, and Montero combined will make more than $30 million next year. This is especially problematic because the Diamondbacks have a modest payroll. It’s hard to work around a $30 million hole, when the entire budget is around $110 million. I’m not going to address potential solutions now – I don’t get paid enough for that. But this is something that I’m sure Ryan, Jeff, and I will address during the offseason. In this case, solving the problem is much more difficult than asking it.


6 Responses to Position Players Gone Wrong: 2014 ZiPS Projections Versus Reality

  1. Truxton says:

    Tough decisions are why these guys – LaRussa, Stewart, Duncan, and Harkey are paid big bucks. Ross is physically incapable. Hill is only able to perform at a lower standard. Get what the market will pay for them. Trumbo is not the power guy he was portrayed to be in output, and he is a defensive problem. Trade him for what ever the market will bear. Montero really stuck it to this team with his contract. Like a comet he flashed by in that one season, never to be seen again. He is possibly worth $2 to $3 million dollars per season but certainly not $10 million dollars. Also, the numerous comments about his framing of pitches, the pitch sequencing, and the game calling in general might point out part of last year’s pitching problems. Montero may be substandard behind the plate. Think about the total staff’s under performance. What did all of those guys have in common? Montero is one key element. If that is the case Gosewisch ought to be tried as the first string guy. By trading Montero millions in payroll can be saved and the pitching may be improved.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Montero overused. His September fall-off was easy to call. best thing that could happen to him, would be to miss the whole month of May like Russell Martin.

    Hill, tried a new style last year by trying to use more of the field. Now was that main cause of his problems or, was it he took too many hittable pitches, as part of the team style last year. Not only that, he didn’t adapt to a bigger strike zone last year too. The only who did was goldie. goldie figured it out that he wasn’t going to get the benefit of close calls, and used it to his advantage.

    Parra, see Hill. Took too many hittable pitches that were being called strikes. changed his style and regressed too.

    Trumbo, went from being dave kingmen, to being Parra. changed his style regressed, probably took a lot of hittable pitches, that were too close to take also.

    Prado, most defensive hitter ever, got rung in key situations down in the count in key situations, as he didn’t adjust either.

    so there’s your common theme, guys didn’t adjust to the strike zone took too many hittable pitches, and also changed their approaches.

  3. jason mc says:

    looks like we have a good idea of the obvious. I think all these guys should be used to open up payroll by being traded or bought out of their contracts. I think someone will take Hill and Ross off our hands. Trumbo may be great next year I think the injury contributed to his failure at the plate because he was hitting homers before the injury but was batting fifth instead of fourth. I think Montero is still as good of a catcher and calls great games for that pitching staff so I obviously think he should stay also. Next years platoon should be Trumbo in right,Pollock (who has a great future)in center and Peralta in left field. Inciarte should be a utility player out there with a valuable bat and baserunning skills. Inciarte can play them all in the field also

  4. Anonymous says:

    They should start from scratch without Montero, as this was his team, See if angels would give us conger, no bat but at has enough skills behind the plate to get by along with Gosewich. Make it Collmenter Aj and Goldie’s team.

    Then go after Yelich or even see if Nats want to move Harper. Offer up Bradley, Owings, Blair. Those are the only two guys at this time might be worth it. Keep Hill and Pennington around. Trumbo due to his defensive liablity, move on, he’d have to hit like Holliday not Kingman to be worth it.Due to the staff of Pads, Dodgers, giants don’t see it.

  5. Boaz says:

    If we sell Montero, who do you we start in place of him? Tuffy?

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