The Diamondbacks made a bevy of moves last week. In fact, it’s been a pretty exciting offseason thus far, and given where things stand right now, I’d suggest that they’re far from done making moves. As a fan, this is mighty exciting as the status quo was surely destined for failure. Just getting healthy was bound to improve the team, but health alone wasn’t going to make the Diamondbacks a contender. Tony LaRussa, Dave Stewart, De Jon Watson and the rest of the Diamondbacks’ brass know this and are apparently prepared to do something about it. But will it be enough for a team that wants to contend, especially in the starting pitching department?

It’s not like the struggles of the D-backs’ rotation hasn’t been well-documented. Anyone who watched much baseball last seasons saw a whole lot of poor performances from the team’s starters who, collectively, could be best described as mediocre. Of course, that partly had to do with the absence of Patrick Corbin and the slower-than-expected development of Archie Bradley, Arizona’s best chances for truly impact pitching. Instead, the reliable and steady, if not overwhelming, duo of Josh Collmenter and Wade Miley were left to shoulder the load for the most part while Chase Anderson did his thing, Brandon McCarthy got traded and the trio of Vidal Nuno, Bronson Arroyo (pre-injury) and Trevor Cahill were simply not very good.

So things had to change, and change they’ve done. Out went McCarthy, very recently Wade Miley, and returns are expected from Corbin and Arroyo in 2015. Imported have been Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster via trade as the D-backs have loaded up on alternative pitching options so far this winter. Just because things have changed, however, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve changed for the better. In fact, Dave Stewart recently announced the “projected rotation” and it was tweeted by’s Steve Gilbert, which sent the baseball community into a frenzy:

The colleagues of Ryan and I at Beyond the Box Score picked this up and put things into perspective for the masses with this string of informative tweets:

I’ll give you a second to just let that simmer…

Okay, back to work. We’ve heard that this team would like to get back to contention sooner than later and moves for players like Yasmany Tomas certainly fit this mold, as do the decisions to tender contracts to guys like Cliff Pennington and David Hernandez. This team is intent on retooling, not rebuilding. I don’t blame them; ticket sales were down significantly last season and the organization is doing everything it can to become relevant again. Rumored deals for Matt Kemp and/or Andre Ethier also fit this narrative, although we can debate their impact and validity.

So just how does this future rotation stack up? As it sits now, you’re probably underwhelmed and rightfully should be. There’s literally nothing worth getting excited about outside of seeing if guys like de la Rosa and Webster can take a developmental step forward. And if the team wants to contend as it says it does, well, this won’t be enough.

Take a look below at the fWAR of every rotation that’s made the playoffs since 2012. Note where Arizona has fit into this equation, then let’s discuss.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 7.20.43 PM

In the last two seasons, the Diamondbacks have finished far below average in the starting pitching department as compared to the National League average. Due to not having to face the designated hitter and getting pinch-hit for regularly, the NL threshold for a playoff team is consistently about two wins short of the benchmark for AL staffs. That’s an interesting nugget in and of itself, but the D-backs have regularly fallen short.

How does the projected staff measure up, insofar as it’s constructed now? Well, let’s just say that it’s not exactly about to turn the corner needed to make Arizona a threat.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 7.20.49 PM

There’s a host of caveats here, so let’s just get those out of the way quickly. Innings pitched were projected by yours truly and the WAR listed is based off of Steamer projections for 2015. I took some license with the projections, however, as a few guys just seem to regularly outperform their projected contribution with Josh Collmenter being the most obvious example. Still, I don’t think there’s anything here that’s out of line and it’s really not worth quibbling over .1 or .2 WAR in either direction. Keep in mind, I projected no major breakouts and no major disasters here. Any plus performance will likely be balanced by a poor one, so I feel confident in the final tally despite the fact that the fWAR of each pitcher may change slightly.

By performance, however, this staff would rank near the bottom of the majors. Just reading the names of the Opening Day rotation plans would suggest as much and the numbers simply serve to back that notion up. Are there internal areas where we could look for optimism? Sure, perhaps one of the young pitchers takes a large, unforeseen step forward. Maybe Archie Bradley arrives on the scene as a force to be reckoned with (although put me on the record as predicting that he takes his lumps initially). Perhaps Corbin looks really good and gets back to action sooner than anticipated, although I’d expect the team utilize a bunch of caution there. Maybe Daniel Hudson, who’s not listed, joins the rotation and provides a much-needed boost. We can’t really say much about these things at this point in time, unfortunately.

So if it feels like this group of starters seems underwhelming, it’s because it is. What does that mean? Maybe the Diamondbacks aren’t done adding to the rotation. Perhaps there’s something brewing underneath the surface. Or, maybe, the expectations we’ve heard communicated publicly are different from those discussed internally. We can’t be sure about any of that, but what we do know is that this group isn’t about to turn the tide for the D-backs, because frankly, this group just isn’t good enough as currently constructed. So either the expectations need to shift or this team needs another upgrade, and a serious upgrade at that. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

15 Responses to The D-backs’ Rotation has a Long Way to Go

  1. Anonymous says:

    i’m still scratching my head over the Miley deal and Hellickson deal i dont consider him a 7 inning guy. I liked your Morrow, kingman, Billingsley idea. the talking of Evoldi, but that was for miley possibly. So far the only pitcher that intrigues we have received this offseason is rbdl. Pads and Dodgers got the two discount arms, although 10 bills for anderson, isn’t much of a discount. 12 mil for mccarthy might be. Montero catching position is a major hole, for the rotation. the only projectable guys we have right now in the rotation are Collmenter and Cahill. this offseason so far is meh.

  2. Jeff says:

    This projection is severely pessimistic in my opinion. In fact everything on this site is always overly pessemistic. Fact of the matter is there are a couple of things to consider with this new crop of pitchers, they are all moving out of the AL and every one of them (rubby, webster, and ray) are all products of the same scouts who just came to arizona. This means that there was an extreme amount of information on each one of them available to Stewart before he made these deals. And it comes down to this, as a scout, if you had believed that you had misjudged these pitchers the first time, do you really think that you would try to ‘re aquire them with your new team to hurt you again? Answer is a resounding no! These scouts careers ride on the acquisitions that they are responsible for so they must believe that they have something in these guys!

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Overly pessimistic? Let’s just use the topic at hand: the projected rotation. You think this is a pessimistic representation of the rotation? We use numbers for a reason, they’re impartial. It’s not a judgement call, I used a well-regarded projection system. Not sure I follow how that’s pessimistic.

      Perhaps why it seems pessimistic is because the results are less than what you’d like to see. Honestly, they’re lower than any of us want to see. We all want the Diamondbacks to be awesome but this pitching staff isn’t going to do it. If you want to bet the other way because a scout had a lot of info on a particular prospect, then be my guest.

      The ‘rotation’ Stewart announced last weekend is a poor one and the numbers bear that out. If that’s pessimistic to you, I’d suggest finding a reputable website that has nothing but upbeat analysis on Robbie Ray, Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa. All I can say is that in the near future, they’re not projected, by numbers or scouts, to be all that good. Can they be down the road? Sure, but this is just a look at 2015. Don’t make more out of it than it is.

      • Jeff says:

        It is not that I dont value the numbers, I am full aware that for seasoned professionals they can be a very good indicator as to what kind of performance you can expect. However I do not believe that the sample size or the conditions (such as age, league, experience) can give you any reliable projectability. For example, Greg Maddux’s first 36 career starts yielded terrible results to the tune of a 5.60era and a record of 8-18. My point is this, it is much more valuable to base your judgement of young pitching on coaches and scouting reports rather than trying to mathematically predict such an early career and small sample size.

        • A-RON says:

          I definitely agree with the first Jeff. There is A LOT more to baseball than just QUANTITIVE statistics. Although, quantitive evaluations in baseball are important, QUALITATIVE evaluations are necessary as well. In retrospect, it seems a balanced approach is best for baseball.

          Sometimes I feel this website gets a little too caught up in just THE NUMBERS. Oh well, that’s my two cents.

          • Jeff Wiser says:

            You’re forgetting what website you’re at. We don’t aim to cover the team in the conventional way, this is designed to be stat-heavy, advanced and different. If you want the standard news or the standard write up about “veteran leadership” or any of the generic headlines, there are a bunch of places to get that. This is different by design.

            I’m not saying that stats are the only way to look at the game, either, just that that’s our approach in this space. There is more than one viewpoint, and stats are not the only answer.

          • BK says:

            Hey Jeff W., THANK YOU for not sugar coating everything. I can get all the sugar I need from Steve B. on the Dbacks site. This pitching staff is AT BEST an AVERAGE staff, AT BEST!!! All we can go by is past performance to TRY and judge the future. We all HOPE guys can find the magic and become stars but they have to do it on the field, until they do, we have to go by what we know about them and that is using past numbers. Potential means possible ability. No one can measure that for sure, not even the best scouts. Thanks for keeping it REAL on this website.

  3. coldblueAZ says:

    Nice write up. While I understand the retooling was a necessity, I share your doubts about 2015 given the off season acquisitions.

  4. Zack Novotny says:

    If I was the gm of the dbacks, I would do a couple different things…
    1. Trade Lamb, Chafin, and Stryker Trahan for Cole Hamels.
    2. Somehow make our 14 man rotation a 6 man rotation. Whether it’s trading 4 of Chase Anderson type pitchers to get a top ace like Hamels or getting a number two like Gerrit Cole.
    3. Do NOT sign Max Scherzer or any other free Agent that surrenders the Number One overall draft pick.
    Pick Brady Aiken.
    4. Trade lamb if Tomas is playing 3rd. I’m tired of seeing good talent wasted on the bench. GET SOMETHING FOR A PROSPECT!!!
    5. Start Trumbo in left and Peralta in right, peralta will absolutely rake next year.
    6. Make Stites the closer, he throws 99mph and can dominate if he comfortable.
    7. Have Peter O’brien on the 25-man roster. He’s the next Brian McCann (of the braves).
    8. Start Archie Bradley and Aaron Blair in the rotation in 2015.

    Thanks, hope you like my input.

    Zack Novotny

    • azyankee23 says:

      It is wonderful that you took the time to make suggestions rather than just complain, but I do have a some comments:
      1. This is not even enough to start the conversation. Add Bradley to that group as a starting point. I would not make the trade though. Philly has unreasonably high prices for their players.
      2. Good idea, but most teams don’t want three or four spare parts for a good player.
      3. The top 11 picks in the draft are protected if a free agent (that had a qualifying offer made) is signed. A second round pick would be forfeited.
      4. Just play Lamb. Most prospected fail at first. Unfortunately, that failure hurt his trade value. You will not get as much for him.
      5. Good chance this will happen. Peralta might very well rake. Trumbo might hit for some pop, but his swings and misses will help keep the air conditioning bill down over the summer.
      6. I believe in Stites’s potential, but his numbers are terrible. I am no Addison Reed fan, but let Stites get comforable in a mop up role and move him to more important spots as he performs well. Similar to Dellin Betances with the Yankees last year. BTW I am no Addison Reed fan.
      7. As a Yankees fan (who lives in AZ) I am very familiar with Peter O’Brien. He has as much power as anyone in baseball. Unfortunately, he has neither a regular position, or a solid ability to make contact. He might get a chance at Catcher, he has a great arm behind the plate, but he might be the worst defensive catcher in MLB. McCann does not have as much power, but is a great pitch framer and all around receiver. O’Brien might be relegated to first or the outfield, both of which are quite crowded at the moment.
      8. Bradley seems ready. Blair has 46 innings in AA. My advice is to make him break down the door next year if he is ready. The rotation can use him if he proves to be ready.

  5. Rory says:

    I don’t get why Chase Anderson is not in the rotation. The guy was one of the only bright spots last year and putting two unproven guys they got in the trade from the BoSox is not going to help. Have those two guys fight for the no.5 spot in the rotation.

  6. Rick s says:

    If we truly go into the season with that projected starting rotation, we have no chance to compete for the division or even play .500 ball. I don’t get the Miley deal; we send a guy who is a dependable “left handed” starter who we control for yet another year at a fair price for two right handers who are not even decent major league pitchers! We have plenty of them! Think back a year; three good young lefties to bolster a starting rotation for years to come. Now, we’re left with one bad arm! Looks like we’re still going in the wrong direction.

  7. Don Hansen says:

    My prediction? More tacos in 2015, but lots of games lost 11-9, 9-7, 12-11, etc. without some help on the mound. The D-Backs currently lead the league in number 4 and number 5 starters. If we’re hoping to do better in 2015, we need to acquire a legitimate and proven 1 or 2, and a left-handed middle-of-the-order hitter. We can’t afford to continue to “strive for mediocrity.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    watched some videos did some homework. new dback rotation 1. collmenter 2. shipley 3. ray. changed my mind on him. 4. Anderson 5. blair bradley nuno corbin arryo de la rosa webster hellicson hudson. sleeper is 18 year old cody reed. He’s a combination wade miley yu darvish.

  9. […] Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster were penciled into the rotation. Let’s put problems with that aside and accept, for the moment, that that’s true — what can we expect for the fifth […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.