Realistically, could the Diamondbacks’ season have gone any worse? After getting swept in Australia, the team was thirteen games under .500 at the end of April and never recovered. Patrick Corbin and David Hernandez were claimed by the UCL fairy in the spring, with new acquisition Bronson Arroyo following them to the surgeon’s table a few months later. A.J. Pollock seemed to put together a breakout in the season’s first two months, then had his hand broken by a pitch (and just had his hand hit by another pitch while on a rehab assignment). Mark Trumbo was kept out for more than two months with a stress fracture in his foot. Chris Owings went down with a shoulder injury after he seemed to be putting things together. Cody Ross never seemed comfortable after hip surgery, and is back on the DL. Every pitcher that took the mound for the D-backs seemed to struggle, insult being added to injury when Brandon McCarthy thrived after a trade to the Yankees. Instead of taking a step forward with his new batting stance, Gerardo Parra took a big step back, commanding little return when he was traded to the Brewers.
And so it doesn’t seem surprising or heartbreaking that Paul Goldschmidt has joined the parade of players on the DL after having his hand broken by a pitch in Friday night’s game: the baseball gods’ cruel punishment for using Goldy as a pinch hitter on a scheduled day off. The August 1 timing suggests that getting Goldy back this season for even a few days’ work is a pipe dream, given the time it has taken (more than two months) to get Pollock on the road back, and the time it took Aaron Hill last year. Indeed, Kirk Gibson recently confirmed that Goldy is done for the season. Miguel Montero was not pleased.
What a mess. We’ve been living in lost season hell for quite some time, and so we know that the importance of this season has been something other than competition for a while now. It was about cashing in chips to get something good, and giving some of the kids a chance to prove themselves at the major league level. Of course, it would help if there were kids around to prove themselves, and if the ones in the organization were healthy enough to take the field.
So I ask you: what are the silver linings this season? What happened this season that helps with next season and beyond? I’m going to disqualify Chris Owings for the time being, although there’s enough time left for him to put together a solid rookie season.
- David Peralta. His rise could give the D-backs a sorely-needed above-average hitter, and his flexibility and left-handedness make him a very good fit in a 4-man outfield, should that materialize.
- Miguel Montero. Last season wasn’t just an off year for Montero, it was really bad. This year, he’s creating runs at an exactly average (non-pitcher) rate with a 100 wRC+. His advanced framing statistics make Montero look great, too, although at some point he has to bear some responsibility for the team’s pitching struggles.
- Breaking in young relievers Evan Marshall and Matt Stites. If they’re going to struggle at the outset of their major league careers, they might as well do it now, in a lost season.
Anything else? Chase Anderson‘s 4.48 FIP makes his 3.19 ERA look like a mirage, so I’m hesitant to include him. Josh Collmenter has taken to the rotation reasonably well, but not so well that the team should try to keep him there. Wade Miley has been fairly good, but I don’t think we can consider that a win since that’s a partial step backwards, not a step forwards. Oliver Perez has been successful, but that’s more of a “good for him” thing than a “good for the team” thing.
Everyone else has done badly. Addison Reed has struggled. The Mike Bolsinger experiment was unsuccessful. Randall Delgado has been decent in relief, but doesn’t seem to be an asset. Trevor Cahill became an albatross, even with a chance to rediscover himself in the minors (although Gibson and Aaron Hill have seen some encouraging signs, from this Nick Piecoro piece). Hill fell off a cliff (for him), and other than Peralta, the steady stream of replacement players, including Ender Inciarte, hasn’t done much (although Inciarte is looking like a great fifth outfielder).
What’s worse, there isn’t much here to be optimistic about for the rest of the season. We could see some more young bullpen pitchers work things out. There’s time (and with third base free, opportunity) to see if Didi Gregorius can be more than a fringe-average major league starter. Daniel Hudson will get a chance to return and show whether he should be penciled into the team’s 2015 plans.
With Goldy (Goldy?) gone, there isn’t much to watch for the duration of the season. I can’t wait to see A.J. “Action Jackson” Pollock back out in center field, and I hope Jake Barrett gets the call.
- Adam Lichtenstein at mlb.com addresses what the D-backs will do at first base in Goldy’s absence. I spoke with Jeff Wiser about this a bit ago — while Mark Trumbo can play there, wasn’t the idea that “with time,” Trumbo could be a decent left fielder? All well and good if moving Trumbo to first lets the team do useful information-gathering things with the extra outfield spot, but if Trumbo is in left next season, giving him time there seems like the right move to me. Remember, he’s only spent about a month and a half there this season due to his injury. Better the growing pains come now than next spring. Also from the article, probably the most ridiculous quote I’ve seen from a D-backs player all year: “Said Pacheco: ‘I think we’re going to do it as a collective group. I think if we all put our talents together, I think we can come close to what [Goldschmidt]’s done.'” Sure, Jordan. Sure.
- Nick Piecoro also addressed Goldy’s injury and who would play first. He quotes Trumbo as saying he’s “tried to stay sharp” at first “in case something like this was to happen.” Ok. If the team was contending for a playoff spot right now, that would be very useful, so kudos to Trumbo (I do not mean that facetiously). Piecoro also weighed in on the Prado and Parra trades, saying each was “justifiable in some sense.” Totally true, this lawyer agreed. Completely agree with Piecoro that the team cutting its losses with Prado is to be applauded, even in (or especially in) the context of the Justin Upton trade.
- I’m putting off a take on the Martin Prado and Gerardo Parra trades for now (especially since I already explained why trading Parra made sense last Wednesday), but there’s plenty of reaction out there, even if no one seemed to really notice the D-backs specifically and the analysis was (as is reasonable at a busy trade deadline) a little shallow. At FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan noted Gerardo Parra’s drop from 4.6 WAR last year to -0.3 WAR this year, which came “on the defensive side.” It didn’t seem like only luck to us, but yes, he has value to the Brewers. Fun GIF of Parra’s 9-3 putout of Dan Haren earlier this year.
- Also at FanGraphs, Paul Swydan thinks Martin Prado will play all over the field, but especially right field. Which is probably a better usage of Prado, anyway. Why didn’t he play a single inning in right with the D-backs, though? He would have been a great candidate to spell Parra from time to time, and he has the arm for it.
- At BP, CJ Wittman described Peter O’Brien (from the Yankees for Prado) as unlikely to stick at catcher. “The power is inevitable but even at the plate it’s his carrying tool.” Not really sure what to make of that, but if he can’t stick behind the plate, what’s the point, really? Another Stryker Trahan?
- Also at BP, R.J. Anderson was short but exactly to the point in analyzing Parra from the Brewers’ perspective. He’s a fourth outfielder now, and will never get the chance to start consistently against lefties ever again. But he’s a great fourth outfielder. In the same article, J.P. Breen made an excellent point about Mitch Haniger: one thing the D-backs have actually done quite well recently is develop so-so outfield prospects. Pollock is as good as it gets in that category, although given the long and storied history of David Peralta, I’m not sure I’d put him in the same category necessarily.
- At Beyond the Box Score, Jeff Long analyzed the busy trade deadline, addressing the question of just why it was so busy. Some good economics nuggets in there, also worth it for the scintillating picture of Billy Beane. Really good point about how the operative collective bargaining agreement may have taken some thunder from free agency, and kind of reinvested it in the trade market. It sure was a fun deadline, even if for the D-backs, it finished with more of a whimper.
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