Arizona Spring Training: The First Third

Ten days into spring training, and let's take a look and see how things have gone for the Arizona Diamondbacks so far. The team has a record of 5-5, with one tie, and is currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak. After a wobbly start, particularly on the pitching front, the team's performance has come around. After the jump, let's take a look at the overall numbers, and also see which individuals have stood out on their own merits.

[The small print] Spring training statistics are not necessarily indicative of performance during the regular season. Most of these numbers have been achieved in a very small number of at-bats or innings. All numbers through the end of play on Saturday. The information provided is given by way of general comment only and should not be used as a substitute for specific professional advice. AZ SnakePit, Inc. gives no warranty or representation as to the accuracy, reliability, timeliness or completeness of the information, and disclaim all responsibility for any loss suffered, directly or indirectly by any person acting in reliance upon the information contained therein. I trust we are clear on this? 

Hitting.
Collective line
: .286/.365/.489 = .854 OPS (4th in NL)
These numbers should be treated with caution, as the split between the Cactus and Grapefruit League makes it harder to compare numbers (the Arizona environment is obviously much more favorable to run-scoring), and there is also no consistency over things like use of the DH. However, among the teams playing here, the Cubs are the only one with a better OPS than the Diamondbacks. This hasn't necessarily translated itself into runs scored, with a rate of 5.6 per game, but only the Mets have hit more homers than us to date.

A couple of the peripheral numbers are worth mentioning. Our K:BB ratio of 62:40 is pretty good, and we've also been making significantly more outs on the ground than the air - our GO/AO ratio of 1.59 is third highest in the NL. Stolen bases could do with some more work, as we'e been caught four times in eleven attempts - the resulting success rate of 63.6% ranks 12th, and is well below the break-even point. Now, looking at the individual players, here are the three Heroes and Villains from the first ten days [min 18 PAs]

1. Conor Jackson: .500/.591/.833 = 1.424 OPS
2. Brandon Allen:
.385/.500/.923 = 1.423 OPS
3.
Tony Abreu: .478/.478/.870 = 1.348 OPS
-------------------------------
3. Mark Reynolds: .176/.300/.235 = .535 OPS
2. Miguel Montero:
.133/.278/.133 = .411 OPS
1. Gerardo Parra: .143/.250/.143 = .393 OPS

Great to see Jackson at the top of the chart. It seems he truly has recovered from what ailed him last season [what ailed him? More like what didn't] and is ready to return to the levels of production previously reached. I'm also pleased to see evidence Brandon Allen can hit outside of the Reno city limits - I was beginning to think that was a myth. And Abreu is making a strong case for a roster spot too, albeit unencumbered by walks in his 23 at-bats so far. On the other end of the scale, Parra's 3-for-21 isn't a good sign; based on numbers so far, Cole Gillespie and his .948 OPS would be a better use of the roster spot. Montero and Reynolds will come around: I'm not too concerned by them.

Pitching
Collective line: 91 IP, 1.41 WHIP, OOPS .745, 4.75 ERA (5th in NL)
This is looking a damn sight better than it was after the first three games, where the Diamondbacks got clobbered for 31 runs in three games. The pitching staff has locked it down since then, and haven't conceded more than four runs in any game for an entire week. One area of some concern is a higher than average number of fly-balls: the GO/AO ratio of the pitching staff, 1.25, ranks thirteenth in the league. However, our hurlers appear to have been doing their part in controlling the running game, with only two successful stolen-bases against, and three thrown out.

Our control has been good, with a BB/9 of below three - only the Brewers have a lower rate, and the league median this far is almost at four. However, our strikeout rate, 5.93 K/9, is definitely lower than average. It's probably therefore a good thing that the defense has been doing pretty well so far: the Diamondbacks' defensive efficiency [fraction of balls in play converted to outs] is a very respectable 69.3%, fifth in the league, and in the basic fielding percentage, our figure of .984 is beaten only by the Giants, .989. And here are the outstanding, and not-so outstanding, lines from our pitchers to date. [min 3 IP]

1. Edwin Jackson: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 ER
2. Dan Haren: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 ER
3. Chad Qualls: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 ER
-------------------------------
3. Rodrigo Lopez: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 4 ER
2. Zach Kroenke: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 0 K 4 ER
1. Aaron Heilman: 3 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 4 ER

Given the likelihood Brandon Webb will not be ready until after Opening Day, it's been great to see our three other rotation locks pitching well. Jackson, Haren and Ian Kennedy have 14.2 shutout innings between them. Again, it may only be spring training, but I'd rather see them hitting the mound running. It's also been a relief (hohoho) to see Qualls apparently 100% again, retiring nine consecutive hitters thus far. Lopez hasn't done himself any favors in the battle for the #5 spot: maybe he'll do better in front of his peeps in Hermosillo tomorrow. Kroenke's line looks like the Rule 5 pick he was, though the extra bullpen slot that seems likely to be available may be to his advantage. As for Heilman... Let's just say my kneejerk over-reaction is to wonder if it's too late to call Tom Gordon?

Overall
So far, so not so bad. After a rough start, the team's performance has improved significantly in the past week. That's definitely preferable to starting out hot, and then getting reeled in as Opening Day approaches. While, once again, it's only spring training, early signs are that this team is capable of scoring runs. That .854 OPS is more than sixty points better than the overall home number in 2009. Josh Byrnes offered a frank assessment of the team's strengths and weaknesses a few days ago:

"I think it (run scoring) will be less of an issue, but in some ways we want to set the bar high. Obviously, we've been very inconsistent offensively in recent years. Ideally we'd like to make a significant improvement, and in fairness we probably have a few more pitching questions. I think to win games we need to keep the pressure on offensively and keep scoring runs and win games late that way. I think we can do that, and we might need to do that."

However, the pitching has perhaps been better than expected to date. There have been some good numbers and performances from names that weren't initially on the radar as far as, if not necessarily Opening Day roster material, certainly  potential call-ups down the road. Altogether, when even Dan Bickley is sipping the Sedona KoolAid, things could certainly be a lot worse.

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