Arizona Spring Training: The Middle Third

The team have gone through a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde stretch since our previous report going unbeaten for an entire week, but struggling since them to post a Cactus League record of 10-12 overall, with one tie. There was also the little matter of a 24-run drubbing at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, which was one of the more embarrassing events in Diamondbacks recent history.

The hitting and pitching seems to have gone in opposite directions, but after the jump, let's break down the numbers - both for the team and individual players - and see what they show. We'll also go over what needs to be decided as we head into the final stretch of spring training.

Hitting: .296/.372/.478 = .840 OPS (3rd in NL)
Batting .296 is certainly not an embarrassment, and the power numbers are solid enough too - 27 homers is only a couple behind the league-leading total of the Reds. The K:BB ratio of 139:73 sits about middle of the pack, but the base-running still seems to need work, with a success-rate of only 64%, having been caught 8 times in 22 attempts. On an individual level, here are the top and bottom three batters, minimum of 30 PAs:

1. Conor Jackson : .421/.522/.789 = 1.311 OPS
2. Brandon Allen:
.370/471/.630 = 1.101 OPS
3. Stephen Drew:
.425/.467/.625 = 1.092 OPS
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3. Ryan Roberts: .175/.283/.325 = .608 OPS
2. Gerardo Parra:
.227/.271/.250 = .521 OPS
1. Miguel Montero:
.121/.293/.182 = .475 OPS

Jackson continues to do it all: he leads the team in total bases (30), and is tied with Justin Upton and Rusty Ryal for the lead in homers, with three. He's also equal-first in walks (7), with Miguel Montero, but CoJack has only struck out three times in 38 at-bats. Allen has come through nicely in the past week, and has the same number of walks as K's, and Drew has been doing better at the plate than on the bases, where he is 0-for-3 in steal attempts. Maybe partly why Hinch has gone to Jackson at the top of the order?

Roberts, on the other hand, is tied with Adam LaRoche for the team lead in strikeouts (11) - LaRoche has yet to draw a walk in the Cactus League. Parra has managed only one extra-base hit in 44 at-bats, while Montero's sole saving grace has been the walks, as noted above, where he has more than strikeouts. Otherwise, he's been doing a good job of making us glad we didn't trade Chris Snyder. In case you're wondering, Snyder is .256/.289/.349, for an OPS of .638: not stellar, but a good deal better than Montero. John Hester is 8-for-21, with an OPS of .952.

Pitching: 197 IP, 1.59 WHIP, .811 OOPS, 6.12 ERA (15th in NL)
Needless to say, these numbers have gone the wrong way pretty badly since last time we looked. That collective ERA is 1.37 runs higher than it was 12 days ago - that afternoon where our pitching staff allowed 24 runs would be a large contributor, obviously [responsible for approximately 0.81 runs of that ERA, if my math is right]. Our strikeout rate has improved fractionally, from 5.93 to 6.08 K/9, but that's still dead-last in the NL. Our walk-rate, 3.52 BB/9, is middle-of-the pack, but we've not been getting ground-balls: our GO/AO ratio of 1.30 is ahead only of the Brewers. That probably won't play well at Chase.

75% of base-stealers have been successful against Arizona, and our overall RS/RA is slightly-negative at 139-148, even though our hitters' OPS is 29 points above than that allowed by our pitchers. Again, that 24-9 defeat is a significant contributor to the numbers. Finally, on the fielding front, the team has made 17 errors in 23 games: that would be 120 over a full-season, not substantially better than last year's total of 124, but the error-rate does seem higher in spring training. The current median fielding percentages is .976, compared to last year's NL median of .984. Arizona's ranks 5th for F% and 12th for Defensive Efficiency to date. And here are the standouts on the mound, minimum of seven innings worked.

1. Juan Gutierrez: 7 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0.00 ERA
2. Jordan Norberto: 7.2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 6 K, 1.17 ERA
3. Ian Kennedy: 13.1 IP, 13 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 10 K, 2.70 ERA
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3. Blaine Boyer: 7 IP, 13 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 9.00 ERA
2. Aaron Heilman: 7 IP, 14 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 10.29 ERA
1. Clay Zavada: 7 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 7 BB, 7 K, 10.29 ERA

Gutierrez continues to be, literally, unhittable, the only National League pitcher to have thrown even four innings this spring without allowing any hits. Norberto was close to being the second, but there are still enough doubts about his control to make me feel he'll begin the year in Reno. Kennedy's excellent performance in his last outing has probably locked down his rotation spot, with only two more starts before Opening Day. Boyer and Heilman still seem almost locks for the roster, but Zavada's struggles could put him on a short leash. If we carry eight relievers, he should still be there, but he has done little yet to show why he won't be first man off the island when we need a fifth starter.

Left to be decided
With eleven days until the first game of the season, there are some things which still need to be decided. The fourth and fifth spots in the (Webb-less) rotation are yet to be sorted out, and according to Steve Gilbert, AJ Hinch "sounded a little exasperated," when talking about it yesterday. "It's close to the season so it's time to move forward... I'm not frustrated as much as I'm eager for someone to win the job." Both Rodrigo Lopez and Kevin Mulvey worked on the off-day yesterday, and Hinch said, "They both threw well. Mulvey had a slightly better day than Lopez. They both got their work in and both got their pitch counts up."

The bullpen situation remains equally cloudy. It would have been if the likes of Zach Kroenke had come into cmap and pitched well enough to make giving them a roster spot a no-brainer, but so far he and fellow lefty Clay Zavada have both been comprehensively out-pitched by Jordan Norberto, whose invitation to camp was supposed to be more of a token gesture than anything, like asking your ex-wife if she wants to go to your wedding. Norberto appears not to have got that part of the memo, though I suspect we still will not see him on the Opening Day roster. If any of those ahead of him falter in the regular season, like they have over the past three weeks, however, Jordan could be making sparks in the big leagues.

On a happier note, we have the final roster spot, where there have been a number of very solid performances between which a decision must be made. Tony Abreu and Rusty Ryal have both played well, but as noted above, Brandon Allen has been tearing the cover off the ball of late. Abreu has impressed everyone, Hinch saying, "He's elbowed his way into the competition... He went to winter ball and proved his versatility. He's shown flashes of a potent bat. He's a good weapon to consider for a roster spot." I think it comes down to whether we need another middle-infielder: we have Augie Ojeda and Ryan Roberts apparently locked in roster spots. That may even give Cole Gillespie a shot. Which brings us to our poll...

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