Arizona Spring Training: Did The Earth Move For You?

Well, that was exciting. We were watching 24 on the Tivo, when suddenly SnakePit Jr. stood up and went to the window. "Did you feel that?" he said. Er, not really, having been cushioned by the pillowy goodness of the sofa. But turns out this was a remnant of a 6.9 earthquake that hit Baja California. Now, I have been in an earthquake - my first trip to California, actually - but not in Arizona. I just hope we don't come back from Scotland next week, to find ourselves in possession of beachfront property.

Remember how, just a few weeks ago, we were desperate for any kind of baseball that didn't involve your Xbox? Fast-forward a month, and here we are: I know I'm not the only one who is sick and tired of meaningless games, against disinterested opponents, featuring players you've never heard of after the fourth inning. Bring on the real contests! Y'know, the ones that actually count.

Still, the team has come a long way, with a number of surprises unfolding during the course of Cactus League competition. Those have been both good (Ian Kennedy) and bad (Clay Zavada... Unless you're Jordan Norberto, in which case, I suppose that counts as good as well). So, for one last time, after the jump we will look at the numbers posted by the team, both overall and individually, and see whose star shone in the spring-training firmament, and whose was eclipsed. For more on what happened in spring training, read my article on FoxSportsArizona.com.

Hitting

  • BA: .290 (2nd in NL)
  • OBP: .354 (4th)
  • SLG: .465 (2nd)
  • OPS: .819 (2nd)
  • HR: 37 (3rd)
  • GO/AO: 1.54 (6th)

Let's start with the good news. This team raked like a... like a... like an energetically-raking thing. Remember, for contrast, that this team finished last year ranked fourteenth in OPS+. Now, while there's no park factors available for spring training, even in raw OPS - with the benefits of hitter-friendly Chase for 81 games - the Diamondbacks were only ninth in the NL. The offensive production of that team was as big a reason, if not more so, than the absence of Brandon Webb for why they finished dead-last and won only seventy games.

I mention GO/AO, because it is a huge change from 2009, where the team ratio was 1.06, second-lowest in the league. Some of that may be small sample-size [the #1 team over 162 games last season was only 1.42], but we have been hitting the ball on the ground more, good because ground balls become hits more often (.234) than fly-balls (.224) - of course, line-drives are better still (.728!). While there's no figures for spring line-drive percentage, without Eric "The Flying Nun" Byrnes, and if Chris Young is no longer getting under the ball so much, it should help the team's line-drive percentage significantly: AZ was 14th last season. Line-drives becomes hits, and hits become runs.

So is our inoffensive offense a thing of the past? Well, few things are more meaningless than spring stats, but there's still apparently some reason for optimism here. On the other hand, worth noting that the team hit .312 with a .503 SLG in spring training before the 2007 season - and we still finished 15th in OPS+ that year. With that caveat, here are the individual best and worst performers for the Diamondbacks [25-man roster members]

1. Justin Upton: .386/.470/.754 = 1.224 OPS, 6 HR, 20 RBI
2. Mark Reynolds:
.368/.448/.719 = 1.167 OPS, 4 HR, 10 RBI
3. Conor Jackson:
.333/.467/.625 = 1.092 OPS, 3 HR, 6 RBI
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3. Chris Snyder: .237/.270/.305 = .575 OPS, 3 BB, 12 SO
2. Miguel Montero:
.180/.317/.240 = .557 OPS, 9 BB, 8 SO
1. Gerardo Parra:
.215/.246/.292 = .538 OPS, 3 BB, 13 SO

Upton had the highest OPS of any qualifying hitter in the Cactus League, pipping Tyler Colvin of the Cubs by three points.After a slow start, Reynolds really hit his stride: signing his contract seemed to lift a weight off his shoulders. He was 3-for-19, as well as homerless and RBIless at March 14, but hit .474 the rest of the way (18-for-38). Jackson went the other way, to a certain extent, but an OBP of .467 is just what you want from your lead-off guy - a K:BB ratio of 4:10 was particularly impressive.

At the other end, if Snyder is going to reclaim his position as starting catcher, this spring didn't show much evidence for it. Not that Montero was any better, offensively. And Parra will need to pull his socks up if he is to avoid following Ryan Roberts on the bus to Reno: he hardly hit, didn't get on base and exhibited no power. It's one thing to have a BA below .300, but when your slugging percentage is down there - as it was for both Parra and Montero - then it does seem an issue of concern.

Pitching

  • ERA: 5.29 (14th in NL)
  • WHIP: 1.50 (11th)
  • Opp Line: .280 (9th) / .348 (10th) / .432 (8th)
  • GO/AO: 1.40 (13th)
  • BB/9: 3.49 (9th)
  • K/9: 5.99 (16th)

While in no way excusing the 24-run drubbing at the hands of the Royals on March 19th, it should be noted how much of an impact that had on the numbers above, especially since we're only talking about one month of baseball. That single game, of the 33 played, was responsible for 14% of all the earned runs Diamondbacks' pitchers allowed in spring. Without it, the team's ERA in the other 32 games is 4.71, better than the league median of 4.94, much more in line with the overall opposing numbers against the DIamondbacks, which were held to about league average.

That's where our overall ERA would also have been, if we'd "held" the Royals to "only" a dozen earned runs on the day. It was when they hit the teens that it killed us... Still, the numbers were still a good bit higher than we'd like for a number of the pitchers. Of the eight men who make up the Opening Day bullpen, only Norberto and Gutierrez posted ERAs under five during the pre-season, with the others ranging from 5.06 (Vasquez) to 7.45 (Qualls). The low K-rate is certainly a bit of a concern: the defense will need to step it up, but as we'll see, that might just happen... Here's the best and worst individuals for the D-backs on the mound - again, 25-man roster only.

1. Rodrigo Lopez: 22 IP, 16 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 16 SO, 1.64 ERA
2. Juan Gutierrez: 8.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO, 0.00 ERA
3. Jordan Norberto: 9.2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 8 BB, 8 SO, 0.93 ERA

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3. Leo Rosales: 10.2 IP, 17 H, 8 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO, 6.75 ERA
2. Aaron Heilman: 12 IP, 18 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO, 6.75 ERA
1. Chad Qualls: 9.2 IP, 12 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 7.45 ERA

If the bullpen produces at that kind of production... It's gonna be a long season. However, the skewing effect of that Kansas City game is particularly apparent on Qualls: in his other appearances, he allowed two runs in 9.1 innings of work. That also seems to have acted as a jolt to Heilman - over the seven games and innings since that massacre, he had far better numbers, giving up five hits, three walks and one earned run.

Truth is, the worst pitchers won't be that bad, and the best ones that good - nice though it would be to think of Lopez posting a sub-2.00 ERA, or Juan Gutierrez never allowing a run! But the latter seems to have done enough to get himself the main role as the man who gets the important outs before the ninth, in part because neither Heilman nor Bob Howry had brilliant springs [though, like Heilman, Howry has settled in, with one run on four hits and a walk in his last six innings]. I do have some qualms about Norberto, in particular those walk numbers. One free pass per inning will be poison after tomorrow.

Defense and Miscellaneous

  • Fielding Percentage: .982 (1st in NL)
  • Defensive Efficiency: 68.79% (8th)
  • Stolen Base Percentage: 63.3%, 19 in 30 (14th)
  • Stolen Base Allowed: 17 in 23, 73.9%

Yeah, you might want to re-read that first line again. The Diamondbacks had the least incompetent defense in the National League during the pre-season. Now, errors are only one aspect of the defensive game, but you'll remember from last season, it was a significant part of the problems in our fielding, with far too many gratuitous extra outs and bases being given to the opposition. This is certainly something on which Hinch wanted to focus in spring, and the early signs are, it seems to have paid off.

Not so much the running game, with a 63% success-rate being well below the break-even point. A total of 30 attempts puts them in the middle of the pack, but numbers like Stephen Drew's 0-for-3, suggest there is still some work needing to be done in this area. Again, however, the pure stolen-base is only one aspect of the running game. On the defensive side, we did seem to hold runners fairly well: if a 26% nail-rate isn't special, only 23 attempts were made, perhaps suggesting our pitchers did a good job of keeping the opposition close.

Conclusions

For the ten billionth time, drawing conclusions from spring statistics is probably a useless exercise. However, overall, it seems like the 2010 Diamondbacks might be who we thought they were: a team that will score a good number of runs, but also concede its fair share of them. But there is some signs the defense may be better, and that will definitely help the team overall.

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