Who'll lead the 2011 Diamondbacks In Wins?

Continuing prediction week on the SnakePit, we move over to the pitching side. As with hitters and batting average, wins are far from the best measure of a pitcher's "true" ability. But, given that run support should largely equalize over the course of 33 or so starts, and we're only looking at a single team, wins are a decent "quick and dirty" single measure to combine stamina and quality for a starting pitcher, and judge their contribution.

After the jump, we'll take a look at the leading candidates and assess their credentials.

Single-season champions

Be nice if we could get a ten-game winner this year. We didn't manage it last year, joining the Pirates there - the first time in National League history there have been multiple teams like that, over a full season. Sixteen is the median there for the Diamondbacks, though Johnson's 24 wins is likely untouchable as a franchise record - not least because he threw 260 innings [only three NL hurlers even reached 230 last year]. But I'd settle for that median number out of someone in 2011. Now, who might it be?

Zach Duke. High: 11 (2009). Last year: 8. Career average: 10.
Duke obviously starts at a disadvantage, as he's going to miss the early part of the season, due to his broken hand. However, when he comes back, he should be part of the rotation. His career numbers are certainly hurt by playing in Pittsburgh; the Pirates never won more than 68 games over a season in Duke's six years there. He certainly probably hopefully shouldn't be as bad as the 5.72 ERA last year: Bill James, Marcel and ZIPS project an average ERA of 4.98, and FIP goes even lower, to 4.45.

Daniel Hudson. High: 8 (2010). Last year: 8. Career average: 17.
I think we need to refer to him as Daniel 'Small sample-size warning' Hudson up until the All-Star break. He certainly made a great impression his first year in Arizona, going 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA, but I doubt anyone realistically expects that to be sustained going forward, even through the end of April. A bit of a jump in his workload, from 166 to 188.2 innings - that's short of enough to make him a Verducci Rule candidate, but I trust the organization has no intention of burning out his arm in a year when we likely aren't going to compete.

Ian Kennedy. High: 9 (2010). Last year: 9. Career average: 8.
Our Opening Day starter led the club in wins last year, though he'll be hoping to better that tally significantly in 2011. The projection systems average at an ERA of 3.84, basically identical to last year's 3.80. So will he win any more? He got 5.12 runs of support per game last year, but that's skewed by the three times Arizona scored 13 times in Kennedy starts - the rest of the rotation enjoyed that only twice between them. At the other end, on ten occasions when he pitched, they scored two or less, so Kennedy won only twice, despite seven quality starts.

Joe Saunders. High: 17 (2008). Last year: 9. Career average: 15.
Saunders certainly has the track record, being the only pitcher on the Diamondbacks to have a 15-win year under his belt - he's got two, having followed up his high with 16 more wins in 2009, despite an ERA+ of 95 that season. In an example of the vagaries of wins, his record slumped from 16-7 to 9-17, while his ERA actually improved from 4.60 to 4.47, combined between Anaheim and Arizona. The projections predict a 4.36 ERA for Saunders, which again, is close to the number from 2010. But he still be with the D-backs at season end?

Or, of course, it could be someone else. Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga can slug it out over the first few weeks, while Zach Duke is out, and the winner will likely get the chance to make the #5 spot his own. Or if a spot opens up, through trade, injury or ineffectiveness, we might see the team's top prospect, Jarrod Parker, called up to make his major-league debut in 2011.

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