Diamondbacks 2011 Preview: How Many Wins For Arizona?

2010 Record: 65-97 (5th)
2010 OPS+ 95
(6th)
2010 ERA+ 89 (14th)
Key departures: Adam Laroche (1.2 WAR), Mark Reynolds (0.8), Rodrigo Lopez (-0.7), Chad Qualls (-2.5)
Key arrivals: Russell Branyan (2.5 WAR), J.J. Putz (1.5) Armando Galarraga (0.9), Melvin Mora (0.2), Zach Duke (-0.6), Xavier Nady (-1.1)
2011 Projections: See below

Since leading the league and taking the NL West with 90 victories in 2007, the Arizona Diamondbacks have seen their win totals decline steadily, to 82, 70 and, last year, a hugely disappointing 65 wins. With wholesale changes to many aspects of the team, it's clear that a rebuilding process has begun in the desert. But what effect will it have on this season's performance?

Offense.
This wasn't particularly the problem for the Diamondbacks in 2010, but the departure or Reynolds and LaRoche - while no doubt cutting back on the strikeouts - has also taken 57 HR and 185 RBI. Will replacement Melvin Mora and Juan Miranda be up to replacing that? It would take someone really optimistic to think so. Instead, the team will hope to make up the difference in other areas. Justin Upton reaching his potential, Miguel Montero playing for a full season, and left-field not being a gurgling vortex of suck would probably be top of the list there, though your mileage may vary as to how likely these scenarios are to occur.

We'll also need Kelly Johnson and Chris Young to continue their good production from last season, or something like it, and Stephen Drew to get healthy and remain quietly productive, in a way only Stephen Drew can do. [He's remarkably invisible, given that only Ramirez, Rollins and Troy-Boy have driven in more runs as an NL short-stop since the start of 2007]. I'm inclined to think there'll be a small step back in total offense from the team, but getting a few more hits would help, as our .250 batting average last year was only 11th in the league.

Starting Pitching
With Ian Kennedy the only survivor of the rotation which opened 2010, it's certainly a radically-different look to the Diamondbacks' starters. Kennedy and Daniel Hudson should be solid enough at the front, but the further back you go, the more questions arise. Can Joe Saunders overcome a really horrible spring? Will Barry Enright be able to keep the ball in the park and sustain his early success? Does Armando Galarraga have a perfect game in him? And is Zach Duke capable of living up to his FIP, rather than his ERA?

The good news is that the team has some depth, so if there are issues - be they injury or ineffectiveness - than we hopefully won't need to be scraping the barrel for the likes of Dontrelle Willis. I think most of these pitchers at the back end are "serviceable" rather than spectacular, so we'll generally rely on scoring more runs than the opposition to win games - rather than conceding less. As long as they keep up in games, I;m simply looking to see what our young pitchers can do: the numbers returned by Saunders are probably not of enormous importance, except as far as his trade value is concerned.

Relievers
More wholesale change here, as noted yesterday, and I don't think that's a bad thing. This is a team which, last year, went 6-18 in games which were tied after seven, so simply getting back to even there would be a significant improvement. It largely hangs on J.J.Putz being healthy and pitching effectively in the ninth. That would give us a solid foundation, and I'm fairly optimistic that David Hernandez will be a solid set-up man, and we can then build things from there. But I think I'll be treating the bullpen this season like a Michael Cera movie: I'm going in, expecting the worst, and will be pleasantly surprised if it's only mediocre rather than sucking entirely.

Other projections

Summary
I am not expecting the Diamondbacks to contend this year. Sure, if they do, that'll be great, but my expectations are a lot more subdued. I simply want to see the team heading in the right direction, so would be looking for 70 wins as a bare minimum. Any more than 75 would be an excellent result, and that's a range reflected in the other projections, which almost all have the Diamondbacks in the lower seventies. If forced to pick a number, I think I'd go for 72-90 as Arizona's record at the end of the year.

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