SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 05: (L-R) Ryan Roberts #14, Justin Upton #10 and Aaron Hill #2 of the Arizona Diamondbacks run out onto the field during the spring training game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 5, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
One week in, and the Diamondbacks have played seven games: there have been two wins and four defeats, with one game ending in a 1-1 tie [pleas to decide that one with a race around the bases fell on deaf ears]. It's still very, very early days yet, with no hitter having more than 15 at-bats, and only Wade Miley and Trevor Bauer having reached four innings on the pitching side. But let's ignore sample size, and see what the first week has taught us about the 2012 version of the Diamondbacks.
Arizona will go 54-108 this year, mostly due to a pitching staff that will have an ERA north of seven. On the plus side, Ryan Roberts will be good for 69 home-runs and about 139 batted in. So that's nice. Pardon me if I don't give any genuine credence to any of this actually happening - much though RyRo would be delighted for this to happen. But it does seem to have been not the crispest of spring training for the Diamondbacks thus far. Even using the "five inning" rule - taking the score at the end of the fifth, as that's when many starters depart - Arizona's record rermains unchanged at 2-4 with one tie.
The 7.14 ERA from our hurlers could certainly be a lot better, and is largely a result of opposing hitters batting a collective .328, with a .919 OPS - as a yardstick, Ken Griffey Jr's career OPS was a dozen points lower. Turning the opposition into nine of those won't help your chances much. However, in the team's (slight) defense, almost a whole run of that ERA is due entirely to Yonata Ortega, whose one inning of work across two games led to seven earned runs on seven hits and two walks. It was not much of a surprise to see this Tweet on Wednesday.
Dbacks first roster move of camp: RHP Yonata Ortega optioned to Double-A Mobile.— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) March 8, 2012
That didn't take long. On the positive side, it does appear that Trevor Bauer will certainly prove an attraction, perhaps regardless of his performances - his warm-up sessions have proved capable of enthralling spectators, journalists and even opposing players. Thus far, the numbers from his two starts have been solid: a WHIP of 0.800 and holding batters to a .235 average, against lineups composed mostly of major-league hitters would be more than acceptable. But if we're not going to be concerned over bad numbers put up by some pitchers, we should also be cautious with enthusiasm based on the 18 batters Bauer has faced. Still: woooooo!
Let's pick out a few others who've had good numbers, or otherwise, so far. Craig Breslow has allowed one hit in 2.1 innings of work, with three strikeouts; Mike DeMark has retired one less batter, but has otherwise the same line. Jensen Lewis, Rule 5 pick Brett Lorin and lefty Joe Paterson have each retired all six batters they've faced, with Paterson getting the nod because of his two strikeouts. At the other end, as well as Ortega, Tyler Skaggs's ERA is sitting the wrong side of fifty, and Barry Enright's first appearance of the year did not go well either, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings of work.
The team hasn't exactly been hitting like they mean it, batting a chilly .238, ahead of only the Indians and White Sox in the Cactus League (the altitude and dry air here make it dubious to compare numbers to the Grapefruit League). On the plus side, we have been showing good plate discipline: the 28 walks for Arizona trails only Cleveland in that department, and lifts the team's collective on-base percentage to a somewhat more respectable .326. Ten home-runs for the D-backs is tied for second in Cactus League play, and gets their OPS to .747, though that's still only good for 12th-best of the 15 teams who train here.
Got to love the weirdness that results from small sample sizes. Six games in, Ryan Roberts BABIP (BA on Ballis in Play) is a big fat zero, but he has still got an OPS of 1.000. That's because of his 15 at-bats, two have ended in strikeouts, ten have been other outs, and his three hits have all been home-runs. I think he must have been taking batting tips from Henry Blanco. He's tied with four other players - all Cactus Leaguers - for the spring training lead, through the end of Friday, but all the others do have at least one hit that stayed in the park. See also the A's Yordy Cabrera, who has one plate-appearance, and homered in it. This was also his first spring-training at-bat ever.
No-one with the Daimondbacks has a 1.000 BA, but Keon Broxton and Tommy Manzella both walked in their only times at the plate, so have a 1.000 OBP. Chris Young, who has not seen as much action as some, due to Gerardo Parra getting his reps in CF, leads all AZ hitters with a fractionally meaninful number of at-bats, having gone 4-for-9 with a pair of homers and two walks for a line of .444/.583/1.222. Rusty Ryal is also 4-for-9 with a homer and two doubles among those, for a 1.444 OPS to this point. And it's good to see Paul Goldschmidt leading the team in walks, with four thus far contributing to his .368 OBP.
Justin Upton is the king of balls in play - the anti-Roberts if you will. Of his 14 PAs, five have been strikeouts and three more walks, leaving only six involving a ball in play. These have resulted in four hits and a sacrifice fly, the latter providing his only RBI to date. Roberts, Dave Winfree and Marc Krauss are the only Arizona hitters to have more than two runs driven in so far. On the bleaker side, of the players likely to make the Opening Day roster, our two-year utility guys have got off to a slow start. John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist have combined to go 4-for-25 (.167), with no extra-base hits, walks or RBI between them...
Our struggles so far this spring are summed up by a Defensive Efficiency (percentage of balls in play converted into outs) of only 62.7%, the worst in the majors to date.To some extent, this may explain our pitchers' struggles too, since DE is closely tied to BABIP, and this suggests our hurlers have been "unlucky" there. Another possibility, less palatable, which may leap to mind is that Jason Kubel is indeed a gurgling vortex of defensive suck. However, the stats show he has handled just one chance in the opening week of play. So either the ball hasn't been hit his way, or someone nail-gunned his feet to the turf in left-field.
Throw in eight errors by Arizona - four during JenFest, not that we really noticed - six wild pitches and as many times caught stealing as successful thefts, and there's clearly room for improvement in our general level of play. And Cap'n Kirk has noticed, according to this story which begins, "After watching his team stumble through the first six games of the Cactus League, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has decided to make some changes." Gibson's theory is that "the tiring morning work he's had his players do has left them with little energy for the afternoon game," so he's going to ease up a bit on the drilling. We'll see how that works in the coming week.