Diamondbacks Spring Training: Over The Hump

There will only be one more of these weekly reports, as the Saturday after next, the Diamondbacks will be involved in meaningful games. One side will be the team largely predicted to stroll to the NL West title; the other will be the team that actually won it last year, by eight games. Spring Training? No-one will care about that any longer. For now, we still pore over the box-scores and reports, looking for clues as to the direction of the team. But I sense, as Opening Day approaches at a rate of foam fingers, we'll be less and less concerned with this phoney war...

Arizona were 3-3 last week, with the seventh game that weird scoreless tie against the Brewers. It was the D-backs best week of results to date, though there were outscored 30-39, because the wins were by a total margin of four runs, and they had a blow-out loss against the Athletics. Let's break down the team's numbers to date a but further...

Chris Young continues to be the powerhouse that's driving the offense, and I really hope he can continue to keep this up in to the regular season. His Cactus League OPS is 1.335 in 43 plate-appearances, which is close to three hundred points better than the next player with even a handful of at-bats. Normally, I'd still put little stock on this kind of thing. However, I have some hope because it appears Young changed his approach at the plate over the winter, holding his hands higher. He told Steve Gilbert, "The results have come, but my approach coming into spring was not even to worry about the results, but just stick with my approach and not panic if it didn't work." So far, so good.

On the mound, the number which stands out most is that of Patrick Corbin, with an 0.84 ERA over 10.2 innings, with 12 K's and opposing hitters held to a .184 average. He came in to camp seen as a step or two below the elite names of Bauer, Skaggs and Bradley [which sounds like an experienced, aggressive firm of lawyers...], but his performances and numbers here have done nothing to demonstrate such a gap exists. Said Corbin, "All you can do up here is go up and pitch well and let the guys up here who haven't seen you pitch during the year just get a chance to look at you and evaluate you. It's always good to make a good first impression."

Pitching
The team dropped a spot to 13th in Cactus League ERA, with their collective number remaining virtually unchanged, a mere nine ticks higher at 5.57. The opponent's OPS is similarly close to the same, at .833, three points up. But with the roster cuts now having taking a significant hack out of the the players in camp - both here and with other teams - we should see a greater percentage of work being given to those who'll start the year on the roster. They will also be facing batters who are more likely to do the same. It's time to stop tinkering with your arsenal, and concentrate on what's essential.

Heroes and Villains [min. 7 IP]
Patrick Corbin: 10.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 0.84 ERA
Charles Brewer: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 1.29 ERA
Daniel Hudson: 14 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 2.57 ERA
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Trevor Cahill: 8 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 7.88 ERA
Joe Saunders: 9.2 IP, 20 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 5 BB, 6 K, 9.31 ERA
Josh Collmenter: 7 IP, 12 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 14.14 ERA

As we noted in this morning's recap, the numbers thus far for the bulk of our rotation haven't been what we'd want. That's particularly so for both Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter, with Trevor Cahill's chunky ERA almost seeming decent in comparison. Cahill continues to suffer death by the long-ball, four of them in eight spring innings, which is most unCahillesque [cue my spell-checker wincing]. If that regresses to more normal levels - and we hope it's not the result of him catching Flyball Fever off the rest of our arms - he should be fine.

A more pleasant dilemma is to be found in the bullpen. The likes of Brett Lorin and Mike Zagurski have been impressive, and with neither man able to be sent to the minors without risk, being a Rule 5 pick and out of options respectively, choices will have to be made. Expect both men to hang around camp for as long as possible, and I'd not be surprised to see Arizona swing a deal with Pittsburgh to hang on to Lorin. Bryan Shaw and Joe Paterson have options, but both did so well in the regular season last year, it'd be a shock if either was sent down for Opening Day. But we don't need a 5th starter for the first week, so maybe Collmenter gets optioned for a bit?

Brewer is another pitcher who made a good impression, though he has now been re-assigned to Mobile. He will continue to work under the radar there, which has been his modus operandi, pretty much since the D-backs drafted him in the 12th round of the 2009 draft. Hudson has easily looked like the best starter on the Arizona team thus far, with batters managing to hit only .163 against him. He looks like he's all ready to go, and it's just a question of keeping his edge for the next couple of weeks.

Hitting
Arizona continues to bump along, at or near the bottom of most offensive categories in the Cactus League. They're the only team playing here to be batting less than .250 (at .246), though they are still showing plate discipline and taking a decent number of walks. The D-backs on-base percentage is at .333, which is not far off the league median of .341, owned by Texas. They are also showing some power, with their 24 homers behind only the Cubs and Tigers, who are tied for the lead with 29. All told, our OPS is .737, which is 31 points up on last week, but still well below the median of .768.

Heroes and Villains [min 25 AB]
Chris Young: 15-for-35, 3 HR, 5 RBI, .429/.535/.800 = 1.355 OPS
A.J. Pollock: 10-for-30, 2 HR, 3 RBI, .333/.429/.567 = .995 OPS
Paul Goldschmidt: 9-for-37, 2 HR, 7 RBI, .243/.417/.541 = .957 OPS
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lyle Overbay: 6-for-31, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .194/.306/.226 = .531 OPS
John McDonald: 6-for-28, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .214/.241/.250 = .491 OPS
Willie Bloomquist: 8-for-40, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .200/.214/.225 = .439 OPS

Part of me wants to put a great amount of stock in the figures above the line, believing them to be an accurate portent of things to come in the regular season. But if I do that, then I also have, for the sake of consistency, to accept the ugly, ugly numbers shown below the line. Man, that veteran presence really seems to struggle in spring, doesn't it? Let's hope it's just that the old bones of Willie and his colleagues are taking a while to get the winter rust out of them. Though if that is the case, it doesn't seem to be affecting Henry Blanco, who has posted a .975 OPS, though falls short of the minimum required here.

Another number that leaps out is Goldschmit's on-base percentage of .417, which is clearly not powered by his batting average. Instead, it's due to the man having a comfortable lead in walks so far: his 11 are well up on Chris Young's seven, and are also more than Goldy's strikeouts (10). If that can be kept up in the regular season, it will be a very encouraging sign. The K's are one behind Gerardo Parra, who leads the team both there and in hits. Seems he had decided he won't be walking his way off the bench. Oh, and not helping Overbay's cause is that he has hit into four double-plays, so he's not just getting himself out...

The rest
Not much activity on the base-paths for Arizona: they've only made 18 attempts to steal a base, and only two teams have fewer to date (the Tigers and Nationals). The D-backs have been successful in a dozen of those, and the success rate of 67% is pretty borderline - the team will need to do better than that in the regular season, for it to be a productive tactic. However, the pitchers have been just as good at suppressing the running game: there have been 19 attempts against, and eight of those have died in the attempt, which puts Arizona easily in the upper tier for that department.

Five errors gives us 20 in total, tied for 8th, and the defensive efficiency also headed in the right direction, going up 0.9% to 65.3%, though that's still got them parked at 25th. But why end on a bummer? Let's finish with this just-tweeted note from ESPN's Tim Kurkjian:

Hopefully, it was Bruce Bochy...

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