The 2012 Diamondbacks: Where Have The Wins Gone?

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 05: The Arizona Diamondbacks dugout looks on during the MLB game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field on July 5, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks 4-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We reached the half-way point of the 2012 campaign, with the Diamondbacks on pace for 78 wins, sixteen fewer than they managed last year. This is, obviously, severely disappointing, after off-season moves which generally seemed, if anything, to make the team stronger. That hasn't happened. In an attempt to figure out what has gone wrong, I've taken a look at what Fangraphs WAR tells us about the individual performances of the D-backs so far. How do these compare with last season? Who has helped and who has hindered?

After the jump, your AZ SnakePit, fearless as ever, will name names...

Players with Arizona this year and most of last

These are the players who have appeared for the Diamondbacks in 2012, and were only with Arizona in 2011 [they may or may not have been on the roster for the entire season; however, they only appeared in the majors for us last year]. You'll see their 2011 fWAR, the 2012 fWAR to date, and the projected difference between the two, based on a simple doubling of their WAR through 81 games. There are some exception to the last column: for players marked with a *, I've locked their 2012 WAR at the current value, without doubling it. I doubt Daniel Hudson will be helping or hindering the team over the rest of the year. :(

Player 2011 2012 Diff
Miguel Montero 4.4 2.2 0.0
Ian Kennedy 5.0 2.1 -0.8
Gerardo Parra 2.8 1.9 +1.0
Chris Young 4.6 1.5 -1.6
Joe Saunders 1.0 1.2 +1.4
Justin Upton 6.4 0.8 -4.8
Willie Bloomquist 0.3 0.8 +1.3
David Hernandez 1.3 0.7 -0.1
Josh Collmenter 2.2 0.4 -1.4
Bryan Shaw 0.2 0.3 +0.4
Daniel Hudson 4.9 0.3 *-4.6
J.J. Putz 1.7 0.2 -1.5
Ryan Roberts 3.6 0.2 -3.2
Geoff Blum 0.3 0.0 -0.3
Stephen Drew 1.9 -0.1 -2.1
Henry Blanco 1.2 -0.2 -1.6
Joe Paterson 0.3 -0.3 *-0.3
TOTAL

-18.2

It's clear that this is where the problem has been, performances here bleeding away runs with all the volume of a Japanese samurai flick. Leading the way is Upton, who is on pace to be almost five WAR worse than last season: His current rate would likely not even provide value for his $7.75 million salary this year: perhaps the fans booing him at Chase have a point. Hudson's combination of injury and ineffectiveness have been almost as significant a factor, though obviously the former likely played a good part in the latter. Ryan Roberts' not unexpected regression to near-replacement level completes the Podium of Disappointment.

However, it's not all bad news! Okay, it's certainly mostly bad news. But Joe Saunders, Willie Bloomquist and Gerardo Parra are all on course to improve on last season's performances, by between 1-1.4 WAR. Yep: in the first half of the season, Bloomquist was worth as much as Upton to the Diamondbacks, and had a straight-up better OPS (.738) than J-Up (.722). Without Willie hitting any home-runs. That's a combo of Bloomquist's career year - the last time he reached even .680 for a season was over 33 ABs in his rookie year of 2002 - and, of course, the horror show which has been Upton's campaign.

Players here this year, some of last

These are the players who have been with the team for this year, but only saw a minority of playing time for Arizona last year. This could be because they were playing in the majors elsewhere, or because they were in our minor-league system. For the former, the 2011 WAR figure is for Arizona only, because I'm measuring their impact only with the Diamondbacks. That will help their "difference" numbers, because I'm projecting a full season for 2012, over a partial one in 2011, so bear that in mind. As above, a difference marked with a * is not based off a doubled 2012 WAR, but just "as is".

Player 2011 2012 Diff
Aaron Hill 1.6 2.8 +4.0
Paul Goldschmidt 0.6 2.2 +3.8
Wade Miley 0.1 2.1 +4.1
John McDonald 0.0 0.6 +1.2
Brad Ziegler 0.4 0.5 +0.6
Lyle Overbay 0.2 0.4 +0.6
Cody Ransom 0.0 0.4 *+0.4
TOTAL

+14.7

This is a lot more fun to look at. Everyone is doing better! Woo-hoo!. Miley, Hill and Goldschmidt, in particular, have all provided significant, positive contributions to the 2012 Diamondbacks. I have somewhat differing views as to how sustainable their improvements will be going forward. The numbers for both Hill and Goldschmidt are likely not too far above sustainable, but I do suspect Miley will find the cold hand of regression dragging him back over the second half of the schedule. Overbay, too, probably won't keep up a .910 OPS.

Remember when we angrily complained about Towers signing Bloomquist and McDonald to two-year contracts? For instance, "Veteraniness grit heart leadership clutch scrappy – Priceless. There are some free agents no one will ever buy. For those guys, there’s KT." Alternatively, "Prediction – all 3 of these guys [with Blum] combine next year for less than 1 WAR." Or even, "If I was assigned to defend this for a college debate class I would just drop the class and try again next semester." [No names, no pack drill. You know who you are...] So far, Willie B and Mac D have 1.4 WAR: they could play close to replacement level from now until the end of 2013, and still be decent value.

New arrivals

These are those who didn't make any contribution at all to the 2011 Diamondbacks. But for those who were in the majors, I've included the WAR for that season, wherever they player, purely for comparative purposes, so you can see how they have performed, compared to what they've done this year. Because they weren't here the difference they've made to the team is thus twice whatever their current WAR is, with the exception of Josh Bell, who gets the asterisk treatment [I've got a gut feeling he won't be back this season, even after the McDonald roster crunch is resolved].

Player 2011 2012 Diff
Jason Kubel
1.1 1.6
+3.2
Trevor Cahill
2.5 1.5
+3.0
Patrick Corbin
N/A 0.4
+0.8
Craig Breslow 0.4 0.2 +0.4
Trevor Bauer N/A -0.1 -0.2
Mike Zagurski -0.1 -0.1 -0.2
Josh Bell -0.6 -0.5 *-0.5
TOTAL

+6.5

I think we've largely accepted the Kubel signing has been decent, and Cahill's value is actually the same currently, as Jarrod Parker has put up for the A's in Oakland [Parker has superior ERA, but fWAR sees this as partly the result of factors like his flukish .251 BABIP]. The wild-card in this pile is obvious. Will Bauer be the Ace of Clubs and King of (our) Hearts? Or are we thinking more 2-4 offsuit something flop hole something something flush? Sorry, still not quite got the hang of this poker terminology. That aside, expecting Bauer to be slightly worse than replacement level the rest of the way is probably a bit conservative. He's likely worth eleventy-eight wins, all by himself.

Departures

Ah, those we have loved and lost....or never loved at all, for some cases. In a similar way to the arrivals, the 2012 WAR to date for the departures is included only for amusement purposes.

Player 2011 2012 Diff
Kelly Johnson
1.4 1.1
-1.4
Zach Duke 0.8 N/A
-0.8
Brandon Allen
0.3 -0.1
-0.3
Collin Cowgill 0.3 0.3 -0.3
Kam Mickolio 0.2 N/A -0.2
Jarrod Parker 0.1 1.5 -0.1
Micah Owings 0.1 -0.1 -0.1
Juan Miranda 0.1 N/A -0.1
Sean Burroughs 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Jason Marquis -0.2 0.1 +0.2
Aaron Heilman -0.3 N/A +0.3
Sam Demel -0.4 N/A +0.4
Barry Enright -0.6 N/A +0.6
Armando Galarraga -0.8 N/A +0.8
TOTAL

-1.0

With the exception of Johnson, whom I'm pleased to see doing well in Toronto (not as well as Hill though), and Parker (addressed above), this is quite a sad little list of fringey players, some of whom aren't even fringey any more. Anyone remember when Miranda was the first baseman of our future? He was released last month by the Triple-A Durham Bulls, after hitting .187, to make way for... Brandon Allen. While fan feeling may vary drastically with regard to the names here [Messrs. Enright and Owings will always be alright by us], you'd be hard pushed to argue most were significant cogs in the team.

Conclusions

I'd be the first to admit that this is an imperfect analysis of what has happened to the 2012 Diamondbacks, because fWAR is an imperfect measure of value. As noted yesterday, Arizona is ranked, collectively, a lot higher both in hitting and pitching WAR than their position in the standings indicates. Indeed, if you add up all of the above, you get a team that is projected to be a couple of WAR better than the 2011 version:
2011: 15.9 WAR pitching + 31.6 WAR hitting = 47.5 WAR
2012: 9.5 WAR pitching + 15.3 WAR hitting = 24.8 WAR, after 81 games.
Doesn't seem right somehow, does it?

Part of that is probably because most of the gap is Pythagorean. Last year's team, based on the runs they scored an allowed, "should" have won 88 times, six fewer games. This year's model has outscored the opposition and similarly, "should" win 82 times, four more games. The game between those records has closed from sixteen games to six. There's perhaps also how those runs are distributed. As we saw yesterday, that's been non-optimal And, particularly with pitching, I have qualms about fWAR: I sure don't feel like we've been significantly better in that department this season.

But, these qualms aside, I think the above does, on an individual level, give a fairly good view of where about, on an individual level, the strengths and weaknesses with the 2012 Diamondbacks have been The numbers seem to fit fairly well with what my eyes tell me: Hill, Miley and Goldschmidt have been the most reliable and consistent performers over the first half, while the drop-offs in production from Upton, Hudson and Roberts are the biggest reasons the team has struggled.

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