Diamondbacks 2012 Report Card: Veteran Rotation

Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

Today, we look at the more seasoned portion of the 2012 Diamondbacks rotations. For purposes of clarity, this is defined as Kennedy, Cahill, and Saunders.

Every rotation needs veteran presence. At least, I guess they do. That seems to be one of those baseball aphorisms that sound sage, but is never really challenged. I mean, the likelihood that a veteran pitcher is good is more than a young pitcher being good, but it's not a necessary component. I'll submit the 2012 Oakland Athletics as a counterpoint to that first sentence. What am I talking about again? Oh right, the veteran rotation. Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, and Joe Saunders comprised the most experienced portion of the rotation for the 2012 Diamondbacks. How did they fare? Read on and find out! (Hint: Meh)

2012 Expectations

Ian Kennedy had just finished off the podium in the NL Cy Young Grand Prix in 2011. By putting up a 2.88 ERA, he had clearly established himself as the ace of the Diamondbacks. Joe Saunders was a dependable innings eater who would not dazzle you with briliant stuff, but be solid enough to be a back of the rotation anchor. Trevor Cahill arrived in Phoenix from Oakland for Jarrod Parker. I am not going to discuss the merits of this trade because:

  1. Parker's performance in Oakland this year has no bearing on Cahill's portion of the grade on this report card.
  2. It will be discussed in the comments on this piece ad nauseum.
  3. Discussions of said trade are a strong contender for the "Carlos Quentin Memorial BeatingADeadHorse.gif of the Year" award.

Cahill had a rough 2011 in Oakland after a breakout 2010 campaign, and seemed like a bounce-back candidate, or at least someone who could probably have a solid season that was statistically between his 2010 and 2011 seasons (spoilers: he did, more on that later,) So there was every confidence that things would turn out great in 2012 for this part of the pitching staff.

2012 Performance

Oops.

Well, to be fair, a lot of that oops refers to Kennedy's puzzling 2012 season. He struck out 187 batters, not too far off from the 198 he had in 2011. He walked the exact same number of people in both seasons, 55. However, his ERA shot up a whole point and change to 4.02. He also gave up 28 home runs. Jason Kubel was the only Diamondback to hit more home runs than that. Looking at the statistics, you could draw the conclusion that Ian was just throwing more meat across the plate. Eye-test wise, that seems about right.

Ian also had an interesting season at the plate. I won't devote much space to it, but I am going to refer you to this fangraphs article detailing Ian Kennedy's cosmically low swing rate, and know that in his next start after that article was written, he drew two walks without swinging the bat in either at-bat.

Saunders gonna Saunder. There is not a whole lot about Joe Saunders that would be unique and new. He had an ERA around 4, he walked about two batters per nine innings, but his k rate when he was with Arizona was a career high 6.2 per nine. A mid-season injury also lead way to the Trevor Bauer extravaganza, so it wasn't totally uneventful. Saunders also is third in baseball since 2008 in double plays induced behind Felix Hernandez and Mark Buehrle, which is not bad company to be in. Okay, I lied. There is a lot about Joe Saunders that is unique. Good on you, Joe!

As you are probably aware, Joe was shipped to Baltimore for Matt Lindstrom, ending his tenure with the team. He had the honor of starting and winning the one game playoff against the Rangers and Yu Darvish, so it worked out for him.

As mentioned above, Cahill's 2012 season was a middle ground between his 2010 and 2011 in terms of ERA, walks, and even innings pitched. He also struck out a career high 156 batters. One could make a very good argument that he was the second best starter on the Diamondbacks last season, behind Wade Miley. However, there were times that it never really felt like he was, if that makes sense. This may be because he had the highest walk rate of all qualifying starters, and of anybody on the team not named Bryan Shaw. It always felt like that when he was going good, he would be really good, but when he wasn't, it sort of snowballed. As such, the yin and yang that is Trevor Cahill balanced out to a solid season in Phoenix.

2013 Expectations

It's probably reasonable to expect Ian Kennedy to never repeat his 2011 performance, however it's also reasonable to think that his bad 2011 will not repeat itself. If Kennedy can bounce back even a little, it will help the team's chances in 2013.

Cahill's 2010 season will always be an enticing goal, but it may be like Kennedy's aforementioned 2011 season (and Cahill's happened in Oakland, where Al Davis' ghost now spooks hitting.) By all accounts, he did bounce back in 2012, and he will only be 25 on opening day this year, so there is still the possibility of improvement from him.

Joe Saunders is still a free agent at the time of writing, so yeah. In his stead, the D'Backs signed Brandon McCarthy, which I think is a solid signing and he will do well for us, knock on wood.

Final Grade

Kennedy's swan dive is too much to ignore. People talk at lengths of Justin Upton's down year hurting the D'Backs, but I think Kennedy's hurt the team just as much (if not more). Saunders and Cahill were enough to lift the group as a whole out of "Can't take higher level classes next semester because of GPA" territory. I give them a C.

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