Remember 2011? No, not the playoffs or the All-Star Game. There's something ominous about the 2011 team that the 2013 team shares: record in 1 run games.
It's been one of the few consistent bright spots as a team effort this year. All of the walk-offs and extra innings had dramatic appeal, and hey, our team was winning. The problem, though, is that it's pretty acknowledged that winning one-run games is not considered sustainable. It's more luck than a skill.
Late last year, Jim looked at the difference between the 2011 and 2012 teams in one-run games, and his work showed a dramatic drop. Whereas the 2011 team was boosted by its razor-margin games, the 2012 was hampered. As a narrative it was easy to say the 2011 D-backs just never gave up, and demonstrated some kind of baseball élan. The next year, however, revealed this to be hopelessly naive. Winning one-run games concealed that the 2011 team was playing over its head.
I'm not going to replicate Jim's work, but it's worth a look again for its relevance. Why? If you think this year was disappointing, now imagine the drop after we normalize the one-run games.
In 2011 the Diamondbacks went 28-16 in these games, a .636 clip. This year, the Diamondbacks have gone 31-19, or .620 winning rate. In 2012 the Diamondbacks dropped to 15-27, a 279 drop. That is probably an extreme possibility (the 2008 D-backs dropped 'only' 129 points in one-run games), but even going to .500 would put the Diamondbacks record at 76-86 for next year.
The Diamondbacks are fairly certainly to move closer to .500 in one-run games next year, but that doesn't necessarily mean doom and gloom. It just means the Diamondbacks have to plan their offseason to include a possible 6 or 10 game drop-off. If they design next year's team with a projection of 90 wins, then they need to in reality account for that drop.
There is a small aside to believe that the drop might no be as extreme as 10 games. The rate might be as bad as the ones in 2008 and 2012, but given that the Diamondbacks have played 50 one-run games so far, it's not unreasonable to think they might play less one-run games overall. The 2007 Diamondbacks had 52, but only 45 in 2008. If the D-backs play 6 less next year, then by extension they'll also lose fewer one-run games.
I don't want to engage too much in gloom gluttony, but the above issue is one that needs to be acknowledged as the Diamondbacks prepare for the next season. It's hard enough to build a playoff team without the cold reality of probability going against you.