It's spring. And in spring, all things are possible. The season hasn't started, the practice games haven't even started. No matter how hardened a "realist" one might be when it comes to analyzing the team, crunching the numbers, and calculating the probabilities, it's a time where anyone can imagine and hope for the best.
So this post is imagining what a successful D Backs season, success being defined as making the playoffs, and having a legit shot to make it through to the world series, would look like.
So what would a successful Diamondbacks season look like ? Of course we could just plug in career years for everyone on the roster in our stat projections. It's goes without saying that unexpected playoff teams usually have a number of guys having career, or near career years. But the D Backs don't need 12 guys having career years to have a shot at the playoffs. They are not THAT far off.
First and foremost, they need to be fortunate with HEALTH. It's one thing to have depth, but you still need your best players out on the field most of the time. Especially if you don't have an overwhelming stock of high end talent to make up for injuries in short spurts, (like the Dodgers had last year).
In 2013 the Diamondbacks only had 3 players accumulate enough PA to qualify for the batting title, and 2 Starting Pitchers qualify for the ERA title. These somewhat arbitrary qualifying numbers serve as a rough proxy for health
Comparing that to the teams that did make the playoffs, most had at least 5 position players qualify for the batting title and many had 3 or more SP qualify for the ERA title. Here is a simple table showing the total number of qualifiers for the playoff teams of 2013 and the D Backs
|Team||POS Q||SP Q||Total|
The obvious and biggest exception was the Dodgers, who only had 2 players qualify. However we all know their story, Puig's sensational rookie campaign, and Hanley's off the charts half season carried them to that hot streak. And they have the best pitcher in baseball supported by a strong number 2 and number 3 starter. It's what makes them scary. If THEY enjoy better health than last year, they are really tough to beat. But I digress.
So in imagining what a playoff D Backs team looks like, it would probably include at least 8-10 players qualifying for the Batting/ERA titles.
The second thing that pops into my mind is lights out bullpen. It's obvious we don't have a true "TOR" starter. I seriously doubt there is a true top 3 or top 5 CY Young Candidate in their rotation. BUT....if they got solid health, and say 4 guys each made 30 or more starts, that might be enough solid innings to lay the foundation for a 90 win season......IF......IF.....they have a great bullpen.
And the potential for a great bullpen DOES exist. There are a lot of good arms, and a lot of guys with good performance track records. Bullpens are notoriously fickle of course, and you never know what you are going to get. But it's not THAT hard to imagine a season where Hernandez rebounds, Ziegler and Collmenter continue to do their thing, Reed is successful, and Putz gives them a good 50 innings. And through the inevitable ups and downs of health and performance in the pen, rookies with hot arms like Barret or Stites come in and give them a boost. The one area they are going to need some good fortune and unexpected performance is with Lefty Relievers. They'll need thatcher to perform, AND get some help from the likes of Patterson or De La Rosa along the way. This may be asking too much.....but thats what they need.
So this is what THIS D Backs team looks like to me in 2014 if they are to make the playoffs: Good health in the lineup, with 5 guys or more qualifying for the batting title. 4 guys in the rotation making over 30 starts , and while none of them set the league on fire, the bullpen does.
Can it happen ? Sure. What are the odds ? Well, probably not all that high. But it's spring. And in spring, we can always hope for the best.
What is it they say ? "80% of success is showing up"