Back in March, I posted a series of surveys, asking how the D'backs would do this year, both individually and as a team. Figured it might be amusing to take a look back at these and see how close - or not! - we came to the truth...
How many wins for Arizona in 2005?
61-70 - 3%
71-80 - 44%
81-90 - 44%
90+ - 7%
This seems to err slightly on the side of optimism, with the median being at, or just above, .500. But it wasn't so far from the truth: I think the plusses and minuses for the team largely cancelled each other out. On specific votes, Stefan and Ryan tied for victory in the prediction contest on the 75 mark: as a tiebreaker, the first of those two to fire me an email with their address will find something pleasant heading their way.
Player with best BA?
Reality: Chad Tracy: .308
(2nd: S.Green, .286; 3rd: Gonzalez, .271)
Chad Tracy: 41%
Luis Gonzalez: 23%
Troy Glaus + Shawn Green: 11%
It took a while, but Chad got there in the end, justifying the expectations of most of those polled. He only passed Green on September 17, after going 4-for-4 vs. Colorado, and had a hit in every game thereafter, taking a 14-game streak into next season. Green faded, going 9-for-51 in the same span, without a single RBI in the final three weeks, but I think .286 probably passed most expectations. Gonzo's performance was disappointing, and the Magic 8-Baseball says "Outlook uncertain" for him in 2006.
Player with most homers?
Reality: Troy Glaus: 37
(2nd: Clark, 30; 3rd: Tracy, 27)
Troy Glaus: 78%
Luis Gonzalez + Shawn Green: 10%
Pretty much a no-brainer here, though the lack of love shown for both Clark and Tracy (no votes combined) seems, in hindsight, a little cruel. Neither Gonzo nor Green ever challenged, though with 22 + 24 home runs respectively, both performed creditably enough on the power front.
Starter with most wins?
Reality: Brandon Webb: 14
(2nd: Vazquez, 11; 3rd: Vargas, 9)
Javier Vazquez: 66%
Brandon Webb: 25%
Shawn Estes: 8%
Vazquez's inconsistency was perhaps the most frustrating thing about the entire season. Opening Day was a disaster, and one repeated far too often throughout the year - yet he also had the two best pitching performances, half our complete games, and the only shutout by any of our starters. But Webb was far more reliable: he bounced back nicely from the sophomore slump, slashed the walks and became an excellent #2. Estes's season was hampered by injury, and Ortiz...well, Lance Cormier had more wins than Russ.
Reliever with best ERA?
Reality (min 30 IP): Brandon Medders, 1.78
(2nd: Tim Worrell, 2.27; 3rd: Jose Valverde, 2.44)
Brandon Lyon: 46%
Mike Koplove, Oscar Villarreal, Brian Bruney: 15%
We can be forgiven for not spotting this one, given neither Medders nor Worrell were even on the roster until June 18 and July 21. The bullpen was disastrous - the three listed above were the only qualifiers with an ERA under five. Koplove and Villarreal were between there and six; Lyon imploded after his injury to end at 6.44, while stop-gap closer Brian Bruney sat at 7.43, the worst ERA in the majors of any pitcher with 5+ save opportunities - there were 72 of those. And remember these names? Matt Herges, Kerry Ligtenberg and Javier Lopez. Came, pitched and went.
Elsewhere, we asked which will be worse, Green or Ortiz? This proved a popular poll, with Ortiz eventually winning out by a 2-1 margin. This year, there's no doubt: Ortiz sucked dreadfully, while Green turned things around in the second half. It also helps that Green is no longer blocking a corner-outfield position. However, we'll see what happens in 2006 + 2007.
In mid-July, we enquired how far back the D'backs would follow, and the general consensus was close to the final margin of exactly five: 57% said five games or less, 43% said more than that. And our most recent poll asked whether Melvin should be fired or not: he got the vote of confidence from readers here, 63% saying the team's performance this year was not his fault.
In August, we asked whether Vazquez should be kept or traded. The opinion here was clearly (69%) towards moving him on. Now, I know Vazquez can demand a trade, but does he have any say over where he goes? And if he doesn't want to be traded, can he veto a deal? I think the answer is "No" to both questions. Obviously, no team will want an unhappy player, but in a thin free-agent market, Vazquez's value will be higher. Just as long as we can divert attention from his poor starts (he matched or beat his Opening Day 7 earned run performance, three further times) and to his good games.
This is particularly significant, in the light of comments made by Moorad that we need more power at the catching position - this has been pounced on to indicate Vazquez will be traded to Florida for "local boy", Paul LoDuca. Boy, I sure hope not, is the phrase that comes to mind. It's too early to be giving up on Snyder and Hill; it would make more sense to trade Vazquez for top-line pitching prospects.
However, rumblings suggest Shawn Estes might be resigned, which could be an early indicator that Vazquez will be departing. Webb, Ortiz, Halsey and Vargas will presumably all be here next year, leaving only one spot open in the rotation - why sign Estes if Vazquez is staying? [And then there's Nippert, who might make it if he has a good spring training performance, though I suspect he'll start off down in Tucson]
But would that be enough? While our bullpen was bad, this year's starters also posted a 4.59 ERA, fourth-worst in the NL. Going with more or less the same bunch again is not much of an improvement, and hardly reeks of pennant potential. Admittedly, Webb, Halsey and Vargas still have the potential to improve next year, at ages 26, 24 + 27. Estes (32) and Ortiz (31)...probably not. Which is a scary thought.
Anyway: new poll is up, asking you to vote for the Diamondbacks' MVP from last season. Be interesting to see how this goes, since you could make a solid case for quite a few players. But I couldn't quite bring myself to include Royce Clayton, Craig Counsell or Chris Snyder on the ballot. Sorry, guys!
Sad news over at Random Fandom, where Stef has decided to formally call it a day: "I started the blog because I like baseball and I like writing. I still like baseball and I still like writing, but over the past year my work life and my home life have become so busy (in good ways) that I can no longer proceed in the same half-assed manner I've been blogging." I must therefore begin an immediate campaign to get Stef fired, then kidnap his family. ;-)
In all seriousness, this is a shame. He's been blogging for almost as long as I have, kinda acting like the Thom Brennaman to my Mark Grace: I rant, rave, swing wildly from idiocy to insight via all points in-between, but Stefan's posts always had a quiet and easy quality to them, which I can only hope to emulate. He hopefully won't be gone completely, or forever, but he will still be missed.