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D'backs preview. 2nd base

2004 performance (2B only)
Scott Hairston:    .252/.292/.454, 13 HR, 27 RBI
Matt Kata:       .259/.317/.388,  2 HR, 13 RBI
Roberto Alomar   .327/.394/.500,  3 HR, 14 RBI 

2005 predictions
Craig Counsell  .250/.335/.323, 3 HR, 28 RBI
Matt Kata               .267/.320/.419, 4 HR, 24 RBI

After first Robert Alomar, then Matt Kata, went down with two of the many injuries suffered by Arizona, 2004 was supposed to be the year of Scott Hairston. It certainly started off that way: up to the end of June, he was hitting a respectable .277. But then the wheels fell off, largely because his plate discipline evaporated completely. In July, he had just two walks and 20 K's; August, the figures were 4 and 22; and in September, forced to split playing time, he batted .152 with 15 K's in only 46 AB's.

Making matters worse was Hairston's defense; it often felt like he was playing an unnatural position, rather the one familiar from his minor league career. Botched double plays, failure to cover the bag and being out of position as the cutoff man were all depressingly-frequent occurrences, and a shift to the outfield has been suggested more than once. That would be a shame, since his power is decent for a second baseman, but nothing special in an outfielder.

Either way, Hairston will likely start the year in Tucson, with Kata recovered and fan favourite Craig Counsell - he of the wacky batting stance - returning to BOB. Having Alex Cintron, the man with the second lowest OPS among qualifying major league players, wasn't enough for the D'backs; they promptly went out and signed Counsell, the one guy who hit worse, to a multiyear contract. What are we trying to do, corner the market in limp-hitting infielders?

Counsell will certainly be an upgrade defensively, but his lack of offensive output won't help a side who finished dead last in runs scored among all major league teams. Manager Bob Melvin seems inclined to let Counsell lead off, and it's true Counsell might provide a slight improvement on last year. However, that's only because our leadoff hitters collectively batted .247, with an OBP below .300, and mostly reflects the paucity of options the Diamondbacks have for the #1 spot.