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D'backs Preview: Rotation, Part One

D'backs preview. Rotation

2004 performance [as starter only, 10 games or more]

Randy Johnson 16-14, ERA 2.60, WHIP 0.90
Brandon Webb   7-16, ERA 3.59, WHIP 1.50
Steve Sparks   2-7,  ERA 6.00, WHIP 1.57
Casey Fossum   4-15, ERA 6.65, WHIP 1.65
Casey Daigle   2-3,  ERA 7.16, WHIP 1.84
Edgar Gonzalez 0-9,  ERA 9.32, WHIP 1.94
The Diamondbacks rotation in 2004 staged their own remake of the Sergio Leone classic Western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - and the part of "ugly" was not, for once, played by Randy Johnson. No, indeed, in the eyes of many less biased observers than I, he was unfairly robbed of the NL Cy Young by Roger Clemens, or more accurately, a panel of alleged "journalists" who couldn't see past the W/L record.

Johnson was phenomenal, in every department bar that. He only lost the ERA title to Jake Peavy after the latter achieved qualification in the last week of the season, and held all opposing batters to a .197 average (lefties hit worse still, at .163!). 290 strikeouts easily led the league, and against Atlanta on May 18, Johnson threw the only perfect game in D'backs history, becoming the oldest pitcher ever to do so. Not a problem there, then.

Brandon Webb took the role of the "bad", setting a franchise record for losses, and it could have been worse - he lost 14 by early August, on pace for 19, but only dropped two of his last nine starts. Some recession was to be expected after his fantastic rookie season, but his loss of control was fearsome. He went from 3.39 BB/9 innings up to 5.15, and his 119 walks led the major-leagues.

Yet, his ERA of 3.59 was quite credible - the lowest by a 16-game loser since Melido Perez went 13-16 with a 2.92 ERA for the Yankees in 1992. His sinkerball became even more brutal, with a G/F ratio of 3.55, reaching its peak on Sept 1, when he faced 26 Dodger hitters without allowing a single fly ball (three hits, three walks, seven K's). He won that game, for when his sinker was on, it was on.

And then there's the rest of the rotation, over which I want to gloss as rapidly as possible. Alleged #3 starter Elmer Dessens stank, posting a 7.68 ERA in nine starts before going to the bullpen (where, oddly, he prospered). Dessens' blow-ups became infamous: around his fourth or fifth innings, he'd be cruising, then BOOM!. There went the game. During his first three innings, opponents hit .282 off him - after that, they averaged .434.

Even uglier: Shane Reynolds was slated for the rotation, but got injured and managed to pitch exactly two innings. Steve Sparks' knuckleball fooled few except our catchers, while Casey Daigle failed to live up to his spring training performance, and is still best known for being married to Jenny Finch. Casey Fossum played possum, while Edgar Gonzalez came up from Tucson in June, lost nine straight decisions in ten starts, and has never been the same since.