And there endeth the Cactus League - not with a bang, but with a whimper, as Patrick Corbin's ERA, 0.57 on arrival, leaves Salt River Fields at between five and six times that value. There's just the two exhibition games against the Brewers at Chase Field to go, which aren't "official" Cactus encounters, then a day-off for the Diamondbacks on Thursday, before the regular season opens on Friday. I don't know about the players, but it's safe to say that, personally, I didn't pay much attention to this one. Arizona completes Cactus League play with a record of 13-18, excluding the two games which ended in a tie.
It's worth pointing out that it's a four-game improvement on last season's mark of 12-25 - and, of course, we all know how accurately that represented results during the regular season. As more than one of us said in the round table, the team has negotiated 33 contests without picking up any appreciable health concerns, which is more than can be said for some teams. Sure, we're still without Stephen Drew, and likely will be for an appreciable number of games, but I think that was pretty much what we expected, from the time we heard that he hadn't actually taken any groundballs before coming to spring training.
What have we learned from spring? Well, it's kinda hard to tell, the usual warnings about...well, it being spring training, applying as normal. But if I'd to come up with a list of five takeaways, they would be the following, in no particular order:
- Our pitching depth looks very, very solid. Corbin was hugely impressive, up until his last innings of spring, and then there's Trevor Bauer, who has "phenomenon" written all over him.
- Chris Young might be the breakout player of the year, average wise. A great spring, and it seems to have resulted from a genuine change in approach at the plate, which gives me more hope for its persistence than if it had simply occurred.
- Outfield depth looks good as well, with credible replacements lurking, in the shape of Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock. Seeing them and their performances do leave me thinking we might see Gerardo Parra or Chris Young leave this season, because...
- We really need catching. Reports during spring training suggest that what Miguel Montero is looking for will be well beyond Arizona's price-range, and with all respect to Ryan Budde and Konrad Schmidt, they're no Miggy.
- I get the feeling the seven who start the season in the Arizona bullpen may not be the same seven who end it. There were enough good performances from those who didn't make it, to think that Kevin Towers will have a short leash for those who do. Do Not Walk People. We've seen what happens to those that do...
With regard to this afternoon's game, the good news for Corbin is that he retired 13 consecutive batters this afternoon, beginning with the final out of the first inning. The bad news is, three of the preceding five batters reached base, two of them scoring. And the sixth inning pretty much went to Chicago in a hand-basket before Corbin was lifted, having retired one of the six batters faced, four of whom had crossed the plate. Admittedly, he wasn't perhaps helped by his defense [a rare miscue by Pollock in particular], but it's safe to say that this was a start only Dodgers fans could have loved i.e. show up late and leave well before the end.
That said, when you allow six hits and a walk in 5.1 innings, and strike out five, that typically won't lead to the opposition scoring seven runs, as it did this afternoon. Indeed, plugging those into our history books, the 31 major-league games with that line, none of them led to more than six runs, and the median was three. Obviously, it does depend on the nature of the hits, and how they're strung together; however, in some ways, this wasn't quite as bad a performance as the final numbers suggest. Wade Miley took things the rest of the way, and pitched decently, allowing one run on five hits and no walks, in 3.2 innings.
Not much to speak of on offense. Lyle Overbay got a couple of hits, including his first home-run of spring, and got his average up to an impressive .320 for the spring. Aaron Hill had a hit and a walk, and Chris Young also notched a long-ball immediately prior to Overbay. It was his team-leading fifth of the preseason, and ends the campaign batting .407. If he were to lose 140 points off that average during the regular season, it would still probably be classed as a roaring success.
Another well-spread GDT, with six people between 20 and 40 comments. Bcawz topped the table, with hotclaws and grimmy01 not far behind. Also taking part: snakecharmer, NASCARbernet, Jim McLennan, Clefo, blue bulldog, txzona, Turambar, LiamNeeson, SenSurround, GuruB, Muu, jjwaltrip and asteroid. The attendance at Salt River Fields was 11,356, their 14th "sellout" of the spring (according to Jack Magruder, "A crowd of 11,000 or more is considered a sellout at Salt River." Now, we know...), and ended the season at 186,868. That's 2,869 less than the inaugural season, but with one less home date - the average was up 518 to 11,679.
As noted, that's it for Cactus League play, but we'll be covering the games tomorrow night and Wednesday afternoon at Chase Field - will be going along for the first of those, so we'll see how our home park is looking for its grand opening on Friday.