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Closing The Gap in 2014

The Diamondbacks finished nine games out of a playoff spot in 2013. How can they make that up in 2014?

Joe Robbins

Today, I want to talk to you about deficit reduction.

No, not THAT kind of deficit reduction.

No, what I'm referring to is the nine game deficit that separated the Diamondbacks from a playoff spot in 2013. We'll look at some ways that it could possibly be accomplished next season. Will they be? Hell if I know.

1. A National League Playoff Team From 2013 Falters in 2014.

I would put the chances of this happening at "Yes". The two most obvious examples from this season were the 98 win in 2012 Washington Nationals only reaching 86, and the 94 win Giants only reaching 76. In 2012, all three defending NL division winners (Phillies, Brewers and Diamondbacks) regressed to win totals in the low 80s.

Now who among those teams could falter in 2014? It's hard to imagine now, since they're all in the playoffs now and such, but I bet few people saw the regressions of the Nationals and Giants coming. It would be the most convenient if the Dodgers were one of the ones to do this (See item 11 as to how.)

2. The Playoff Win Threshold Lowers

Here are the win totals of the National League Playoff team with the fewest wins among playoff teams since the Diamondbacks came into existence.

1998: 90, Cubs^
1999: 97, Mets, Astros*
2000: 94, Mets
2001: 92, Diamondbacks*
2002: 95, Giants
2003: 88, Cubs*
2004: 92, Astros
2005: 82, Padres*
2006: 83, Cardinals*
2007: 85, Cubs*
2008: 84, Dodgers*
2009: 92, Rockies
2010: 91, Braves
2011: 90, Cardinals
2012: 88, Cardinals**
2013: 90, Reds**

^ Achieved via a Game 163 Playoff
* Division Winner
** Second Wild Card

Some things you can spot from this list:

- Parity was dead in 1999

- The mid 2000s were a golden age of slightly above-average Division winners.

With the advent of the second wild card, it may be interesting to note in the coming years if the average low-threshold takes a downward trend. With some luck, directly related to section 1 here, 2014 could be a season where 88 wins gets you the second Wild Card spot, thereby reducing the nine games to seven, which is still a lot, but every game you can make up one way or another is very significant.

3. Interleague Opponents Include The Astros, White Sox, and Twins.

That's the Baseball equivalent of scheduling The Citadel, Memphis, and Florida International nonconference.

4. Trevor Cahill Finds Control For an Extended Period

2013 was a bit of a see-saw year for Cahill. He ended the season strong after a DL stint, but not before setting career highs in Wild Pitches, BB/9, and WHIP. It may be a pipe dream to hope he repeats his 2010 season with Oakland (though if that happened, the Diamondbacks would be in very very very very good shape.), but if his post-DL stint foretells next season, and he can get those control based highs down a tick, then he could easily become at least the clear cut #2 on the staff.

5. Patrick Corbin Finishes Strong

It may be reasonable to expect some regression from Corbin in 2014 from his dominant first-half of 2013. However, if it's minimized, like it was for Wade Miley in 2013, and he doesn't fall off a cliff at the end of the year, then the D'Backs pitching staff will be in good shape.

6. One of Randall Delgado, Tyler Skaggs, or Archie Bradley Breaks Into the Rotation and Has a Breakout Year

Kind of like Miley in 2012 and Corbin in 2013. Hit it a third time and everything could be peachy. Delgado, like Corbin last year, is the most likely candidate to get the final starter's spot at this juncture, but that could all change. If Skaggs regains his fastball, then he'll probably spend a lot of 2013 at the big club. Bradley is a bit of a wild card here, but you get the feeling that if he doesn't make the rotation out of Spring, he'll be in it for some time during the season anyway.

7. David Hernandez Gets His Groove Back. Heath Bell Joins an Order of Gyuto Monks in the Offseason

Self-explanatory, really, though having a good year from the bullpen, which as a general rule are volatile enough to have swings from good to bad to back on an individual and group level,. will help the team. Jake Barrett and Eric Stites are guys who will probably be seen at some point in 2014, and they could provide a boost especially after Heath Bell's aforementioned spiritual journey.

8. Miguel Montero and Martin Prado Do Not Start Off the Season Slowly

Both of them did in 2013, and both of them had a measure of bouncing back in the later months. Miggy's first two months in particular basically are what dragged his final slash line down to .230/.318/.344. If he can bounce back to around his career average at worst (.267/.345/.431), then the offense will have another legitimate weapon.

9. Adam Eaton Finally Emerges

He had flashes of brilliance in August of this year, but 2013 was more or less lost for Eaton after injuring himself in Spring Training. How he plays with a full and healthy season in the majors will be something to watch. If he and Prado can be a good 1-2 punch ahead of Paul Goldschmidt, that would mean lots of scoring chances.

10. A Well Placed Piece of Blackmail Allows the Diamondbacks to Acquire Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Tyler Bortnick and Alfredo Marte

It's Loria, there's gotta be SOMETHING on him.

11. Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez are Arrested in Connection with an Exotic Animal Smuggling Ring.

It's broken up when a simple customs checkpoint bluff is ruined when Puig flips a Red Panda over the border and watches it for too long.

Now keep in mind that it may not necessarily take all of these things happening at the same time for the D'Backs to make up the deficit, and the likelihood of them doing so is very small, and there may be something not listed that could help the team get to the playoffs.

And, for the most part, I wrote with the wrong assumption that the Diamondbacks, as well as other teams in the NL, more or less stand pat. That will not happen, and how the Diamondbacks and other teams approach the offseason could help (or hinder) making up the nine game deficit.

And yes, there are a lot of hypothetical "ifs" here, but that's kind of what you have to bank on to make a jump from last season to the dream of a playoff spot next year. As that really old McDonalds slogan said: "Hey, it could happen!"