So far in 2015 the Diamondbacks haven't been very bad. Not worldbeaters, certainly, but not bad. Even a Diamondbacks hater, like Keith Law*, would admit they aren't the worst team in baseball.
But I don't want a kind of not-bad team. I want a good team. I want a great team.
How do you get to be great in MLB anymore? Well, luck certainly has something to do with, and so does bags of money. You could argue that the latter involves luck, or at least the fortune timing to be located in an area that is an economic hub. Either way, the Diamondbacks can't force luck, and they don't have bags of money. So what else can they do?
Look to Houston. Or Pittsburgh. Or the Mets. Or even Kansas City. These are the teams the Diamondbacks should be more like.
What do some of the surprising teams of this year and last have in common? They eat data for breakfast.They've built robust analytical departments to try to gain an edge. But more importantly the information being gathered is being used on the field. The Pirates are particularly adept at funneling information to the field to be used by Clint Hurdle.
I've been skeptical of the angle that the Diamondbacks are hostile towards data analytics, which seems to exist based off a few quotes and nothing more. But the proof is in the pudding when you look at who is being hire. Perhaps the D-backs have a hidden group of cubicles at Chase Field full of Ivy league graduates with software engineering backgrounds, but I doubt it. If you look at any of the teams mentioned in ESPN's Great Analytics Rankings you'll see that quite a few of the teams have well-credentialed data teams. The Diamondbacks have one name to hang their hat one, Ed Lewis, and it's hard to say he's a prestige hire.
When I look at the Pirates, Astros, Mets, and Royals, though, I do recognize some of their approach in the Diamondbacks this year. Arizona tried to go young, with the exception of a couple virtually unmovable contracts, and yet somehow they haven't been completely terrible. But it's not enough to just blow things up, you have to gather assets that have value, and it's not yet known if this FO can do it.
I'd certainly feel more confident, though, if I knew they were in the process of building a world-class analytics department**. Bring on the robotic revolution! It's not a shocking position to take, I know, and virtually of the writers here on the 'Pit have longed for this scenario to different degrees.
It feels like the Diamondbacks are on a better path then they were before. Maybe not the right path, but at least not the clearly wrong one. I just can't help but look at some of the teams that can be reasonable comps to the D-backs and wish for the same. Don't you?
*This is a joke, before any of you get riled up in the comment section.
** I'm not world-class, but call me, D-backs.