“This is the same team, or very close to the one that I put on the field. So basically all of those guys and baseball analysts who said I didn’t know what I was doing, it showed I knew exactly what I was doing. Everybody was just beat up and not living up to expectations. So all of a sudden, it’s my fault. Well, it’s not my fault. I couldn’t prevent injuries or jump in their bodies to make them pitch better in the starting rotation. We put the right people on the field. So I don’t think anybody should be surprised how well those kids are playing. They’re healthy now. I knew this was going to happen. Everyone should have seen it coming.”
-- Dave Stewart
If this claim seems outrageous on the surface - the “right people” went 69-93 last year - there is some evidence to support him. The core of this team is the one Stewart used last year. Six everyday position players are the same, with the only changes at second (Brandon Drury replacing Jean Segura) and catcher (the Jeff Mathis/Chris Iannetta platoon taking over from Welington Castillo). The rotation, too, is virtually unchanged, with the only new face in the rotation being Taijuan Walker. Most changes have come on bench and bullpen: Jorge De La Rosa, Daniel Descalso, Jeremy Hazelbaker, J.J. Hoover, Fernando Rodney and Tom Wilhelmsen. Few of those have been impactful.
But if Stewart thinks Mike Hazen doesn’t deserve credit for the talent which he inherited, the same should apply to Stewart. Of the 13 position players the D-backs have used this year, only two - Yasmany Tomas and Chris Herrmann - were acquired on Dave Stewart’s watch. The others were here when he arrived, or were brought in after he left. Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta were already everyday players when Stewart was hired at the end of the 2014 season, with Jake Lamb about to join them. Those four are responsible for 2.7 of the 3.3 bWAR the offense has put up to date. Really, how much credit do you deserve for “not trading Goldschmidt”?
On the pitching front, Stewart did bring in Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, who have been worth 1.4 of the 3.1 bWAR we’ve gained on the mound. However, the price paid for those two was extremely high: many might say excessive, some even exorbitant. Greinke’s $34m contract costs more than the next five most-expensive Diamondbacks for 2017 combined. Three seasons of Miller required the D-backs to give up a combined 17 years of control over Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair. If Shelby’s injury is as bad as feared, then there’s almost no way this can end up anything but a very bad deal for Arizona.
Yes, the 2016 roster was impacted by injury, to A.J. Pollock in particular. But health is an issue faced by every team, and it’s up to the GM to construct the roster in a way that can withstand the rigors of a 162-game season, The D-backs also benefited from an extraordinary bounce-back year by Jean Segura, and it still took a win in the final game of the season to save them from the second-worst record in baseball. We also have to ask, if this is the “same team,” exactly WHY are they playing so much better this season? Why were Miller and Archie Bradley, say, apparently so easily fixed this year, after being the baseball version of the Kobayashi Maru scenario last season?
In the end, Stewart probably was not as bad a GM as the nattering nabobs online would have you believe. There were some decent moves during his tenure, such as the Segura one, and the 2016 record would not have been nearly as bad with a healthy Pollock, and if the back end of the bullpen (Brad Ziegler and Tyler Clippard) hadn’t been dealt away by the trade deadline. However, the good moves feel more as if they were luck rather than design, and the high-profile ones have proved questionable at best. I’m a good deal more confident about the process under Hazen - and so far, the results have been better than anyone could have reasonably expected.
How much credit does Dave Stewart deserve for the success of the 2017 D-backs?
This poll is closed
Quite a bit
None at all