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Arizona Diamondbacks spring by the numbers

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What do they tell us?

Oakland Athletics v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Hitting

This afternoon’s 14-hit outburst against the Rangers certainly did nothing to hurt Arizona’s overall offensive numbers. Overall, the team sits 12th in the majors by OPS, at .760. They’ve had a triple-slash so far of .252/.336/.424, which ranks 18th, 14th and 13th respectively, so all told, it’s safe to say they’ve been about middle of the pack. A couple of things stand out. They’re the only team in the Cactus League to have struck out fewer than a hundred times so far - albeit just, at 99. They were 13th in K-rate last year in the NL, so that seems to be continuing. They have also only been very static, with an MLB-low three stolen base attempts in 12 games. In 2019, the D-backs averaged about 7.5 every dozen games.

Before entering the individual level, we will have the obvious caution about feeble sample sizes. Ildemaro Vargas has had the most at-bats of any D-back. He has had 21. At that level of playing time, a single hit dropping in or not could alter a batting average from .238 to .286. And the vast majority of hitters have fewer ABs than that. Still, of those with at least ten at-bats, the best numbers so far belong to:

  • Ketel Marte: 5-for-15, three DBL, HR, three RBI, 1.145 OPS
  • Kole Calhoun: 5-for-14, HR, six RBI, five BB, 1.071 OPS
  • Yasmany Tomas: 4-for-11, HR, two RBI, 1.053 OPS

And before you say anything, last spring Tomas hit .448 with an OPS of 1.087. Which goes to show how much faith the team puts in pre-season numbers. If plate-appearances are any indication of players getting a good look, the leaders there are Kevin Cron, Tim Locastro, Josh Rojas, Travis Snyder and Vargas. It has been interesting to note that Rojas has been playing mostly as an infielder. This was something Torey Lovullo said would happen, since they got a good look at him as an outfielder last year. If he can play both areas competently, that could well give him a leg-up on a bench spot.

And then there are those for whom spring has not been much of a fling to date...

  • Eduardo Escobar: 3-for-16, BB, .410 OPS
  • Nick Ahmed: 3-for-16, zero BB, .375 OPS
  • Travis Snider: 2-for-19, eight SO, .333 OPS

Snider hasn’t exactly done much to justify the playing-time mentioned above. Ahmed is a bit of a surprise, as he has historically hit well in spring, with a career average of .311 and an OPS of .833. Escobar, on the other hand, hasn’t had a pre-season OPS even of .650 since the 2015 season. That doesn’t carry into the regular season though, with April being his second-best career month by OPS.

Pitching and defense

This is where it gets ugly. After allowing a further nine runs this afternoon, the D-backs’ pitching staff have a collective ERA of 7.95. That is 1.80 runs worse than the 29th-ranked Pirates, who are closer to the MLB spring median of 4.36 than to Arizona. But as previously noted, our pitchers appear to have been rather unlucky with balls in play, with a BABIP of .389, highest in the majors. They have also managed a very nice strikeout rate of 10.40 per nine innings. But they have uncorked 13 wild pitches and a pair of passed balls, a number surpassed only by Cleveland (17). On defense, their seven errors are tied for fourth-fewest, and six of sixteen base-stealers have been caught, a healthy 37.5% rate.

The ugliness is, however, mitigated by the people who have been giving up quite a lot of those runs. There are eight Arizona pitchers with an ERA in excess of 20, who have combined to allow thirty earned runs in 9.2 innings. But Luke Weaver is the only one with a credible shot at making the roster. On the other hand though, Robbie Ray is the only likely member of the starting rotation with an ERA under six, if you presume Merrill Kelly will step in because of Mike Leake’s fractured wrist. [Leake threw a simulated game this morning, but with Opening Day now less than three weeks away, his availability seems severely in doubt] But here are the heroes and villains of the pitchers, balancing innings pitched and results.

  • Josh Green: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
  • Junior Guerra: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
  • Robbie Ray: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO, 1.59 ERA
  • ————————————————————————————
  • Taylor Clarke: 7 IP, 14 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO, 16.71 ERA
  • Edwin Jackson: 3 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, 21.00 ERA
  • Luke Weaver: 2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO, 27.00 ERA

Ray has adjusted his delivery, and said he will be pitching out of the stretch this year. We’ll see whether that sticks, or is just one of those things pitchers try out in spring training, and abandon when the meaningful games roll around, but he does seem serious. Weaver may still be shaking off the rust, having faced virtually no major-league hitters since May last season. But neither Jackson nor Clarke have done anything so far to suggest they’ll be a part of Arizona’s rotation. Meanwhile, our Minor League Pitcher of the Year Green seems to be having a good spring, though his appearances have been mostly later in games, facing weaker hitters.

But, again, these sample sizes are next to meaningless, and the coaching staff will, on both sides of the ball, be looking at more than just the box-scores. We’ll check back in though, in about ten days, and see how things are developing. I imagine we will probably see a few more rounds of cuts between now and then, as the Diamondbacks continue to pare down towards their Opening Day 26-man roster.