All the way back on March 23rd of this year the 2010 D-backs recorded a mild upset of the 2015 team in a 7-4 victory. Ian Kennedy out lasted Robbie Ray in that one. Recap Here
They have a more difficult matchup today going up against the 2011 team that won the NL West by 8 games with a 94-68 record. The turn- around from 2010 to 2011 was stunning.
Tale of the Tape:
As Jim covered in the previous round, the 2010 D-backs never got going, and a mid-season manager change to Kirk Gibson did little at the time to improve the team.
While they had roughly a league average offense, (93 wRC+) the 2010 Bullpen was historically one of the worst baseball has seen in the modern era. In fact they posted the highest reliever ERA (5.74) of any NL team since the Diamondbacks came into existence in 1998. Even when you park adjust for that pre humidor era, their 135 ERA- is the 2nd worst since 98 (the 2018 Marlins had a reliever ERA- of 139). Their FIP- of 125, while better than ERA-, was still the 3rd worst since 98. Report Link . Bad bullpens have a tendency to get people fired, and that was certainly the case in 2010 as both Josh Byrnes and AJ Hinch lost their jobs that season.
Despite some major roster changes heading into 2011, it didn’t look like much had improved in the early part of 2011. After a loss on Friday, May 13th to the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw the team was 15-22, 5.5 games back of the Rockies in 4th place.
But then they caught fire, going on a 15-2 to vault themselves to 30-24 and into the pennant race. They tread water for the next 6 weeks playing 4 games over .500, and on July 31st were 59-49, 2 games back of the surging San Francisco Giants. They got hot once again however and over the final two months went 35-19 to win the division over the Giants by 8 games. Two big reasons for the surge were Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill.
Called up from the minors on August 1st to make his major league debut, it wasn’t long before he made an impact. On August 2nd Tim Lincecum was cruising along nursing a 1-0 lead in the top of the 5th. Ryan Roberts singled to left, and then Goldy stepped into the box. This happened:
The D-Backs went on to win that game 6-1, putting them in a tie for 1st. While it would be another week before they would take over 1st outright, it was a clear turning point in the season. After a series of failed experiments at 1st base, including Juan Miranda & Brandon Allen, Goldy stabilized the position for the rest of the year, and had a major impact in the NLDS vs. Milwaukee. This launched a terrific Diamondbacks career. Things didn’t go so well for Timmeh A.G., or After Goldschmidt ;)
- TL B.G. 65-35, 3.00 ERA in 953 IP, 0.56 HR/9
- TL A.G. 45-54, 4.71 ERA in 728 IP, 1.09 HR/9
Aaron Hill came over in a late season trade on August 23rd, taking over 2nd base from a disappointing Kelly Johnson. He provided a major spark, slashing .315/.386/.492 137 OPS+ in 33 games.
But without question the biggest improvement for the 2011 offense was the All-Star season of Justin Upton. He led the team with a 141 OPS+ on a .289/.369/.529 slash line than included 32 HR, 105 runs and 88 RBI, all team bests.
The Bullpen featured a massive turnaround under new GM Kevin Towers. Carrying a strong reputation as a builder of bullpens from his days in San Diego, Towers brought in JJ Putz to close and David Hernandez to set up. Both moves worked out tremendously. Putz was spectacular and efficient posting 45 saves while blowing just 4 in 60 appearances. This was definitely among the top 3 seasons by any D-backs reliever, (along with 2002 Kim and 2015 Ziegler.) In some ways it was arguably the best.
Hernandez did yeoman’s work in the setup role, appearing in 74 games and posting a 3.38 ERA/117 ERA+. His 23 holds tied for 6th best in the NL. Micah Owings, lefty Joe Patterson, and late season addition Ziegler all chipped in valuable innings as well.
The rotation featured the 1-2 punch of Ian Kennedy, (21-4, 2.88 ERA) and Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.48 ERA). They also got solid back end rotation work out of Joe Saunders, (33 Starts, 212 IP, 107 ERA+), and Josh Collmenter, 154 IP 117 ERA+)
The 37-16 W-L record of Kennedy and Hudson caused me to dive down a rabbit hole of sorts. Heads up: It’s going to get a little eye charty.
I was curious where that ranked among the best 1-2 Starting pitching tandems in franchise history. Clearly Johnson and Schilling are going to come out on top for their 2001-2002 seasons. But what about the rest?
In a nod to both traditionalists and modernists I ranked by two simple metrics: WL% and WAR.
It should be noted however that league wide WAR for starting pitchers has decreased over the years due to smaller workloads and fewer innings pitched. The reality is that starting pitchers are not worth as much as they were 15 years ago. (Although teams continue to pay them like they are, oddly enough)
Despite having the 4th highest win total, and the 5th highest W%, IPK and Huddy drop down to 9th as their bWAR total was surprisingly low, just 6.3 and ranking 16th best out of 22 seasons.
On the flip side of that the 2004 tandem of Johnson and Webb were much better than their ranking here, as can be seen by their bWAR total. But poor run support and atrocious defense killed their won-loss record.
Any “Tandem” including The Big Unit is going to rank highly, but clearly the Webb and Haren Duo of 2008 is among the top 1-2 rotation punches in franchise history as well.
While the 2011 team was defeated in a thrilling 5 game NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers lead by the juiced, lying, cheating Ryan Braun*, it was still a tremendous season for the team and the franchise.
For today’s match-up, appropriately enough, 2010 Daniel Hudson will get the start against 2011 Ian Kennedy. This game has upset potential as Hudson posted a 1.69 ERA in 2010, and the 2010 is able to stack a bunch of left-handed power hitters against IPK.
#19 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks 9, #3 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks 4
In the biggest upset of the tournament so far, the 19th-seeded 2010 D-backs pulled off their second consecutive shot, dispatching 3rd-seeded 2011. A three-run first inning got them off to a good start, and Daniel Hudson lived up to the hype, spinning seven innings of one-run ball, scattering six hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. Ian Kennedy settled down there after for 2011, going seven innings and giving up just one more run. But 2010 feasted on the 2011 bullpen in a five-run eighth, capped by a Mark Reynolds grand-slam. That meant the latter’s three-run ninth inning simply made the final score slightly more respectable.
Truth be told, Kennedy didn’t pitch badly, suffering death by a thousand cuts in the opening frame. Chris Young v.2010 led off the game with a bloop to left, Kelly Johnson grounded one through the hole to put runners on the corners, and a Justin Upton ground-out gave 2010 a quick lead. Adam LaRoche had another blooper, this one a RBI double into left-center, and then scored on a ground-ball single by Miguel Montero v2010. They had jumped out to a 3-0 advantage, without really hitting a single ball hard.
There was no further scoring until the third. 2010 added another run on three consecutive singles by Upton, LaRoche and Montero to start the inning, though Kennedy settled down to prevent further damage. 2011 led off with a Stephen Drew triple, but one out later, after a Gerardo Parra walk, the outfielder was nailed trying to steal second. 2011 got on the board with another triple, this one off the bat of Aaron Hill. But the chance to put up a crooked number and get back in the game was lost, and we ended the frame with 2010 still three run up, the score being 4-1 in their favor.
2010 had a chance to extend the lead in the sixth, loading the bases with one out, thanks in part to a Hill error. However, LaRoche went down swinging and Montero grounded out, as Kennedy wriggled off the hook. Both starters were out of the game after the seventh. Kennedy was pulled for pinch-hitter Willie Bloomquists, representing the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, though to no avail. He allowed four runs on 10 hits and three walks, with nine strikeouts in a 116-pitch effort.
David Hernandez replaced him, and it did not go well. Cole Gillespie pinch-hit for Hudson, and singled, then Hernandez walked Young and Johnson to load the bases with no-out. He did strike out Upton, but Kirk Gibson v.2011 had seen enough, and turned to Sam Demel. He got a groundball to Paul Goldschmidt, who tried to get the runner at home, but his throw to Miguel Montero v.2011 was too late. Up stepped Mark Reynolds, who slammed the Demel offering just over the wall to left for a grand-slam, making it 9-1 to 2010.
Blaine Boyer came in for 2010 to replace Hudson. He put up a zero in the eighth, around a walk to Hill. But the ninth was less impressive, as a Goldschmidt single was followed by walks to Ryan Roberts and Young v.2011. Edwin Jackson replaced him and got Stephen Drew v.2011 to fly out shallowly and pinch-hitter Xavier Nady to pop out to first. Gerardo Parra v.2011 did clear the bases with a triple and Hill walked. But Upton v.2011 lined out to Reynolds at the hot corner for the final out, and 2010 claimed their second unexpected scalp of the tournament.
For them, Young and Johnson did solid work at the top of the order, each reaching base four times on two hits and two walks, scoring a pair apiece. LaRoche and Montero also had two-hit nights. Roberts did his best in a losing cause for 2011, going 2-for-2 with two walks, while Hill got on three times, Aaron Heilman was the best of the relievers, retiring all four batters he faced for 2011, needing only ten pitches to do so.
Here’s how the bracket look after today’s game, or use the direct link.
We finish off the first round next time, with the upstart 2004 team, who also pulled off a preliminary round upset, going up against the over-achieving 2007 outfit. 2004 will be looking to follow in the footsteps of 2010 by knocking off an opponent seeded sixteen slots higher. Can they pull it off? Find out next Monday! Who do you think will win?
Who will win?
This poll is closed