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Diamondbacks Spring Training Heroes and Villains

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This year, the numbers come with an even bigger asterisk than normal.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images

It’s an off-day, and I figure a good point to check out spring training numbers and see who has been putting up impressive stat-lines so far. It probably almost doesn’t need to be said, but this is dumb. There are a multitude of reasons why these numbers are meaningless, and tell us virtually nothing. That is not, however, going to stop us. Though I will list some of the most obvious caveats here:

  • Tiny sample size. No hitter has even 30 PAs, and no hitter has thrown 8 innings. Anyone can hit anything over 30 PAs. Example: Jeff Mathis once hit .419/.438/.774 for a 1.212 OPS over 33 PA [June 28 to July 27, 2012. Look it up]
  • Unnatural restrictions. For example, a pitcher might be under instruction to work on a particular pitch, such as a curve. The results tell us little about how he might perform under more normal circumstances.
  • Mercy rules. This has been an additional thing this year, with innings being rolled after fewer than three outs. But, guess what? Pitchers still get credit for outs they never recorded. And hitters are charged with ABs, despite never getting a chance.

So, once more, for the people in the cheap seats pods: this is dumb. I trust we are clear.


Hitting

Collectively, the D-backs sit 12th in the majors with an .808 OPS. Though as usual, the Cactus League is proving more hitter friendly than the Grapefruit League - the top five teams all play in Arizona. The Diamondbacks have been quite free-swinging with their 101 strikeouts third in baseball. Their wealks? Not so much: only 37 there, just 20th. One area they have done well, is on the basepaths, where Arizona has seven SB in eight attempts. Now, what about at the individual level?

  • Ketel Marte: 8-for-15, four 2B, three RBI, 1.388 OPS
  • Josh Rojas: 9-for-25, three HR, six RBI, 1.189 OPS
  • David Peralta: 4-for-14, HR, 4 RBI, 1:3 K:BB, 1.055 OPS
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  • Andrew Young: 2-for-16, zero RBI, 10 K, .489 OPS
  • Josh VanMeter: 3-for-19, two RBI, .462 OPS
  • Asdrubal Cabrera: 1-for-12, one RBI, .298 OPS

After a down year in 2020, it’s nice to see Marte leading the charge at the top of the batting stats. I’d like some of those doubles to turn into homers - he hasn’t hit one yet - but it is still early. Rojas has stakes his claim early for a roster spot, and beyond the line, has also been hitting the ball extremely hard, as his time-leading three homeruns would suggest. At the other end, Cabrera hasn’t exactly hit the ground running. Indeed, some commenters have suggested he hasn’t done anything running of late... VanMeter and Young are, like Rojas, trying to get a bench spot, but the numbers aren’t there yet for either. Though the latter does lead the team in walks, with five. [Trayce Thompson’s 11 K’s lead that category]

Pitching

Arizona’s ERA of 4.79 ranks right in the middle of the pack. though as with hitting, there is a league separation. The Grapefruit League has five of the six lowest ERAs, with the exception being the World Series Champion* Dodgers. Their K:BB ratio isn’t bad, at 98:35; six teams have fewer walks, and five more strikeouts. Home-runs have been a bit of an issue, with 14 allowed so far. ranking them equal seventh. They haven’t issued an intentional walks yet. Then again, neither has just about anyone else. The Giants have the sole IBB in spring this year, given to Manny Machado of the Padres. And what of the individual D-backs?

  • Zac Gallen: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
  • J.B. Bukauskas: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, 0.00 ERA
  • Madison Bumgarner: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, 0.00 ERA
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  • Luke Weaver: 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO, 9.00 ERA
  • Caleb Smith: 5 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 10.80 ERA
  • Riley Smith: 4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO, 11.25 ERA

Gallen has started the year as he finished last, looking good to be the ace of the D-backs’ rotatiion once again. MadBum’s first outing might have had something to say about that, but he was facing a line-up of largely minor-leaguers. His second outing was on a back-field at Salt River, so I’m holding back until we see what he does against “real” opposition. Bukauskas has looked impressive, and seems likely at this stage to get a spot in the Arizona bullpen - whether permanently or temporarily. The back of the rotation though? Weaver has been victimized by the long ball, and C. Smith by a brutal first outing, while R. Smith has looked a shadow of what we got in 2020.

Time enough for it all to change though...