As a lifelong fan of the Diamondbacks, I, probably like many others on this site, have burned way too much emotional energy trying to will this team to competitiveness in lost years. Whether it’s a heated series against the Dodgers, where the blue bumblers are clearly disinterested while effortlessly beating us, or watching a season fall out of reach before the All-Star Break (my birthday is in late May, and I view it as a personal slight when the team ruins their season before I even have a chance to go to Chase Field with any optimism while celebrating), I have let this team ruin too many summers as I expect excellence that is just is not going to be there as often as I hope.
Blame it on the year I was born - I was ten when they won the World Series, Randy Johnson won 4 Cy Young awards from my age 8-11, and I was spoiled. Visions of perpetual dynasties became the expectation in my young mind, and I’ve spent the last two decades letting the disparity of results torture my heart.
I am embarking on a personal journey of adjusting expectations, filling in ruts worn deep from un-returned loyalty and trying to keep my lifelong membership to the "True Fan" club. What is really true, is that I just can not live like this anymore. I can not expect this team to annually defy national pundits' predictions and sneak into the playoffs against every mark of empirical data. I need to enjoy being a fan again, and this is a way I hope to accomplish that goal.
Instead of asking, "Can the D’backs be good?" and letting that result eat at me when the answer is so often, "No", I am instead going to ask, "Can the team be better than expected?" This method works well with the current state of the team. When expectations are low, you do not have to overperform much.I am going to keep track of the D'backs expected and actual record each month using a completely subjective, back-of-the-envelope calculation to determine the team's success relative to expectations. This is a personal method for me judging if the team has a successful year.
The very un-scientific criteria is as follows:
The D'backs are expected to be terrible, not historically bad, but pretty bad. They are in the bottom fifth of MLB teams by most reasonable expectations. Putting them in this group, I expect their interactions with the following groups of teams to go like this:
Teams expected to reach the World Series (Dodgers, Braves, Astros, Jays): D'backs win one game out of every two series, roughly 1 win in 6.
Teams expected to be .500 or better (Twins, Mariners, Angels, Marlins): D'backs alternate series wins, starting the month with a series loss.
Teams expected to be under .500 (Reds, Tigers, Royals, Cubs, Rangers): D'backs alternate series wins, starting the month with a series win.
Teams expected to be terrible (Nats, Rockies, A's, D'backs, Guardians, Pirates, Orioles): D'backs win home series, lose away series.
*These teams are educationally but subjectively power-ranked good to bad, left to right in their respective tiers. Example - The Dodgers are the best World Series contender, and the Jays are the worst.
** I will re-categorize the teams at the beginning of each month depending on how their seasons fare at that point, as well as considering factors like injury to significant players.
Tough schedule in the opening month. The D’backs play 22 games, 5 games against teams expected to go to the World Series (Dodgers, Astros), 13 against teams expected to make the playoffs (Padres, Mets, Cardinals) and 4 against teams expected to be terrible (Nats).
Actual record (so far): 8-12
Since we already exceeded expectations according to my criteria this month, I'll count April as a minor success. If we grab even one win in the first three of this four game set against St. Louis, all the better. It is nice to know we could lose today and tomorrow, and this month would still be ok. That is a much easier feeling to have than railing against the baseball gods for us not being over .500.
The lights out starting pitching carried the team, and I expect regression to the mean there and in all areas. Perhaps the Strom factor means the negative starter regression will not be as severe as the numbers say, and we are on to something good here!
Per my beginning of the year Power Rankings, here are the expected records each month the rest of the way:
September / October: 11-21
Total Record: 62-100
I predicted 72 wins in the SnakePit poll to begin the year, so you can count me as an optimist (read: homer), but boy, I might be really bad at counting, as the above math may indicate.