After this afternoon’s loss to the Angels, the D-backs have a spring record of 5-10, with one game ending tied. This doesn’t mean much, but today was a bit of a flashback to the opening weekend of the season, in terms of the team’s pitching. Except that, today, most of the runs were given up by Zach Davies, who is expected to be part of the team’s Opening Day rotation. Overall, the D-backs have a pre-season ERA of 6.80, which ranks 27th in the majors. That’s despite shutting out their opponents twice, tied for most in the majors. Overall, teams have been hitting at a .305 average off them, which at the risk of stating the obvious, is definitely more than we’d like.
Things are only a little better on the hitting side of the equation, where the Diamondbacks’ .719 OPS is 25th in the majors. They’re below average in all three of the metrics which go into that. One positive is that they are doing well on the base-paths, with 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts. But given the new rules changes in affect, limiting pickoffs and increasing the size of the bases. you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the number seem well up around spring training generally. Last year, the Milwaukee Brewers were the only team to average more than one SB per game. This year, nine teams currently fall into that category, led by the Reds, who are 27:3 over their 17 games to date.
Let’s burrow down to the individual level and see whose numbers still look impressive, as we reach roughly the middle of the pre-season. I’ve excluded the players who were mentioned in last week’s piece, and as there I’m highlighting one starting pitcher, one relief pitcher and a position player.
Corbin Carroll. Who else could it be today? It’s probably safe to say that spring performance were not a significant factor in giving him the second-largest contract in Diamondbacks’ history by total value. But it certainly can’t have hurt that he has not only hit .333, he has been willing to amble to first as well, with more than twice as many walks (7) as strikeouts (3). That all adds up to a triple-slash line of .333/.520/.556 for a 1.076 OPS. There had been some concern expressed. after he had been sat for the last couple of games. But it all makes considerably more sense now. Certainly more so than Torey Lovullo’s statement that the manager “just decided to do something different”!
Scott McGough. It looks increasingly like McGough has locked up a position in the Arizona bullpen. And if the pre-season is any guide, it will quickly be high-leverage work, having made the transition back to North America look very easy. How simple? He has faced fifteen batters in spring, and only one has reached base. Scott has pitched 4.2 hitless innings, with one walk and six strikeouts. He has also been dialing up groundballs, with seven of his outs coming that way, compared to just one in the air. That also bodes well for his performance over the next two seasons under contract.
Tommy Henry. What seemed like a foregone conclusion - Drey Jameson would get the fifth starter’s job - now seems like there may still be a competition in it. For Henry and Jameson’s most recent outings kinda went in opposite directions, with the former looking particularly impressive over four shutout innings against the Rangers. It was a far cry from his first outing, where his earned runs allowed matched his out recorded (four of each). He is showing exactly the kind of trend which you’d want to see, improving each time he takes the mound. The saying about, it’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish, could end up being true for this battle.
Jake McCarthy. Jake’s numbers last year were certainly boosted by a .349 BABIP that would have put him in the top ten among qualifying hitters. Regression has proven a harsh mistress this spring, with McCarthy’s BABIP dropping to just .154. He is still also looking for his first extra-base hit, and as a result. has an OPS of only .421, while having more plate-appearances than anyone else on the roster. The lack of power continues a trend from last year, where he carries an ongoing streak of 87 at-bats since his last home-run into the 2023 campaign. His last long ball came on Septembe 9, and that was in Coors Field. so probably deserves an asterisk.
Andrew Chafin. Chafin signed a $6.25 million contract this winter, to return to the Diamondbacks and become their most expensive reliever for 2023. Given that, the spring results have definitely not been what we wanted to see. Across his 2.2 innings, he has allowed four hits and four earned runs: but the main issue has been five walks to the sixteen batters faced, compared to only two strikeouts. His velo also appears to be lower than it was last season. Still very early days, and without question a small sample size, so there’s time to turn this around. This may well end up being the falsest of spring concerns: for the D-backs’ sake, let’s hope so.
Tyler Gilbert. Gilbert’s spectacular fall from grace continues. The man who threw a no-hitter in his first start found himself taken off the 40-man roster this winter, going unclaimed by any other team. Performances this spring havedone nothing to indicate any of that was a mistake. He has allowed 15 hits in only 5.1 innings, and with just a single strikeout among the 33 batters Gilbert has faced, it’s clear he isn’t fooling anyone so far. There’s a real risk his career trajectory will end up mirroring that of Bobo Holloman, the only other pitcher with a no-hitter in their first start. Though Gilbert has already beaten Holloman, by appearing in a second major-league season at least.