clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews: #8, Mike Hazen

After years of building a younger and stronger team, Mike Hazen’s efforts led the Diamondbacks to success. 

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Mike Hazen jumps in the pool when wild card berth was clinched.
Mike Hazen jumps in the pool when wild card berth was clinched.
Photo by Wilfred Perez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rating: 8.49

Age: 47

2023 Stats: Starting with a wild card berth, reached the World Series.

Regular Season win-loss was 84-78, 2nd in NL West, negative 15 run differential.

2024 Status: GM for the Diamondbacks. His contract runs through the 2028 season.

Vote breakdown:

AZ Snake Pit

Introduction.

Who is Mike Hazen?

  • He thinks several steps ahead.
  • He keeps detached from players to make objective decisions.
  • He has synergistic impact on the team with Torey Lovullo.

This season, Mike Hazen faced huge challenges. In the regular season, because he took effective action to address several seemingly intractable problems, the team did barely well enough to obtain a wild card berth. In the postseason, because he had built a young team with excellent preparation, the team beat some great teams to reach the World Series. And they lost with honor in the World Series.

2023 Review

Each category (there are nine categories) will receive a grade on a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 is poor and 4 is excellent.

Draft

“Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher.” - Oprah Winfrey.

The following two tables show that while Mike Hazen was GM, the Diamondbacks drafted 13 prospects who are taking the team higher. Green text indicates a large positive impact in 2023. Their 2023 impact follows:

  • Earned a total of 16.2 bWAR this season.
  • Provided starting pitching for 65 games this season (important because Bumgarner was released).
  • Earned an extra draft pick by winning Rookie-of-the-Year.
Data from Baseball Reference.
Data from Baseball Reference.

Another aspect to drafting is the rule 5 draft. In December 2022, although the Diamondbacks passed the Major league portion, they picked three right-handed pitchers in the minor league portion.

  • For the Diamondbacks, Peter Solomon pitched in relief in the Majors (13.1 innings with an ERA of 12.15). At the end of the season, he became a free agent.
  • Taylor Rashi pitched in AA (12.1 innings with an ERA of 0.73). FanGraphs’ Roster resource shows him on the list of AAA relief pitchers.
  • Denny Larrondo pitched in A (11.2 innings with an ERA of 6.17). FanGraphs Roster Resource shows him on the list of A starting pitchers.

Mike Hazen’s success in the draft led to remarkable contributions in 2023. The score of 4 (the highest possible) was unchanged from last year’s 4.0.

Player Development

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” — Harvey S. Firestone

For years, the Diamondbacks’ big problem was developing starting pitchers. Piecoro’s quote was reason for optimism. Sadly, it did not happen in 2022. Only 8% of the non-bullpen games were started by a pitcher developed by the diamondbacks. Instead, Bumgarner pitched with a well below average 82 ERA+.

This season, 44% of the non-bullpen games were started by a pitcher who was drafted and developed by the Diamondbacks. That is an extraordinary increase from the 8% in the prior season.

Because of this extraordinary improvement in a critical area of need, the score was bumped up to 3.8. It would have been higher except compared to other teams, the Diamondbacks’ pitching remains at best average.

Trades

“Learn from each and every horse you ride. Every horse has something to teach you, and sometimes you don’t realize what that lesson is until years later!” – Carl Hester

Three trades likely added just enough team wins to reach the postseason.

The trade that had the most positive impact was trading away Daulton Varsho to obtain Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. This trade was a huge win because acquiring Gurriel and Moreno improved the team enough to reach the postseason. Together they earned 7.3 bWAR.

  • Acquired as a backup catcher, by August Gabriel Moreno was clearly the best Diamondbacks catcher (defensively and offensively). He will very likely be the primary catcher for several years (team control via arbitration through 2028).
  • Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. became a free agent at the end of the season. In the offseason, The Diamondbacks re-signed him to a three year contract with an option for a fourth year.

A second trade with positive impact was trading away Josh Rojas, Dominic Calzone, and Ryan Bliss (minors) to obtain Paul Sewald. Because the role of closer was amorphous, acquiring Paul Sewald who pitched as the main closer made a huge impact. That much needed addition helped the bullpen settle into defined roles and thereby reach their full potential. Compared to the previous season, the bullpen improved by 7 wins-above-average (negative 9.2 to negative 2.5).

The second trade led to acquiring Jace Peterson to replace Josh Rojas. Chad Patrick (AA starting pitcher) was traded away.

“Obviously with the previous trade [to acquire Sewald], we opened up a little bit of a hole [by trading away Josh Rojas] in that area [bench player for infield positions] on our team, and we felt like this [acquisition of Jace Peterson] was a natural fit coming back.” — Mike Hazen

Because of the huge positive impact of these two trades, both this season and through 2028, this score was bumped up to 4.

FA signings

“I am dead set against free agency. It can ruin baseball.” — George Steinbrenner

This year, the free agent signings were low cost, with durations of one or two years. Let’s look at the five most significant.

Evan Longoria, Third Base. He earned 0.5 WAR. He played third base in 41 games, and he played DH/PH in 33 games. He was granted free agency.

Miguel Castro, Relief Pitcher. He earned 0.4 WAR. Although his 101 ERA+ was average, several metrics showed he was among the best pitchers in the Majors. He is an elite pitcher against right-handed batters. His Diamondbacks’ contract extends through 2024.

Scott McGough, Relief Pitcher. He earned 0.1 WAR. His Diamondbacks’ contract extends through 2024.

Andrew Chafin, Relief Pitcher. He earned negative 0.3 WAR. On 1 August he was traded for Strzelecki (AA relief pitcher).

Zach Davies, Starting Pitcher. In April, the Diamondbacks released Madison Bumgarner. At that point, they very much needed Zach Davies as a starting pitcher. It’s great that Zach Davies started 18 games. Not so good was his 62 ERA+, but at least it was higher than Bumgarner’s 43 ERA+.

Here are links to season reviews of Evan Longoria, Miguel Castro, Scott McGough, Andrew Chafin, and Zach Davies.

Waivered players. Four players were claimed on waivers. Seby Zavala was the only player with positive WAR (0.2 WAR). He was traded away in the acquisition of right-handed third-baseman Eugenio Suarez. The other two who played in the Majors were relief pitchers Cole Sulser (5.1 innings with 6.7 ERA) and Peter Solomon (13.1 innings with 12.15 ERA). As of 15 December, none of the four players are Diamondbacks.

Here are links to season reviews for Seby Zavala, Cole Sulser, and Peter Solomon.

Because two very positive signings (Longoria and Castro), because Davies was an upgrade from Bumgarner (albeit a below average starter), and because the waiver claim of Zavala, the score was bumped up to 3.0.

In Season Roster Management

“In baseball, you don’t know nothing.” — Yogi Berra

Three positives about roster management:

Addressed Problems. The biggest problem areas were addressed at least adequately, albeit weaknesses remained. The problems addressed were: add a right-handed batter to the lineup, improve catcher performance, improve bullpen perfromance (it’s been a problem for years, third base performance (it’s been a problem for years), and what to do about underperforming players (like Bumgarner with 2 years remaining on his contract).

Less Injuries. Because of how the Diamondbacks used the DH and bench players to rest everyday players, the value lost due to injuries fell 42% (from $19.2 Million to $11.2 Million per Spotrac). Team youth and athleticism may have contributed, too.

Emphasis on Defense. My view is that roster management includes assigning players to positions where they are great defenders (put them in positions to succeed). The Diamondbacks’ ranking in Defensive Runs Saved improved from sixth highest in 2022 to fourth highest in 2023 per The Fielding Bible. Two positive comparisons stood out:

  • Catcher improved from negative 10 DRS to positive 12 DRS.
  • 2B/3B/SS improved from negative 19 DRS to positive 1 DRS.

Three indications of better in-season roster management are problems were addressed, injuries were reduced, and defense was improved. Their score was bumped up to 3.0.

Budget Management/Asset Allocation

”Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” — Ayn Rand

Two factors will guide my review:

  • Are the Diamondbacks increasing their active-roster spending on pitching?
  • Are the Diamondbacks extricating themselves from their aging veterans?

The following tables shows the active-roster spending on starting pitching and relief pitching. Spotrac data for spending was modified to remove spending on Madison Bumgarner, Mark Melancon, and Ian Kennedy because their performance was below replacement value (the value of a newly promoted minor league pitcher). Their removal gave a more realistic view of active spending.

Data from Spotrac, modified to remove specific players.
Data from Spotrac, modifed to remove specific players.

The tables show that in 2023 spending doubled (increased 95% for starters and 120% for relievers). Nevertheless, further increases are expected in 2024.

In comparing 2022 and 2023, the aging veterans (and their ages) were identified as: Madison Bumgarner 33, Nick Ahmed 33, David Peralta 35, Mark Melancon 38, and Ian Kennedy 38.

During the 2022 season, David Peralta was traded for Christian Cerda (catcher in minors). Before the 2023 season, the Diamondbacks bought out Ian Kennedy’s option year. During the 2023 season Bumgarner and Ahmed were released.

My rough comparison (could be plus/minus a few million dollars) of the aging veterans for two seasons follows:

  • 2022 salary $48.8 Million, performance negative 1.8 bWAR
  • 2023 salary $39.6 Million, performance negative 0.8 bWAR

The comparison shows that in 2023, the Diamondbacks continued to be negatively impacted by their aging veterans.

The scoring has a positive consideration and a negative consideration:

  • The Diamondbacks increased their active-roster spending on pitching (both starters and relievers).
  • The Diamondbacks continued to be negatively impacted by their aging veterans. Fortunately that negative impact is smaller in 2024 ($14 Million in dead salary for Bumgarner).

The overall score was bumped up to 3.0.

Coaching Staff

“He [Torey Lovullo] has a good way, win or lose, to ensure that the players are focused on the things they need to be focused on. And he has grown tremendously, as a manager, in the sense of pushing these guys in ways that he uses those relationships, that he builds and he invests in, in a very positive manner. But he’s tough on these guys, too. He holds them accountable....” — Mike Hazen

As I expressed in years prior, Torey Lovullo is a top-five manager in baseball. And my opinion of him only increased because his underdog team making it to the World Series. Baseball America voted Torey Lovullo Manager of the Year for 2023.

Brent Strom is the best pitching coach in the Majors. And his assistants are great too, judging by a comment by Ryan Thompson. Thompson said he was thriving on conversations with 5 or 6 Diamondbacks’ pitching coaches.

Dave McKay is legendary in coaching baserunning. The Diamondbacks speedy and skilled baserunning easily causes concern and fear in other teams

This season, the bullpen’s results increased dramatically, no doubt Mike Fetters was responsible for a lion’s portion of the increase.

Tony Perezchica talked with players to share his wisdom about how to be a world-class defender. One example is Geraldo Perdomo, whose defensive skill at shortstop is among the best in the Majors

Jeff Banister is an excellent bench coach who is fully ready to manage a team.

“The coaching staff was fantastic this year. We had some hardships this year. I’m not going to lie. We had some tough conversations. We challenged one another. At the end of it, we were there for one reason and that was the players. I said to all the coaches, “you guys are all coming back.” — Torey Lovullo, November 2023

Although the highest score is 4.0, the overall score was 4+.

Analytics/Technology

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Not enough detail is published to allow an in-depth review. Therefore, I will jump to the bottom line.

The scoring has a positive consideration and a negative consideration:

  • In 2023, the Diamondbacks analytics department had 15 people, ranked as the 22nd among MLB teams. Although quality is more important than quantity, my experience is that multi-tasking is over-rated. Making decisions what to do and not-do is dangerous because often value is found in the unexpected.
  • Possibly in late 2022 or early 2023, the Diamondbacks completed a state-of-the-art hitting and pitching lab. The benefits could possibly reach beyond my optimistic expectations.

The overall score was bumped up to 3.2.

Culture/Ethics

“Positivity is like a boomerang. The more we put it out there, the more it comes back to us. — Jon Gordon

One thing. This score is all about establishing a culture of winning. A team not expected to reach the playoffs, making it to the World Series, is a strong indication of a culture of winning. To make it to the World Series, they won several series against great teams. That did not happen by luck.

Although the highest score is 4.0, the overall score was 4+.

Summary.

The following table shows the scores for each of the categories.

Makakilo.

The Diamondbacks success is the nine categories reflects years of Mike Hazen building the team and the organization. His efforts led to the Diamondbacks’ success.