Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Are the Diamondbacks here to stay? Part 1

I'm looking at the D-Backs team stat page, trying to figure out how any possible Arizona collapse could happen, as do many who look at the difference in the team's runs scored and runs allowed (-13) and figure they see a team getting "lucky".

Personally, I say balderdash.

Balderdash. See? I said it. Twice.

To have a collapse, there has to be a reason behind the collapse besides a perceived change in fortune. Will the collapse come because of the starting rotation? The offense? The bullpen? All three? Let's look at some of the Diamondback players and see if we can spot anyone who is ripe to regress, starting with the hitters:

  • Luis Gonzalez, .309/.407/.475 - Hm. No, not here. As injury-riddled as last season was for Gonzo, as poor as he is defensively, he still produced offensively. Many seemed to be fooled by his 2004 .259 batting average as some sign, along with the career-low 105 games played, that he was all but done. Guess what? (BUZZ!) Incorrect. He's played in all but one of Arizona's games, he's still drawing walks, and he's still hitting for some power -- although I admit, this is likely the area where his age is showing. I seriously doubt if he'll ever SLG .500 the rest of his career, but .475 for this season is plenty maintainable (if that's a word) for Gonzo.
  • Troy Glaus, .261/.358/.584 - No, not here, either. The only thing to potentially slow Glaus down was the injury-bug, which hasn't hit as of now. These are exactly the kinds of numbers Glaus should be doing, as they are indicative of the kind of player he is. He still has the potential for injury, but those numbers will likely stay steady.
  • Craig Counsell, .310/.424/.428 - Ah, here we are, ripe and ready for collapse. Compare his current line to his career line of .264/.350/.349, and it's easy to see that the funny-batting-stanced-one is due for a big time regression. The only thing about it is that Counsell really isn't far ahead in the categories that would seem to benefit from increased OBP and SLG. He's scored 22 runs, which projects to about 78 over the course of a full season, and his career average over a 162 game season is 72. He's driven in 12, which projects to 43 over the full season, and that's exactly what he's averaged over his career over a 162 game stretch. So unfortunately, while Counsell's numbers will fall back to Earth at some point, it just won't have much impact on the D-Backs offense as a whole.
  • Remember way back when I was laughing at the Mets for signing Doug Mientkiewicz, saying that Omar Minaya likely would've been better served to sign Tony Clark? Heh, well...okay, I'm not really right, and that comment was only about 60% serious. But still, Clark: .284/.351/.522, and the Long, Complicated Last Name is at: .197/.300/.350, and Clark makes about 3 million less than the LCLN. Will Clark regress (no, not the Thrill Will Clark, you doofuseseses)...ahem. Will Tony Clark regress? His OBP is 10 points above his career average, his SLG is 40 points above career average, and he's 32 years old. In other words, I dunno. But if the D-Backs keep Clark in mainly against righties (where he runs a 1.122 OPS), than the chances are much better. Only has 67 at-bats to this point.
  • Jose Cruz, Jr., .259/.420/.519 - Cruz only has 54 at-bats, so his season (already marred by a trip to the DL) has a ways to go as well. His m.o. is basically the same as Clark's -- keep him in against righties as much as possible, and that line won't see a lot of regression. Cruz has great on-base skills, but not that good, and his SLG would be a lot more believeable around the .450 mark. We'll see how he's used.
  • Chad Tracy, .278/.294/.486 - a bit of an odd case, as he's way above his SLG from last season (.407), but way below his walk rate (0.26 walks per plate appearance this year, compared with 0.85 last year). In addition, he's a young player, still, so breakouts in one area or another are possible...ah, heck. I'm just too lazy to look up his minor league stats, that's all. Perhaps Jim could chime in on this, but for me Tracy is an unknown factor. He'll maintain those numbers unless he does better, or worse. That walk rate is mighty low, though.

That's really it. Counsell will come down, but not stall the offense significantly, Clark and Cruz are in over their heads, but only if Arizona keeps putting them in vs. left-handed pitching. They both can rake vs. righties.

There is a flipside, however, and that's the possibility a few players are performing below expectations. Shawn Green is the posterboy here, as he's walking and collecting extra-base hits at a lower level than we're accustomed to seeing. Alex Cintron is a tough case, too, as he's a fairly inconsistent player. Has the potential to hit much better, but probably will stay around his current output.

So, in essence, if an Arizona collapse is to come, it won't be from the offense. They aren't performing at any level I wouldn't expect them to be able to continue, and could possibly get a skoche better if Green figures out where his power and on-base ability has gone.


Jim McLennan said...

The run differential is somewhat unreliable, because almost a quarter (50/208) of all our runs allowed came in just 3 of our 45 games, which we lost 16-6, 16-2 and 18-3. Take those (and our three biggest wins, for balance) away, and our run differential is then +10. Given this, I don't think we've been all that lucky.

It's certainly true that we've not had major over-performers; it's been more the case of a lot of people performing slightly better than expectations. I notice no mention of the sucking black hole of offense on the team, Royce Clayton; his removal would be the poster-boy for addition by subtraction.

Glaus's knee if definitely an area of concern; watch him try to run. Last season fell apart after Sexson was lost; let's hope the same doesn't happen here. But on the other hand, Glaus's abysmal hitting with RISP likely can't last.

My concerns are mostly in the outfield; if anyone gets hurt there, we play (for some unfathomable reason) Quinton McCracken, who makes Clayton seem like the second coming of Babe Ruth. There's no depth at all. Green's poor performance wasn't a surprise to me, and I don't expect much improvement: I think signing him to a long-term contract was a bad move.

Tracy's sudden inability to draw a walk is puzzling, especially since it doesn't seem to have hurt his batting average much - down only seven points. In the minors, he had a walk every 12.2 ABs, not too far from last year's production (10.7 AB/BB). This year? 4 walks in 144 at-bats. I'm stumped here.

We need to get more production - or OBP, or anything - out of the #2 spot, where we're currently hitting only .193. And better results with RISP would certainly help. But overall, this team has performed about as anticipated.

Daniel said...

I had heard the explanation on the run differential and failed to mention it. Thanks.