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2011: The Year of the Snake

Posted By Zack Jones On Aug 25 2010 @ 5:57 pm In Arizona Diamondbacks | 1 Comment

With the Arizona Diamondbacks year coming to yet another disappointing end, it’s time to forget everything from 2010 and start fresh with the hopes of 2011.  I realize that one could easily point to their awful record, terrible timely hitting and historically bad relief pitching and say there is no shot that the D-Backs will be playing significant October baseball but I beg to differ.  It’s hard to find the positives but I think they can win the division next season. 

I’ll begin with the starting pitching.  One can hope Brandon Webb finally makes his long overdue return to the mound and possibly even to his old Cy Young form but I honestly am not holding my breath.  With that said, I still think the remaining starters can be a very effective unit.  With the emergence of Daniel Hudson (3-1, 1.72 ERA since being traded for at the deadline), Barry Enright (4-2, 2.73 ERA) and Ian Kennedy, who are 23, 24 and 25 respectively, the team seems to have found three young, solid arms to lead the rotation.  Plus, Joe Saunders, though he has struggled since being dealt to Arizona in the Dan Haren trade, would make a great third or fourth starter, leaving only the fifth spot open and someone can sign as a free agent or step up from the minors, possibly the minor league ace who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, Jarrod Parker…or maybe, just maybe Brandon Webb will be back.

Next is relief pitching.  Where does one begin with this bullpen?  11 pitchers who have thrown in relief for the D-Backs have an ERA over six, three of which have an astonishing ERA over ten.  My hope is that they can spend some of the money they shipped away at the trade deadline on relief pitching.  But if they are unable to do so, I still feel the bullpen can hold its own.  It seems that some of the late season call-ups, trade deadline relievers and the resurrection of former batting practice pitcher Juan Gutierrez, Kirk Gibson can pull a starter in the sixth or seventh and feel comfortable doing so.

I guess that only leaves position players and that, in my mind, isn’t half bad.  Yeah, one of the key parts of the offense, Mark Reynolds, is struggling to stay above .200 and is getting close to breaking his own strikeout record for the third year in a row, but there’s still hope.  Just one year earlier Reynolds finished the season with a .260 batting average, 44 homeruns and 223 strikeouts.  Those numbers sound familiar, don’t they?  Hmm…how about Ryan Howard?  In Howard’s 2009 campaign, where he finished third in the MVP vote, Howard hit .279, knocked out 45 homeruns and struck out 189 times, second only to Reynolds in whiffs.  If Mark, or the Sherriff as Mark Grace likes to call him, can repeat his ’09 season, the Diamondbacks are immediate contenders in the questionable NL West.  As far as the rest of the starters go, I think the only players who should be upgraded are Gerardo Parra and Stephen Drew.  I think most people familiar with the Diamondbacks agree that Parra isn’t the long term answer and that adding an all-star caliber left fielder could greatly improve our chances next year.  Now on to Drew.  I think he’s a great, pure, old school ball player.  Except that he just can’t keep a consistent bat to go along with gold glove level defense.  In 2008, Drew finished the season just shy of .300, hitting .291.  But his career average outside of that season is only .260 and without power, he really has become a liability.  As far as fixing the problems go, I would hope that the Diamondbacks try to lure Tampa Bay’s all-star left fielder Carl Crawford to the Valley but it’s unlikely.  I could see Arizona pursuing Jayson Werth or Brad Hawpe and have reasonable expectations to sign them.  And next year’s potential shortstop class is exceptionally deep.  The list includes Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Derek Jeter and Edgar Renteria.  Anyone of those shortstops would be an upgrade. 

I know it’s not the sexy pick but the playoffs are definitely in reach.  And the future beyond next year is promising as well.  In fact, in next year’s amateur draft, the D-Backs will have two picks in the top ten due to the fact that they never signed their first round pick from 2010 because he had some pretty serious arm injuries and the Diamondbacks didn’t want to invest their money into another injured pitcher. 

Only time will tell though…

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