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At this time last year, I warned you all, in somewhat apocalyptic terms, that the 2005 Diamondbacks were going to be a truly wretched and awful team.

And indeed they were. Second place? Yeah, yeah. Don't be fooled. Like a dead skunk in the middle of the road, they stunk to high heaven.

They had the second-best record in the 2005 National League West, which is an achievement that belongs to an order of magnitude that does not involve excellence. By definition. They were the second tallest jockey, stuck playing basketball. (The prospect of examining this team in depth frightened off the entire Roster, which is why this Preview is actually a Group Effort, assembled from bits and pieces of commentary.)

But there's more, folks. That 77-85 record that they posted? That represented over-achievement, in the won-loss column, on a truly historic scale. They scored just 696 runs and allowed 856 - Pythagoras expected them to go 64-98. In that sense, their 2005 won-loss record was one of the greatest flukes in the history of baseball. Only six teams, ever, have exceeded their Pythagorean Expected W-L record by a margin greater than the 2005 Diamondbacks. They rank seventh luckiest, in a list with 2282 entries.

They were really, really bad, and really, really fortunate.

And yet, and yet... The Blue Jays in 2005 prompted some of us to wonder if an abnormally large number of lopsided victories could sufficiently throw a team runs scored and allowed completely out of kilter with their won-loss record. Theoretically perhaps, although in the case of the 2005 Blue Jays... no. It defnitely didn't. But the Diamondbacks may be another story.

The 2005 Diamondbacks had a special gift for losing games by enormous margins. I wrote about this at the time. To recap:

The 2005 D'Backs two games by eight runs (11-3, 11-3).

They lost three games by ten runs (10-0, 10-0, 16-6).

They lost one game by twelve runs (14-2).

They lost one game by thirteen runs (14-1).

They lost three games by fourteen runs (16-2, 17-3, 18-4)

They lost one game by fifteen runs (18-3).

They won 1 game by eight runs (8-0).

In these twelve games, the D'Backs went 1-11: they scored 35 runs and allowed 155 runs.

In their other 150 games, they went 76-74. They scored 661 runs and gave up 701.

They were still over-performing, as you can see, largely because of their nifty 28-18 record in games decided by a single run. That was the best figure in the NL.

I'm willing to entertain the idea that the D'Backs grotesque record in blowouts may be a little misleading. While beating the other fellow senseless is certainly a reliable indicator of quality, losing in the same fashion could, conceivably, simply indicate a managerial choice, rather than a true level of ability. The choice, in this case, would be to send someone like Frank Menechino in to pitch. In the case of the Diamondbacks, that would have been Kerry Ligtenberg or someone equivalent. I suppose you could make that argument. But I don't know if you'll actually convince anyone with it...

Anyway, as we all know, the desert is where old Blue Jays have been ending up lately. And so Carlos Tosca, Shawn Green, and Brandon Lyon will be joined this summer by Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson. Will they be any better? I don't see any reason why they would be any better...

The 2005 Diamondbacks were 10th in the NL in runs scored, and the only thing they had going for them was their ability to hit home runs. They responded to this by trading their top home run hitter (Troy Glaus) to the American League, and moving their second-best home run hitter (Tony Clark) to the bench. Perhaps they think that getting rid of the home runs was the magic formula that turned the White Sox into world beaters. At any rate, there will be six new regulars at the eight everyday spots (acknowledging that one of the six is a returnee moved to a new position.)

Johnny Estrada has come over from Atlanta, and he surely ought to be an upgrade on Chris Snyder, last year's catcher. Estrada was actually an All-Star just two years ago. The worry here is health. Estrada was troubled by neck and back problems last year, many of them stemming from that notorious collision at home plate when he was bowled over by Darin Erstad.

The Snakes have handed the first base job to Conor Jackson, their 2003 first round pick. Jackson did nothing coming off the bench in his first taste of major league action, but he's got nothing to prove at AAA - he was hitting .354 when he got the call. The incomparable Orlando Hudson takes over at second base, replacing Craig Counsell, who slides over to shortstop. All Box readers know what Hudson brings - he chips in with the bat, and plays the best second base in the majors. The addition of Hudson ought to improve the infield defense... but because this move was accompanied by the shift of a 35 year old second baseman to shortstop, it might not. Counsell is a good second baseman, if not as good as Hudson - who is, after all? - but I think he's a little overmatched at short. On the whole, I think the defense up the middle will be worse than last year. And while Counsell is supposed to be ready to start the season, whenever I see the words "labrum" and "tear" used together... it makes me wonder. At any rate, with Counsell's recent injury and Stephen Drew not being ready, GM Josh Byrnes plucked Alberto Callaspo out of the Angel middle infield logjam. Callaspo fields very well, but it would be a surprise to see him post a .700 OPS in BOB. Replacing Troy Glaus at third base will be Chad Tracy, who spent 2005 moving between first base and right field. Tracy had a very nice season (.308, .359, .553 with 27 HRs), he's still just 25 years old, and one would think that being allowed to settle in at one position should only help.

Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green would have been a wonderful corner outfield tandem in 2001, but alas the calendar pages turn and assets become liabilities. They're still above average offensive players, but there was a time when each could be regarded as a Big Scary Bat. Those days are gone, and with Glaus in Toronto and Clark (Clark?!) on the bench, this lineup simply does not have a Big Scary Bat. The Snakes do have phenoms rightfielder Carlos Quentin and centerfielder Chris Young waiting in the wings. Quentin has mastered Triple A, and will probably be in the lineup by July, while Young might be a little longer in getting there. In the meantime, Eric Byrnes makes a nice placeholder in centerfield, if he rebounds from a miserable 2005 to his career norms.

Tony Clark does not have a regular position, despite going .304, .366, .636 with 30 HRs in just 349 at bats. One would think Bob Melvin would try very hard to get that bat in the lineup, however. Chris Snyder will probably be the backup catcher, although Koyie Hill is out of options and will have to clear waivers. The Diamondbacks just unloaded utility infielder Alex Cintron, but Damion Easley is still around to provide support in the infield. Jerry DaVanon will start the year as the fourth outfielder. There isn't even room for Luis Terreo at AAA, with Young, Quentin, and Jerry Hairston already pencilled in for the Tucson outfield. Terreo is out of options and will probably end up on waivers.

The Diamondbacks have one very good starting pitcher - Brandon Webb went 14-12, 3.54 on last year's terrible team. He'll enjoy having Orlando Hudson scooping up everything hit to the right side of the infield. After Webb... oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Erstwhile Toronto closer Miguel Batista is pretty clearly the number two man in this group. El Artista did have his best seasons (2001 and 2003) in the desert, and while he's not the most consistent pitcher who ever lived, he'll probably have enough outings when his stuff is working to battle the league to a draw. I think we all understand that Russ Ortiz was never as good as some of his bright and shiny W-L records made him seem. Ortiz was 99-56 in the six seasons preceding 2005, with seasons of 17, 18, and 21 wins. He's always been lucky, and last year was no exception. His 5-11 record in 2005 was just as misleading as his 21-7 mark in 2003. He pitched nowhere near well enough to win five games. He was unbelievably bad, and it seems very unlikely that he could really be that awful again this year. Brad Halsey (8-12, 4.61) is the LH starter, and while he had some truly terrible starts last year, he throws strikes and is certainly still young enough (25 this year) to develop some more. Which can not be said for the fifth starter, Orlando Hernandez. I love El Duque, and I hope he pitches forever - I would just hate to be a fan of a team that was counting on him to do so. Hernandez is possibly the closest thing to Satchel Paige any of us will see in our time (someday I will assemble the parallels!), and as long as he can lift his arm above his shoulder, he can retire major league hitters, with guile if he doesn't have any gas. But there is no chance whatsoever that he'll be able to take the ball every fifth day. I trust they realize this in Arizona. Claudio Vargas is also in the mix. The closer should be Jose Valverde, who did a very fine job over the second half of last season. Other bullpen arms should include Luis Vizcaino, acquired along with El Duque in the Vazquez trade, the eternal Jason Grimsley, and Brandon Lyon, who began last year as the closer and actually saved a whole bunch of games before his arm fell off.

Ah... they were bad before, and they'll be bad again.

Prediction: 69-93, Fifth Place.

More Fear and Loathing in Phoenix: the 2006 Diamondbacks | 10 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mick Doherty - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 10:58 AM EST (#142767) #
69 wins? Sir, I'll take the "under" on that one!
Gitz - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:53 PM EST (#142795) #
Hmm. Dr. Doherty, I'll take you up on that bet! I say a surprise 74 wins -- which would leave them, what, five games out of first? Hell, they may be buyers at the all-star break!
Mick Doherty - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 04:20 PM EST (#142802) #
You want to bet my dad on that? How odd. (He is a registered member here, incidentally.) I'm no doctor, he's the one with the PhD!

But if your end of the bet involves a BB publication of you hugging and kissing a life-size cutout of Jeremy Giambi, I may just take you up on that bet. I see the Snakes at 58-104.
Gitz - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 04:24 PM EST (#142807) #
Considering your success rate on your predictions of late (John Halama, anyone?), I'd be happy to risk a picture standing next to a cut-up of Jeremy Giambi, which I presume is tattered and bruised and smells like Otto?
Keith Talent - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 07:11 PM EST (#142832) #
So, I'm clicking on Magpie's name to see how many other recent articles he's written recently and I see he's been saving himself. Probably my 2 favourite features in Batter's Box history have been Magpie's piece on Dave Stieb, and the 2005 Diamondbacks preview.

Is Magpie the in-house expert on ridiculing the Arizona Diamondbacks? From where did this obsession spawn? Will this continue to be the only team he previews with such well-researched jabs? I hope so.

Is Little Napoleon in Arizona now? Hey, how about that Wally Backman!
CaramonLS - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 07:59 PM EST (#142836) #
Is there any concievable way to get Brandon Webb out of the Desert?

Didn't he have one of the best ERAs last season not affected by defense or something similar?
Magpie - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 09:26 PM EST (#142844) #
From where did this obsession spawn?

It just happened. The preview last season was an emergency pinch-hit at the last minute - Hunter Thompson was on my mind, and when I realized that Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb were the only guys with more than four wins... I mean, the 1962 Mets had more guys with four wins.

Then I was following them last year because I had my eye on the NL West all season. And every ten days or so, the D'Backs would lose a game by some absolutely ridiculous margin. The sort of thing that only happens when high school girls are playing the 1927 Yankees. It was just weird. The fact that they finished second anyway... well, this was one of the weirdest teams ever. Who could resist?

John Northey - Friday, March 17 2006 @ 10:55 PM EST (#142847) #
Wow. Just 2 guys over 4 wins with 2 more at 4 wins? Weird. I had to look up some of the pathetic teams from history to compare.

1899 Cleveland Spiders - the definition of horrible had 2 guys at 4 wins.

1916 A's - Just 36 wins - 2 guys above 2 wins (both in double digits so they had one more 10 game winner than the snakes)

1962 Mets - 4 guys over 4 wins, one with 10 on the nose

2003 Tigers - 119 loses - 3 guys over 4 wins but no one had 10

Wow. That was a historic season. I could only find one team with fewer guys over 4 wins, the 1899 Spiders with 0. The Jays in '81 & '77 had 4, 5 in '79 (their worst loss total). Also was surprised no one on the '03 Tigers made it to 10 wins. Fun stuff.
HippyGilmore - Saturday, March 18 2006 @ 03:38 AM EST (#142858) #

A...slightly different opinion on the D-Backs prospects for a successful 2006 season.
zeppelinkm - Saturday, March 18 2006 @ 11:13 AM EST (#142859) #
That article says if they stay healthy they might return to the world series.


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