Posted on: September 25, 2009 4:24 pm

Diamondbacks 2009 Season Report Card

I realize that there is still a week left in the regular season, but I wanted to post this while there is still a slim interest in the Diamondbacks.  I feel pretty confident that nothing much will change between now and the actual end of the season so I am giving my final grades for the 2009 Diamondbacks.  On the negative side, there are still some very bad areas, but on the positive side they have made some improvements since the All Star break.


Mid Season Grade: C
As was the case for Wally Pipp, Chris Snyder too found himself on the bench as Miguel Montero, his former backup, seized the most of his playing time and has emerged as one of the better hitting catchers in the game.  Montero is finishing the season with a .298 batting average ranking first among NL catchers.  The emergence of Montero as a hard hitting everyday catcher has been a bright spot in this much maligned season.
Final Grade: A

First Base
Mid Season Grade: F
At the All Star break the Diamondbacks did not have a true first baseman.  A trade that sent Tony Pena to the White Sox for Brandon Allen has potentially solved that problem.  Allen is better defensively than anybody on the roster currently, but he has yet to prove that he can hit at the major league level.  While it looks like he could be the first baseman of the future, the team still needs to get a proven first baseman for the next season or two.  
Final Grade: D

Second Base
Mid Season Grade: C
Another mid season change for the Diamondbacks occurred when they sent loafing journeyman Felipe Lopez to the Brewers.  This gave an opportunity for career minor leaguer Ryan Roberts to start most games at 2B.  Roberts has not disappointed so far, hitting a very respectable .285, more than exceeding all expectations.  While he is still somewhat unproven having only played in a total of 18 games prior to this season, he will most likely be as good as any free agent the Diamondbacks would acquire.  Expect him to start at 2B next season as the team will look to invest money elsewhere. 
Final Grade: B

Third Base
Mid Season Grade: B+ 
Mark Reynolds has emerged as one of the premier sluggers in the game today, likely finishing second in homeruns in MLB.  He broke his own strikeout record, but he still managed to have a decent batting average of .266 and OBP of .357.  Along with the strikeouts the other main criticism of Reynolds is that he is a defensive liability.  Reyonlds has improved his fielding percentage from last season, although he still ranks among the bottom for NL 3B.  However anyone who actually watches the games rather than just the box score will tell you that Reynolds does make some great plays, and he seems to have at least one or two every night.Final Grade: A

Mid Season Grade: B
At the time of the All Star break Stephen Drew had been improving his batting average every month after a terrible start to the season and he continued to hit well through July.  Unfortunately he was unable to continue that trend and has had a very disappointing season with the exceptions of June and July.  He hit .229 in August and to this point is hitting .244 in September with a season batting average of .259, well short of expectations.  After Drew posted a .291 average in 2008 the Diamondbacks and their fans had hopes that the highly touted shortstop would rank among the best in his position, which unfortunately has not been the case.  Drew has been very average to this point in his career.  His fielding percentage remains respectable, finishing in the top half of NL SS.
Final Grade: C-

Left Field
Mid Season Grade: D-
Left field turned from a very dark spot at the All Star break to one of the stronger positions thanks to AA call up Gerardo Parra.  Parra ranks second among all MLB rookies and third among every day Diamondback positions players in batting average with a very solid .291. He is a quick player in the outfield that can cover a lot of ground.  He still has room to improve defensively, but as with Ryan Roberts he has earned a spot on the roster next season. 
Final Grade: B

Center Field
Mid Season Grade: F 
This position is an embarrassment to the Diamondbacks.  Chris Young, who has started almost three times as many games in CF as the next highest player, has the worst batting average among all MLB CF with a pathetic .206.  He was sent down to the minors in August and only recently raised his average above .200.  His fielding percentage remains in the top ten of all MLB centerfielders but there have been times during the season where he has looked as distracted in the field as he has at the plate.
Final Grade: F

Right Field
Mid Season Grade: A
The prodigal son of the Diamondbacks, Justin Upton, has had a good season with a .304 batting average, 25 home runs, and 82 RBI.  Although these numbers are very respectable the team will need Upton to do more if they are to compete.  Upton still has much room to grow and his 2009 production is probably all that you can ask of him at this point.  He has shown his age at times during the season, playing the game with an exhibited cockiness and openly responding to fans’ taunts.  His fielding also remains an area that has a lot of room to improve.  He is the only right fielder in all of baseball to have double digit errors and his fielding percentage is well below the RF average.  He has a strong arm, which to this point has been a detriment, as he often overthrows the cut off man trying to gun someone down at the plate.  It is not unreasonable to call him the worst right fielder in baseball at this point in his career. 
Final Grade: A

Starting Pitching
Mid Season Grade: B 
The Diamondbacks have used a total of nine different pitchers to start games this season, with Dan Haren being the only one having an ERA under 4.00.  Max Scherzer has shown growth this season and more often than not is going at least six innings.  His pitch count remains an issue but he usually gives the team a chance to win.   In his first full season he has an ERA of 4.08.  Doug Davis has been hit or miss this season but he usually gets the job done.  Like Scherzer he’s typically good through six innings and usually keeps the team in the game. 

With the loss of Brandon Webb the team has struggled to find a fifth starter.  Most of the starts have gone to Yusmeiro Petit, who can either be solid through five innings or give up the game by the third.  Similarly, Billy Buckner has also been used to fill the void after Jon Garland was traded and has also been very inconsistent.  To say that the season was done after Brandon Webb was injured opening day may be a stretch, but they did not get a win from the fifth starter until May 22, and only have a total of 5 wins from Webb’s replacements.  Brandon Webb had at least 15 wins in his past three seasons. 
Final Grade: C

Mid Season Grade: F
The bullpen of the Diamondbacks has been among the worst in baseball, with their specialty being blown leads in the eighth inning.  There have been a few pitchers that have faired well this season, Clay Zavada has a 3.06 ERA and Chad Qualls has an ERA of 3.63, but the positive notes end there.  The Diamondbacks relievers as a whole have an ERA of 4.67, fifth worst in all of baseball.  Only the Indians, Orioles, Royals, and Nationals have worse.  The Diamondbacks relievers also rank seventh worst in batting average against, fifth in total earned runs, and seventh in losses.
Final Grade: F

Overall Grades

Mid Season Grade: D
The offense has done much better the second half of the season, moving up from fifteenth among NL teams in batting average to ninth.  They are also right in the middle for runs scored on the season, ranking eighth in the NL.

Overall Grade: C 

Mid Season Grade: F
Second most errors in the majors.
Overall Grade: F

Mid Season Grade: D

The team ERA is ranked 18 in MLB.  The Diamondbacks do have a bona fide ace pitcher, which is something many teams lack, and have two more reliable starters and a couple reliable pitchers in the bullpen.

Overall Grade: C-

Overall Team Grade

Mid Season Grade: F
This is a tale of two halves.  For the season as a whole the team deserves a F.  They will only finish with a few more wins than they did in their inaugural season of 1998.  However, for much of the second half the Diamondbacks have played around .500.  The last few weeks they haven’t faired very well and most of the games lately look like they don’t really want to be there.  But for a team that hasn’t really had any playoff hopes since early June it’s not completely unexpected.  The Diamondbacks have been very quiet in the last few off seasons, opting to utilize the players they have, this off season they will need to be much more active if they hope to compete in 2010.

Final Grade: D

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 23, 2009 2:05 pm

Brandon Webb Not Renegotiating

Brandon Webb has stated that he is unwilling to renegotiate his contract to stay with the Diamondbacks, and why should he.  He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past four years he’s pitched, and since 2003 the Diamondbacks have leaned on him for his consistent performance and his ability to give the team the chance to win.  He has a career era of 3.27, and a pitcher who doesn’t give up a lot of runs is crucial for a team that doesn’t score a lot of runs or scores them inconsistently.  For the past several years Brandon Webb has watched as pitchers who have not equaled him on the mound soar past him in terms of salary. 

For the Diamondbacks it will be a tough decision on whether or not to risk essentially six million dollars to keep Webb.  For other teams it is not.  Webb knows that there are many teams out there that can afford him and would be more than happy to take a chance on a one year contract for a pitcher of his caliber.  He’s had the surgery, he’s healthy (according to him), and he will be ready to go come spring training. 

The difficulty of the decision for the Diamondbacks is that they have to make the decision sight unseen, as Webb cannot pitch off a mound until December, about a month after the Diamondbacks are required to declare whether or not they will pick up his option.  The team has erred on contracts in the past with Chris Young, Eric Byrnes, and Chris Snyder, and will be hesitant to take any chances now.

But is Brandon Webb really that big of a risk?  If they keep him it will cost the team $8.5 million dollars, if they cut him it will be about $2, a $6 million dollar swing.  There are no pitchers on the free agent market that can equal a healthy Brandon Webb, or even a 75% Webb, for that amount of money.  In that context the decision to sign him should be automatic.  In addition to the lack of quality free agents that could be had for $6 million the Diamondbacks really only have to gamble on one year.  Even if Webb is not able to return to the form that he once had the worst that the team has lost is $6 million, not $30 million like they did with Byrnes.  The only two starters that will be in the rotation next year that are certain are Dan Haren and Max Scherzer.  Doug Davis will most likely be gone, and if the team elects not to pick up Webb’s option they will need to acquire three starters in the off season.

I’m not sure if the Diamondbacks front office has noticed, but the team didn’t play very well this year.  Starters often did their part only to either not get any run support or to have the bullpen give up the lead and undo the six or seven previous innings.  Those are two things that don’t really appeal to pitchers who rely on their team to give them a statistic critical in their free market value, a win.  This means that a free agent pitcher will likely have to have exhausted all other options before signing with the Diamondbacks, as was the case with Jon Garland this past off season.

Teams will low salaries need to take a few chances on players to win. Even when you take all the emotion and history out of the decision the best way for the Diamondbacks to proceed is to pick up the Webb option just because there isn’t anything out there that is better.  It is, maybe, their only option.

Below is a short list of free agent pitchers with a salary close to Webb’s 2010 option of $8.5 million.

Eric Bedard 09 Salary $7.7m, 2.82 ERA, out half the season
Kevim Escobar 09 Salary  $10m out all season
Rich Harden 09 Salary $7m, 4.09 ERA
John Lackey 09 Salary $10m, 3.56 ERA
Carl Pavano  09 Salary $1.5m, 4.82 ERA
Todd Wellemeyer 09 Salary $4m, 5.81 ERA
Jarrod Washburn 09 Salary $9.8m, ERA 3.78

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 21, 2009 1:59 pm

Next Up on the Eric Byrnes Show...Nothing!

The Eric Byrnes show has been cancelled, mercifully, leaving fans wishing that his contract could be cancelled just as easily.  The show was a constant reminder to fans that 15% of the team’s payroll is being used for an oft injured bench player hitting .214, essentially taking the Diamondbacks payroll from $73 million to $63 million, which would put them in the bottom seven in MLB payroll.  It was salt in the wounds of the Diamondbacks faithful, who, while watching their team likely be on the losing end of a game, also had to be subjected to Eric Byrnes Show promos during commercial breaks.   So while the bullpen was collapsing or the offense was being shut down, we also got to see clips of our $10 million dollar man playing mister mom, cleaning up goat crap at the zoo, or riding a jet ski.

To me the cancellation of that embarrassing TV show is symbolic more than anything.  This is the beginning of the cleansing process.  The staring lineup of the team next year will look very different than the starting lineup of the overachieving 2007 team, with only two players who started the majority of games that season expected to start next year as well.  The pitching staff may or may not have one player from the 07 rotation, depending on what happens to Brandon Webb.


The team is on the right track, as far as position players go, finally starting to gain legitimacy after what has been proven to be a fluke season where they won many games by just a run or two and were driven by the strength of their pitching staff.  Justin Upton has emerged as a star.  Miguel Montero has shown some of the potential that we’ve heard he had all along.  Mark Reynolds is showing himself to be a legitimate big league slugger.  Gerardo Parra is looking like he will be a fixture in the outfield.  It’s up to Josh Byrnes to build on this base and get a one or two veteran players that can provide leadership as well as on field production. 


There is a good chance that the Diamondbacks will miss the playoffs in 2010 as well, but at least we no longer have to see an organization’s mistake every time we watch a game and wonder what could have been if they had an extra $10 million dollars to spend.


Category: MLB
Posted on: September 14, 2009 1:07 pm

Quiet Sweep

If a team gets swept at home over the weekend and no one’s around to hear it does it make a sound.  Nope.  No one heard the Diamondbacks lose over the weekend, and probably not many people have noticed that they went 2-10 in their past twelve games.  With a full weekend of college and pro football games a team that has not been competitive since day one is merely a footnote on the local sports scene.  Friday night’s game didn’t even draw 20,000 fans, Sunday’s was only slightly better with 21,000.


I suppose fans have decided that they have seen all that the Diamondbacks have to offer this season, and that every game is a mere sequel to one that has already been played.  Yesterday it was the game where the starting pitcher gives up one run in six innings only to hand it over to the bullpen which promptly gives up four runs and the offense manages only seven hits.  Saturday night it was the game where the starter goes four innings and gives up six runs and the offense manages only seven hits, somewhat of a repeat of Friday’s game where the starter went three innings and gave up five runs.


There have been story lines that we have clung to this season, such as the pre All Star hype about Dan Haren being a Cy Young candidate, Mark Reynolds challenging Albert Pujols for the home run title, or the Diamondbacks playing the role of spoiler, but those discussions have now faded.  There have been exciting debuts of players such as Brandon Allen, who a few weeks ago looked like he may be the answer to the Diamondbacks seven year drought at first base.  Allen has hit .188 over the past week and is now batting .200 for the season.  Eric Byrnes has returned to the lineup and Diamondbacks have returned to being one of the worst hitting teams in baseball, batting an embarrassing .234 in September.


The only thing that Diamondbacks have to look forward to is that there are only 12 more games in what will be the third worst season in their history, a year that they were supposed to contend for the division.  I guess there is one more thing to watch for though.  The Dbacks have 62 wins at this point.  If they cannot win 3 of their next 12 they will have a worse record than they did in their expansion season of 1998, when their record was 65-97.  That is something that Josh Byrnes and AJ Hinch could really hang their hat on.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 24, 2009 12:15 pm

Eric Being Eric, Sorry Reno

Eric Byrnes is picking up in Reno where he left off in Arizona.  Currently he’s got a .222 batting average, a .370 SLG, and has one error in seven games for the Reno Aces.  So far he’s showed no improvement from his .216 MLB batting average.  Is it time to pull the plug on Byrnes?  He’s got one year left on his contract, but is the cost of his $10 million worth having him stew on the bench all year, not producing when he is called upon, and taking up a valuable roster spot from a more deserving player?


Byrnes is a square peg in a round hole.  He is something that does not belong on this team.  The team has brought up a number of minor league players this season that have played hard and earned a spot on the roster.  Gerardo Parra (.283 in 350 AB) and Alex Romero (.272 in 114 AB) have both showed that they can play at the major league level thus far.  Chris Young may or may not be back, and both Conor Jackson and Justin Upton will both be back next season.  That’s already five outfielders on the roster; no room for what will be a then 34 year old injury prone player who has failed to reach a .220 batting average in the past two seasons.


I know that the team is hesitant to eat another contract after eating a few in the past, but they are a better team without Byrnes than with him.  It is a sunk cost and they need to move forward.  They made a mistake with his extension and it possibly set them back a few years by costing them valuable payroll, but it’s time to move forward.  The Diamondbacks are not that far off from being a competitive team.  Coming off a disastrous seven game slide that featured 152 at bats between walks it may not look like it, but the truth is they are.  A few more pieces added and an inept outfielder subtracted they can make it back to the playoffs.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 13, 2009 12:42 pm

Diamondbacks Fun Again

Watching the Diamondbacks is starting to get good again.  It appears that players taking the field actually care and are playing at full speed.  Even though the Dbacks have no shot of winning the division or making the playoffs the games are at least exciting to watch, thanks in large part to a group of young and not so young recent call ups.


Trent Oeltjen has been a man possessed since he was called up last week.  He has 12 hits in 29 at bats, he is stretching singles into double, doubles into triples, and has already appeared in the Web Gems segment of Baseball Tonight for his play in the outfield.  It appears that playing in the minors for nine years will motivate someone to hustle once they make it to the majors.  Alex Romero has also been making the most of his recent call up, hitting .393 in the last seven days.   


Due to injuries, trades, released players, and players sent to the minors a lot of guys are getting an opportunity that they normally would not have, and they join a team that is now looking like they are not that far away from being competitive.  During the lean months of April, May, and June not only was the team losing but they were playing sloppy uninspired baseball.  They were getting booed nightly at Chase Field and becoming one of the worst teams in baseball. 


July 3 was the crescendo of their ineptitude, sparking the Mark Reynolds diatribe, and July 4 was their independence day.  They were declaring themselves free of the losing ways and attitudes that had been so prevalent the previous two months.  Since July 4 the team is 21-14, a .600 winning percentage.  Not too shabby for a six week period.  No one expects them to keep that pace up for the rest of the season by any means, but at least it shows that they have it in them.


Trent Oeltjen and Alex Romero will cool off and come back down to Earth, but it sure is fun watching them tear it up right now.  Finally, it is good to be a Dbacks fan again.

Posted on: August 6, 2009 12:22 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2009 12:22 pm

The Ryan Roberts Experiment

Is Ryan Roberts the future starting 2B of the Arizona Diamondbacks?  It’s looking more likely.  Ryan Roberts has been on an offensive surge the last seven days, batting .417.  Since July 20, the day Felipe Lopez was traded to the Brewers, he has raised his average from .257 to .288.  He’s had at least one hit in 9 of the past 13 games. His recent performance has brought about murmurs that Roberts may be the Diamondbacks every day second baseman for the 2010 season, but there are also questions of whether or not Roberts can be an every day player.

Roberts has never played more than 10 games in a season until this year and was the last man added to the Diamondbacks roster coming out of spring training.  There is not a lot of prior history to judge Roberts on.  He’s not a six year veteran who has hit .260 on his career and then suddenly hits .300 and parlays that into a $30 million dollar, three year contract extension.

Any decision made on Ryan Roberts will be made somewhat blindly due to the lack of past history, but looking at the free agent second baseman available next season Roberts may be the best option.  If he finishes the year batting around .270 and continues to play solid defensively (he has a fielding percentage of .989) he most likely will be the starting second baseman on opening day.

Below is the list of 2010 free agent second baseman, minus players who have previously played for the Diamondbacks, i.e. Hudson, Lopez, Eckstein, and Counsell.  When comparing Roberts’s $400,000 salary and his season stats to this list it will be hard for the front office not to at least take a chance on him.

Ronnie Belliard (35) salary $1.9 million, season BA .206
Jamey Carroll (36) salary, $2.5 million, season BA .287
Alex Cora (34) salary $2 million, season BA .256
Mark DeRosa (35) salary $4.75 million, season BA .251
 Jerry Hairston Jr. (34) salary $2 million, season BA .257 
Adam Kennedy (34) salary $400k, season BA .289
Mark Loretta (38) salary $1.25, season BA .234
 Placido Polanco (34) salary $4.6 million, season BA .263
 Juan Uribe (31) salary $1 million, season BA .279

Roberts is 29, and assuming he keeps his batting average up he will be younger, cheaper, and just as good as or better than anyone on this list.  He also has a very respectable SLG % for a 2B, .458.  Among NL 2B only Chase Utley has a higher SLG.  There are still two months of baseball to be played, and Roberts only has 153 at bats on the season, about 40% of what an everyday player would have, so his stats fluctuate more easily.  He should get about 200 more at bats through the end of the season, so there will be a decent base to judge his stats on.  For a team fighting to keep salary low, Roberts is looking like a very attractive option.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 3, 2009 11:08 am

Breaking News from Ashland, Ky re: Brandon Webb

Everyone knows what a media hub Ashland Kentucky is right?  You know, Ashland, KY, population 22,000, 12 square miles, the city that never wakes up.  No surprise that the local paper there was the one to break the story on Brandon Webb having surgery.  They were the first to know, the reporter probably had talked to Webb’s dad at the coffee hour after church on Sunday.  But who was the last?  None other than Webb’s “former” team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.  After all, why do they need to know, it’s none of their business.

Josh Byrnes and co. got the news the same way the rest of the general public does, via the general media. Not firsthand from a call from Brandon Webb or his agent as one might expect, prior to everyone else.  If this is not the writing on the wall that Brandon Webb now considers himself a free agent I don’t know what is.

I think everyone was doubtful that Webb would remain a Dback after last week’s news on his progress, but now it seems an almost certainty.  It is very, very, unfortunate that this is the way it ends.  A homegrown pitcher who dominated the past three years is now cast aside, his usefulness for the team now expired.  But in all reality the Diamondbacks have little choice but to not pick up his option.  A cash stapped team struggling to compete paying $11 million to a useless outfielder cannot afford to pay another $8 million to a pitcher who wouldn’t even be able to pitch again until next August.  It just isn’t feasible.   

I think that every Diamondback fan wishes Webb the best of luck, and just prays that he doesn’t follow the footsteps of other scorned players and sign with the Dodgers.

Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com