The Arizona Diamondbacks won the NL West in 2011, finished 81-81 the last two seasons and made moves in the offseason in hopes for a return to the postseason. This team ought to be lucky the season is longer than just one month. With a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, the team is 5-16 thru its first 21 games. To give perspective, in its inaugural season in 1998, the D-Backs were 6-15, and I’m pretty sure expectations for the club were higher going into 2014 than they were in 1998. It’d be hard to deny that there was heat between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks last season. In this young season, however, it’s already gotten lopsided. The Diamondbacks are 1-7 against the reigning NL West champions.
The team is batting .243, good enough for 18th best in Major League Baseball. Of course, Paul Goldschmidt is doing his thing. He’s hitting for average, he’s getting on base, his OPS+ is 144. He very well could have another monster year. Chris Owings is also hitting reasonably well too. Mark Trumbo was the big fish the team reeled in during the offseason when the club acquired him from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He leads the team in home runs and RBI’s. The rest of the numbers, however, seem rather deflating. Some of the backups have been hitting well. Cliff Pennington has done well at shortstop and Tony Campana has been producing when he’s gotten playing time. The regulars, however, outside of Goldschmidt and Owings, have had a hard time of bringing the results.
If someone would like to know the saddest part of all of that, is the hitting actually hasn’t been the biggest problem. The starting rotation has been the total opposite of the amazing start the Atlanta Braves have seen from its starters. Bronson Arroyo has always been a healthy, reliable pitcher. Not the true ace of a team, but someone all 30 clubs would probably love to have. He’ started off a 38 ERA+ and 1.974. Brandon McCarthy pitched a quality start against the New York Mets April 16, but still has a long way to go to get those numbers down. Compared to the other starters the Diamondbacks have used this season and Wade Miley looks like a breath of fresh air. Compared to starters from other teams, however, he is simply the best pitcher on a staff loaded with woes. Trevor Cahill was a once an All Star. His performance was so underwhelming he was moved to the bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, Brad Ziegler, J.J. Putz and Joe Thatcher each deserve a pat on the back. The rest of that bullpen, however, has some stepping up to. Addison Reed hasn’t struggled to the point where the now former closer of the Oakland Athletics Jim Johnson has, but he’s going to want to bring his game the rest of the season if he wants a shot at winning the inaugural Trevor Hoffman Award. The team designated Ryan Rowland-Smith for assignment. Will Harris and Michael Bolsinger have been perhaps the two biggest albatrosses for this bullpen. Harris has an ERA+ of 40 and WHIP of 1.560. Bolsinger’s ERA+ is 38 and WHIP is 2.286.
So what needs to be done? Certainly, there are probably heaps of D-Backs fans pleading for Archie Bradley to get his call up. The only problem is, that’s unrealistic. This past week, General Manager Kevin Towers told Fox Sports that Bradley would not be called up at this time. It seems like Towers is only delaying the inevitable as there’s probably a very good chance Bradley takes the mound sometime this season. Changes need to be made. McCarthy and Arroyo are both making more money than Cahill is and quite a bit of it, too. With his start against the Mets, McCarthy showed some promise, but he needs to have more of those.
Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock aren’t doing much, and they’re not making a whole lot of money either. So giving Campana more playing time would make sense. Pennington is splitting time at shortstop with Owings. The team may want to wait to see if Aaron Hill could pick it up as he’s struggled, though Pennington has played at second before. It could backfire putting Pennington in the outfield, as he has never played it in the Majors. Certainly though, Campana and Pennington could use more playing time if there’s a way to fit them in.
For some more context, according to Baseball Reference, the Diamondbacks have a payroll of $103,000,000 this year. That’s the highest in team history, even higher than that 2001 World Series winner, which had a $76,855,499 payroll. Yes, that’s correct. This team that is 5-16 has a higher payroll now than the team which had Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez and took down the New York Yankees in the World Series. I know, I know, the game has changed so much since then, but it should reiterate that money doesn’t always translate to the results a team wants.
141 games remain for this club. That’s still plenty of time to get on a roll and turn this whole thing around. However, more than likely, changes are going to be made and probably ones more dramatic than Cahill’s move to the bullpen. The fact that a team has started 5-16 in 2014 shouldn’t seem terribly surprising. The fact that that team is the Diamondbacks however, yes, yes it is.