A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Fourteen: Arizona Diamondbacks
A sad season for Arizona fans as they saw their team race off to a 9-2 start and if they had simply played .500 ball for the remaining 151 games they would have at least tied Los Angeles’ 84 wins. Their defense was mediocre to below average, which makes their 3rd overall rank in runs allowed from BaseRuns all the more a praise to their pitching. Besides some below average defense, the position players also mounted a below average attack at the plate, ranking just 19th in runs scored.
Eric Byrnes had been a stealing machine since arriving in Arizona with 75 steals against just 10 caught stealings between 2006 and 2007. Signed to a three-year extension in August of 2007, Byrnes had a rough 2008 with both bad performance and numerous injury problems. The Diamondbacks bailed on Carlos Quentin which proved to be a tough bit to swallow later on as their offense constantly struggled and Quentin matured to contend for an MVP title in the American League. While Stephen Drew regressed in a troubling fashion in the walks and strikeouts department dropping his isolated discipline from .075 down to .042, his power took off adding over 30 extra base hits in just 44 more plate appearances.
Arizona dealt off their 2007 closer in Jose Valverde but still managed to improve their bullpen, namely from improvements by Brandon Medders and Jailen Peguero and the addition of Chad Qualls, who came over from Houston in the Jose Valverde trade.
It was the rotation though that kept Arizona from being just another bottom dwelling western team. The 2008 Diamondbacks dumped Livan Hernandez, added Dan Haren via trade with Oakland and would get a mostly full season from Randy Johnson. Along with the steady Brandon Webb, those three formed a terrific trio, each individual among the best 20 starters in baseball. Doug Davis was no slough either, coming back from his own health problems to pitch like an above average starter. As the fourth best starter, above average usually means you’ve built yourself quite a staff.
How 2009 fares for Arizona depends on whether they retain Randy Johnson and if their young hitters can take a few more steps forward. The Giants and Padres probably don’t pose a threat to the division in 2009 so they’ll just have to keep an eye out for a re-emerging Colorado club from behind and keep an eye forward on Los Angeles.