Now that general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson waved their magic wands and made wishes for next season, perhaps a look back to 2013 will help address their needs and desires.
While changes are inevitable, the time table is not hurried nor protracted. Currently, the organization is engaged in meetings to see who’s returns, and that includes players and coaches.
For now, the demise of the 2013 Diamondbacks was nearly set at the All-Star break.
At that point, the Diamondbacks were 50-45, preciously hanging to the .500 mark and holding a one game lead in the National League West.
Slowly, they lost a collective grip and their fall from grace began on July 22. That’s when they lost to the Cubs 4-2 at home and dropped from the West Division top spot. From that point until the final day, they hovered around the .500 mark and ended the season winning as many as they lost.
Save Paul Goldschmidt’s monster season and a strong second half from Martin Prado, there was not much offense.
Going forward, the Diamondbacks must get solid production behind Goldschmidt so the slugging first baseman gets more quality pitches to hit. Goldschmidt finished third in the league in walks (99) but was walked intentionally 19 times. That tied the Reds’ Joey Votto for the league lead, but indicated nearly one-fifth of his walks were intentional.
While Goldschmidt led the league in RBIs with 125, Prado was next on the club with 82. At the All-Star break, Prado knocked in 34 and his season total was a career best.
Behind Goldschmidt and Prado, there was not much else.
Eric Chavez provided adequate production with his per hits ratio times at bat. Appearing in less than half the games (80), Chavez knocked in 44 runs with 64 hits in 228 times at the plate. That translated into a .281 average but Chavez also landed on the Disabled List twice. It’s unlikely Chavez will return in 2014 and if he does, his role will be limited as it was in this past season.
Though the Diamondbacks finished fifth in the National League with a .259 batting average, their collective inability to pick up Goldschmidt in run production was a considerable factor in settling for a .500 season record.
The spring training injury to outfielder Adam Eaton, who returned by the All-Star game, prevented Gibson from creating an energizing offense. With his speed, Eaton was supposed to be the table-setter for those in the power slots.
As a result of Eaton’s absence, Gibson never constructed a line-up built to manufacture runs.
Offense grade: C-
The Diamondbacks emerged as the one of the best defensive teams in the game.
Overall, they tied the St. Louis Cardinals with the least errors (75) in the National League and only Baltimore, Tampa Bay and the Yankees committed fewer errors.
Right-fielder Gerardo Parra established himself as a premier corner outfielder. His 17 assists topped all NL outfielders, and tied the Royals’ Alex Gordon for the major league lead. They turned 135 double plays and that placed the D-backs in the middle of the league. Catchers allowed 10 passed ball and Arizona as one of seven National Leagues in the category of double digits for passed balls. That's a part of the defense, Gibson said, he will address in spring training.
Goldschmidt developed as a solid first baseman and saved a number of errors by scooping balls out of the dirt.
Defense grade: A-
By the end of the season, Towers and Gibson praised lefty Patrick Corbin and the season he accomplished.
True, Corbin emerged as the Diamondbacks most effective starter through the opening half of the season. Yet, his decline was dramatic.
At the mid-season break, he sported an 11-1 mark and named to the NL All-Star team. From that point, he finished with a 14-8 record and was 1-5 (8.00 ERA) over his last seven starts.
Had Corbin not started with such glowing results, Towers and Gibson would have characterized Corbin as “a project” with a heavy off-season training process.
The rest of the rotation was like group of children playing musical chairs Whenever the music stopped, the one left standing took the ball from Gibson.
Both Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill spent time on the disabled, Ian Kennedy, the recognized titular head of the staff, was traded at the trade deadline of July 31, and Tyler Skaggs (2-3, 5.12 ERA in seven starts) did not show he was ready to step in a major league rotation.
Wade Miley finished at 10-10 but recorded only one win from Aug. 6 until the end of the season.
The Diamondbacks also tried Zeke Spruill (0-2, 5.56 ERA in two starts) and prospect David Holmberg (0-0, 7.36 ERA) in his only major league start.
Randall Delgado, obtained in the Justin Upton trade last winter, turned in a respectable 5-7 season, 4.25 ERA in 19 starts, and Gibson and Towers like his future in Sedona Red.
In all, three starters, Cahill, McCarthy and Miley all experienced double digit losing seasons. When he was dealt, Kennedy was 3-8 with Arizona and likely would have been the fourth pitcher with 10 or more losses.
Towers has a penchant for stock-piling arms and 2014 is as good a time to unleash these weapons. If Towers decides to run out starters left-over from the 2013 ordinary season, he will do the future of the franchise considerable harm.
Starting pitching grade: D
With 29 blown saves (most in the majors) and a penchant for allowing home runs, the Arizona bullpen could best be described as inconsistent.
With injuries to closer J, J, Putz and marginal production from Health Bell, Gibson eventually turned to Brad Ziegler to close games. After saving a 5-4, 15 inning win over the Mets in July 4, Ziegler was inserted as the Arizona closer.
Ziegler proceeded to induce ground balls with his signature sinker and emerged as the Diamondbacks most creditable reliever. While Towers said the 2014 closer will come from within the Arizona organization, that could mean a rejuvenated Putz, a reliable Ziegler or a developing Matt Stites, whom the D-backs acquired in the Kennedy deal from San Diego.
In the off-season a year old, Towers addressed the need for a left-handed reliever and acquired Matt Reynolds in a trade with the Rockies. Reynolds was off to a great start but developed elbow problems. Since, he’s undergone Tommy John surgery and will be lost for the 2014 season.
Returning after a demotion to Triple A Reno, David Hernandez turned in a productive September. He compiled a 0.64 ERA in that month, and could emerge as a closer next season.
Bullpen grade: D
In 2013, the Diamondbacks lacked a lethal fuse and combustible energy. No one player emerged with a torch in his hand ready to set off a wave of emotion.
Gibson said Eric Hinske was that kind of personality but he appeared in only 22 games (.222, 6-for-27) before released.
There was no Ryan Roberts to get the fans energized and no Roberts to light the fuse. Gibson said the organization discussed the lack of emotion and need to raise the level of passion in the clubhouse.
Perhaps the closest was Martin Prado, but he made a habit each day to simply greet each teammate. Always laughing and stretching out his arm to hug a teammate, Prado, like his teammates, appeared to leave their emotions in the locker room.
The only time when the team seem to come together in an emotional moment was during the Prado Fiesta. That was the celebration of mud, water, gum and anything else Prado created to greet a teammate after a game-winning, walk-off hit.
Intangibles grade: F
What 2013 says about 2014
In spring training before the 2013 season, Gibson said the previous .500 season was unacceptable.
Gibson will likely say the same thing when he meets with reporters in spring training for first time next February at Salt River fields.
As well, Towers said a 90 win season is good enough to qualify for post-season play and the Diamondbacks put 81 wins on the board the past two seasons. “We’re not that far away,” said Gibson.
Perhaps, but one major consequence must happen going forward.
Throughout the past season, Gibson constantly told listeners that he will rest players, from time to time, and wants a fresh starting line-up for each game.
That could be true in a fantasy league, but does not hold up well at the major league level.
Save injuries, which are an inevitable part of the game, Gibson should throw out that approach of trying to engage all 25 players at the same time and run out his best eight every day.
A team cohesion will develop, players will know and define roles and prepare accordingly.
After Chavez delivered the game-winner in a 9-8 win over the Rays on Aug. 7, that win kept the Diamondbacks at five games behind the Dodgers in NL West.
At that time, Chavez told reporters the pennant race was heating up. Gibson had to set an everyday line-up and challenge the Dodgers with his best eight players every day, he indicated.
That never happened and the result was another painful .500 season.