During spring training, manager Kirk Gibson told reporters that last season’s .500 record of 81-81 was not acceptable.
Citing improvement in the starting rotation and the acquisition of Martin Prado from the Braves, Gibson saw hope for the future.
At that time last March, the National League West Division appeared to be the Giants to lose. Coming off their second World Championship in the past three years, San Francisco appeared to have strong, starting pitching, a quality bullpen and players who knew how to win.
As well, the Dodgers seemed to be a team in a disarray while the Padres and Rockies were expected to continue their losing ways.
That left the Diamondbacks as a reasonable challenger and momentum still fresh from their 2011 NL West title burned within the organization.
Solid starting pitching gave Gibson and organization overall optimism for the season ahead. Though Daniel Hudson would be out until the All-Star game recovering from Tommy John surgery, the rotation appeared set with Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, newly signed free agent Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin, who won the final spot at the end of spring training.
Out of the gate, Corbin immediately tortured opponents for the first two months of the season, and earned a spot on the NL All-Star team in July.
If Corbin held his own, the envisioned starting rotation began to unravel.
Now as the season approaches the final days, the uncertainty and unreliability of starting pitchers remains of great concern. Save Corbin and the traded Kennedy, the three remaining, projected starters from the optimistic days of spring training all recorded a double digit losing season.
Traded just before the July 31 deadline, Kennedy sported a 3-8 mark with Arizona and was headed to a double digit-losing season.
Coming into Wednesday’s game in San Diego, the Diamondbacks had a record of 80-77 and of the 80 wins, only 47 came from the starters.
That included three victories from Kennedy, who was traded with a 3-8 record.
Plus, only two starters, Miley at 10-10 and Corbin at 14-7 are the only two starters with double digit victories. Cahill is 8-10 heading into his final start of the season Thursday and Randall Delgado, who was pushed into the rotation in early July, is tied with McCarthy with five wins (5-6 before his start against San Diego Wednesday night.)
If the Diamondbacks thought of themselves as contenders, three games over .500 with five to play is not terribly worthy.
Yet, a look at the eight teams to date which qualified for post-season play reveal a trend among starters.
In the National League, the Dodgers have no starter with double digit losses. Surprising, Clayton Kershaw is 15-9 with one start to go. Behind are Chris Capuano (4-7) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7), each with seven losses.
The Braves have two starters with double digit losses but, unlike Diamondbacks pitchers, each has double digit wins. Consider Kris Medlen (14-12) and Paul Maholm (10-10). The Cardinals have one which recorded double digit losses, Lance Lynn (14-10) and Adam Wainwright (18-9) and Shelby Miller (15-9) are on the brink of recording double digits in losses.
Among the likely NL Wild Card teams, the Pirates have one starter in double digits, A. J. Burnett (9-11), while the Reds also have one in Homer Bailey (11-11).
Starters among American League teams show a similar pattern.
AL East champion Boston Red Sox have one starter with double digit losses and that’s John Lackey (10-13). Ryan Dempster (8-9) could join his teammate with one more loss.
Surprising, Justin Verlander, at 13-12, is the only Detroit starter with double digit losses and teammate Doug Fister (14-9) could join the former Cy Young Award winner with his next loss.
AL West winner Oakland has one starter in double digits (A. J. Griffin at 14-10) and Tommy Milone (12-9) could join with his next defeat.
With teams in the post-season, double digit losses are usually part of a larger, winning season. Teams mired in mediocrity, like the Diamondbacks, cannot show starters with double digit loss seasons piling up victories to compensate for defeats.
The Diamondbacks announced the organization’s player-of-the-year and pitcher-of-the-year.
For player-of-the-year, the envelope please. This goes to shortstop Chris Owings of Triple A Reno.
Named both rookie-of-the-year and Most Valuable for the Pacific Coast League, Owings hit .330 for the Aces with 31 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs and drove in 61 runs in 125 games. He was also named the organization’s player-of-the-month for April, May and June of this year, and became the first player in the organization’s history to get the award for three straight months.
For pitcher-of-the-year, the award is handed to right-hander Archie Bradley.
At 21 years old, Bradley went 14-6 and 1.64 ERA for double A Mobile. He recorded 162 strikeouts in 152.0 innings and limited opposing hitters to a batting average of .215.
Both Owings and Bradley were named to Team USA and participated in the Futures Game at Citi Field in New York prior to this summer’s All-Star Game.