2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Arizona Diamondbacks
April 13, 2008 5 Comments
Kids, if you’re out there reading this, take the following piece of advice. Never ever ever ever do a baseball annual. When I first started this series, I actually figured I’d be done by Spring Training. What was I thinking!?!?! We end our very long tour (stop #30) of the U.S. in the Arizona Desert to look at the Diamondbacks.
Record: 90-72, 1st in NL West (won NLDS 3-0 over Cubs, lost NLCS 4-0 to Rockies)
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 78.90 wins (712 runs scored, 732 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Out in the Desert
More Diamondbacks Resources:
Overview: A team that was outscored by its opponents ends up with the best record in the National League and comes to within one step of the World Series, only to be beaten by a team that is on an equally improbable run. Ain’t baseball great!
What went right: Eric Byrnes is perhaps the world’s perfect fantasy baseball player. He’s not the best player in the league and your brother has never heard of him, so he slips under the radar. Still, he puts up a .286/.353/.460, leads his team in RBIs and steals 50 bases. Plus, he threw his dog into McCovey Cove at the All-Star game. Byrnes though is that guy who is a better player in fantasy ball than he is in real life. That’s not to say that he’s a bad player. But, he’s got an RC/G rating of 6.2. So, a lineup of 9 Byrnes clones would score about 6 runs per game. Not bad, but not exactly elite.
And the award for “Third Best Pitcher in the League” Award goes to Brandon Webb. (That would be the Steve Trachsel Award, if I’m not mistaken.) First off, Brandon Webb has thrown 230 innings in each of the last three years (OK, so it was 229 in 2005…) He’s nearing 200 K’s for a season and walks relatively few batters. Plus, his luck indicators show that he was all natural last year, and the year before that. And he does it with a fastball that tops out in the high 80s. Impressive.
What went wrong: Randy Johnson got hurt. It was kinda stupid to rely on the back of a 43 year old man not to give out, but then again, Johnson had pitched 200+ innings in the previous three years and while not invincible any more, he was still looking like a pretty good pitcher to have going every fifth day.
Stephen Drew went from hitting .316/.357/.517 in 2006 (and in 226 PA’s) to hitting .238/.313/.370. In some ways, Drew was a better hitter in 2007, striking out less and walking more. However, he hit fewer line drives, and… well he just wasn’t able to sustain his preternatural .391 BABIP from 2006. I don’t know what his minor league BABIP was, but that’s probably the better gauge of what he can really do. But all of you who thought that he was J.D. Drew’s little brother, you were wrong.
Yeah, that about sums it up: Jeff Cirillo pitched?
How often does that happen?: What? Cirillo pitching. His first time. But that’s not what I meant. If the Pythagorean record were perfect, then the Diamondbacks would have been a 79 win team last year. As it happens, they outperformed their Pythagorean record by 11 games. How often does that happen? Would you believe once every 10 years? At least that’s what the stats would predict. The Diamondbacks had some really good karma going last year, or at least they won a lot of close games and lost a lot of blowouts. Here’s the thing that gets people swooning about baseball. Last year’s NLCS was a contest between two teams that had done statistically improbable things. Is it just that baseball is magic like that? No, it’s that the way you get to the NLCS is to do statistically improbable things, like win 90 games in a season.
Should I be worried about Brandon Lyon as the closer?: Here’s a really good example of how perception is very relative. Lyon has had two good years over the past two seasons, and was very much improved from the previous two years in the majors (2003 and 2005… not sure where he went in 2004). Last year, in particular, he was particularly effective. So, the D-Backs sent Jose Valverde packing to the Astros figuring that Lyon was a good candidate to close. What they missed is that Lyon gets very few strikeouts (and doesn’t have a good K/BB ratio), and that most of his success last year could be chalked up to the fact that he had a nice little valley in his HR allowed (directly attributable to his HR/FB percentage dropping down to 2.2%… about 9% is league average). He’s going to give up more HR this year. Throw in the fact that his BABIP was low (coming down from two years, 2003 and 2005, in which it was in the .360 range), and it gave the illusion as someone who was rapidly improving, when it was simply a mediocre pitcher going from someone who was really swinging from someone with bad luck to someone with good luck. His strikeout rate has actually been decreasing, as has his fastball velocity, over the past few years. D-Backs fans, I hate to say this, but you should be having nightmares about Lyon. Then again… it’s really not that hard to rack up 30 saves on an average team, even for a journeyman pitcher. So, in that sense, Lyon will do just fine.
Outlook: Hope you enjoyed last season D-Backs fans. I appreciate that adding Dan Haren is a better option than hoping in Randy Johnson’s back (although there’s still a good deal of hoping in Randy Johnson’s back going on in the desert). The NL West is a bit of a mish-mosh right now, and I suppose the D-Backs could slip into the playoffs again, but look me in the eye and tell me that you really believe that this team, particularly this offense, is of the calibre that wins championships. You can’t do it, can you.
Finally: A big thank you to those of you who have read these year-in-review pieces and commented on them. Thanks to Eric for writing the Kansas City piece a while back when I thought that this project was going to bury me. Thanks to MVN for supporting the project behind the scenes. I’m just happy I managed to write all 30… or at least 29 of them…