The title of this post may seem a little over the top to some, if not all of you. But at least I have your attention. There is substance to my claim of Joe Saunders’s victory total as it relates to the fortunes of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the 2012 season. So then, how does at best, a number three starter hold the key to future postseason success? The answers can be found in two of life’s most prized possessions: good luck and money.
The D-Backs feature two young and impressive pitchers in Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. While Kennedy may not reach 21 wins again, it is safe to say we can pencil him in for at least 18. Hudson won 16 games as a 23-year old pitching his first complete season. I don’t think 18 victories are out of the question for him in 2012. This is where we cue the music for Joe Saunders. Last season, the southpaw finished 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA. The ERA suggests that Saunders probably deserved a victory or two more based on his performance. He has posted win totals of 17 and 16 so it is not a stretch to expect at least 15 wins from the lefty. All he needs is a little more luck and offense from Justin Upton and friends. If Saunders does reach 15 wins, we are looking at a minimum of at least 50 victories from three out of five starting pitchers. To take it a step further, if one assumes Trevor Cahill and Josh Collmenter win at least ten games each, you are talking about a starting five with 70 wins. Not many rotations will have those numbers.
In addition, Saunders will be motivated for a big year as he is eligible for free agency after this season. As our own Christopher Czar has illustrated recently, the D-backs are well-armed for the future with Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs just about ready to jump into the rotation. With a good season, Saunders will probably leave for a bigger payday outside of Arizona. He will be a 31-year old left-handed pitcher with at least 80 lifetime career victories. That should get him a contract in the 4 year-$50 million dollar range.
Of course, the other side of this coin is that if Joe Saunders leads the D-Backs with 15 wins, something will have gone terribly wrong. That means big struggles from Kennedy and Hudson, guaranteeing an empty October for Arizona. That would sure be a lot of rotten luck and no extra money for the organization.
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