In 2011, when Kirk Gibson’s club won 94 games on their way to their first N.L. West division title since 2007, it seemed as if the skipper couldn’t make a wrong move. Every pinch hitter would come through and each pitching change was spot on. The team kept winning and with a major league best 48 come-from-behind wins, there was no shortage of excitement. It was fun to watch and everyone was on board.
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson answers questions from the media during the Major League Baseball winter meetings. Image: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Then came 2012 which wasn’t nearly as friendly to the D’backs. The team stumbled to a .500 record at 81-81 and never really hit their stride. In reality, the results in 2012 are probably similar to what we all expected the club to do in 2011.
Gibson has been known for preaching fundamentals and more specifically, bunting and base running. But the D’backs weren’t very good at either of these in 2012, as they made more bone-headed plays on the base paths than of us care to remember. Here are the numbers for a refresher: they were worst in the N.L. in being picked-off (15),’ and were caught stealing 51 times in all- only one shy of the major league worst mark held by the Pirates. That’s nearly two entire games the D’Backs ran themselves out of. I discussed this issue back in October just before the D’Backs fired first base and base-running coach Eric Young so I won’t rant about that disaster here.
The team also finished 11th in the N.L. in sacrifice hits and if you watched some or most of the D’Backs games last season, you are not surprised in the least by any of these statistics.
Certainly some of these things are out of Gibson’s control. If a base runner takes off at will and gets caught stealing then we can’t place full blame on the coaches. This was happening too often in 2012 (ahem, Willie Bloomquist).
I would also guess the D’Backs were near the top for most unproductive outs last season. How many times did we see a lead-off double and then never see that runner score? Too many. In fact, the D’Backs were second to just the Giants in plate appearances with a runner on second and nobody out. Yet, they were 12th in the N.L. in advancing only 52% of those runners. Frustrating to watch indeed.
Now, “Gibby” and his team are only one year removed from a 94-win season and I would be amiss to say he is doing a bad job. He isn’t. I think Gibson has a swagger about him that his players can get behind- they enjoy playing for him. But these types of unproductive outs are just plain unacceptable at the rate that the D’Backs were committing them. If anyone in the dugout is going to make sure base running and ‘small ball’ aren’t a sour point in 2013, it will have to be Gibson. He better start pounding home these points to the guys when they arrive in spring training.
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