In the aftermath of the Justin Upton trade, we have heard alot about what type of team the Arizona Diamondbacks will field in 2013. It will be less flash, more grit along with less shine, more dirt. In other words, it will be molded in the image of manager Kirk Gibson who played the exact same way during his 17-year career. In fact, the term “Gibby Ball” has been used to describe the team and style of play since Gibson was named manager during the 2010 season. While this brand of baseball is roundly praised by fans (including me) there are some elements that need to be addressed as it relates to the D’backs. I will be sure to include Gibby’s two World Series winning team, the 1984 Detroit Tigers and the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers as reference points.
Let the real era of Gibby Ball begin! Image: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
On paper, the D’back lineup is a pretty good one one that compares favorably with Gibson’s Dodgers. Gibby was the MVP of the National League and Mike Marshall was the only other player on the club to hit at least 20 home runs. However, do we see a potential MVP in the Arizona lineup? There are really good hitters but not one that managers say, “We can’t let that guy beat us”. The offense will need to be strong in situational hitting and hope the team lets Adam Eaton run wild. The Detroit position players were much better than the lineups on both teams. Alan Trammell probably should be the Hall of Fame and there was not an easy out from one through nine. They led the American League in home runs and runs scored.
Gibby Ball also relies on great pitching. Again, what the D’backs offer is good but there is not an Orel Hershiser in the midst. There can be a 17 game winner or two like Tim Leary was for LA but no one that is a real ace. The bullpens are comparable as both are excellent. What I worry about in that area is that two of the top three guys, J.J. Putz and Heath Bell are 35. Health and age are becoming issues for those two players. With the Tigers in 1984, relief pitcher Willie Hernandez was the Cy Young and MVP winner a rare feat in baseball. Throw in Aurelio Lopez and his 14 saves and the Tigers back end was unhittable. It also helps to have Jack Morris, another big omission from Cooperstown, and Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox who combined for 35 victories to head the starting rotation.
I know that many fans are looking forward to “Gibby Ball”. What fans like even more is winning and I don’t think the 2013 Arizona Diamondbacks will be doing more of that than they did in 2012. You don’t lose a player of Upton’s caliber without taking a step back. I do think that as long as they stick to this philosophy and add another big bat at some point, they can contend for years in the tough National League West. Just don’t expect anything big this Summer.
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