Paul Goldschmidt had his 2014 season cut short. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Never did anyone think it would be this bad. The Arizona Diamondbacks went from being a .500 team to one with a 64-98 record, the worst mark in Major League Baseball. There were many culprits, not the least of which was an array of injuries that began in Spring Training. However, injuries or not, when you end up regressing the way the D’Backs did, heads will roll. General manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson paid the price and as we get ready for the offseason, let’s look back on the 2014 campaign which, despite the record, actually had some good things emerge.
What went wrong: Injuries, injuries and more injuries. Patrick Corbin, the team’s best pitcher in 2013 and key reliever David Hernandez were diagnosed with torn elbow ligaments within two weeks of each other before the season started. Both needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. Free agent acquisition Bronson Arroyo, after a terrible start, appeared to be rounding into form. Then it was announced in June he would need TJ surgery and now is possibly finished for his his career. The starting lineup took a major hit with injuries to Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Mark Trumbo, knocking all of them out of the lineup for at least 60 games each. Chris Owings, an early Rookie of the Year candidate, missed over a month with a shoulder issue. The every day lineup envisioned in the offseason never played more than 25 games together.
When the injuries started to take a hit, other veteran players were counted on to pick up the slack. That didn’t happen. Wade Miley was supposed to be the staff ace in place of Corbin; instead, he endured a rough third season. He did strike out 183 batters but went from 37 walks in 194 2/3innings in 2012 to 75 walks on 201 1/3 innings in 2014. His overall record was 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA, making Miley the most disappointing player on the team. Trevor Cahill could also fall into that category as he was so bad that at one point he was demoted to the bullpen before being sent down to the Minors. That move worked for about a four start stretch in late August/early September before he reverted back to early season form. Cahill finished with a horrid 3-12 record and a 5.61 ERA, walking 55 batters in only 110 2/3 innings.
Aaron Hill had a down year, with a .287 on-base percentage in 501 at-bats with only 10 home runs after hitting 11 in only 327 at-bats in 2013. Trumbo supplied power (14 HR’s in 328 at-bats, five over the last two weeks) but still struck out 89 times with an OBP of .293. Cody Ross did not lift his batting average over .200 for good until June 17th. Addison Reed gave up 15 home runs in 59 1/3 innings and ended the year with a 4.25 ERA.
Around the Foghorn
What went right: The multitude of injuries gave several rookies opportunities to shine at the Major League Level. David Peralta and Ender Inciarte will merit solid-to-strong consideration for National League Rookie of the Year. Peralta was among the league leaders in triples with 9 and had 29 extra-base hits in 329 at-bats. Inciarte closed with a flourish, hitting .307 over the final two months with a .354 OBP. He also stole 19 bases in 22 tries. Chase Anderson bypassed Triple A and made 21 starts with the D’backs. He won nine games and kept his ERA under 4.00 until his last start of the season. Evan Marshall became one of the more dependable relievers for the Snakes with a 2.74 ERA in 57 games. He walked 17 and struck out 54 in 49 1/3 innings.
Josh Collmenter stepped into a starting role and turned out to be the best D’backs’ pitcher. He tossed a career-high 179 1/3 innings and led the team in wins (11) and ERA (3.46). He pitched the game of the season on May 29th vs. the Reds, going the distance, allowing only three hits, facing the minimum 27 batters and earning a 3-0 victory. Miguel Montero bounced back from a tough 2013 to lead the team in RBI’s with 72 and was selected to his second All-Star team. Oliver Perez, signed in March, had a solid campaign with 76 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings and a 2.91 ERA. The return of Daniel Hudson who was out for over two years due to injury, was the most emotional moment of the season.
Comings and goings: In addition to the trades for Trumbo and Reed, the D’backs signed Jordan Pacheco who proved to be a valuable man off the bench. He also was able to play several different positions. The trades of Brandon McCarthy, Joe Thatcher, Tony Campana, Martin Prado and Gerardo Parra netted only one player that spent time with the D’backs in 2014, pitcher Vidal Nuno. The lefty Nuno pitched the second-best game for Arizona this season on August 30th, going eight innings and allowing one run on two hits, at one point retiring 20 in a row. Typical of the season, though, the team lost to the Rockies by a score of 2-0.
Team MVP: Collmenter. You can make the argument for Goldschmidt as he was putting up numbers almost on par with his monster 2013 season. However, I have no idea where the D’backs could have gone for another arm had Collmenter not emerged as a force. He went seven innings or more in nine of his starts and at least six frames in nine others. He preserved a bullpen that piled up an enormous amount of innings picking up a depleted starting rotation. On top of that, he led the team in wins and ERA and finished second in strikeouts and innings pitched.
Summary and Outlook: Everything that could possibly go wrong, did. Towers and Gibson, not the most popular fellows among D’back fans, paid for it with their jobs. Towers’ questionable trades and Gibson’s managing style (“grit”, ever-changing lineups) finally torpedoed an entire season. However, the entire blame can not rest with them. Under-achieving veterans and injuries also proved to be a dangerous combination for a team that has to deal with the Dodgers and Giants 38 times per year. The D’backs went a combined 10-28 against the two playoff teams.
While bad, the season was not a total loss. The number of rookies that were given Major League experience is priceless. Some panned out, others didn’t. With Jake Lamb getting over 100 at-bats this year and assuming he wins the third base job, the D’backs could have one of the youngest starting infields next year, anchored by Goldschmidt at first base. With the emergence of Peralta and Inciarte and if combined with Pollock, the D’backs could have one of the best defensive outfields in the game. That’s only if they could find a taker for Trumbo. The team will need to find a starting pitcher who can chew up innings. We may also get to see one of the young guns (Aaron Blair, Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley) at some point next year.
Keep in touch with us as we get you ready for the offseason and the Winter Meetings.