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2006 Arizona Diamondbacks Team Preview
by Asher B. Chancey,
March 26, 2006

2005 Record: 77-85 (5th Place NL West Division)

2005 Runs Scored: 696

2005 Runs Allowed: 856

Pythagorean 2005 Record: 66-96

Projected Lineup
1. Hudson
2. Counsell
3. Gonzalez
4. Tracy
5. Jackson
6. Green
7. Byrnes
8. Estrada
For the second year in a row, everyone except me is down on the Diamondbacks, and for the second year in a row, I am not sure why. Last year I picked the D'Backs to finish second in the NL West, and they did. For that, I should be congratulated. But to the extent that I expected the Diamondbacks to be a good team, they really weren't, and for that I should be excoriated. The D'Backs finished 77-85, and a remarkable 11 games better than their Pythagorean Projection had them finishing. This season, the Diamondbacks have made some interesting moves which have ironically transformed them into a team with worse upside but better overall credentials. The team no longer has the potential of Troy Glaus or Javier Vazquez, but they no longer have to deal with guys like Royce Clayton or Lance Cormier.


2005 Starters: Chris Snyder

Projected 2006 Starters: Johnny Estrada

The 2004 version of Estrada would be a significant upgrade over Snyder, who barely kept his slugging percentage over .300, but the 2005 version would be a slight improvement. Still, Estrada has a reputation for handling pitchers well, and might be a difference maker with the D'Backs tumultuous rotation.

First Base

2005 Starter: Tony Clark, Chad Tracy

Projected 2006 Starters: Conor Jackson, Tony Clark

Tony the Tiger had an excellent year in 2005. Many people said he had returned to form from his All Star days with the Tigers, but this is incorrect - he was better last season than he ever was with the Tigers. Unfortunately, Tony does not appear to be part of the D'Backs plan, as Chad Tracy moves back to third this season not to make room for Tony, but to make room for Conor Jackson.

Truth be told, Jackson is a stud, so Tony is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jackson is a classic doubles-power guy who has always walked more than he struck out and keeps his OPS high. If Tony the Tiger wants playing time this year, he made need to get traded back to the Tigers.

Second Base

2005 Starters: Craig Counsell

Projected 2006 Starter: Orlando Hudson

Counsell moves to short to make room from Hudson, a light hitting second baseman who won a Gold Glove in the AL last season. Unlike many Gold Glovers, the Fielding Bible actually supports Hudson's selection, as he finished 12th in the Majors in double play percentage, but 5th in plus/minus. Ironically, it was Hudson's lowest plus/minus in three years, as he finished 1st in 2004, and 3rd in 2003. Nevertheless, Hudson should provide support for Arizona's pitching staff, but will neither help nor hurt on offense.

Third Base

2005 Starters: Troy Glaus

Projected 2006 Starters: Chad Tracy

Moves to Third, Should Keep on Hittin' 
After one season of Troy Glaus, the Diamondbacks said "See ya'," and will be going with Chad Tracy this year at third. Tracy actually looked a little bit better than Glaus last season, though his power numbers were lower, and with a full season of play could easily go 35-110 .300/.375/.575 this season. Tracy needs to walk more, but other than that his game looks good.


2005 Starters: Royce Clayton

Projected 2006 Starter: Craig Counsell

Any time you go into the season by getting rid of Royce Clayton, things are looking up . . .

Craig Counsell used to be incredibly overrated. His only full season in the Majors through 2004 was 2001, the year Arizona won the series, and he was quite media popular during that run, touted as a little guy who did all the little things to help his team win. Well, it must have been the little things he was doing, because he certainly wasn't doing any big things.

I bring this because last season was a strange one for the little guy. I bet you didn't realize that last season, Counsell hit 34 doubles, stole 26 bases, walked 78 times, and scored 85 runs. Not only that, he finished first in the Majors in plus/minus, according to the Fielding Bible. These were all career highs.

Counsell used to be the type of player only a mother could love. Last season, he was surprisingly good, and if he can do it again, shortstop will not be an offensively liability for the Diamondbacks.


2005 Starters: Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, A Bunch of Other Guys

Projected 2006 Starters: Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Eric Byrnes

I Used to Be Good, Really! 
How is it that there is a long list of names of guys who performed at career best levels when they joined the D'Backs (Matt Williams, Steve Finley, Luis Gonzalez, Jay Bell), and yet Shawn Green continues to be mediocre?

Without delving into the numbers too much, Green and Gonzalez were essentially the same player last season - similar HR/RBI/RUN numbers, same number of doubles, similar AVG/OBP/SLG numbers, and OPS+ of 112 and 113. There is a five year gap in age between the two of them, which makes one wonder why Shawn Green is playing like a 37 year old.

This season, the D'Backs have added Eric Byrnes to the mix. Byrnes played for three teams last season, and wasn't very successful, but his numbers in 2004 were, oddly enough, very similar to Green/Gonzalez last season, except with more steals and a worse SO/BB ratio.

The major concern for this team is not outfield offense, but outfield defense. Green and Gonzalez both rate middle of the pack to bottom of the pack in throwing ability and plus/minus, and both are below league average in range factor as well (though for what its worth, Shawn Green managed to play 158 games last season without making an error!).

If the D'Backs pitching is to have a decent chance this season, then Eric Byrnes is going to have to be able to cover a lot of ground between Gonzalez and Green.


2005 Front Three Starters: Javier Vazquez, Brandon Webb, Brad Halsey

Projected 2006 Front Three: Webb, Orlando Hernandez, Miguel Batista

Exciting to watch, but . . .  
Believe it or not, losing Vazquez may not hurt as much as it would seem - Vazquez was below average in ERA and winning percentage last season, despite his high strikeout total, and gave up 35 dingers, easily the most on the team. He may rebound for the Sox this season, but he didn't help this team last season.

Here is a shocking stat for you - over the last two seasons, Brandon Webb has pitched 208 and 229 innings, respectively. In 2005, in 21 more innings than the previous year, Brandon Webb walked 60 fewer batters than in 2004. He cut down his walks total by more than half! Considering the fact that his ERA stayed the same with respect to the league, and his K/IP stayed roughly the same, I would have to think that his improvement in walks had as much to do as anything with his improvement from 7-16 to 14-12.

Strangely, the Diamondbacks have Batista slated to be in the rotation. Batista has not been a decent starting pitcher since 2003, his last season with Arizona. I guess they think they can get him back to form. Who knows?

Orlando Hernandez will allegedly be 40 this year. After a season in which he posted a 5.12 ERA and only pitched 128 innings because of injury, I have to wonder if pencilling him in as the number two starter is a good thing. Hernandez has been good in the past, but he walked a lot of guys last year.

Other 2005 Starters: Russ Ortiz, Shawn Estes, Claudio Vargas

Other Possible 2006 Starters: Ortiz, Vargas, Juan Cruz

Ortiz, though hurt, was fantastically bad last season, walking more than he stuck out, and finishing with an ERA of 6.89. If he can return to form this season, he will still be the guy who walks over a hundred batters every year, and flirts with the league ERA average. All he does is eat innings, and keep teams in games, which could be useful this season.

But check out this fun fact - these are Ortiz's ERAs for every season since 2001 - 3.29, 3.61, 3.81, 4.13, 6.89. I see a trend.

Claudio Vargas could be a wild card for Arizona this year. Last season was his third in the Majors, and he improved in several respects - ERA, SO/BB ratio, winning percentage, HRs. If he can get 200 innings, and continue to improve even slightly, he will be an asset.

2005 Top Relievers: Jose Valverde, Tim Worrell, Bruan Bruney, Brandon Lyon, Lance Cormier

Projected 2006 Top Relievers: Valverde, Brandon Medders, Jason Grimsley, Brandon Lyon, Luis Vizcaino

Terry Mulholland is on the spring roster. If he makes the team, this will be his eleventh . . .

Brandon Lyon looked okay for a spell last year, then went kablooie. The D'Backs will not count on him for much in 2006. Brian Bruney was even worse, getting torched in 47 games. He will not be back.

Jose Valverde has been fan-tiggidy-tastic in his first three years in the majors, besting the league ERA by 66%, and striking out 184 batters in 146.1 innings. If he is for real, and it appears that he may be, then the D'Backs will have no closer woes for the forseeable future.

Final Word:

Let's do a little "best case scenario" break down. In 2006, the Diamondbacks could have two of the premier young corner infielders in Conor Jackson and Chad Tracy, both of whom could hit 35 homers and drive in 120 RBI. They have slick fielding middle infielders in Craig Counsell and Orlando Hudson, both of whom are adept at turning double plays and have excellent range. The corner outfielders are both veterans, who give the team leadership, and both have the potential to finish with 25 homers and 85-90 RBIs, and their centerfielder is a scrappy young guy who fills gaps and has both slight power and slight speed. The pitching staff is solid and, if healthy, will keep this team in ballgames, and the bullpen is stocked with solid middle relief guys and an excellent closer.

In a weak NL West, the Diamondbacks could easily win the division title. Ironically, the Diamondbacks could also easily finish with a better record than 2005 but finish lower in the standings. I think this is more likely. The pitching just doesn't hold up.

Predicted 2006 Finish - 82-80, 3rd Place in the AL West

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