Since winning the offseason, there’s really not much you can say that is nice about the Diamondbacks’ 2016 season.
There’s little doubt that the Diamondbacks actually did win the offseason. They signed arguably the top pitcher on the free agent market away from a division rival. They also traded for a number two starter and—even though it was a very steep price—if it panned out and Shelby Miller repeated his 2015 season for them, we probably aren’t discussing the cost of doing business at all. Instead, we’re talking about the Diamondbacks as possibly a contender.
Some of us even bought that narrative prior to the season. The Diamondbacks were picked by many to finish at least third in the tough NL West. In retrospect, not at all a bold call considering they would be competing with the Rockies and Padres for the bottom three spots. Instead though, the Diamondbacks sit dead last at 66-92 with no chance of catching the Rockies at third and a small chance of catching the Padres at fourth.
When was it over:
While it certainly wasn’t over before it started, the loss of A.J. Pollock to injury during exhibition play seems like a key moment in retrospect. Pollock is one of the best center fielders in all of baseball and, compounding matters, the Diamondbacks had just included Ender Inciarte in the Miller trade. Instead then, Chris Owings and Michael Bourn took the lion’s share of play and neither provided even replacement level defense.
The Diamondbacks won just two of their first nine series and were 12-18 by May 6th. While that put the team in fifth-place though, they were by no means out of it at that point though. In fact, it was basically a dead heat in the NL West at that point with the Dodgers, Rockies, and Giants all tied for first only three games up on the Dbacks.
By the end of May, the team had failed to keep up. While the Diamondbacks slipped to 23-31—though staying ahead of the Padres—the Giants shot up to 33-21, most assuredly helped along by a four-game set against Chip Hale’s squad—which resulted in a sweep.
On May 25, Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs wrote a piece on the changes Miller had made to his delivery and called this “rock bottom” for the 25-year-old starter. His drive-leg seemed different, his posture looked changed, his pitch selection was altered, and his pitching hand was hitting the mound as he finished his pitches causing injury. Through the first half of the season, Miller was worse than even the people who criticized the trade had feared while at their most pessimistic and the pitcher that cost the Diamondbacks their first overall pick in the 2015 draft plus more was optioned to Triple-A Reno to try and fix himself.
What went well:
Nearing the end of the season, saying ‘not much’ seems like a colossal understatement. Paul Goldschmidt continued to be amazing, and look defiantly at anyone who believes being a top prospect is crucial to future success. And Jake Lamb hit baseballs really, really hard.
In all honesty though, the dismissal of Vice President of Baseball Operations De Jon Watson can definitely be read positively. Optimistically, it means a complete departure from business practices that got the Diamondbacks to their current predicament, which could mean the seats of Stewart and Tony La Russa also become vacated.
While that means a transition period may be looming, anything is better than what the stagnation period the Diamondbacks are in right now.
A second opinion:
“The Diamondbacks entered 2016 with a revamped pitching staff, revamped uniforms, revamped everything. In hindsight, anyone who has read any story from the Ancient Greeks probably knew what was going to happen next. A.J. Pollock's injury was the first omen of what was gonna be a rocky ride. Zack Greinke, shiny new toy, found out that pitching in Chase Field is not very fun (they've evened out somewhat with a bad few starts, but for awhile his Home/Away splits were staggering.) And while the cost for Shelby Miller was always going to be too much, people expected some sort of vague competence from him. That was definitely not the case, as he spent a good portion of the season in Triple-A. Patrick Corbin, previously a solid force in the rotation, also forgot how to pitch, with him being banished to the bullpen.
It wasn't all bad. Jake Lamb had a breakout year, Paul Goldschmidt was still Paul Goldschmidt, Jean Segura is having the best offensive season of his career by a mile, Yasmany Tomas has finally found his power stroke, and Brandon Drury put up solid offensive numbers in his rookie season while also playing all-over the field to fill in for injuries. Notice how none of those players I mentioned were pitchers. The 2016 Diamondbacks had the same problems as the 2015, but instead of thinking “We can build on this!” at the end, it's “What can we build from this?”
And there are building blocks here. What's frustrating is that the architects for them are trying to attach Lego bricks to Lincoln Logs while under the influence of a Big Gulp cup full of Tanqueray. With any luck, the Diamondbacks will clean that portion of their organization up and replace it with someone who has a plan of what to do with all this, whether it be try to still contend or tear it all down. However, if 2016 has taught me anything, is that I shouldn't hold my breath for that.”
What’s in the future:
One can hope that Gebow’s prayers are answered and the transition phase of the Diamondbacks begins immediately following the conclusion of the World Series. That’s pretty much it.
We could speculate that Greinke and Miller can’t possibly get any worse. And at least Goldschmidt will be Goldschmidt, and Pollock will be back, and Lamb seems like another great player to build around. But all of that might be too late. The team sold a substantial amount of their farm for Miller and a shot at the 2016 World Series. Now they don’t have a single top-100 prospect in their system and have roughly the same win percentage as the Braves or Reds, who had absolutely no expectation of making the postseason at any point this season.
But chin up Dbacks fans. The new regime is hopefully on its way.