Well, that sucked.
The 2004 season was not a pleasant one for Diamondbacks fans, players,
managers or front office personnel. 51 wins against 111 losses. It
was the first time in the short history of the organization that the
Diamondbacks lost more than 100 games. Even more startling, the 2004
D'Backs finished 13 games worse than in their inaugural season.
And in a lot of ways, this was a brand new franchise. Injuries and
holes forced the Diamondbacks to rush players to the majors, creating a ball
club that looked almost nothing like the one fans in spring training expected to
see. Want proof? Here we go, the 2004 opening day lineup vs. the
lineup featured on the final day of the 2004 season.
Hillenbrand and Cintron are in both lineups, but at different positions,
Green, Devore, Terrero, Gil and Brito weren't on the roster to start the season,
and Finley, Alomar, and Mayne didn't even finish the year with the
Diamondbacks. In fact of the eight position players who started Game One
of the 2004 season, only Cintron played in more than 150 games.
This is not the recipe for success, and the D'Backs learned that lesson the
At FutureBacks.com we're all about the silver lining, however tarnished that
silver may be. The injuries and setbacks allowed the Diamondbacks to
audition a ton (I haven't done the math but considering there were more than 15
rookies on the squad this season I actually believe we can say in all honesty it
was more than a 'ton') of new talent. Managing Editor James Renwick grades
the Diamondbacks position by position this week, and he starts with the
outfield. Remember these are grades only for the players who got to the
bigs this year, so don't expect Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, Jon Zeringue or
any of the other minor league studs to be on this list, that's a different
article you can read later on in what promises to be an exciting winter.
Danny Bautista started the season as the everyday right fielder and had a
solid, productive season. His 524 at bats were the third most of any right
fielder in the National League, the .986 fielding percentage is fantastic, his
.288 batting average is nice. 11 home runs and 65 RBI is okay...for a
second basemen. There's the rub. Corner outfield slots are supposed
to be productive, and by productive I mean they are supposed to hit home runs
and drive in runs. Bautista was in a contract year, and much was expected
from him, but he has simply never lived up to the promise he showed during the
2001 postseason. Bautista may return to the D'Backs next season, but on
the list of resigning priorities he's a long way behind Richie Sexson, and his
potential could have other teams more interested (read: willing to pay him more)
than the Diamondbacks.
BAUTISTA'S GRADE: B-
Especially when you look at the progress of Doug DeVore. Though DeVore
hit just .224 in his short stint with the Diamondbacks, his three home runs, 13
RBI, and left handed bat could be a viable replacement if the (new) front office
decides Bautista isn't worth his market value. DeVore's biggest downside
is contact, something Bautista made (just 63 strikeouts in more than 500 at
bats) and DeVore didn't (31 Ks in 107 at bats), but if the youngster can start
putting the bat on the ball more consistently, expect him to be at least the
fourth outfielder for the Diamondbacks next year.
DeVORE'S GRADE: C+
Of the rest of the right fielders (there were six in limited duty) the only
one who stood out was never intended to be a right fielder. Luis Terrero
got 14 at bats as a right fielder and hit .357 with an RBI. That would be
great save the fact that Terrero is the Diamondbacks center fielder. It is
a testament to how tough a season the Diamondbacks had that Quentin McCracken
was trotted out to right for fifteen games, and one can assume that the Scott Hairston in the outfield experiment is, if not over, at least on hold.
THE OTHER'S GRADE: D
Steve Finley has patrolled center field for the Diamondbacks for a long time,
and this season the 39 year old had maybe the best of his career.
Unfortunately he did not finish his brilliant season in Phoenix, but in Southern
California, in Chavez Ravine playing for the NL West rival Dodgers. Finley
hit .278 with 23 homers and 48 RBI. What does that tell us? First
that Finley hit everywhere from leadoff to the six spot in the order, and second
that there were rarely other D'Backs on base when Finley came to bat.
There is much speculation that the front office will aggressively pursue Fins in
the off season, trying to re-sign the free agent and bring him back to the
Valley of the Sun. Problem is the Diamondbacks got a good long look at
rookie Luis Terrero, and they liked what they saw. With the likely
departure of Bautista a resigned Finley would likely move Terrero to right,
where the youngster's cannon arm and great speed would certainly make the
outfield defense a formidable one, even if Luis 'Rubber Band Arm' Gonzalez is
back in left.
For his part Terrero struggled, but showed signs of brilliance. In 229
at bats Terrero hit at a .245 clip and though his four homers and 14 RBI seem
low the majority of his at bats were in the leadoff position, a spot he saw
little of during his minor league days. Like DeVore Terrero's biggest
problem is simply putting the bat on the ball consistently. In those 229
ABs he had 78 strikeouts. That is not good, but especially for a leadoff
hitter. Both Finley and Terrero were more successful out of the leadoff
spot, so the Diamondbacks need to start looking in another direction for someone
to hit in the #1 position, but Terrero's stellar defense and power potential
almost certainly assure him a spot on the roster next season, and regardless of
Finley, probably a spot in the starting lineup.
FINLEY'S GRADE: A+
TERRERO'S GRADE: C+
With the possible exception of Randy Johnson no player is more associated
with the Diamondbacks than Luis Gonzalez. Though it seems unlikely Gonzo
will ever reach the 50 homer plateau he exceeded in 2001, his 2004 stats showed
that he is still a productive corner outfielder. His elbow, which cut his
season short after he elected to have surgery at the end of August, certainly
affected his numbers, but at .259 with 17 homers and 47 RBI in 374 at bats seem
to indicate that if Gonzo can come back 100% after the surgery he can once again
claim his #3 spot in the batting order, and be a dominant left handed hitter in
the otherwise very right handed Diamondbacks lineup.
Once Gonzalez headed to the operating table left field seemed to be the
preferred audition spot for Al Pedrique and the D'Backs. The Scott
Hairston outfield experiment stopped in left, rookies DeVore, Josh Kroeger, Andy
Green, Tim Olsen and Luis Terrero all did time in left and after coming back
from injury Robbie Hammock saw the majority of his time patrolling Gonzo's
corner. Even McCracken got into the act, seeing the majority of his
playing time holding Gonzalez's spot. All in all the fill ins were
productive (McCracken, DeVore, and Hammock all hit over .300 in left), but don't
count on anyone even thinking about a regular spot in left next year.
Gonzalez ended his season early in the hopes of rehabbing his elbow in time
for Opening Day 2005. While that may be a bit optimistic (Gonzo's surgery
usually takes at least a year to come back from, though former D'Back Tony Womack returned this season after less than eight months), expect him back by
late May or early June. What that means for the Diamondbacks is that they
will need someone (or possibly two someones) to step in and be productive.
One option could be a platoon of Robbie Hammock and Doug DeVore, but
realistically that depends on the status of Bautista, Finley, and Terrero.
What that first month or two could be is a perfect opportunity for the
Diamondbacks to give either Carlos Quentin or Conor Jackson their first taste of
GONZALEZ'S GRADE: B-
EVERYONE ELSE: INCOMPLETE
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