I know it’s been a while since we’ve been together, so let me start by
saying I hope your holiday season was a prosperous as the Diamondbacks was. I
know that might sound weird coming on the heels of them losing the Unit to the
Evil Empire for Javier Vasquez and a couple of other players most people have
never heard of, but lets not forget that before coming to the American League,
Vasquez was a front line N.L. starter. Throw in Russ Ortiz and his penchant for
winning along with Brandon Webb’s probable move to the third spot in the
rotation and you’ll see that Arizona now has a staff that will eat up innings
and keep their team in at least three out of every five games. Besides, through
the course of an entire season, an individual pitcher is only as effective as
the offense behind him. That’s why the Yankees’ newest mercenary, despite
all of his great individual numbers, was a less than stellar16-14 last season.
Of course if Arizona’s offense is as bad this year, as it was last year, a
16-14 record will probably put whoever earned that mark in the Cy Young mix just
like it did for the Unit. Simply put Arizona’s offense was as successful as
let’s say Napoleon at Waterloo, or for those of you who like to live in the
present, The BCS’s ability to chose a real National Champion.
Arizona finished dead last in runs, on-base percentage (OBS) and (on-base +
slugging percentage) (OPS) last season. To be fair, they were able to scrape
themselves from the bottom of the barrel and finish 28th in slugging percentage
(SLG). You might notice that there is no mention of home runs or even batting
average when discussing the repulsive offensive (Literally and figuratively)
Arizona put out last year, and that’s because when it comes down to it, OBS
and SLG are the only two offensive stats that have any correlation to winning.
At least that’s Michael Lewis’ claims in his book "Moneyball."
In case you haven’t read it, "Moneyball" tries to explain how
the Oakland A’s are able to compete against the Yankees and other big market
clubs despite a payroll roughly the same as what it takes ‘The Boss’ to keep
three-fifths of his new pitching staff in pin stripes.
A’s general manager Billy Beane and his band of merry men have changed the
way the game is scouted and even played by taking what Bill James wrote in his
early "Baseball Abstracts" and turning it into a new way of
valuing players. By using stats such as OBS and SLG to determine a player’s
true worth, they’ve been able to expose the more prominent, big money stats
like home runs and stolen bases for the frauds they are.
The thing is, it has worked. Oakland has averaged 96 wins per year since 2001
despite consistently having one of the five lowest payrolls in the league.
Sure, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson have helped, but they’ve also
been able to get the most bang for their buck finishing in the top 15 in runs
scored every year since 2001.
What does all this stuff mean to Arizona? Well, if the front office believes
what they see from their player’s performance instead of what they think their
performance should be, it could mean a .39 increase in OBS, a .85 jump in SLG. A
.91 raise in OPS and most importantly, approximately 240 more runs or nearly 1.5
more runs per game despite losing Roberto Alomar, Danny Bautista and Richie Sexson.
How is it done? Well you just build a starting lineup using players from
Arizona’s AA, AAA and major league club who have the best OBS, SLG and OPS
percentages for their position. The first thing that must be done to do this is
build a scale that measures minor league performance to major league performance
in those categories. Using players like catcher Chris Snyder who spent
significant time in both the majors and the minors last season I was able to
deduct that a player’s OBS in the minor league would be .60 points lower in
the majors. This is not scientific, but it came out closer than you think giving
the fact that some players were much higher than the curve while others were
well below it. There is also something to be said that the .60 would be much
lower if the players were in the majors for an entire season as opposed to being
thrown into the show in August.
All players in this lineup must have had at least 150 AB’s in their
So with that being said, here is my projected starting lineup and their
backup for next year. I also included their primary stats from last season.
Minor league player (M) stats will be shown with the .60 major league
deduction. I know Shawn Green is supposed to play right field, and I know
Shea Hillenbrand might be on his way out of town, and I listed three catchers
because we know one of them is going to LA.
Starters are chosen by OBS.
Assuming that each member of the starting lineup plays a majority of the
season injury free, this team would improve it’s OBS from an ML worst .310
to .349 which would have ranked fifth in baseball last year. Their SLG would
rise from .393 which ranked 28th in the league and only .6 points higher than
last place Milwaukee to .445 or ninth in the league. Their league worst .703
OPS would raise to .794 which would have placed them seventh in all of
These numbers as a whole were very favorable to last year’s Cleveland Indians (.351 OBS - .444 SLG - .795 OPS) who finished fifth in baseball with
But what can you tell from one year? Maybe nothing. That’s why I also
tested the numbers against the 2003 MLB statistics where the new D-backs were
nearly identical to the Colorado Rockies (.344 OBS - .445 SLG - .789 OPS) who
finished that year sixth in the majors with 853 runs. The fact the this
Arizona lineup would have a .5 increase in OBS over Colorado which of course
plays their games in the rarified air of Coors field could easily account for
five runs which would of put them right at 858 for the season. Spooky eh?
Take these numbers for what they are worth, but going off the idea that
Arizona’s offense can’t possibly be any worse than they were last year,
plus the fact that they are playing in a weakened NL West; there is a good
chance this revamped offense combined with a new pitching staff could give
Diamondback fans something they haven’t had in a couple years… A winner.
(Stats for this article were found at mlb.com and baseballamerica.com)