Reliving the 2017 Season: Arizona Diamondbacks Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: Arizona Diamondbacks Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.




10 – 1:  MIL COL NYY CHC

Few people saw the Arizona Diamondbacks seeing such a coalescence of established veterans and new faces, which ultimately led the team to their first playoff appearance since 2011. Playing in such a hitter-friendly park can be demoralizing for pitchers, but once we make those adjustments they absolutely shined. Those same dings affected the hitters, as well, who ended up looking a little less shiny. A massive offensive injection around the trade deadline with the acquisition of J.D. Martinez helped get the team over the hump down the stretch even if the team didn’t get past the Divisional Series.

The team overachieved over much of the first half before things fell back in line with the expected results. While that production was banked, it didn’t exactly carry over through the rest of the season as observed results predictably came down to the lower expectations. The pitching, however, was mostly inline throughout the season, including an incredible first half of the season. Things started to turn the other way in the third quarter, but the team figured it out to close very well. Seeing these nice gaps between runs provided and allowed shows that, indeed, the 2017 D-backs were a legitimately solid team, even if the bats left a little bit to be desired.

That shows up very well here when looking at the final tallies. The arms were electric putting up close to 129 runs better than average. This came on the back of extremely strong strikeout rates, but also solid suppression on balls in play. Factoring in a better than average walk rate, and you can see why this unit was so exceptional. The bats were worse coming in around 55 runs worse than average, but the net was still very much in their favor. High strikeout rates came with an above average walk rate, but also the team saw worse than average production on balls in play. The observed results were a good bit higher, which might mask the efficacy of the offense, but isn’t something I would expect to carry forward.

Throughout this process we have seen starting pitchers routinely take a backseat to their relief brethren. While this overlooks the importance of starters that can give you the volume to go with the production, the Diamondbacks had no such worries. Three well above average starters led by the Zacks, Greinke and Godley, and backed by Robbie Ray carried this elite pitching unit. It didn’t stop there as backend starters like Patrick Corbin and Taijuan Walker also put up better than average figures. The team enjoyed remarkable health to this group with only 17 starts coming from outside this strong group. While past injuries can be indicative of future injuries, the inverse isn’t necessarily true. Past health might portend future health, but the team would be wise to not expect this group to make the vast majority of the team’s starts next year.

As we’ve seen throughout time, pitching consists of more than just what your starters provide. The bullpen for Arizona was also quite strong. Led by relatively fresh faces Archie Bradley and Fernando Rodney the team had to guys that could lock games down at the end, but with so many games decided prior to the final frames a good bullpen requires more than two stalwarts. The team enjoyed pleasant results from free agent acquisition Jorge De La Rosa who gave them the lefty weapon every team requires, but also saw strong performance from Randall Delgado and Andrew Chafin. The worst performers were properly recognized early and rarely given more than enough rope to hang themselves. Credit to the team for their internal evaluations.

The former Cy Young winner with a higher GDP than many countries showed off a return to prior glory over much of the first half. Things got relatively worse from there as his expected results looked more middle of the road, but it did come with an incredible gap that showcased much better observed results. Greinke rode an incredible strikeout to walk ratio that helped a good, but not great batted ball profile play up. Folks expect him to slow down at some point, and perhaps that second half return to the average agrees with them, but I’d still expect Greinke to put up the production of a borderline ace.

Running a similar strikeout rate, with not quite the elite walk rate of Greinke, Zack Godley showed that he can play in this league. He has shown a remarkable ability to suppress damage on balls in play throughout his career, and it looks like those wild figures are fully earned with virtually no separation between observed and expected results. You can see a late season spike that looked even worse in reality, but seeing him get back to his established level to close the season gives this analyst confidence that he will continue to be a much better than average starter, and probably one that you can get cheaper than more established, higher-profile names.

The third head of this Cerberus belonged to someone that fans of peripherals have been on for years. Striking out a third of all batters faced is a wonderful base to build upon even if there is some giveback due to the higher than average walk rate. Hard contact has always been the knock, but this past season he deserved something a little worse than average while actually getting a good bit better than that. Like his already mentioned teammates he not only pitched well, but provided ample volume that allowed the team to rarely have to extend their bullpen. You might notice that he looks a whole lot more volatile than those other guys. He spent more time in the worse than average area, but his troughs looked even better, too. Two prolonged periods of utter dominance more than made up for the stretches where he was a little worse than average. The cat is probably out of the bag by now, but even without the risk discount Robbie Ray still looks like a phenomenal get.

Speaking of volatile take a look at Patrick Corbin. In his second full season returned from Tommy John surgery the lefty showed some things to like, and some less so. Much of the first two-thirds of the season saw worse than expected results, but then he went on quite the run towards the end, which looks more solidly backed by the regressed figures. A production shape like this makes me want to use him more as a steam option that sticks around while things are going well, but can be cast off for the next hot hand. Capturing those excellent periods might be a mystery as far as timing goes, but it is hard to argue he wasn’t dominant over a couple of stretches. Most teams do a lot worse from their backend, but if the team hopes to repeat knowing that the past year’s health is no guarantee for the upcoming season they might do well to add another arm.

While the pitching showed few weak links, the bats looked more top-heavy. You know the studs. Paul Goldschmidt continued to do what he does when healthy. Walking a ton and mashing the ball on contact while sporting a league average strikeout rate. Adding J.D. Martinez was obviously a good call even if his strikeout rate ticked up substantially. Another trade return, Ketel Marte, showed some usefulness in a limited sample mostly off the back of a great walk rate. An above average bat from a competent shortstop is a wonderful thing, and shows how a savvy trade can give a team exactly what they need. Homegrown product Jake Lamb was another well above average performer who brings a nice mix of power and patience. Former superstar A.J. Pollock continued to show diminished production from his former great heights prior to a severe wrist injury. Time will tell if he ever gets back, but in the meantime being an above average hitter in center field is a wonderful thing.

The team wasn’t ruined by the Catcher Chris tandem of Iannetta and Herrmann, but they would probably like to see a little more. Look around the game, though, and who wouldn’t. Losing the former to free agency might be a real blow as he was the stronger of the two, and most likely will leave the team scrambling for a replacement. Moving down we also see some poor performances. Brandon Drury was the best of the worst and gives the team enough positional flexibility that he might not need to be an above average bat to stick. Gregor Blanco and Daniel Descalso similarly give the team some flexibility, but should not be considered more than depth over the long term. It was exciting to watch David Peralta come out of nowhere as a converted pitcher, but since his debut he hasn’t been quite as effective, though his observed performance was much better than expected. Chris Owings fits that same bill even if he ended up the worst batter on the team when using the expected results. Jeff Mathis is a bad hitter.

The thing that really pushes Goldy into the elite fantasy territory is his incredible number of stolen bases at a position where virtually nobody contributes to that category. That isn’t all he brings to the party, though. You’re looking at one of the better hitters in the game who showed fairly strong consistency throughout the season ranging from very good to great production. There was that downturn in the middle, which came over a long enough timeline that it had to have a real dampening effect on his overall line. Perhaps he was playing through something, which sapped his ability, but not enough to get him off his feet. I’m always torn by a guy playing through something, but he was still providing average or better production even during his worst stretch, and then rebounded back to his established line for the rest of the season.

The last few years have seen Jake Lamb come out like a lion before finishing the season like, well, you get it. His 2017 season was very much the same with very strong production coming early, but trending downward as the season wore on. It is no secret that most lefties don’t hit their same-handed opponents all that well, but Lamb pushes that to the extreme with a .261 twOBA* versus southpaws that pushed much, much higher to .372 when he held the advantage. Third base is not a traditional platoon position so that leaves the team with the quandary of leaving him on the spit to roast or rob from their potential depth to have him sit more often. Neither option is great, but it is hard not to see these results pushing higher with fewer plate appearances where he should expect little success.

For a time, A.J. Pollock was one of the most dynamic players in the game. A speed/power combo at a premium defensive position draws drool from even hardened fans. However, this past season showed that while the ability is still in there it doesn’t show up all the time. A slow start was hidden by much better observed results, but things mostly fell in line for the rest of the year. This includes his best stretch that followed the start, but he was back down the slide shortly after. The slow and steady pickup to end the season is rather encouraging and could be a harbinger going into next year that he can still be a capable player. You should be discounting him from his former lofty heights, which name recognition alone might make tough, but if you’re willing to take on more risk than I am you still might want to go that extra dollar.

When the team traded their current shortstop, Jean Segura fresh off a remarkable season, and Mitch Haniger for an average starter, Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte there were many in the industry that wondered what they were missing. Segura looked like a fine performer, Walker looked like a buy low and Haniger looked like a three-true outcomes player that could handle centerfield if needed. Most missed Ketel, a player I first noticed in a series against the Rays a few years back where he absolutely killed Tampa Bay. He won’t be a star, but an above average defender at shortstop that looks a lot like a league average hitter is a wonderful player. Add in the years and years of control and I doubt the Diamondbacks are all that remorseful. There is talk that the team is working on bringing Manny Machado aboard, but with a suitable shortstop already in place I do not see why the team would forego the assets required for one year of an expensive, albeit better, player.


With so many teams in now you should truly have a good feel for who the best and worst players were over the course of the season. You’ll find the top and bottom 20 pitchers and hitters before moving on to the team aggregate lines. Lastly, you’ll find the team combined xwRAA ranks that can give you a good feel for how these teams compared from the most top-down perspective.

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