MLB: AZ DIAMONDBACKS KEYS TO SUCCESS FOR 2014
Three years removed from a National League West title and coming off back-to-back disappointing .500 finishes, there is naturally pressure for the Arizona Diamondbacks to make the playoffs in 2014.
There are several things that will have to happen in order for the Diamondbacks to win the National League West or gain a Wild card spot for this year.
A healthy Miguel Montero needs to forget last season and get back to his consistent hitting. Aaron Hill needs to stay healthy the whole season. And, Martin Prado needs to start the season off better than he did last year. This is a short list of what I believe is most important for the Diamondbacks for staying in a playoff race. But their ability to progress through the playoffs will come down to how good Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo produce this year and their starting pitching.
Even though Paul Goldschmidt hit 36 homeruns last year, the Diamondbacks only ranked 25th in all of baseball for 2013. That ranking was one of the reasons Kevin Towers went out and traded for Mark Trumbo. The power potential of these two guys could be exceptional. Last year Goldschmidt was named the recipient of the 2013 Hank Aaron award, recognizing the top hitter in the National League. The 26-year-old slugger had 125 RBI. He also scored 103 runs and had 15 stolen bases. For the Diamondbacks to contend for a playoff spot Goldschmidt will need to have another season like last year. With the addition of Mark Trumbo to the lineup, Goldschmidt will get better pitches to hit.
Trumbo will provide protection for Goldschmidt in the lineup. He hit 34 home runs and had 100 RBI in 159 games last season for the Angels and will now get to show his power hitting in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in the major leagues. It could be a fourth consecutive season of personal bests in home runs for him.
What Trumbo will have to work on, is being a consistent hitter throughout the whole season. Of his 95 career home runs, 60 have come before the All-Star break. His batting average is 41 points higher before the All-Star break at .268 than after it is .227 and his slugging percentage is 107 points higher .517 before the break compared to .410 after.
Now to the critical question – will the Diamondbacks have enough starting pitching to make it to and through the playoffs?
The Diamondbacks have no shortage of young starting pitching. However, last year they ranked in the bottom half of the league with a 4.13 ERA from their starting rotation. Corbin was the only starter who put together a quality season last year, going 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA. That was his first full season in MLB, now he has to avoid that sophomore jinx. None of the four other primary starters had a winning record. Miley went from 16-11 in 2012 to 10-10, Trevor Cahill was 8-10, and Brandon McCarthy, who continued to battle injuries, was 5-11 with a 4.53 ERA. Even Randall Delgado, who is expected to move to the bullpen, went 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA last season.
New Pitching Coach Mike Harkey and Pitching Consultant Dave Duncan will have their work cut out for them as they try to get the most out of these guys. Miley, Cahill and McCarthy are going to need to step up and establish themselves and all must have a solid 2014 season.
One guy who should help right away is Bronson Arroyo. He has been remarkably durable over the course of his career, making 32 or more starts each of the last nine seasons, and brings his reliable control and will pitch a lot of innings, while limiting base runners.
If the starting pitchers can go past six innings and stay healthy for a majority of the season it will certainly help out a bullpen that was “over-used” in 2013. The key for the Diamondbacks starting pitching is consistency.
These scenarios, along with the others mentioned above, should keep the Diamondbacks in the race for a playoff spot in 2014.
See you at Salt River fields for Diamondbacks Spring Training 2014.
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