|D-Backs Potentially Starting a Dynasty||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on October 03, 2011
When the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001, it was a huge surprise despite the team's extremely talented players such as Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Luis Gonzalez.
This season, the D-Backs captured the NL West title once again to everyone's surprise, but this time without the star power that the 2001 team featured. Their rise from last to first over the past season begs the question: Are the D-Backs for real?
To be honest, the team's success this season might just be a matter of everything falling into place at the same time. Manager Kirk Gibson, who just finished his first full season, has his players believing in themselves, and that's what propelled them through tough times.
Granted, the D-Backs' rise occurred simultaneously with the fall of the reigning World Champion San Francisco Giants. The Giants had injury troubles all season, and their two aces -- Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain -- combined for just 25 wins.
Even so, it's not like Arizona just squeaked by to earn a postseason berth. The team wound up finishing eight games ahead of the second-place Giants.
It's amazing that the D-Backs accomplished all they did without a potent offense. Many times, teams that win 94 games outslug their opponents. However, Arizona finished 10th in the NL in batting average and didn't even have a .300 hitter (Gerardo Parra led the team at .292) or a 100-RBI guy (ditto Justin Upton with 88 RBIs).
While team batting average can be a determinant of team success, the most important statistic is obviously runs scored. Arizona finished fourth in the NL in this category, which is why they captured the division even without a few big boppers.
As discussed in a previous column, the D-Backs' pitching has been the focus of the team's success, and Ian Kennedy deserves the bulk of the credit.
Kennedy will be heavily in the mix for the NL Cy Young after a 21-4 season with a 2.88 ERA. Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter all recorded double-digit wins as well.
The bullpen, led by closer J.J. Putz and his 45 saves, has also come up big when needed. Brad Ziegler, who pitched to a 1.74 ERA in 23 appearances, was a great find at the trade deadline.
Individual stats can only tell so much, however. Let's see how the D-Backs matchup against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the playoffs. The Brew Crew's strong combination of pitching and hitting could be dangerous, especially in a short series.
Everyone's been counting the D-Backs out all season, but they've continuously proven critics wrong. Do they have some more tricks up their sleeves? Watch the MLB Playoffs to find out.
Whether or not the D-Backs make a playoff run, the seeds of a budding dynasty have been planted. The team's core -- Justin Upton, Kennedy, Miguel Montero, Gerardo Parra and Daniel Hudson -- are all still relatively young and can carry this team for a prolonged stretch.
In looking at the state of the NL West, the D-Backs improved at just the right time. The Giants have a knack for bringing in washed up veterans (Aaron Rowand, Miguel Tejada). The Padres and Rockies are very inconsistent teams year-in and year-out. Finally, who knows what will happen to the Dodgers given their financial troubles?
So Arizona can cement itself as the perennial favorite to capture the NL West crown, especially with making a statement in this year's playoffs. That doesn't even necessarily mean upsetting the Brewers in the first round, but the team just needs to show they can be legitimate contenders every season.
It's been a pleasure to watch a small-market team of virtually no-name players rise from the depths to experience success.