The D'backs were really good in 2011, outperforming expectations. They regressed in 2012, underperforming what was expected. Now what?
Hey, look! I didn't plan it this way, but here's an entry in the "Know Your Enemy" that matches the Cubs' spring-training opponent today.
Thus it is that Arizona has a new right fielder (free agent signing Cody Ross), a new center fielder (Adam Eaton, a 23-year-old speedster who hit .375/.456/.523 with 44 stolen bases at two minor-league levels last year, a new third baseman (Martin Prado, acquired in the Upton deal) and at least one new starting pitcher (free agent signing Brandon McCarthy, who hasn't pitched since he was hit in the head by a line drive last August).
So are those question marks? Some of them are, clearly -- will McCarthy be healthy and productive? Will Eaton produce at the big-league level? At the same time, Ross is a quality major-league player (someone I had thought the Cubs might go after), and so is Prado, who had a fine season for Atlanta last year at multiple positions. He might do better, as some players do, settling into playing just one.
The D'backs hoped to defend their 2011 division title, but muddled around .500 most of the year. They briefly made a run at the second wild card before finishing exactly at .500; much of the decline was due to Ian Kennedy declining from his excellent 2011 season. Arizona did get a solid rookie year from Wade Miley and good performance from Trevor Cahill, but they struggled to find rotation options past those guys. McCarthy should help solidify their rotation -- again, if he's healthy, which he reportedly is.
Watch out for Paul Goldschmidt, who had a good year in 2012 (20 HR, 82 RBI, .286/.359/.490) at age 24. He outperformed this every one of his minor-league seasons. He could be in line for a breakout year.
Pythagorean numbers don't always tell the tale about teams, but many times this one does: the D'backs Pythagorean record for 2012 was 86-76 on 734 runs scored (fourth in the league) and 688 runs allowed (ninth). Teams that underperform this number have a strong tendency to improve the following year. The reverse is also true -- and the D'backs followed this quite well, since their 94-win season of 2011 had a Pythagorean win projection of 88 wins.
Thus the D'backs probably figure to be an 86- or 87-win team. That should put them in contention for the second wild card.
The Cubs will face them May 31 and June 1-2 at Wrigley Field and for a four-game series, July 22-25, in Phoenix.
This series once again takes the weekend off and will resume Monday with a look at the Colorado Rockies.