The odds of the feat were enormous. With two outs in the 10th inning and trailing 6-1 on Tuesday, Arizona was given less than less than a 0.1% chance to win, and even that seemed generous. Then things started going right. Two ground balls found holes for singles. Chris Young walked. Aaron Miles butchered a ground ball. The normally reliable Javy Guerra walked in a run. Then...Ryan Roberts, the man who didn't have a guaranteed job six months ago, hit a walk-off grand slam. Victory for Arizona, out of nowhere.
That night exemplifies more than any other the kind of year Arizona has had. Even the most optimistic prognosticators projected the Diamondbacks to finish fourth in the division. A few crazies put them third. Yet here they are, one year removed from the third worst record in the league, going to the playoffs with 94 wins, third most in franchise history. They trounced the NL West, taking the divisional crown by eight games, the largest margin of victory in these parts since the Giants won 100 games in 2003, the Year of Bartman.
In getting there, just about everything went right for Arizona. Sure, Stephen Drew's horrific injury hurt them, but after that...
It's the year of the snake.
The Diamondbacks got career years and breakouts overflowing Chase Field, starting with Ian Kennedy and Justin Upton, who will each receive votes for postseason hardware. Daniel Hudson reasserted himself as a young front of rotation pitcher. Men largely unknown outside of Arizona blossomed - Josh Collmenter started as an obscure prospect and finished as a 10-win pitcher with a 3.38 ERA. Ryan Roberts went from 25th man to 3.6 fWAR third baseman with 19 home runs. Gerardo Parra and Miguel Montero had career years. Joe Saunders, nearly non-tendered last offseason, threw a career high 212 innings.
Even the holes and front office misfires proved trivial. Juan Miranda, Melvin Mora, Sean Burroughs, Russell Branyan, Xavier Nady, Geoff Blum, Armando Galarraga and Zach Duke were all veterans brought in to shore up the bench, rotation and corner infield, and all of them flopped. Yet Paul Goldschmidt went from A-ball last year to the big leagues this season, has smacked eight home runs in 48 games with 120 wRC+ to stabilize first base. Ryan Roberts has been a godsend at third. And Saunders and Collmenter have shored up the rotation in quite an unexpected fashion.
Kevin Towers didn't do much to beef up the roster at the trade deadline, as Arizona trailed San Francisco by two games at the time. He did trade a struggling Kelly Johnson for John McDonald and Aaron Hill, neither of whom were hitting any better in Toronto than Johnson in Arizona. The deal was met with confusion by fans in Arizona. And yet, Hill has mashed to a 134 wRC+ in 142 PA as a Snake after just a 61 wRC+ in 429 PA as a Jay. While McDonald is still worthless offensively, he's provided more defensively in sedona red than in blue and black.
Even on the farm, it has been a banner year in Arizona. Tyler Skaggs struck out 198 batters in High-A and AA, fourth most in the minors, at age 19. Jarrod Parker returned from Tommy John surgery strong in AA, then pitched 5.2 scoreless innings in his MLB debut Tuesday. David Holmberg, the other half of the Daniel Hudson trade, dominated A-ball. The team drafted, and signed, Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley, who had fantastic pro debuts. Goldschmidt and Collmenter already graduated this season to strong success.
Of course, the rest of the division played our well for Zona as well. The Giants were felled by a myriad of injuries and offensive regression. The Dodgers owners were in court all summer for a divorce and bankruptcy. The Rockies played out their most disappointing season in franchise history. San Diego won 19 fewer games.
This isn't to say the Diamondbacks are strictly lucky, though their fans certainly are. The team as constructed is legitimately talented - it has just blossomed much more quickly than anyone expected. It is a mighty fantastic time to be a baseball fan in our nations' 48th state, now and in the near future. But surely they won't win the World Series. I mean, there is no way this team could overcome the tall odds laid out in front of them....right? Right?
Two weeks' worth of divisional news after the fold.
NL West Report
Arizona (94-68, 1st, L1)
Last Two Weeks: 7-5. 1-2 @ Padres. 2-1 vs. Pirates. 3-0 vs. Giants. 1-2 vs. Dodgers. The Diamondbacks' 6-run 10th inning rally with two outs was the first in MLB history.
You Should Know: Arizona won the season series against all four divisional foes, going 43-29, and were above .500 vs. the NL East, NL Central and in interleague.
Divisional Change: Gained one half game on San Francisco.
Sunday, 2:37PM MST: NLDS Game 2 @ Brewers. Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.49, 4.9 fWAR, 2.6 rWAR) vs. Shawn Marcum (13-7, 3.54, 2.7 fWAR, 3.3 rWAR).
Tuesday, TBA: NLDS Game 3 vs. Brewers. TBA vs. Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83, 3.9 fWAR, 1.6 rWAR).
Wednesday, TBA: NLDS Game 4 vs. Brewers, if necessary. TBA vs. TBA.
Friday, TBA: NLDS Game 5 @ Brewers, if necessary. TBA vs. TBA.
Playoffs Prediction: Brewers in four.
2012 Draft: After choosing 3rd and 7th in 2011's draft, the Diamondbacks' top pick in 2012 will come with the 25th pick.
News: Steve Gilbert outlines five keys for the Diamondbacks in the playoffs. Gilbert likes lists; he also listed the top ten reasons Arizona succeeded this year.
Joe Saunders is the only player from the Dan Haren trade on the playoff roster. Naturally, Haren would make Arizona a much bigger playoff threat, but Nick Piecoro pleads with fans not to be critical of the Haren deal at the time on those grounds.
#24 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Angels
Sep 17, 1980
|2011 - Dan Haren||16-10||35||34||4||3||0||0||238.1||211||91||84||20||33||192||3.17||1.02|
One of Arizona's first round picks in 2009, Bobby Borchering, is moving from first and third base to left field.
Nick Piecoro also wrote that Jerry DiPoto deserves more credit for Arizona's turnaround. That echoes something Keith Law wrote days earlier and that I wrote more than a week earlier.
AZSnakePit's soco wrote that the worst part of September was the waiting for the inevitable division championship to come. Now, as fans of an organization that has never won a division title or even clinched a postseason spot earlier than October, this is a foreign concept to Rockies fans. We are simply incapable of empathizing with the pain Diamondbacks' fans feel waiting for the fifth division title to come in 14 years. I seriously cannot imagine what that would feel like.
Transactions: Recalled OF Cole Gillespie from AAA Reno (9/16). Designated IF Tommy Manzella for assignment and called up RHP Jarrod Parker from AA Mobile (9/19). Outrighted IF Tommy Manzella to AAA Reno (9/21). Acquired LHP Mike Zagurski from Phillies for PTBNL and designated RHP Esmerling Vasquez for assignment (9/23). Activated LHP Mike Zagurski (9/26). Lost RHP Esmerling Vasquez on a waiver claim to the Tiwns (9/27).
Injuries: No news.
Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries
Los Angeles (82-79, 3rd, W1, 11.5 GB)
Last Two Weeks: 9-3. 3-0 vs. Pirates. 2-1 vs. Giants. 2-1 @ Padres. 2-1 @ Diamondbacks.
You Should Know: The Dodgers finished the season as strong as anyone, winning 10 of their last 11 series. They followed up a 17-11 August with a 17-9 September.....Despite heavy mockery at dwindling attendance, the Dodgers still finished 6th in the NL with just under three million fans.
Divisional Change: Gained one half game on Diamondbacks.
This Week: At long last, an escape from the drama of Dodgertown.
2012 Draft: The Dodgers will actually be choosing later in next year's draft than in 2011. Their late charge pits them with the 18th overall pick in June's draft, an unprotected pick.
News: Matt Kemp finished #1 in the NL in WAR for hitters with 10.0. TEN. His fWAR came in at 8.7. He is now the 14th member of the 35-35 club. Kemp is only the second Los Angeles Dodger to win the NL home run title, joining Adrian Beltre in 2004.
Kenley Jansen set an MLB record with a 16.30 K/9 this season.
Your must-click analysis of the week: Chad Moriyama breaks downwhy James Loney has suddenly become such an effective hitter again.
Eugenio Velez didn't have a hit all season. In fact, Velez was 0-for-37 with one walk, an MLB record for most ABs for a non-pitcher without a hit. Amusingly enough, Velez still managed to score 5 runs. Velez had a .000 BABIP, naturally, and struck out in 11 of his 40 plate appearances. He was credited with one line drive and a -77 OPS+/wRC+.
#3 / Left Field / Los Angeles Dodgers
May 16, 1982
|2011 - Eugenio Velez||34||37||5||0||0||0||0||1||2||11||1||0||.000||.075||.000|
Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander became the first two pitchers to win the Triple Crown in the same year since 1924, when Walter Johnson and Dazzy Vance accomplished the feat 87 years ago. Of the eight previous pitchers to win the Triple Crown in the Cy Young Award era, all eight won the award.
Jamey Carroll's 16 RBI in 2011 is the 3rd lowest total in MLB history for a hitter with at least 500 PA, behind Enzo Hernandez and Goat Anderson.
Frank McCourt is playing hardball, trying to bring Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria into the spotlight of MLB litigation. "Hey! I'm not that bad!" Unfortunately, pointing out a colleague robbed a liquor store won't get you off of a murder charge, but no one can say McCourt isn't going down fighting. McCourt didn't accept the $1.2billion offer for the Dodgers. He didn't decline either. Rather, McCourt just didn't respond to the offer.
Don Mattingly isn't a fan of bringing back Jonathan Broxton, who reaches full free agency this offseason.
Injuries: UT Russell Mitchell will have arthroscopic surgery on his wrist. OF Tony Gwynn Jr. was suffering from a jammed shoulder. RHP Jonathan Broxton had surgery on his elbow September 19.
Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries
San Diego (71-91, 5th, W1, 23.0 GB)
Last Week: 8-4. 2-1 vs. Diamondbacks. 3-0 @ Rockies. 1-2 vs. Dodgers. 2-1 vs. Cubs.
You Should Know: The Padres had the biggest negative difference in record vs. Pythagorean in MLB. Their -18 run differential suggests a 79-83 record, a difference of eight games from their actual W/L.
Divisional Change: Gained one game in the division.
This Week: Golf.
2012 Draft: San Diego holds the 7th overall pick in next June's draft. The pick is protected.
News: Hitting coach Randy Ready got the axe this morning after his team struggled to score 593 runs, their lowest total in over three decades. GM Jed Hoyer called it a "stylistic change more than anything" as the Padres led the majors in strikeout rate.
The best Padres blog on the net is closing up shop, as Geoff Young is putting up the checkered flag on DuckSnorts after 14 years. Young will still put my NL West Reports to shame at Baseball Prospectus with his NL West write-ups.
The season team leader in home runs and runs batted in was Ryan Ludwick, who was a Pittsburgh Pirate for over two months of the season.
Jed Hoyer is taking responsibility for San Diego's poor year by noting he missed on a couple acquisitions this past offseason.
San Diego Padres Injuries
San Francisco (86-76, 2nd, L1, 8.0 GB)
Last Two Weeks: 6-6. 3-0 @ Rockies. 1-2 @ Dodgers. 0-3 @ Diamondbacks. 2-1 vs. Rockies. The Giants produced a four-HR inning against the Rockies, the first time they accomplished that in five decades.
You Should Know: Sergio Romo is the only pitcher in MLB history to pitch at least 30 innings and finish with at least 10 K's per 9 innings (13.13) and less than one walk per nine innings (0.94). He allowed five walks all season, and one was intentional. That gave him a 0.96 FIP and 0.82 SIERA. No matter how good you thought this guy was, he was at least twice as good as you thought.
|2011 - Sergio Romo||3-1||65||0||0||0||1||1||48.0||29||8||8||2||5||70||1.50||.71|
Divisional Change: Fell one half game further out of first place.
This Week: Not the playoffs.
2012 Draft: San Francisco will select 20th overall in next June's draft, an unprotected pick.
News: Madison Bumgarner is the fifth Giant ever to finish a season with at least a 4.00 K/BB. His predecessors: Christy Mathewson (3), Juan Marichal (4), Gaylord Perry (1), and Jason Schmidt (1). He is also one of three pitchers in MLB history to hit that mark at age 21 or younger.
Dave of Golden Gate Giants wrote the Yahoo! detention lecture for the Giants.
Thanks slice o matic for the machine you sent to my locker. Good gift good humor. Does it slice hamburger patties?
Carlos Beltran won't return to San Francisco. That is...unless they improve the offense on top of him. And while the Giants want Beltran back, they are already planning for Nate Schierholtz to be the 2012 everyday RF.
#15 / Right Field / San Francisco Giants
Apr 24, 1977
|2011 - Carlos Beltran||44||167||17||54||9||4||7||18||11||27||1||2||.323||.369||.551|
Hank Schulman has a laundry list of info on the Giants, notably that San Francisco won't pursue an A-list free agent and that Aubrey Huff essentially got lazy last offseason.
Injuries: Activated RHP Brian Wilson from the 15-day DL (9/18). LHP Dan Runzler left the game Wednesday with a strained left lat muscle.