Monday, December 06, 2004

Looking Back: Final Thoughts 

After last week's mind-numbing walk through the D-Backs' win shares, I thought I'd just add a few final thoughts before the Winter Meetings this week completely change the team's makeup.

1. This was not a 51-win team. OK, yes, it was, but the string of bad luck and other moves bears repeating: 3 losses due to "luck" (Pythagorean record 3 games better), 4 due to Gonzo's injury, 3 to Finley's trade, 8 to Sexson's injury, maybe 1 to Elmer's trade. Right there, that's 70 wins. And beyond that, other injuries hindered the team's chances. Matt Kata wasn't tearing up the league, and neither was Robbie Alomar, but they combined for 6 win shares, with a Win Shares Above Average of -2. The decision to play Scott Hairston, while correct for the long-term future of the team, hurt the team in 2005 -- just 4 Win Shares and -6 WSAA. Playing Alomar and Kata in place of Hairston would've picked the team up another 3-4 Win Shares, or another win. Injuries to Valverde and Villareal, who combined for 22 Win Shares in 2003 but just 2 in 2004, had a negative effect, even if you assume there would've been sophomore year regression in their contributions. You probably could figure out a way to get 75 or 76 wins if the D-Backs had just had a "normal" level of injuries in 2004.

Then, if Webb and (in particular) Cintron hadn't struggled this year, and if the D-Backs had won three extra games due to luck instead of losing...

I know, I know, the games aren't played on paper. But what I am suggesting is that the hope that the D-Backs would at least compete in 2004 was not so far-fetched.

What I'm also suggesting is that unless the team is dismantled for 2005 (no Randy, no Richie, no major free agents of any sorts), a 75-win season is not wishful thinking. It's a very real possibility.

2. What About Managing? I didn't include any discussion of the managerial staff in here because I had no good metric to evaluate it. Were the rash of injuries just freakish randomness, or (in the case of pitchers) was it a case of overuse? Were the struggles of Webb, Cintron, Kata just cases of second-year struggles (though I think Cintron's got more than 2 years up here...), or was it poor coaching? Were the 3 games lost to luck or poor managerial decisions? I don't know.

(On a side managerial note, I was unsurprised to see the Arizona Republic report Backman's 10-day jail term for violating his parole. This possibility of jail time -- up to a year -- seemed to me at the time of Backman's "dismissal" a very valid reason for the D-Backs' managements actions. But the decision to put Steve Gilbert's article on the jail time on the D-Backs' website seems to be more like kicking a man when he's down.)

3. If you're going to salary dump, don't do it on the cheap. Trading Curt Schilling was a salary dump. It wasn't related to the Sexson trade because we lost almost as much salary as we picked up in Sexson. We lost, what, $12 million in salary and a net 16 win shares. That's not a horrible switch. The only problem is that if the D-Backs had separated consideration of the Schilling and Sexson trades, they probably could have picked up someone better. What was problematic was the Batista salary dump. They lost $5 million in salary, tried to make that up with Sparks and Reynolds (combined, nearly $2 million), and for a net $3 million in salary, lost a net 13 win shares. That one hurts.

Well, whatever other thoughts I had have disappeared into the ether or, in the case of D-Backs' evaluation of pitching talent might degenerate into meaningless babbling, so I'll end here.

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