Norm Hall - Getty Images
The 38th, and final, Diamondbacks series preview of the season explores the reasons why they didn't repeat as division winners.
Nothing is different. There is nothing to see here. This is the same site that you've always visited. You will adapt to the change. Look at the watch. Looooook at it.
How can anything be different? The Giants are playing the Diamondbacks for the 593th time this month. Everything is the same. There's probably a Wade Miley or something pitching in this series. I'm not even going to check. Diamondbacks Rockies Padres Diamondbacks Rockies Padres Wade Miley Jhoulys Chacin Clayton Richard Wade Miley Jhoulys Chacin, forever looping into infinity as our life slowly circles the drain. WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?
The best part about this series: It doesn't mean a lick. It's so refreshing. For the last month, I've been studying the last two weeks of the schedule, thinking about the different ways these teams could screw up the Giants. Would it be Ian Kennedy in the pool with a candlestick? Or would it be Andrew Cashner in the Western Metal Supply building with a revolver? You'd think 2010 would have flushed that kind of worrywarting out of my system, but that stuff cakes your insides with residue that's hard to scrape off.
Instead, it's a Giants/Diamondbacks series falling in a forest and not making a sound. Lovely.
It's also a good time to remember that a lot of people picked the Diamondbacks to win the division. A lot of smart people. A lot of smart, devilishly handsome people. Well, say, I picked the Diamondbacks to win the division this year. It wasn't a hard choice, either. They won the division last year, and none of their main contributors were over 30. Ryan Roberts and Joe Saunders were 30. Everyone else was younger.
Behind that young core: A younger core. Oh, man, I need to stop counting their young pitchers. There are a lot of them. Some of them are in a state of disrepair, but there are a bunch. Even when you account for young pitchers being like hatchling turtles, where most of them will be eaten by crabs before they can scramble to the open sea, the Diamondbacks still had a surplus. They could afford to not get contributions from all, or even most, of those young pitchers. They'd still be the class of the division.
Well, looks like I was wronger than the guy playing the wrong flute at the Jethro Wrong concert. Which is a good thing. A magnificent thing. It would have been better to win it in front of the reigning division champs, like 2000, but that's just nitpicking. So what went wrong with the 2012 Diamondbacks? A few things:
They're about four wins under their Pythagorean projection -- just three games behind the Giants when you rearrange the standings by run differential. That might be because of something they're doing. But it's probably just poor luck.
Daniel Hudson was so danged good last year, and he was supposed to be the staff ace. Stephen Drew was supposed to come back healthy. Really, they haven't been besieged with injuries this year, but losing Hudson was brutal.
There was no reason to expect Ryan Roberts or Josh Collmenter to be that good again. They weren't. Ian Kennedy didn't seem like the kind of pitcher who'd allow fewer than 20 home runs for every 200 innings he'd pitch. He wasn't.
This is the big one. Upton finished fourth in the MVP voting last year, but he's in the middle of one of those weird, Aubrey Huff/Robb Nen, every-other-year patterns. His home run total was chopped in half. If you believe in wins above replacement, he's been less valuable this season than Brandon Crawford.
Pause for dramatic effect.
Narrowing of the eyes and a slight tilt of the head so you know that sentence was serious and worth reviewing.
But next season? Upton and the Diamondbacks will scare the hell out of me again. I don't think Aaron Hill or Jason Kubel will match their production, but a couple of those young pitchers will go off like Wade Miley did this year. Upton will eventually morph into the man-beast that I've been afeared of for years. They'll … wait, Willie Bloomquist signed a two-year deal? Huh. But they have other things going for them, too.
This wasn't the kind of unexpectedly disappointing season that makes you guffaw at their future prospects. They aren't the Red Sox. They aren't even the Phillies, who have the same record, but are much older. The Diamondbacks are going to annoy the Giants for a while. It didn't work out that way this season, even though I was really expecting it too.
What if the Giants' starting pitching isn't magic?
It's been two straight years of magic run prevention. We're spoiled. Tim Lincecum is going to be awesome because we know he will be. Madison Bumgarner is going to be awesome because we know he will be. What this blog post presupposes is … maybe they won't?
Man, if you had told me the Giants' team ERA+ this season was going to be 96 ... I know I threaten the Sabercats blog every year, but I think that would have pushed me over the edge.
The Diamondbacks looked like a devourer of souls during that first series. Always, always, always with the Paul Goldschmidt. They had a down year relative to expectations. They'll be back. But for now, it's nice to be on the right side of a September series against them that doesn't mean a damned thing.