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Giants/Diamondbacks Series Preview

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Spoiled. You are all spoiled. Last year some of you complained about Bobby Howry. This year it’s Denny Bautista. That’s the big problem in the bullpen – a guy with a 3.49 FIP and overall positive value? Sure, he’s ridiculously wild, and the FanGraphs link up there suggests he’s been even worse in high-leverage situations. But if he’s the biggest problem on the staff, there probably isn’t a tremendous amount to complain about.

Bautista even has a positive WAR right now. By contrast, here are the WAR rankings for some of the Diamondback relievers:

Chad Qualls – Civil War

Juan Gutierrez – The Taiping Rebellion

Blaine Boyer – Falklands War

That’s how bad it’s been. Brother against brother. State against state. Qualls against the sensibility of Arizonians. The Diamondbacks'best reliever, Aaron Heilman, hasn’t been that bad, but he’s probably still around a Ladejarl-Fairhair Succession WAR ranking. It’s been ugly. And here we are, complaining about Denny Bautista.

The Diamondbacks represent a substantial fear of mine. What if, after drafting the right guys, making some good trades, and building the farm system up, everything goes wrong? The Diamondbacks had so many prospects at one point, they could afford to trade a half-dozen for Dan Haren, and still fill just about every position with a premium-yet-cheap young player. I wake up at night, sweating, after dreaming of a world in which the Giants take five years to collect all sorts of young hitters, only to allow 900 runs in a season because of injuries, general wretchedness, and bad luck.

I thought the Diamondbacks had it figured out, and that they would be the team to beat for a while. Whoops. This whole team-building thing is hard.

The vaunted youngsters mostly have been just okay instead of great. That goes for Stephen Drew, Chris Young, and, this year at least, Mark Reynolds. Carlos Quentin was traded, and Conor Jackson came down with a horrific illness. Poof. That’s how quickly a top farm system can turn into a team OPS+ of 93. The best hitter on the team this year was a Braves castoff. Actually, the best hitter on the team by OPS is Dan Haren. That’s kind of how the Diamondbacks are rolling this year.

Unless things turn around the next couple of seasons, the Diamondbacks will just be another entry in the Hall of Great Unjustified Fears Fame. The best comparison is the Padres back in the Sean Burroughs era, but I’ve already mentioned them here and here in reference to the Diamondbacks. The first link hints that, gee, I’d love if the Diamondbacks went the way of the Nady/Bozied/Davis/Burroughs-led Padres farm explosion. The second link says, hey, it’s not quite time to say the Diamondbacks have gone that way.

It still isn’t quite time to make any stronger proclamations of doom, but the odds aren’t looking good for the potential Diamondbacks dynasty that I worried about for so long. And if loving their struggles is wrong, brother, I don’t want to be right.

Hitter to watch:

In an offseason filled with second base options – Orlando Hudson! Felipe Lopez! Freddy Sanchez. Dan Uggla! – the answer was Kelly Johnson. Kelly Johnson. We appreciate all of the other entries, but the answer was Kelly Johnson. Dang it. When people complain that BABIP is a silly stat, please point them in the direction of Johnson. I’d trade Freddy Sanchez for him, and I’d even throw in Mark DeRosa.

Pitcher to watch:

Dan Haren is still striking people out, and he still has fantastic control. He’s also allowed a crazy amount of home runs, but I’m going to guess he’s just as good as he ever was, despite a 4.60 ERA. So let’s all enjoy watching him from the bench. Neener neener neener. I love not facing a team’s best starter in a four-game series.

Prediction:

I’ll probably figure out a way to reference the Sean Burroughs-era Padres in another post next year. Those guys really freaked me out. It’s a good thing none of them panned out, but that doesn’t really feel so comforting now that we’re getting drubbed by this collection of punchless goofballs.