When the 2013 Arizona Diamondbacks roster was created we were told the team was focused on eliminating strikeouts and focusing rather on contact hitters who could move runners along. Instead of having big hitters capable of changing the context of the game with one swing, the Diamondbacks would instead be focused on sustained offense throughout the lineup.
Phrases such as “small ball”, “station-to-station”, and “gritty” were bantered about helping to prepare the team and the fans to understand what they should expect throughout the season. True to form, the roster delivered. Where in years past the team would look for a home run to bring a victory or put them back in the game; this team would lay down a bunt or move the runners opening holes in the defense for a hit-and-run.
With the elimination of the number of strikeouts the goal was to turn over the batting order and march around the base paths. Additionally, the number of shutouts should be substantially reduced as the team manufactured runs.
The plan seemed to work as the Diamondbacks went until June 28, 2013 before being shut out against the Atlanta Braves. They were the last team in Major League Baseball to be held scoreless that year.
While the team did well creating runs through constant contact, the experiment ended the same way as the year before with an 81-81 season. Perhaps having a batting order made up only of players who could make contact was not the way to go.
During the off-season General Manager Kevin Towers revamped the Diamondbacks roster once again. He traded speed and pitching for a big bat capable of changing the outcome with one swing.
It did not take long for the trade for Mark Trumbo to show positive signs. A home run in the second game in Sydney Australia gave fans a reason for optimism. It was not just that one swing. In the first week of the regular season Trumbo has hit 4 home runs and driven in 11 runs to lead the team.
All is not positive though. The number of strikeouts has increased over last year at a somewhat alarming rate. Last season the Diamondbacks planned on Adam Eaton to play center field. In an injury-ridden season he played just 66 games striking out 44 times. AJ Pollock played the majority of time in Eaton’s absence striking out 82 times in 137 games. This year Pollock already has 10 strikeouts in just 8 games.
The station-to-station moving the runners along philosophy has also seemed to have gone by the wayside in 2014 and the Diamondbacks were shut out in just their fifth game of the season.
The baseball season is just beginning and there are still 157 games in this season so the sample size is way too small to make any kind of conclusion but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Where 2013 was a season where the Diamondbacks seemed to always be in each game; will this new roster result in more lopsided games either in the Diamondbacks favor or by getting blown out?