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2006 Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Preview

Arizona Diamondbacks Predictions – NL WEST

OVERVIEW:

In 2001 the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series, beating the Yankees in seven behind the pitching of Co-MVPs Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Wow, a lot has changed in the past half-decade! In 2005 in the sub-par NL West, Arizona finished second with a 77-85 record, five games out of first.

PITCHING:

With a 4.78 team ERA and hitters averaging .278 against them, the Arizona staff is one of the worst in the NL. The Backs have tried to counter that by adding two starters—a third and a fourth in Orlando Hernandez and Manuel Batista.

Orlando Hernandez (9-9, 5.12 ERA) comes for the championship White Sox; his stock went up when he performed well in the post-season. Batista (5-8, 4.10 ERA) returns to the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation after a few years in the Toronto bullpen.

Ace Brandon Webb (14-12, 3.54 ERA) has shown improved command and durability and could win 20.

Jose Valverde (15 SV, 2.44 ERA) had a good finish last year and looks like the go-to closer for 2006.

HITTING:

Arizona was not a strong hitting team last year and they’ve done little to improve that situation.

Chad Tracy offers the most power with 27 homeruns and a .308 average. Luis Gonzalez (.271 BA, 25 HR) looks to have a big year after coming back from elbow surgery last year.

At leadoff Craig Counsell (.256 BA) could offer more pop at the top and Orlando Hudson, who lessened his strikeouts last year, is ready to reach a new level this season.

For the Diamondbacks, their success at the plate depends more on improving young guys and not off-season acquisitions.

DEFENSE:

At the corners, first basemen Connor Jackson and third baseman Chad Tracy are both an adventure, while shortstop Craig Counsell and second baseman Orlando Hudson are sound in the middle.

Eric Byrnes has been added to the team and will play center. He’s got skills and talent and will upgrade the outfield.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• New GM Josh Byrnes started building towards the future right after being hired.
• No longer looking to spend big; Backs will develop players.
• Manager Bob Melvin came back to Arizona last season and helped guide them to a record that had 26 more wins than in 2004.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Jose Valverde—can he handle the closer’s role?
• Troy Glaus is gone—is there anyone who can make up for his output?
• Tony Clark can still be a force off the bench.

CONCLUSION:

The D-backs will be competitive and give the Dodgers and Padres a run for their money. They’ve got a manager who’s been there before and a new GM who will be willing to make some moves when needed. They have nothing like that one-two pitching combo that utilized in 2001 when they won it all. But they may have enough gas to get into the post season.

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