Arizona Diamondbacks: 5 Reasons Why 2011 Was a Fluke
A lot went right in the 2011 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While the rest of their division struggled, they stunned baseball by winning the National League West. A team that came to be known for its ability to come back went from worst to first, in just one year.
When looking back, though, there were performances and events in 2011 that are unlikely to repeat themselves.
There is no denying that the D-backs had one of best offenses in all of baseball, as they led the National League in extra base hits, and were top five in home runs as well. However, many of the players responsible for that had career years.
On the mound, they also reaped the benefits of standout performances from previously average, or relatively unknown players.
It was surprising and exciting, but here are five reasons why the success of 2011 is unlikely to repeat itself:
Without Ian Kennedy last season, the Diamondbacks do not win the NL West crown. Put simply: he had the performance of his baseball life. He was the ace of the Diamondbacks staff, as he posted career highs in wins, games started, ERA and innings pitched.
Those numbers were so beyond his career averages, though, that they are unlikely to be repeated.
The probability of this occurring is one of the reasons Arizona traded for Trevor Cahill this offseason. However, even with Cahill, if Kennedy’s statistics normalize, the Arizona pitching staff is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for second best in the National League West.
As with Kennedy, Roberts had a career year last season, with 19 HR, 65 RBI and 18 stolen bases. In his five seasons prior to 2011, he had a total of 10 HR, 35 RBI and seven stolen bases.
He may not have a huge drop-off in 2012, but he is bound to settle back towards his career numbers.
Assuming he does so, in order to repeat as NL West champions, the Diamondbacks must have someone else make up for that offense. It does not appear that they have any players poised to do that.
Justin Upton is a star, but seeing him produce more than he did last year is a difficult to envision. Another option could be Stephen Drew, but he is coming off a disappointing 2011, where he struggled from the plate and had his season cut short by a broken ankle. Paul Goldschmidt also showed his potential last year, but entering his second season, he’ll be trying to avoid the sophomore slump.
Post All-Star Break: 20 Games over .500
The D-backs made it to the postseason last year because they played better baseball than the San Francisco Giants down the stretch.
In mid-July, the Diamondbacks were three games out of first place. After the All-Star break, though, they were one of the best teams in baseball, as they went 45-25 and won the division by eight games.
It was quite a turnaround for a team that, in mid-May, was five games under. 500.
Yet, the fact that they struggled to begin the year does suggest that they played above their capabilities in August and September. They are likely better than how they started 2011, but not as good as they ended it.
The problem with this is that in order to equal last season's success, the D-backs can't be in the middle.
Similar to their season, the Diamondbacks rarely started games well. They were frequently a team whose offense normally went through the lineup a couple of times before they started making solid contact, and driving in runs.
In fact, 48 of the Diamondbacks' 94 wins last season were comeback victories.
That total was by far the most in the majors.
For any team to be successful, they must have the ability to come from behind and win. On the other hand, when more than 50 percent of a team’s wins come after they were trailing, they are walking a very fine line.
With the quality of starting rotations and bullpens in the division, it is unlikely they can accomplish a similar feat in 2012.
National League West
More complete divisional opponents are going to present the D-backs with stronger challenges than in 2011.
In their run to the National League West pennant, the Diamondbacks were able to take advantage of a fairly weak division. The three teams that were expected to compete with them all failed for different reasons:
The Giants offense was one of the worst in baseball, as they never recovered from the loss of Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez. The Dodgers could not make any moves to improve their team because of ownership problems. The Rockies lost starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa for the season, and also dealt with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez missing significant time.
All of those problems are unlikely to occur a second time.