March Madness- 30 teams in 30 days. 2012 MLB Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

I’m doing a daily team by team preview of each of the thirty teams in Major League Baseball. Opening Day is coming! It’s going to be a great season, no matter who you’re a fan of. I’m starting with:

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks

Manager: Kirk Gibson

2011 Record: 94-68, NL West Champions

Playoff Result: Lost NLDS to Milwaukee Brewers (3-2)

Top Player: Justin Upton (6.4 WAR)

What happened last season: The Arizona Diamondbacks stunned the baseball world in 2011 by going from a last place 65-97 record in 2010 to 94-68 and upsetting the defending world champion San Francisco Giants for the National League West Division title. The team would take the Milwaukee Brewers to the bottom of the tenth inning in the deciding game

The team was managed by playoff legend Kirk Gibson, but the emerging stars that put them over the top were right fielder Justin Upton (6.4 WAR, .289/.369/.529/.898, 141 OPS+, 31 HR, 88 RBI) and ace Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88 ERA, 222 IP, 198 K, 137 ERA+, 1.086 WHIP, 3.60 K/BB)

The main reasons for the great turnaround from 2010 was the massive improvement of the pitching staff. In 2010, the overall staff was a horrid 4.81 ERA, fifteenth in the National League. The bullpen was historically bad, dead last in the majors by over a full run, 5.74.

Things changed for Arizona in 2011. Led by Kennedy, the overall staff ERA fell a full run and climbed to ninth in the NL. The bullpen, boosted by the addition of All-Star closer J.J. Putz, improved by TWO full runs!

What they did in the offseason: Arizona had one of the best and efficient offseason in the majors. They further upgraded their rotation and lineup by trading for Oakland ace Trevor Cahill, who should thrive in the NL West, and former Twins OF Jason Kubel, who should be a good piece regardless where he plays.

Projected starting lineup and rotation:

Catcher: Miguel Montero

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt

Second Base: Aaron Hill

Third Base: Ryan Roberts

Shortstop: Stephen Drew

Left Field: Jason Kubel

Center Field: Chris Young

Right Field: Justin Upton

Rotation:

RHP Ian Kennedy

RHP Daniel Hudson

RHP Trevor Cahill

LHP Joe Saunders

RHP Josh Collmenter

Closer: RHP J.J. Putz

Outlook for 2012: With an improved lineup and more experienced bullpen, the Diamondbacks have great expectations for 2012. They expect to enjoy a deep playoff run and perhaps their second World Series berth in franchise history. If things continue to trend upward, they could see these expectations be realized. However, the National League West will be a tough battle between them, the Giants, Colorado, and the Dodgers.

Regular Season Prediction: 97-65, National League West Division Champions.

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