22 October 2009
After an NL West division title in 2007 and a runner-up finish in 2008, the 2009 season was a major disappointment for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 2008 D-Backs had held on to first place in the NL West through Game 140, and had finished just two games behind the Dodgers, despite an 82-80 record.
With two legitimate aces in the rotation in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, and a core of young talent led by Justin Upton, Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, and Conor Jackson, the D-Backs entered the 2009 season as legitimate contenders in the NL West. In Sports Illustrated's preseason poll, 9 of the 13 writers picked the Dodgers to win the division, while the other 4 picked the Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks fell 3 Games Behind the Dodgers after the first week, and never got within 10 games of the lead after mid-May. The season ended with a 70-92 record, 25 games out of first place, and the third worst record in franchise history.
[caption id="attachment_159" align="aligncenter" width="409" caption="2009 NL West Race - Games Above .500"]
What were the bright spots for the 2009 Diamondbacks? On offense, Justin Upton overcame a very slow start to turn in an outstanding season for a 21 year old. 3B Mark Reynolds continued to improve and finished 4th in the NL in home runs and 10th in RBI. Miguel Montero took over the starting catching job after Chris Snyder's back injury, and put up a strong .294/.355 OBP/.478 SLG batting line. On the mound, Dan Haren was the best pitcher in the league for the 1st Half of the season. Max Scherzer showed great stuff with 174 Ks in 170.1 IP.
But there were a lot more negatives than positives in 2009. The biggest was Brandon Webb's shoulder injury on Opening Day, wiping out the entire season for a pitcher who had finished 1st or 2nd in the Cy Young voting for three consecutive seasons. On offense, the D-Backs had disastrous offensive seasons from Chris Young, Conor Jackson, Eric Byrnes, and Chad Tracy. The bullpen struggled for most of the year, and newcomers Tom Gordon and Scott Schoeneweis were never a factor. By mid-season, the D-Backs were clearly "Sellers" and traded away pitchers Jon Garland, Jon Rauch, and Tony Pena for prospects. In the minor leagues, the team's #1 prospect, Jarrod Parker, injured his elbow in July and will probably miss all of 2010 after Tommy John surgery.
Despite the down year in 2009, things look a little better for 2010. It appears that the team will pick up Brandon Webb's option for 2010, and he should be healthy. Conor Jackson looks to have recovered from the Valley Fever that wasted his 2009 season, and is hitting well in the Dominican Winter League. Brandon Allen and Tony Abreu, picked up during the summer trades, will be battling for starting jobs in the infield. Chris Young hit much better after returning from his demotion to the minors, hitting .299/.382/.598 over the final 30 days. Rookies such as Esmerling Vasquez, Juan Gutierrez, Clay Zavada, and Daniel Schlereth showed flashes of ability to help closer Chad Qualls in the bullpen.
In the next few posts, we'll look at the Diamondbacks lineup and pitching in more detail, catch up on the latest offseason news, and check in on the D-Backs minor league prospects in the Fall and Winter Leagues.