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Diamondbacks Off-Season Recap: Starting Pitching | December

After a 65-97 record and a last place NL West finish in 2010, new Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers has made several move in the off-season, already bringing in ten new players who could be on the opening day roster.  Most notably, the Diamondbacks traded away 3B Mark Reynolds, and signed closer J.J. Putz. In addition, almost the entire bench and bullpen have been revamped for 2011.

When Towers were hired, he mentioned three areas that he thought needed to be improved, and all three have been addressed to some extent:

* The Bullpen - Finished with an ERA of 5.74, more than one run higher than any other NL team
* The Bench - Pinch hitters hit .225/.289/.279 in 2010, with 20 BB and 82K
* Strikeouts - A major league record 1529 for the team,  breaking the previous mark of 1399 held by the 2001 Brewers. Still, the team's offense finished above average in both Runs Scored and OPS+.

New Additions for 2011:
Starting Pitching - Zach Duke
Bullpen - J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Joe Paterson, Kam MickolioBrian Sweeney, Juan Jaime (minors)
Catcher - Henry Blanco
Infield - Juan Miranda, Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum
Outfield - Xavier Nady, Wily Mo Pena (minors), David Winfree (minors)

Key Losses from 2010:
Staring Pitching - Brandon Webb, Rodrigo Lopez, Kris Benson
Bullpen - Aaron Heilman, Blaine Boyer, D.J. Carrasco
Infield - Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche, Augie Ojeda
Outfield - Ryan Church, Rusty Ryal

In this post, we'll start with a look at the Diamondbacks' starting pitching outlook for 2011.

Starting Pitching
Heading into spring training, three pitchers seem assured of slots in the starting rotation:

* RHP Ian Kennedy: 9-10, 3.80 ERA, 1.201 WHIP, 194 IP, 116K/56 BB, 4.33 FIP
* RHP Daniel Hudson: 7-1, 1.69 ERA, 0.841 WHIP, 79.2 IP, 70K/16 BB, 3.22 FIP
* LHP Joe Saunders: 3-7, 4.25 ERA, 1.403 WHIP, 82.2 IP, 50K/19 BB, 4.43 FIP

LHP Zach Duke, acquired from the Pirates, is the likely fourth starter, despite a 8-15, 5.72 ERA in 2010. Duke's FIP ERA was a little better at 4.95, and he is a solid ground ball pitcher (career 1.6 GB/FB ratio), but the career strikeout rate of only 4.71 K/9 does not inspire much confidence.

Barry Enright has the lead for the 5th starter's spot after going 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 2010.  But there are some causes for concern with Enright - his FIP was much higher at 5.62, and he ended the season badly, going 1-5 with a 6.89 ERA in September/October. One reason he kept his ERA so low was that he had an 85% LOB rate, 2nd best among NL starters, implying that he may have been a little lucky that so few of his baserunners came around to score.  His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) was also only .251, placing 5th lowest among NL starters. The high LOB% and low BABIP suggest that Enright's low ERA in 2010 may have been a fluke. On the other hand, Enright's strikeout-to-walk rate was excellent in the minors last year (7.8K/9, 1.4BB/9), and he never quite found that level in the majors. The Diamondbacks are hoping that he will bump up the strikeouts a notch from his 4.5K/9 in 2010.

Unfortunately, after these five starters, there are not many current options for the Diamondbacks. Minor league pitchers Wade Miley, Wes Roemer, and Josh Collmenter might be next in line, but none of them have shown much success at the AAA level yet. The most promising option is Jarrod Parker, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and looks ready to pitch at a very high level. Parker, considered the Diamondbacks' top minor league prospect, will have a chance to make the team out of spring training, but will most likely start in either AA or AAA. 

Once again, the team will probably bring in some non-roster invitees to spring training, and will find a veteran to serve in the role of Rodrigo Lopez or Kris Benson last year. Some former Diamondbacks who are still available include Brad Penny, Micah Owings, Billy Buckner, Chris Capuano, and Doug Davis. Penny may cost a million or two, but some of the others may be available for split minor/major league contracts.  After the recent signings of Henry Blanco and Xavier Nady, the team supposely still has a few million dollars available to spend on this year's team. Some free agent pitchers who could fit within that budget include Brian Bannister, Ian Snell, Nate Robertson, Todd Wellemeyer, and Noah Lowry.