09 October 2011
The Arizona Diamondbacks' 2011 season ended with an extra-inning Game 5 defeat to the Brewers in the NLDS. But even with the defeat, the 2011 season must be viewed as an outstanding season for the team. This was a team coming off a 65-97 season in 2010, and expectations for the team were very low heading into 2011. I participate in Jim Baker's Predictatron, where contestants predict the final record of each team before the season. This year's contest had 40 players, including writers from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Baseball Prospectus, and only 1 out of 40 picked the team to finish over .500. The median projection was 73 Wins for the D'Backs, and most people's expectations moved even lower after the team went 12-25 in Spring Training. Yet somehow, the team improved by 29 Games in 2011. In the first of several articles recapping the season, let's start with an overview of how the team went from worst to first in a single season.
|Year||W-L Record||NL West Rank||Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||Pythag Record|
|2011||94-68||1st, 8 Games Up||731||662||88-74|
|2010||65-97||5th, 27 Games Back||713||836||69-93|
The Diamondbacks offense was better in 2011 than in 2010, despite the loss of sluggers Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche. The 18 run improvement in offense is even more impressive considering that the NL average offense decreased by 33 runs in 2011. But the biggest improvement was in the Runs Allowed department, where the improvement was 174 runs. Overall, the team went from a -123 run differential to a +69 in one year. It is interesting to note that the Diamondbacks underperformed their Pythagorean record by 4 games last year, and out-performed it by 6 games this year. This is consistent with having a bad bullpen in 2010, and a good one in 2011.
A closer look at the offensive components shows that the team actually was slightly worse in the AVG/OBP/SLG stats in 2011. In fact, the only obvious areas of improvement were in strikeouts, stolen bases, and grounding into double plays. Yet the overall result was an increase in runs scored by 18.
On the pitching side, the reasons for improvement are a little clearer. A lot fewer walks and home runs allowed in 2011, and also a slightly better BABIP, due to the lower line drive rate and a higher percentage of fly balls. And clearly, the bullpen was a big reason for the overall statistical improvement.
Over the next few articles, we will break down each aspect of the Diamondbacks' season, including batting, baserunning, fielding, starting pitching, and relief pitching.