2015 Arizona Diamondbacks: They count


Dave Stewart

In his first five-plus seasons, Dave Stewart was traded by the Dodgers and Rangers and released by the Phillies. He was 30-35 and had lost his last six decisions when he first pitched for Oakland, and in his first 10 appearances, the A’s lost them all. On July 7, 1986, he made his second start for the A;s, against first-place Boston and Cy Young winner Roger Clemens. Stewart and the A’s won 6-4. Of his next 18 appearances for the A’s, 15 were starts. Stewart went 9-5, and then won 20 games each of the next four seasons. He led the AL in starts four times, complete games twice and innings pitched twice. He won 10 postseason games, eight for the A’s. He would have won another but for Kirk Gibson’s home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 Series — Stewart turned over a 4-3 lead after eight. Stewart was MVP of the 1989 Series, throwing a five-hit shutout in Game 1 and then winning Game 3 after the earthquake, almost two weeks later. Stewart won two more postseason games for Toronto in the 1993 ALCS, and was the starting pitcher in the World Series-clinching Game 6, departing with a 5-4 lead. Career numbers: 168-129, 3.95 ERA, 100 ERA+, 2,629.2 innings, 2,499 hits, 1,741 strikeouts, 55 complete games, nine shutouts, 19 saves, four top-five Cy Young finishes (a second to Bret Saberhagen in ’89, two thirds and a fourth), 10-6 with a 2.77 ERA in the postseason, three years receiving MVP votes (22nd, 14th and eighth), 26.1 WAR, 38 Hall of Fame votes (7.1%) in 2001 and 23 (4.9) in 2002.

On deck: Pitcher Archie Bradley was the Diamondbacks’ top prospect last year and is again this year, despite a 1.97 ERA in 21 AA starts in 2013. When you’re that close, repeating as the No. 1 prospect isn’t good, for the same reason No. 1 picks in the NBA draft aren’t four-year college starters. If you’re good enough, you move on. Bradley’s bugaboo in 2014 was injuries, which limited him to 83 innings and probably helped him to a 4.45 ERA, well above his career 3.14. They also didn’t help his control, which has been a consistent thorn. Bradley walked 49 and has walked 202 in 373 minor-league innings. No matter how healthy, and how many he strikes out (393), if you allow as many base runners as Bradley, some of them are going to score.

Trivia: Josh Collmenter led the Diamondbacks with 11 wins last season. Even the 2004 D’backs, who won just 51 games, had a pitcher win more. Who was it? Answer below.

What he said: Manager Chip Hale on oft-injured stater Daniel Hudson: “We’re going to see how he feels and see where he’s at halfway through spring. As of right now, he feels great, his sides have been good and he’s very encouraging.” What he meant: “He’s pitched 47.2 innings combined the last three seasons. How much less could we get out of him?”

Outlook: This should be an exciting season for the Diamondbacks, if not on the field. Their new GM is Dave Stewart, who is apparently to sabermetrics what Judge Roy Moore in Alabama is to gay marriage: the last holdout, and one motivated enough to make a public stand.

Stewart last month on the potential of signing free-agent pitcher James Shields: “I think James is a throwback guy by the way he goes about his business and the innings he pitches. I think the fact that Tony (La Russa) is here and that we have more baseball people – he probably sees us as a true baseball team vs. some of the other teams out here that are geared more toward analytics and those type of things.”

Shields rejected truth and signed with the Padres; he’s likely to be their opening-day starter. The Diamondbacks’ will probably be Josh Collmenter or maybe Jeremy Hellickson, the sabermetrically driven Dodgers’ will be Clayton Kershaw.

Diamondbacks fans will no doubt appreciate their team’s purity.

Mark Twain quoted the 19th-century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli as saying there are three kinds of lies: “lies, damned lies and statistics.” Stewart apparently thinks there’s a fourth: analytics. And “those types of things,” whatever they are; perhaps he sees analytics as a gateway evil.

Stewart has an ally in NBA celebrity Charles Barkley, who said, “The NBA is about talent. All these guys who run these organizations who talk about analytics, they have one thing in common — they’re a bunch of guys who have never played the game, and they never got the girls in high school, and they just want to get in the game.”

Barkley speaks with the gravitas of the total number of championships he’s won. That would be zero.

Stewart won three for three different teams (’81 Dodgers, ’89 A’s and ’93 Jays); the man who hired him, Tony La Russa, won three as a manager, including two in his last six seasons for the Cardinals, who invested in the statistical approach more than a decade ago. It can be argued their last two titles were the byproducts of that work, although La Russa probably attributes it more to the manager. He may be right.

Barkley is right about one thing: The NBA, like MLB, is about talent. The point of the advanced metrics is to help identify it and unlike the NBA, MLB has less variables.

The Diamondbacks lost 98 games last season, so it’s not Stewart’s fault they’re without much talent. They’ll do better, with an intriguing blend of position players: David Peralta, in an Independent League as recently as 2013, provides offensive potential and Ender Inciarte defensive potential in the outfield; Jake Lamb, 24, provides both at third; Cuban Yasmany Tomas will play somewhere although that wishful position is already taken by Martin Trumbo, who seems a bad idea in right.

The previous GM, Kevin Towers, apparently thought little of where Trumbo would play before acquiring him, analytics or not.

The Diamondbacks are a mess, which isn’t Stewart’s fault. He deserves time, despite his dismissal of stats guys. It took him four teams to become the ace he was as a pitcher, and after his career ended he succeeded as a pitching coach and agent — Matt Kemp’s contract is proof of that. Maybe Stewart will add discretion the way he once added a forkball. Maybe he’ll change his mind about data and the power of information.

Thirty years ago Stewart was arrested for soliciting a prostitute who was a transvestite. According to a 1989 Sports Illustrated story, Stewart, who was coming off a 7-14, 4.93 ERA 1984 with Texas, honored a commitment two days after his arrest to attend a Dallas area sports banquet. The writers had voted him their Good Guy award; he earned it by showing up.

Even the snarkiest among us has to give a guy who could do that a chance.

Trivia answer: Hall of Famer Randy Johnson won 16 games for the 2004 Diamondbacks at age 40. Johnson won 75 games after he turned 40 in September 2003 to reach 303 in his career. He won number 300 as a Giant in 2009, his final season, at age 45. Johnson will go into the Hall with a Diamondback hat on his plaque; he won 118 games, 12 less than he did with the Mariners, and five of his seven in the postseason for Arizona.

Team song: Radiohead: 2+2=5

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