Will The Diamondbacks Outshine An Optimistic Projection?

Mar 28, 2023 - 6:00 PM
Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images


The Diamondbacks’ season wins are predicted every year by the staff and friends of the AZ Snake Pit. You will see those predictions very soon, including a summary of my prediction. The details of my prediction follow.

Last season, my optimistic win prediction was 80 wins. Instead, they won 74 games (6 wins less than predicted). The prediction was based on Diamondbacks scoring 765 runs, while allowing 737 runs. Instead they scored 702 runs (ouch) and allowed 740 runs (extremely close to predicted). This season’s prediction was developed with a different approach.

In February, the 81 wins predicted by ZiPS seemed optimistic. At the end of March, the question in my mind is whether the Diamondbacks will outshine that optimistic projection.

My view is that the Diamondbacks will win more games than ZiPS predicted for the several reasons. Let’s look at them.

Why will the Diamondbacks win more than 81 games?

Young Players. This season, very talented players age 26 and under will likely get playing time in the Majors. Top prospects Corbin Carroll, Gabriel Moreno, Brandon Pfaadt, and Drey Jameson. Geraldo Perdomo is 23 years old and upside potential. These Diamondbacks players age 26 and under were ranked 12th best in the Majors and there is a very good chance at least one has a breakthrough performance (see AZ Snake Pit article). Breakthrough performances are one way the Diamondbacks will outshine their ZiPS prediction.

Rotation. Believe it or not, the Diamondbacks rotation was about average last season. My view is that the rotation looks about the same this season, albeit the fifth spot in the rotation will be new. The projection for Madison Bumgarner is so low (84 ERA+, ERA 4.96, FIP 5.06), that he provides upside to the ZiPS prediction. Nevertheless, there is only a small chance the rotation will impact on predicted wins.

Bullpen. The Diamondbacks remade their bullpen, emphasizing pitchers that make it difficult for the batter to make contact with the ball. Two important characteristics were fastballs that average at least 94 MPH, and striking out at least 1 batter out of 4. I’m optimistic that the new pitchers will add wins. Recently, Fangraphs ranked the Diamondbacks bullpen 16th in the Majors, which would be a huge improvement from last season.

Another change is that bullpen roles will not be conventional. There will not be a designated closer. Tory Lovullo implied that each pitcher will specialize in a specific leverage situation, such as high, medium, and other. I’m optimistic that the unconventional roles will add wins.

The bullpen has four pitchers who will likely pitch better than projected, albeit Frias may be called up during the season. They are Chafin, Castro, McGough, Sulser, and Frias.

 Data from MLB.com, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Savant.
 Data from MLB.com, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Savant.

Batting. After trading Daulton Varsho, the Diamondback may need to rebuild their offense around getting on base instead of hitting home runs. The key to winning games is having as many built innings as possible.

This season, the Diamondbacks need an On-Base-Percent (OBP) of at least .3245 to make their strategy work and be competitive.

I predict that Diamondback team OBP will be higher than the minimum needed to be competitive, based on ZiPS projected OBPs and spring training OBPs.

For each player who (as of 22 March) is fairly certain to be on the active roster, the following table averaged the OBP predicted by ZiPS and the OBP in spring training (through 22 March). Then, a predicted team average was calculated (weighted by my predicted PAs). For details see the following table.

 Diamondbacks. Data from MLB.com, Baseball Reference, and FanGraphs.

Pavin Smith (he turned 27 in February) is in the 40-man roster. In addition to his batting strengths, in spring training his OBP exceeded ZiPS’ projection for this season. He has upside.

Three players, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Evan Longoria, and Kyle Lewis were acquired to have better matchups (and thereby better batting results) against left-handed pitchers. This change will certainly add wins. The following table shows the magnitude of the extra hits per PA.

 Data from Baseball Savant.

Defense. Last season, after a slow start, the Diamondbacks defense steadily improved during the season. The Diamondbacks ranking in overall defensive DRS (for the season) increased from 20th at All-Star break, to 14th on 24 July, to 11th on 12 August, to 9th on 2 September (Data from The Fielding Bible).

Nearly every year, the Diamondbacks have strong defense. This season will build on the second half of last season. The Diamondbacks’ defense will be very strong.

Summary & My Prediction.

The Diamondbacks will win more than 81 games because of the following:

  • Talented young players. At least one will have a breakout season.
  • The rotation, although underrated, is average in the Majors.
  • The bullpen will improve dramatically because pitchers who make it difficult for batters, unconventional bullpen roles, and four pitchers will likely pitch better than projected.
  • The Diamondback batters will be successful because their OBPs will be high enough to create built innings, Pavin Smith will exceed projections when called up, and three players were acquired to create better matchups and more hits against left handed pitchers.
  • The Diamondbacks’ defense, always a priority, will be very strong.

My prediction is 86.6 wins.

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