Nice surprises can't boost D-backs' year
Confluence of events hinders club from enjoying success
PHOENIX -- The D-backs had numerous bright spots individually in 2009, from Mark Reynolds' home runs to the development of Justin Upton into an offensive force and the emergence of catcher Miguel Montero.
And there was the every-five-days brilliance of Dan Haren.
From a team perspective, though, the individual performances simply did not add up to club success.
"We have the talent," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said during the season's final week. "But to look back at this season and deem it anything other than a disappointment would be wrong."
An injury to Brandon Webb on Opening Day got the season off to a bad start, and the team dismissed manager Bob Melvin 29 games into the season, replacing him with Hinch. The move did not go over well initially in the clubhouse, and the team did not receive any positive bounce record-wise from the move.
While there were good performances offensively and on the mound, the D-backs' defense was a disappointment throughout the season and the mental mistakes proved to be just as costly.
"I would say our defense has been a major disappointment," Hinch said. "The skills that we have on defense, the athleticism that we have on defense, and the fact that we're going to finish near the bottom in errors and unearned runs is probably the one thing I'll sink my teeth into right away as a primary goal for next year. We have to improve our defense. Some of the plays aren't even [physical] errors that end up hurting us. We need to become a better defensive ballclub, that's priority No. 1."
And while 2009 may prove to be a very forgettable season for many, Hinch hopes his players remember it well.
"The easiest thing to say is that you want to forget everything about 2009 and just bury it and be done with it," Hinch said. "But in a lot of ways, I want our team to remember this feeling. I want them to remember the struggles and the frustration, because we don't ever want to get to this point again."Record: 70-92, fifth place in National League West. Defining moment: It seemed innocent enough when Webb said following his Opening Day start that he had some stiffness in his shoulder. As it would turn out, those four innings against the Rockies that day would be the only game action Webb would see all season. Webb would visit several doctors and start a few different rehab programs before undergoing minor shoulder surgery in August. It's impossible to know how the season would have gone had Webb not gotten hurt, but it's safe to say losing their ace on Opening Day greatly hurt the D-backs' chances of competing for a playoff berth. What went right: Haren was arguably the best pitcher in baseball during the season's first half and battled through some second-half struggles to once again post an outstanding season, setting a career high for strikeouts. The right-hander missed out on some wins due to lack of offensive support and some poor outings from the bullpen. ... Reynolds established himself as one of the league's top power hitters as he became just the second D-backs player to hit 40 or more homers in a season. Reynolds made great strides defensively as well after leading the league in errors last season. ... Upton had a breakout year at the plate and was selected to his first All-Star Game. ... Outfielder Gerardo Parra won NL Rookie of the Month honors in May and showed that he could hit at the big league level. ... Right-hander Max Scherzer missed one start at the beginning of the year and then proved his durability by throwing a career-high 170 1/3 innings. ... Montero took advantage of an injury to Chris Snyder to establish himself as the starter heading into Spring Training next year. Not only did Montero hit, but he impressed the pitching staff with his preparation and ability to call a game. What went wrong: Almost everything else. While Reynolds made strides defensively, the defense as a whole was extremely disappointing. It was not just the physical errors, but mental ones that doomed the D-backs, and it's something the club plans to address in the offseason and during Spring Training. ... Injuries hurt the D-backs, with Webb, Snyder, Chad Qualls and Conor Jackson all missing significant time. ... Shortstop Stephen Drew seemed to take a step backward in his development. ... The D-backs' bullpen had its share of struggles, particularly in the eighth inning. ... The offense struggled mightily at the beginning and end of the season. ... Mentally, the D-backs seemed to let the losing beat them down, and they did not finish the season strong. Biggest surprise: Outfielder Chris Young struggled for almost the entire season. Signed to a contract extension last season, Young struggled to keep his average above .200 and was demoted to Triple-A Reno in August.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.