The residual effect of a terrible season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – On paper, the Arizona Diamondbacks appear moving in the right direction. Off-season personnel additions in the bullpen and stronger right-handed hitters have helped to produce a guarded optimism.

That’s coming off a season in which the desert franchise finished 12 games under .500. Considered an improvement over the calamitous campaign of 2021, that season, only two years removed, ranked among the lowest points in franchise history. Two years ago, the team recorded only 51 wins, against 110 defeats and a far-reaching 55 games out of the National League West division race.

With a slight improvement last season (74-88), the club still finished 37 games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. While teams generally display the usual dose of optimism and a contagious attitude of hopefulness here at the advent of spring training, the effects of the 2021 season still hangs over this franchise like an unwanted summer downpour at an outdoor barbeque.

“We know what happened here two years ago,” said field manager Torey Lovullo. “It still gnaws at me and motivates me. We all have digested this, and we have better. We have a long way to go.”

The increase of 22 victories from the 2021 season tends to place the Diamondbacks’ excitement to another level. Though pre-season expectations, at least on a national level, remain low, Lovullo, his staff and a consensus in the Salt River clubhouse indicate the club is ready to break the bonds of the past few years.

To accomplish that, consider a few numbers.

For the Diamondbacks to venture into October territory, their win production must increase by close to 20 games. From the 74 victories recorded a year ago, that number should reach at least the low 90s.

In 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies, who reached the 2022 World Series, recorded the lowest win production of any post-season team. In compiling an 87-75 mark, the Phillies opened all three post-season series on the road and defeated St. Louis and San Diego to advance and reach the World Series.

As well, the New York Mets, with 101 wins, and a margin of 14 more victories than Philadelphia, qualified for post-season play.

For the Diamondbacks to reach this level, Lovullo must find a way to pick up at 15-18 more wins. After the 2022 season, he told reporters the Diamondbacks left about 15 wins on the table and those games were lost anywhere from the first inning to the ninth inning.

At this point, Lovullo reserves the right to publicly wax optimistic and points to increased competition between Carson Kelly and Gabriel Moreno (acquired in the Daulton Varsho trade) behind the plate, power arms in the bullpen, and power from the right side of the plate.

All of which puts Lovullo looking ahead.

“There is definitely excitement here,” Lovullo added. “We see the caliber of player here. To win baseball games, you have to go out and give a good effort, execute, and win inches. That’s the message to the players and starts from day one in spring training.”

Checking in with … two former Diamondbacks players have rejoined the NL West with the Dodgers. In the off-season, J. D. Martinez will be L.A.s’ designated hitter. As a member of the Diamondbacks, Martinez tied a major league record. That’s when he slammed four home runs in one game at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 5, 2017. In 12 major league seasons, Martinez has a career .288 batting average with 282 homers and 899 RBIs …Outfielder David Peralta also signed with the Dodgers. In nine seasons with the Diamondbacks and the Rays, Peralta has a lifetime average of .281 with 110 homers and 486 RBIs.

“I have also admired Peralta,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts during the MLB’s recent media day. “David is coming in here and competing for a job.”

This week … position players report Monday, Feb. 20 and Lovullo reported there are no significant injuries, and no player is delayed because of immigration issues. … The Diamondbacks open their spring slate on Saturday with a split squad. Half will travel over to Mesa and take on the Oakland A’s. The other half remain at Salt River to engage the Colorado Rockies. The Diamondbacks close their initial spring weekend on Sunday with the San Diego Padres in Peoria and their first look at Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz this spring.

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