Check out William Gregory’s 2022 Season Preview Article for the Arizona Diamondbacks here.
Image: Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports
2022 Record: 74-88 (.457 win%, 4th in Division)
2022 Payroll: $106,147,623 (23rd)
1. RF Daulton Varsho, .235 AVG/.302 OBP/.443 SLG, 4.6 fWAR
2. 2B Ketel Marte, .240 AVG/.321 OBP/.407 SLG, 1.4 fWAR
3. DH Seth Beer, .189 AVG/.278 OBP/.243 SLG, -0.9 fWAR
4. 1B Christian Walker, .242 AVG/.327 OBP/.477 SLG, 4.1 fWAR
5. CF Alek Thomas, .231 AVG/.275 OBP/.344 SLG, 0.5 fWAR
6. LF Corbin Carroll, .260 AVG/.330 OBP/.500 SLG, 1.4 fWAR
7. 3B Josh Rojas, .269 AVG/.349 OBP/.391 SLG, 2.7 fWAR
8. C Carson Kelly, .211 AVG/.282 OBP/.334 SLG, 0.4 fWAR
9. SS Geraldo Perdomo, .195 AVG/.285 OBP/.262 SLG, 0.6 fWAR
10. LF David Peralta .251 AVG/.316 OBP/.415 SLG, 1.7 fWAR (Combined stats)
1.Merrill Kelly, 200.1 IP/3.37 ERA/1.14 WHIP, 3.3 fWAR
2. Zac Gallen, 184.0 IP/2.54 ERA/0.91 WHIP, 4.3 fWAR
3. Madison Bumgarner, 158.2 IP/4.88 ERA/1.44 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR
4. Zach Davies, 134.1 IP/4.09 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR
5. Humberto Castellanos, 44.1 IP/5.68 ERA/1.40 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR
2022 Top 4 Relievers:
1. Mark Melancon, 56.0 IP/4.66 ERA/1.50 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR
2. Ian Kennedy 50.1 IP/5.36 ERA/1.57 WHIP, -0.9 fWAR
3. Joe Mantiply, 60.0 IP/2.85 ERA/1.08 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR
4. Noe Ramirez, 50.0 IP/5.22 ERA/1.42 WHIP, -0.6 fWAR
Regular Season Recap:
Heading into 2022, expectations for the Diamondbacks were abysmal, as they were projected to fall flat and finish last in a competitive NL West division that didn’t appear any weaker than the previous season. However, they had optimism with plentiful youth on the roster and more on the way. They started their season off strong, finishing the first month of the season with a record of 16-14 backed up by solid starting pitching from frontline starters Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.
However, this unlikely start proved unsustainable as they fell to 40-52 at the All-Star break. The offense struggled in the first half, ranking 23rd in team OPS and ERA in the majors. Many players displayed frustration at their mixed results, as it was thought that they could be playing at a higher level. One of the biggest examples of this underperforming was 1st baseman Christian Walker, who had consistently been hitting the ball hard in the first half leading to little production. In a division as deep as the NL West, it seemed time to get some of the veterans off their feet and let the kids play.
On May 8th, the D-Backs elected to call up Alek Thomas, the 18th ranked prospect in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline. As a second round pick in 2018, all Thomas did was impress as he marched through the minors leading up to his eventual callup. In 27 games with AAA Reno all he did was hit, slashing .322/.397/.539 to begin his 2022 season. He seemed ready, and the D-Backs pounced on the opportunity to get his first opportunity with the big club for the remainder of the season.
Down the stretch, the D-Backs hung onto playoff hopes as they finished 27-29 in the final two months of the season. With another playoff spot added to each league with the new CBA and a Corbin Carroll callup, there was hope for the Diamondbacks. Alas, they were ultimately eliminated in the final month of the 2022 season 13 games out of the last playoff spot. At times they showed flashes of their potential, winning five games in a row against the contending Phillies and White Sox. But they never seemed to be able to put it all together.
Although the season didn’t end the way most D-Backs fans hoped, there is a lot to be happy about regarding their 2022 performance. The Snakes saw improvements in their hitting and pitching with little to no regression in between. With the bats, they improved from 26th in team wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) in 2021 to 24th, aided by a breakout season from 1st baseman Christian Walker, and the continued production from outfielder Daulton Varsho.
Additionally, they made massive power improvements in the current version of MLB which favors the home run more than ever. They turned around a 27th team ranked ISO (isolated power) of .146 into a 13th ranked team ISO at .155. This adjustment allowed them to hit more homers, produce more runs, and win more games. Despite their slugging approach, they decreased their K%(strikeout %) among D-Backs hitters from 23.8% to 22.3%.
On the pitching side, the D-Backs also made strides. Coming off of a disappointing 2021 where they ranked near the bottom of the league in FIP (fielding independent pitching) at 29th (4.88), the Snakes were looking to rebound in the 2022 campaign. They made considerable progress, finishing five places higher in team FIP at 24th (4.33) aided by a Cy Young contending season from Zac Gallen and a substantial effort from 34 year old Merrill Kelly.
Although the Diamondbacks’ 2022 season experienced great improvements, there were struggles along the way. Amidst his $76M contract extension in March, Ketel Marte experienced a down year, turning in his lowest career batting average, lowest on base percentage since 2016, and lowest slugging percentage since 2017. With his late September placement on the IL, some questioned whether or not he played hurt during the majority of the 2022 season.
In addition to Marte’s struggles, the D-Backs pitching also took a few hits throughout the season. From May 31st onward, the team was without fifth starter Humberto Castellanos (Tommy John surgery), putting strain on the bullpen. Later IL stints from Ian Kennedy, Keynan Middleton, and Caleb Smith made it a tough summer in the desert for the D-Back bullpen.
Ultimately, the D-Backs 2022 season ended not because of a talent issue, but because of a depth and experience issue among players, a problem solved only with time. Filled to the gills with young talent, the D-Backs can chalk this season up as a positive one, and aim to further improve in a crowded NL West division.
M-SABR Predicted Record (65-97) vs. Actual (74-88):
Before the season started, William predicted the Diamondbacks to continue to be in the cellar of a competitive NL West with a win total in the mid 60s. He acknowledged that many sources had the Diamondbacks improving by substantial amounts, but he contended that their crowded division would beat up on them all season, which seemed plausible.
However, this is not what happened. The D-Backs held their own against the Rockies in 2022, finishing a surprising 9-10 against them. This wasn’t the case with the rest of the division, as they went 20-37 against the competitive Dodgers, Padres, and Giants as William predicted.
If they largely did end up getting beat down by the NL West, then how did they do much better than William anticipated? In order to exceed expectations without beating their division in 2022, the D-Backs had to play well against the rest of the National League, and they most certainly did, going 33-33 against many tough teams in a talented NL East and Central.
Surprise of the Season:
In order for the D-Backs to even sniff a successful 2022 campaign, they needed multiple players from their crop of young talent to step up. Among the biggest were Zac Gallen, and Merrill Kelly, but none more surprising than Christian Walker.
Coming into 2022, the 2012 4th round pick had inconsistent performances across his first 7 seasons, with the majority of them being unproductive years. However, he had shown flashes in the past. Take 2019 for example. In 152 games, he accumulated 29 homers with a slash line of .259/.348/.476 and an 111 wRC+. That was the past, though, and Walker was looking to step up in 2022.
Through the first month of the season, Walker was off to a slow start. He was making consistent good contact, with a Hard Hit% of over 40, but nothing was falling. However once the calendar flipped to May, he started slugging. From May until the end of the season, he sported a .359 wOBA(weighted on-base average), 131 wRC+, and a .246 ISO. Put simply, he was raking. When it was all said and done, he finished 4th in the NL in HR (36), and 12th in the NL in RBI (94).
Players We Watched:
OF David Peralta/SP Madison Bumgarner
Some of the only veterans on the young Diamondbacks squad, David Peralta and Madison Bumgarner looked to improve in 2022. For Peralta, he didn’t get a full season with D-Backs, as he was abruptly traded to the Rays on July 30th. Up until that point, he was finding himself having a very productive season. On the day he was traded, he had a slash line of .248/.316/.460 having accumulated 9 2B and 12 HR.
Author of the Season Preview William Gregory had said that in order to return to his previous levels of production he would need to raise his HardHit% and Barrel%. Not only did he raise those numbers closer to those of 2015 and 2018, his offensive numbers were raised across the board. Ultimately the D-Backs sold high on him, and he finished a successful 2022 campaign in Tampa Bay.
For Madison Bumgarner, the story was a bit different. Looking to improve upon his first two disappointing seasons with the Snakes, MadBum found himself as the opening day starter. However, this season was no different. Through 158.2 innings, he posted an abysmal 4.88 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and 1.44 WHIP.
Preview author William Gregory had said he would eat innings, but with him being paid $17M each year to be a frontline starter, this doesn’t cut it. Although Bumgarner has another opportunity to turn it around in 2023, it’s hard to imagine he can deviate himself from this down-ward spiraling path as he battles Father Time.
OF/C Daulton Varsho
Coming into 2022, Daulton Varsho assumed the starting CF role. Although he could move behind the plate at times when catcher Carson Kelly needed a breather, he spent most of the time patrolling the outfield. William had predicted him to continue to be a steady member of the DBacks in 2022 because of his consistent peripheral numbers, and he was correct.
Overall, Daulton Varsho had a productive 2022. Placing 2nd on the team in games played (151) and 1st in fWAR (4.6) it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he was the backbone of this team. With a wRC+ of 106 (with 100 being league average), he found himself above the average hitter threshold for the first time in his career, surpassing his 99 wRC+ mark in his rookie season.
SP Zach Davies
It turned out to be a middling season for Zach Davies. This is great! Davies spent 2021 as one of the worst pitchers in MLB, and to just be average is a massive improvement. Coming into 2022, he signed a 1 year, $1.75M contract with the Diamondbacks. Being paid as an average pitcher, Davies delivered, pitching to a 4.09 ERA, a 4.83 FIP, and a 98 ERA+ over 134.1 innings. With his contract already up after the conclusion of this season (with a 2023 mutual option), the D-Backs may need to fill in his spot in the rotation, but it certainly wasn’t an unproductive season for Davies.
Heading into the 2022 offseason, the Diamondbacks are in an interesting position. They are hardly a bad team anymore, but they aren’t quite a playoff contender yet. They also don’t have many free agents currently on the active roster. Judging the free agent market based on the situation regarding their current roster and their playoff timeline, I believe the Diamondbacks don’t need to make any big moves (yet).
If the D-Backs don’t opt to pick up Zach Davies’ mutual option, I can see them pursuing another cheap starter such as Joe Ross or Ross Stripling, with the possible upside of them returning to previous form. If the D-Backs are feeling like they can contend this year and make a run at a playoff spot, I could also easily see them going for a better arm like Taijuan Walker or Noah Syndergaard.
Due to their young hitting core, the only other holes which need filling is the bullpen. Unless they can retain Paul Fry and pick up the mutual option with Ian Kennedy, I can see them restocking the bullpen with the likes of relievers such as Mychal Givens, Craig Stammen, and Justin Wilson. These are all safe and cheaper options for the Diamondbacks, which follows the trend of the past offseason when they picked up Ian Kennedy and Mark Melancon in hopes of them returning to previous form.
Something to Watch:
In the wake of his late August callup, will Corbin Carroll blossom into the superstar we all envision he can be? 2023 is a big year for Carroll, as he will almost certainly be a rookie of the year favorite the instant he takes the field on opening day next year. With his exceptional bat-to-ball skills and electrifying speed, we will all watch in anticipation to see if the dynamic outfielder meets our enormous expectations.
Categories: 2022 Season Review, Articles, Post-COVID
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