For the most part, it’s still too early in the 2014 MLB season to make any grand declarations. But after three weeks, we can safely say that the Diamondbacks have been the biggest disappointment in baseball.
After Monday’s 5-1 loss to the Cubs, the D-Backs are now 5-17. They’ve lost nine of their past 10 games. Arizona has MLB’s worst record, allowing 134 runs — 23 more than the White Sox — while posting a -55 run differential. Though losing Patrick Corbin to season-ending Tommy John surgery has certainly been a factor, the D-Backs’ starting pitching has been abysmal, compiling a 7.46 ERA.
The outlook is bleak and ugly in Arizona, and the question is whether or not things can get better. D-Backs owner Ken Kendrick is mulling over that right now, as he assesses both his coaching staff and front office personnel.
Manager Kirk Gibson appears to be safe, as Kendrick told the Arizona Republic‘s Dan Bickley that “criticism of him would not be fair.” The owner seems particularly interested in seeing how Gibson handles adversity, how he conducts himself and leads the team past such a poor start with 140 games remaining on the schedule.
However, Kendrick may not have as much patience with general manager Kevin Towers. While the D-Backs may not finish last in the NL West or with the worst record in baseball , the team Towers put together doesn’t look capable of giving Kendrick the return he surely expected for a $113 million opening day payroll (11th in MLB). But the owner’s real issue may be in how Towers assembled this roster, particularly in dealing off players like Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy and Trevor Bauer.
“There have been very successful moves and some that haven’t worked,” Kendrick told Bickley. “But that’s what you get when you trade ballplayers and Kevin has done a lot of that. And that’s of who he is.”
Yet Kendrick isn’t necessarily so dismayed by Towers’ “old school” approach that he’s ready to go to the other extreme and bring in a GM driven by advanced data and analytics. The D-Backs already went that route with Towers’ predecessor, Josh Byrnes. But Kendrick did make it clear to Bickley that he wants more balance between data and scout-driven evaluation in the future.
“I think we know we don’t have the balance I still think is the right way to go, and I think we need to recognize (that). To this point, there are only a few teams that are starting to do exotic (defensive) shifts, which is an element of a much bigger picture of (baseball analytics) …
“We aren’t doing that because I don’t think we have studied the data at a level they’ve studied it. Now how valuable is it? I guess we’ll see. You’d like to have the information, make a judgment on how valuable it is, and either use it or not use it. We don’t have the level of information in that category that (other teams) have. I think we need to do a better job in that area.”
Can Towers be that guy? His boss just told him to start doing some serious homework, or bring in some people who can provide the data resources that can help the D-Backs win more games. That sounds like an owner putting his GM on notice, and doing so in rather public fashion.