The trouble with Arizona

Breaking down one of baseball's big disappointments

Originally Published: May 22, 2012
ESPN.com

Ian KennedyAP Photo/Ben MargotIan Kennedy's 4.47 ERA is almost two full runs higher than it was a year ago.

If you were to make a list of the season's biggest disappointments to this point, the Arizona Diamondbacks would probably come out near the top. After winning the NL West by eight games in 2011, many pundits had them repeating in 2012, but they sit 10½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, and our experts discuss what is ailing them in Tuesday's Triple Play.

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1. Should GM Kevin Towers be looking to sell?

Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN Insider
Absolutely not. A year ago on this date the Diamondbacks had more losses than wins, and they still managed to win the NL West by eight games. It's early. There should be no panic here: Justin Upton will be fine, Chris Young just came back, Stephen Drew and Daniel Hudson are on the way and there's an extra playoff spot available.

Molly Knight (@/molly_knight), ESPN The Magazine
No. Way too early. The team recently just got Young back, and Hudson -- who looked great in a rehab assignment Monday night -- should be back by the weekend. The Dodgers have built up a monsterous May lead on the rest of the division while fielding largely a Triple-A lineup. They have to come back to earth at some point, right? Maybe not? If the Mayans were right and it ends up being a three-way Cy Young race between Kershaw, Lilly (!!), and Capuano (!!!) in late-July then, yeah. Sell baby, sell.

Bill Baer (@CrashburnAlley), Crashburn Alley
Yes. Even if the D-backs were to sneak into the playoffs somehow, they are vastly inferior to their competition. Jason Kubel has been the only regular with an OPS higher than the league average, and their starting pitching relies far too heavily on good batted ball fortune. Kubel, Saunders and Hill are a few who could provide value in a trade.


2. Which is the real Ian Kennedy, the 2011 version or 2012?

Karabell: Not surprisingly, Kennedy's expected performance is in between. Kennedy wasn't going 21-4 again. His current ERA is 4.47, and he has pitched better than that (4.03 xFIP). Kennedy has had only two bad outings this season, and we should remember he did his best 2011 work after the All-Star break (2.11 ERA after, 3.44 ERA before). Nothing to worry about here.

Knight: He's something in between, which is exactly what he was in 2010. Obviously he was phenomenal last year and some regression had to be expected. No one really saw this guy as a short-list Cy Young candidate for 2012. It's not that he's been atrocious, it's just that he hasn't been nearly as good as he was last year, and the D-backs really needed that out of him -- especially with Hudson shelved. Still, he's not this bad. It'll get better for Kennedy.

Baer: Somewhere in between, but closer to 2011. The two seasons remind me of Cole Hamels' 2008 and '09, as both were very dependent on batting average on balls in play with the strikeout and walk rates remaining about the same. He is no ace, but is certainly a very valuable part of the D-backs' rotation and should be through the 2015 season, after which he is eligible for free agency for the first time.


3. Why would they designate Cody Ransom (.922 OPS) for assignment?

Karabell: Because he isn't any good. Ransom is 36 and while the journeyman can launch an occasional home run, three walks versus 21 strikeouts told a larger story. Ryan Roberts is starting to get back on track, and while it's not likely Monday call-up Josh Bell is the long-term answer, he was hot at Triple-A Reno (1.048 OPS) and can replicate Ransom's performance. This isn't rebuilding. It's a smart move.

Knight: The surprising part isn't that they designated Ransom, but that he had a .922 OPS in the first place. The D-backs are desperate for offense and willing to try anything, including taking a look at a former top prospect in Bell who failed miserably during his stints with the Orioles over the last few years. Hey, crazier things have happened. Sometimes blue-chippers put it all together with a change in scenery. But yeah, sucks to be Ransom.

Baer: There are three reasons: his current 21-3 K-BB ratio, his inability to be an average defender at any position, and a smart front office that realizes his success in 58 plate appearances doesn't mean anything about his production going forward. In 2009 with the Yankees, 2010 with the Phillies, and last year with the D-Backs, he posted a 50, 53, and 48 OPS+, respectively. (100 is the league average.)