It’s been no secret that success in baseball revolves around great starting pitching; there are other factors involved in team’s playing well, but it all starts with pitching. This makes sense when you think about it, because if you can prevent the opposition from scoring runs, it only increases your chances of winning games. Now, the best way for teams to receive good contributions from their starting rotation is by developing talent in the minors. A common theme among clubs that make the postseason every year is that typically, a couple of young arms helped them get there.
2014 Arizona Diamondbacks - Pitching Staff Preview
The Arizona Diamondbacks certainly hope to play in the 2014 postseason, and pitching is one of the ways they might there. One of the goals the club had this offseason was to add an ace for their rotation. They weren’t able to do that, but they still have a solid group of pitchers and might surprise some people this season.
The D-backs haven’t announced who the Opening Day starter will be for the club, but based on last season it will be Patrick Corbin. Corbin is currently the best pitcher in their rotation, but that could change if a young prospects dazzles during Spring Training. The young southpaw emerged last season, storming out the gate by going 11-1 in the first half of the season with a 2.35 ERA. However, it seemed his tank went empty in the second half, and he went 3-7 with a 5.19 ERA. 2013 was the first time in his career that he’d thrown more than 200 innings, and this could be the reason for his second-half decline. Another reason is that opposing teams learned his pitching tendencies. For Corbin, the key this season is keeping the ball down in the strike zone, as he surrendered 19 home runs last season. Another key for him is to use the slider more often. This was a pitch that proved very effective when he could locate it. If Corbin takes the necessary steps to improve his game, I believe he will have a better 2014 than he did last season.
Now, I mentioned earlier that the D-Backs tried to get an ace for their team and were unsuccessful. However, they did sign a pitcher that’s been very reliable in his career. Bronson Arroyo is what you would call a crafty veteran, as he doesn’t have a blazing fastball that strikes fear into opposing hitters. The one thing he does know how to do is change speeds, and he just knows how to pitch. Arroyo is very reliable, as in the past nine seasons he’s thrown at least 199 innings every year and has averaged a 4.10 ERA in that timeframe. There are not too many pitchers that can make those claims. He can provide a good veteran presence in the rotation, and he should act as a mentor to some of the young pitchers for the D-Backs. Arroyo also has experience pitching in a hitter-friendly ballpark, as he spent the last eight seasons calling Great American Ballpark his home. That should serve him well considering the ball travels well in Chase Field.
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The next starter that Arizona will depend on is another young left-hander in Wade Miley. Miley was the only other starter along with Corbin to throw at least 200 innings last season. The key for Miley is mainly about control and limiting the amount of walks he issues. He walked only 37 batters in 194.2 innings pitched in 2012, but that total increased to 66 in 202.2 innings pitched in 2013. Miley is at his best when he limits baserunners and keeps the game going at a pace that suits him. If he can control the strike zone better and cut down on the free passes, I’m positive he’ll have a season that more closeley resembles 2012 than 2013.
The back-end of the rotation is where things get really interesting for Arizona. They have two starters in Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy that are coming off seasons where each spent time on the disabled list.
Cahill was a mixed bag in 2013, as in some starts he had command of all his pitches and could throw them all for strikes, while in other starts, the strike zone seemed to be impossible for him to find. The key for Cahill is finding the right balance and it all starts with his sinker. This is where he can have the greatest success, and locating it is very important. If hitters see he can’t locate it, they just won’t swing at it, and will sit on something better.
For McCarthy, it’s completely different-- you could almost say he threw too many strikes. He only walked 21 batters in 135 innings pitched, but he allowed 161 hits. That’s a lot of hits to surrender for such a low number of innings pitched. The key for McCarthy is to mix the location of his pitches and vary his pitch selection situationally. I think the season McCarthy had in 2013 was a mirage, and he will perform better in 2014.
Arizona also has a very good pitching prospect in Archie Bradley who could well make the rotation, depending on the kind of spring he has and whether any of the other starters become injured. Bradley will be trying to earn the fifth spot in the rotation, and he will be competing with another young pitcher in Randall Delgado. It seems that Delgado is destined to pitch in the bullpen, though, with the D-Backs having enough starters, but you never know what could happen. If more than one starter goes down with an injury, it’s possible that both Bradley and Delgado could become part of the five-man rotation when the season begins.