The Arizona Diamondbacks entered the 2016 season with some hope that the club could contend for an NL playoff berth for the first time in five years.
In 2015 the Dbacks had gone 79-83, a 15 game improvement over the year before, and they had the National League Most Valuable Player runner-up in the middle of their lineup.
Arizona overcame a slow start, righted the ship, and pulled to within a half-game of the NL West lead after the first month of the season.
A five-game winning streak in early May got manager Chip Hale‘s squad to 17-18, in second place and just a game off the pace on May 10. It would the closest they would get, either to the .500 mark or the division lead. Arizona went 9-19 over the next month, burying themselves in a hole from which they would never recover.
The club decided it was time for a change at the helm, and brought in former Boston Red Sox executive Mike Hazen as the new general manager. Hazen then hired Bosox bench coach Torey Lovullo as the new DBacks manager.
Entering the 2017 season, it’s tough to see the club contending in the short-term. It will be the job of Hazen and Lovullo to begin to make the incremental moves it will take to make that happen in a couple of years.
2016 ARIZONA STATS LEADERS
Paul Goldschmidt, that 2015 NL MVP runner-up, was again strong this season. The 28-year old first baseman hit for a .297/.411/.489 slash line with 24 homers, 33 doubles, 95 RBI, 106 runs scored. He also stole 32 bases, was an NL All-Star for a fourth straight season, and finished 11th in NL MVP voting.
In his second big league season, 25-year old right fielder Yasmany Tomasemerged with 31 homers, 30 doubles, 83 RBI and 72 runs scored. 24-year old Chris Owings played 70 games at shortstop and 49 in center field. Owings hit .277 and stole 21 bags in just 466 plate appearances.
Veteran right-hander Zack Greinke was signed as a free agent last December, and was a big reason for much of the optimism coming into the year. He went 13-7 over 26 starts, with 134 strikeouts over 158.2 innings.
Greinke won his third straight Gold Glove Award, but it was clearly a disappointing season. He missed the entire month of July after suffering an oblique injury, which likely weakened him upon his return.
Left-hander Robbie Ray led the staff with 218 strikeouts over 174.1 innings, but he also walked 71 batters. In his official rookie season, 23-year old Archie Bradley won eight games over 26 starts, striking out 143 batters in 141.2 innings.
SEGURA THE DBACKS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The Dbacks top player overall during the 2016 season was a major surprise. 26-year old Jean Segura came over in January from the Milwaukee Brewers as part of a five-player trade.
Segura had been an NL All-Star during his rookie campaign back in 2013. But his last two seasons had been extremely disappointing in Milwaukee, where he played shortstop.
This year, the Dbacks decided to move him over to the other side of the infield, and he seemed to thrive with the move. Segura hit .319 with a .368 on-base percentage, slashing 41 doubles and ripping 20 homers with 64 RBI and 102 runs scored. All of those were career bests.
His 33 stolen bases were the most since his rookie season. Segura also led the National League with 203 hits. For this outstanding season he finished 13th in the NL MVP voting.
The improvements in Segura’s game were evident early on in the season. “Segura looks unreal,” a rival exec said per Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal back in mid-April. “They may have made a great deal there. He lowered his hands and is hitting rockets everywhere.”
He kept on hitting those rockets all year, showing the Dbacks that they had indeed made a great deal. With that improvement, Jean Segura surprisingly became the Arizona Diamondbacks 2016 Player of the Year.