Given the overhaul of the roster to a youth movement, various slumps and injuries to All-Star-caliber players and plenty of drama from the top down in the organization, 81-81 doesn't really sound so bad for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Yet the standard in Phoenix has been raised when it comes to baseball after a magical 2011 run to the postseason, and the Diamondbacks fell way short of their own expectations, too.
What we learned is this: Kevin Towers is a very good judge of young pitching and is pretty adept at swinging a good deal with another club. The general manager didn't get them all right, but some of his pickups made him look like a genius.
The D-backs were wise, as it turned out, to drop some veteran salaries and begin the transition to a newer younger nucleus of players. It may have been Justin Upton's team, but Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill are very solid complimentary pieces at the very least.
So we start with the good moves of the year.
1. Signing Kubel. Much was made of what was going to happen to Gerardo Parra and how Kubel would bump him out of left field. As it turned out, Parra saw plenty of action even if he wasn't an everyday player, and Kubel hit .253 but led the team in home runs with 30 and RBI with 90.
2. Making Goldschmidt and Hill everyday players at the outset of the season. Goldie had 20 home runs, 82 RBI, 18 stolen bases and a .286 average. He and Hill were often the ones to come up with the biggest hits in games. Hill was even better at the plate -- 26 HRs, 85 RBI, .302 average.
3. The Chris Johnson trade. Johnson for Bobby Borchering and Marc Krauss to the Houston Astros. All Johnson did was homer five times his first eight games as a Diamondback, and though the power numbers declined after that, he hit .286 in 44 games with 35 RBI.
4. Bringing the young starting pitchers up. Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin all got to experience being part of a major-league rotation and took their lumps, but also shined at other times. A rotation with Ian Kennedy, a healthy Daniel Hudson, All-Star Wade Miley, and at least one if not two of these kids is something Towers can have for years.
5. Signing Montero and David Hernandez to contract extensions. A catcher who is a team leader and who doesn't want to come out of the lineup, and who produces, plus your top setup man. Good calls.
1. Letting Ryan Roberts go via a trade to Tampa Bay. OK, so the Tatman was struggling some. But to give up on one of your heroes of the 2011 season and a fan favorite so suddenly was the wrong message to send. Given more time, maybe Roberts could have rebounded, but he deserved better than such a quick strike of a deal.
2. Trevor Bauer. The club finally brought the kid up in late June, and the 21-year-old unimpressed. He seemed set in his ways and stubborn when it came to the coaching staff's direction, and he pitched only 16.1 innings over four starts and was 1-2 before being sent down to the minors for the rest of the season. Thankfully he's got plenty of time to correct his mistakes and be very effective in the bigs.
3. The Trevor Cahill trade for Jarrod Parker to the A's. This happened before the season, and the D-backs. with a wealth of young pitching, deemed Parker expendable. Cahill wasn't bad, but Parker was better for Oakland, and well, the A's are in the postseason (Parker is Thursday's Game 5 starter) and the D-backs are at home. To Cahill's credit, he proved to be an innings eater and a good signing, far from a bust. It's just that the second player the D-backs got i that trade, reliever Craig Breslow, ended up being traded to Boston.
4. Not finding a fix at shortstop. This will be a big priority in the offseason leading up to 2013. John McDonald, Willie Bloomquist and Jake Elmore tried but didn't secure the job, and the D-backs traded Stephen Drew, who manned the position for years up until 2012.