To the unknowing eye, the Arizona Diamondbacks 2011 pitching numbers can be quite deceiving. Despite breakout campaigns from Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Josh Collmenter and reliever David Hernandez plus resurgent seasons from J.J. Putz and Joe Saunders, the NL West champs still finished only 14th best in ERA (3.80).
However, if you dig a little deeper you'll find out that that particular number is largely inflated due to a handful of ugly starts from Armando Galarraga and Zach Duke doubled with that Aaron Heilman fellow serving up pitches on a platter (yes, believe it or not, all three were on the very same team that won 94 games last season).
Following the All Star Break, Arizona's pitching finally settled in and verged on dominance. Amassing 70 wins in that span to go along with the fifth best ERA (3.42) in baseball, Kennedy and Co. propelled the D-backs past the San Francisco Giants in route to their first division title since 2007.
Now, with the same crew intact plus a few conducive additions, will this young staff take the next step and strike fear into opposing batters for years to come? Or will D-backs fans be forced to dance the starter shuffle yet again for the first few months before harmony is established?
But hey, don't look at me for the answer. Instead, look directly at Josh Collmenter's right arm:
Projected Starting Rotation (As confirmed by Manager Kirk Gibson on March 26):
- Ian Kennedy (R)
- Daniel Hudson (R)
- Josh Collmenter (R)
- Trevor Cahill (R)
- Joe Saunders (L)
It was only five months ago that Gibson elected to go with Collmenter as his third starter come playoff time. And the awkward-throwing rookie rewarded him mightily, only surrendering one run over seven innings to keep the D-backs hopes alive with a win in an elimination game.
For now, the Diamondbacks will be top heavy with co-aces Kennedy and Hudson virtual locks to finish in the high teens in wins. But with uncertainty surrounding Cahill (whose sinker stopped sinking this spring) and Saunders (who has a better chance of landing the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover than ever securing an ERA as low as 3.69 again), the offense may have to score a considerable more amount of runs to stay competitive. Or, they could always hand the ball over to these next group of guys: