D-backs reload learning from past

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A year ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks lost star players Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin from a squad that won 93 games in 2017 and 82 games in 2018. They also traded ace Zack Greinke before the trade deadline, but the young roster made the most of their opportunities to win 85 games and finish second behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

There are a couple of different angles to look at when projecting what the Snakes will do in 2020 as spring training begins with William Hill sportsbooks posting them at 40-1 odds to win the World Series with a season win total set at 84, which has already been bet one-way to the over.

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The unique thing about Arizona last season was nearly half their hitters had career years with Eduardo Escobar (35 HR, 118 RBI), Christian Walker (29 HR), Nick Ahmed (19 HR, 82 RBI) and Ketel Marte (32 HR, .329 BA) leading the way. Marte would go on the finish fourth in the NL MVP voting while splitting duties in center field, second base, and shortstop. The question is whether or not they can all duplicate what they did in 2019. The answer collectively is most likely no.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted dozens of over-under’s on player home run totals and listed Marte at 21.5 and didn’t even bother with an Escobar number believing 2019 was an anomaly for him.

But the lineup has received some extra boost this season with a healthy Jake Lamb looking to get back his 2017 All-Star form when he hit 30 homers and drove in 105 runs.

Another huge boost was trading for Pirates outfielder Starling Marte three weeks ago. Marte comes off a career year with 23 homers and 82 RBIs while batting .295, but makes him a good bet to make some serious noise this summer is he’s in a contract year. Put up serious numbers in 2020 or the phone won’t ring much for 2021.

The Marte trade was a sign that Arizona general manager Mike Hazen was listening to upset fans angry about losing their star players.

Hazen also made a curious move signing LHP Madison Bumgarner to a five-year contract. MadBum, who enters his 12th season after spending his first 11 in San Francisco, comes off a 9-9 season with a 3.90 ERA and his last season with double-digit wins came in 2016. The SuperBook posted his win total for 2020 at 9.5 wins.

Hazen also signed Giants backup catcher Stephen Vogt to the same utility role for Arizona, and former Angels OF Cole Calhoun, who hit a career-high 33 homers last season. After getting rid of the most popular players in the organization last year, Hazen has certainly shown he has a plan that fans can believe in with his ‘Moneyball’ approach to the game.

As with any team, pitching is going to make or break the Diamondbacks and it’s one area they have possibilities to make huge strides even if Bumgarner is only slightly better than average. Last season, 73 of the starting assignments were made by rookie pitchers, led by Zac Gallen who the most of his eight starts with a 2.89 ERA.

Scottsdale native Merril Kelly chewed up 183 innings over 32 starts (13-14) as a rookie and will likely be challenged for the fifth starter role in spring by veteran Mike Leake, a former Arizona State star, who is the only MLB pitcher to toss over 175 innings in a game in each of his last eight seasons. Luke Weaver, who they acquired in the Goldschmidt deal with St. Louis, will also be fighting for a spot in the rotation.

The big upside with the rotation is if Robbie Ray has a healthy season and lives up to the dominating glimpse he showed in 2017 when he was 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA. He made 33 starts last season but gave up 30 homers, posted a 4.34 ERA while striking out 235 batters in 174 innings pitched. He still has the potential to be an elite starter.

Archie Bradley is the closer and while the rest of the bullpen looked very shaky at times last season, it’s an area that may not have to be used as much with so many experienced starters getting their six innings of work in.

Manager Torey Lovullo has a lot to work with and while toppling the Dodgers, who William Hill has -1100 to win the West, might be a tall task, making a wild card run and getting over 84 wins looks achievable. The SuperBook has the Diamondbacks 12-1 to win the NL Wild Card, a much better proposition than taking 40-1 to win the World Series.

WNBA future odds

The SuperBook opened the Las Vegas Aces as the 3-1 favorite to win the WNBA title followed by the Connecticut Sun (4-1), Los Angles Sparks (9-2), Phoenix Mercury (6-1), and Seattle Storm (6-1).

To get best take on what to expect this season I asked USBookmaking director Robert Walker his thoughts because I don’t know anyone who follows women’s college and pro hoops more.

“On paper, the Aces appear to be the favorite, however, I just don’t know how that group will come together,” said Walker, who was the first in Las Vegas to post spreads on all NCAA Women’s Tournament games while running the Mirage. “There are just not enough basketballs to go around with how often the post players need the ball.

“Add (Angel) McCoughtry to the mix and I’m puzzled. (Kelsey) Plum and (Kayla) McBride make one of the top backcourts in the league but will have to sacrifice shots in this setup. I’m passing on the Aces.”

 Walker’s choice to win it?

“I think the Storm with a healthy (Breanna) Stewart is going to be difficult to beat,” he said. “And I think the Sparks will be very good as well. (Kristi) Toliver is a huge pickup for the Sparks and a blow to the (Washington) Mystics.”

 

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