Amid disappointment, Diamondbacks limp to the finish line

No one can accuse Arizona Diamondbacks’ manager Torey Lovullo of being unprepared.  A strong advocate of analytics and keeper of voluminous notes, Lovullo is always preaching the gospel of preparation, study, analysis, and evaluation.

Yet, this unusual 2020 season of COVID and aberrations twisted Lovullo’s game organization and altered his planning. That factor, along with his team’s inability to accelerate production, help produce this lost season.

Prior to an afternoon game with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sept. 17, Lovullo was candid in this assessment with reporters. Citing the need to bunch wins together early and recognize the unknown influence of a shorten 60-game schedule on planning and preparation, the manager pointed out that, if confronted with a similar set of circumstances in the future, daily operations would be handled in a separate manner.

“Yes, I would do things differently,” he acknowledged. “There are issues of in-game decisions, line-up construction and use of the bullpen which could have been different. Look, we can’t predict this will ever happen again, but I chose a certain path to manage a 60-game season.”

Looking back over the two months which was the 2020 season, Lovullo pointed out that once his team began losing, “we tried to do too much.” After dropping five of their initial seven games and sinking in the NL West standings, the team attempted to hasten its production and began to press.

“At some point, we tried to score too much at one time,” he said. “Look, I constantly evaluate everything but there is no one cause for what we experienced. Everyone needs to take responsibility.”

While the Diamondbacks tumbled out of contention, a door of opportunity opened. Since minor league baseball shut down in 2020, player development was reserved for the alternative site. That included high draft selections and players whom the organization  believed was on the verge of gaining important playing time in the majors.

This allowed players like Josh Rojas, Dalton Varsho, Wyatt Mathisen, Pavin Smith, Andy Young, Josh VanMeter and Travis Bergen to pick up valuable experience. Yet, given the dynamics of the season and general manager Mike Hazen’s penchant for immediate improvement, it’s likely that many getting a look here in the final days of the season may not be around when the 2021 team convenes next February.

While painful for Lovullo, who came to the Diamondbacks from a successful Boston Red Sox organization, the core of this team will likely undergo a transformation. That’s because the starting rotation, hailed at the start of the current season as a significant strength, could have a different look. Save Madison Bumgarner and Zac Gallen, the other three spots could be wide open. Depending on free agent availability and how prospects score on Hazen’s analytical chart, rotation construction could be back to “square one.”

Other areas likely to be altered include the bullpen and the bench. For now, the Diamondbacks sadly limp to the finish line and to its management personnel, this was a baseball club which woefully underachieved.