That's just how it goes when you improve by 29 games from one season to the next — as the Diamondbacks did in their unexpected 2011 run to the National League West title after back-to-back, 90-plus-loss seasons.
First of all, that kind of remarkable improvement doesn't happen often. In the 51 seasons since the 162-game regular-season schedule was instituted (and not including strike-shortened seasons), only four other teams have improved by at least 29 wins from one season to the next.
The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays jumped from 66 to 97 wins on their way to an unexpected World Series appearance. And in 2009? It was back to 84 wins.
The 1989 Baltimore Orioles improved to 87-75 after a horrible 54-107 mark in 1988 — another 33-game leap — only to fall back to 76-85 in 1990.
And the Diamondbacks already have felt this phenomenon. After 65 wins in their inaugural 1998 season, they spring-boarded to 100 wins in 1999 before falling back to 85 in 2000.
In fact, if you include the 13 teams since 1961 that improved by at least 25 wins from one season to the next — still an amazing jump, when you think about it — their win totals in the ensuing season dropped by an average of 11. That would put the Diamondbacks at 83-79 in 2012.
But this kind of historical data means nothing to Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson. If you know anything about him, it should come as no surprise that his sole focus is on getting his team deeper into October than last season's NLDS Game 5 loss in 10 innings to the Milwaukee Brewers.
"We can't call ourselves champions,'' Gibson said on the second day of camp earlier this week. "We can call ourselves NL West champions if you want, but what good is that going to do? We don't focus on that. The banquet season is over, officially.''
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and in this case it's a doozy from the not-too-distant past. The exception the Diamondbacks hope to emulate is the Atlanta Braves. From 65 wins in 1991, they catapulted to 94 in 1992, starting an unprecedented run of 14 consecutive division titles, including one in a 98-win 1993 season.
Nobody's going on that kind of division-title streak again, but there is plenty of evidence that the Diamondbacks have set themselves up nicely for a short-term run of success — no matter how much their win total may fall in 2012.
There's little debating the fact that general manager Kevin Towers — with a financial OK from ownership — has put together a deeper, more-complete roster than the one that came within a game of getting to the 2011 NLCS.
Trevor Cahill and his power sinker improve the No. 3 rotation spot behind Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Joe Saunders was re-signed to fill the No. 4 spot, and if you aren't certain about Josh Collmenter's staying power at the back end of the rotation, know that Wade Miley, Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs are about to emerge. Those three, plus Archie Bradley — the team's second first-round pick last June — made it possible to include former No. 1 pick Jarrod Parker in the Cahill deal with Oakland.
Free-agent signee Takashi Saito is the likely seventh-inning guy in front of David Hernandez and J.J. Putz — that's if Saito can hold off emerging Brian Shaw and his deadly cut-fastball. Craig Breslow adds to the left-handed side of the setup crew, Sam Demel is healthy again, and rookies Kevin Munson and Evan Marshall could contribute later this season.
Free-agent signee Jason Kubel brings another left-handed power presence besides Miguel Montero to the middle of the order, and makes it a four-deep outfield with MVP candidate Justin Upton, Chris Young and Gerardo Parra.
We'll also see a first full season from young power source Paul Goldschmidt, and remember that the Diamondbacks made their late-season run without Stephen Drew, who is expected to regain his shortstop job as he recovers from a serious ankle injury. But just in case, Towers re-signed Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald, and also has veterans Geoff Blum, Lyle Overbay and Henry Blanco on the bench.
"We like our depth, our talent,'' Gibson said.
And you know Gibson and his staff will get the most out of the roster. Gibson, entering his second full season, says he's still implementing strategies, techniques, and strength and conditioning measures into his program.
"We don't want to get carried away with last year, but it certainly is aiding us as far as coming in (to camp) with confidence,'' Gibson said. "Last year, it was all new to them. New (spring-training) facility, new staff, an organization going through a lot of changes.
"Things are much more stable now. We know what we're doing. (The players) have an attitude of unfinished business. (2011) was a fun year. But we fell far short. I think they all understand that. They understand the price you have to pay, and how we have to get better.''
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees fans showed Don Mattingly the love from the moment he took the lineup card to home plate Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda, though, wasn't feeling nostalgic when facing his old team.
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