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Early signs prophetic amid D-backs' tough season

September 29, 2016

PHOENIX -- Maybe the D-backs' 2016 season was doomed the moment A.J. Pollock's right elbow gave way and fractured during the second-to-last game of the Cactus League season, depriving the team of its second-best hitter and best defensive player for all but a handful of games.Maybe it started spinning out

PHOENIX -- Maybe the D-backs' 2016 season was doomed the moment A.J. Pollock's right elbow gave way and fractured during the second-to-last game of the Cactus League season, depriving the team of its second-best hitter and best defensive player for all but a handful of games.
Maybe it started spinning out of control when ace Zack Greinke struggled on Opening Day and Shelby Miller followed suit the next game. It showed that Greinke might not be his usual invincible self, and it definitely increased the already high pressure on Miller.
Or maybe it's as simple as the D-backs not being nearly as good as many thought they were when they were cruising through Spring Training.
Whatever the case, the 2016 season will be remembered as a disappointing one for the franchise.
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There were plenty of injuries. In addition to Pollock, outfielder David Peralta missed significant time due to injuries, while Greinke spent a prolonged period on the shelf and fellow starter Rubby De La Rosa missed most of the season.
Add the injuries to the underperformance by Miller and just about everyone in the bullpen, and you wind up with a team that not only didn't make the postseason but really wasn't even in the hunt after June.
Record: 69-93, fourth place, National League West
Defining moment: On June 25, the D-backs were in the midst of a 10-game road stretch and had gone 7-1 on the trip to that point with two games left against the Rockies. They had climbed to just four games under .500, and that night's starter, Miller, was coming off one of his best games of the year. There was hope that they might just be able to salvage this season.
Miller, though, allowed seven runs in an 11-6 loss, and the following night, the D-backs would cough up a late lead and lose, 9-7, in walk-off fashion.
The D-backs returned home and dropped seven of nine on their homestand, then another three on the road against San Francisco before the All-Star break, falling to 14 games under .500 and essentially ending any postseason hopes they had.
What went right: Infielder Jean Segura proved to be a valuable addition, as he became the first player in club history to collect at least 30 hits in every month. A shortstop by trade, Segura made a seamless transition to second base.
Paul Goldschmidt appeared in his fourth straight All-Star Game and overcame a slow start to post totals close to his career norms.

Third baseman Jake Lamb deserved a spot on the NL All-Star team the way he performed in the first half. The mechanical adjustments he made at the plate in lowering his hands paid dividends.
After a hot spring at the plate -- and without a spot in the infield -- Brandon Drury played outfield for the first time in his career and showed that he can be an offensive force when given consistent playing time.
What went wrong: Injuries and just about everything on the pitching front.
While Miller's struggles got most of the attention, the rotation as a whole vastly underperformed expectations.
Greinke didn't have a typical year and was dogged by injuries to his left oblique and right shoulder, while No. 3 starter Patrick Corbin struggled and was moved in August to the bullpen, where he seemed to find his mojo again.

Lefty Robbie Ray did strike out more than 200 batters, but he remained inconsistent and showed that he still needs to improve his secondary pitches to take the next step. In mid-May, it looked like De La Rosa had finally tapped into his potential, but the right-hander developed elbow trouble and would make only two more starts the rest of the season. There is a chance he will need to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career if a September stem-cell injection does not help.
It seems hard to believe now, but the bullpen was looked at as a strength in Spring Training, with fierce competition for the final spots. However, it became an Achilles' heel early, and after reliable back-end relievers Tyler Clippard and Brad Ziegler were dealt, young pitchers like Jake Barrett and Enrique Burgos struggled in the closer's role.
Biggest surprise and Hitter of the Year: Segura was another example of how a change of scenery can sometimes do wonders for a player. After a pair of down years with the Brewers, he posted a career-high OPS and was an outstanding leadoff hitter.

Pitcher of the Year: This is a tough category to pick, given the struggles up and down the staff. Greinke gets the nod, though, as the best of the bunch, even though his numbers were, as he admitted, disappointing.

Ray deserves an honorable mention for his ability to exceed 200 strikeouts, and he certainly flashed the potential to be an upper-tier starter.
Rookie of the Year: Drury wins this hands down. He never complained despite being asked to play positions he was unaccustomed to playing and having to endure inconsistent playing time for a good portion of the year.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.