D-backs' offense packing punch in '07

Arizona's offense packing punch in 2007

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Look up and down the D-backs lineup and what do you see?

On the surface, it's a lineup that lacks a prototypical big bopper who will hit 35-plus home runs and strike fear into the heart of many a pitcher.

Look a little deeper though and you'll notice that the Arizona lineup has a chance to be a pitcher's worst nightmare, a lineup where one through eight hitters are going to work deep counts, get on base often, hit plenty of doubles and, yes, even home runs.

"We're not a punch-and-judy hitting club," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "I don't know that we're going to rank that low in homers."

In fact, it's possible when all is said and done, that the D-backs might surprise a whole lot of folks with where they rank in the National League in homers at the end of the season.

You could make a case that the D-backs have seven players that could finish 2007 with anywhere from 15-30 home runs. In fact, Baseball Prospectus in it's PECOTA projections, thinks that number could be eight.

Here's a look at the BP projections: Eric Byrnes (20 homers), Stephen Drew (21), Conor Jackson (19), Miguel Montero (19), Carlos Quentin (18), Chad Tracy (25), Chris Young (24) and Scott Hairston (21).

Orlando Hudson, who did hit 15 last year, missed the cut with 12.

Now, that's not to say that any projections should be marked down in pen nor counted on. Hairston and Montero may not get as many at-bats as estimated, there could always be injuries and if projections always panned out, the city of Las Vegas would be out of business. But the numbers do speak to the fact that the D-backs could very well finish in the mid-to-upper half of the league in overall homers.

"There might not be a 30-homer guy in the lineup, but I think every guy could get into double figures," Byrnes said. "I think we have threats one through eight even if we don't have a guy that's going to win the home run title this year."

And really, the object for an offense is scoring runs and there are other ways of doing that than simply hitting home runs.

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Arizona found that out the hard way in 2005 when the club had two guys -- Troy Glaus (37) and Tony Clark (30) -- hit 30-plus homers and one -- Chad Tracy (27) -- just miss doing so. That team ranked third in the NL in homers, yet without balance throughout scored just 696 runs, ninth in the league.

Last year's D-backs hit 31 less homers than the 2005 bunch and finished 13th in that category. However, they scored 773 runs, seventh in the league.

This year with so many similar hitters in the lineup, manager Bob Melvin has many different options when it comes to slotting people in the batting order.

"We've got guys who can hit just about anywhere in the lineup," Melvin said. "The way numbers are, I think you're seeing a lot of teams nowadays kind of going for what they think could be the best potential lineup that day, matchups, left-rights. You get a right-hander on the mound that gets right-handers out at about .200 or below, you're going to have some left-handers in there. That's not just us. I think all teams are looking a little more at that."

It's the kind of flexibility that brings a smile to Josh Byrnes' face.

"It's important to take care of your 27 outs and I think we have a deep lineup with the kind of offensive players that can score in a lot of different ways," he said. "Over the course of a game, course of a season you have to hit a lot of different pitchers -- left, right, finesse, power, -- I think the more hitters you have that can hit more types of pitching I think improves your chances of scoring more runs in more innings over the course of a year. Now again, sometimes a three-run homer is a quick strike in a game, but again I think we're capable of hitting them."

Maybe more than you would think.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.