Arizona Diamondbacks: How Torey Lovullo can build off of 2017
Fresh off an NL Manager of the Year Award, Lovullo is ready to improve on an already impressive resume.
Before coming to Arizona in 2017, Torey Lovullo worked in several organizations at the major and minor league levels. He was a World Series champion as John Farrell’s bench coach in Boston in 2013 and an interim manager in August 2015 while Farrell underwent surgery to remove a hernia.
He worked in the minor leagues for nine years, starting off as an infield instructor in the Cleveland Indians organization before taking on several managerial positions in the Indians’ system before being hired to be part of the Toronto Blue Jays coaching staff in 2011. Even though he wasn’t a manager, players in Boston reflected on how well he communicated with everyone and how encouraging he was to the players on a daily basis after he got hired to manage the Diamondbacks last November.
Lovullo might have received help to get the job in Arizona thanks to former Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen being hired as the GM in Arizona, but Lovullo was a favorite to replace Chip Hale either way because of his communication abilities and his ability to develop relationships in the clubhouse.
An outlook on 2017
Unlike 2016, everything started off on the right foot for Lovullo and the Diamondbacks, literally. An Opening Day walk-off victory against the San Francisco Giants on April 2 started what would be the best season for the club since 2011, when they last won the NL West. That win set the tone for the rest of the season; never give up and have faith in yourself.
The team never fell below .500 on the season and shattered many old club records during their turnaround year. The offense hit a club-record 220 home runs and the pitching staff went on a nine-game streak of 10+ strikeouts from late April to May 3, an MLB record.
Even when the club hit a small bump in the road in July, Lovullo helped his team maintain focus and didn’t make changes besides starting the newly acquired JD Martinez, showing he had confidence and faith in his guys that they could get through a tough stretch. Martinez helped spark the club once again, even with the NL West title slowly getting out of reach.
The Diamondbacks got hot at the right time too down the stretch. A franchise-record 13 straight wins from August 24-September 9, all games featuring NL West opponents, helped seal the top Wild Card spot in the NL. Martinez clubbed 29 home runs in a two-month span with the team, including four home runs on September 4 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Martinez’s feat made the Diamondbacks the first team in the MLB with a perfect game, no-hitter and four-homer game as a franchise.
How to improve in 2018
Lovullo has made it clear he and the team expect to get further in 2018 than last season after getting swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. It’s always hard to improve on dominant years like last season for the Diamondbacks the following season, but it can be done.
One thing Lovullo will have to do is keep his team playing the same game of baseball in the postseason as they did in the regular season. For a club that broke their franchise record in home runs, they weren’t heavily reliant on the long ball to win games and score runs in the regular season. In the NLDS, they scored one run without the long ball, ultimately setting up a tough end to a spectacular season.
One area Lovullo and the Diamondbacks excelled in last season was working around injuries. The Diamondbacks had relatively few injuries last season but chances are good the injury bug could hit them harder in 2018, meaning Lovullo has to be prepared to use reserve players maybe a little more than he’d like.
The task at hand will not be easy, but Lovullo’s communication abilities and strategies of managing a long season make him an ideal person to see help his club improve from a 93-69 season and early postseason exit in 2018.