Arizona raced off to a 4-0 start and found itself in first place in the NL West. The D-backs lost their next game, fell out of first place and would never return to the top spot at any point.
"We swept the Giants the first three games of the season and we were feeling pretty sexy about it, and next thing you know, we were really bad," D-backs catcher Miguel Montero said.
Each time they won a couple of games in a row the players would talk about it being the start of an extended run, but inevitably they would stumble. The late-inning magic that propelled them to the most one-run wins in baseball in 2011 vanished, and they were well under .500 in one-run games.
Injuries played a part, with center fielder Chris Young missing a lot of time and expected No. 2 starter Daniel Hudson making only nine starts. Shortstop Stephen Drew took most of the first half to return from last year's ankle surgery.
It all combined to cause a team that looked better on paper to be worse on the field.
"Unfortunately, it didn't go the way we expected it," Montero said. "It was disappointing because I really thought we were going to be way far in front of the division. It's just disappointing because I thought we had a really good ballclub. I mean, I think we have a better team than we did last year."
Record: 81-81, third in NL West
Defining moment: On Aug. 20 the D-backs returned from a 5-2 trip to St. Louis and Houston to open up a 10-game homestand. They trailed the first-place Giants by just 4 1/2 games, and with seven of those 10 games on the homestand against the struggling Marlins and Padres, they had a chance to really turn the season around. Instead, the D-backs went 2-8, dropping them 9 1/2 games behind the Giants and ending any realistic hope they had of winning the NL West.
What went right: Paul Goldschmidt showed he was the long-term solution at first base, as he followed up a solid last two months of 2011 with a banner '12. Goldschmidt made great strides defensively and was among the team's most productive hitters. ... Second baseman Aaron Hill showed that his performance at the end of 2011 was no fluke, as he was Arizona's most consistent hitter. His defense was also underrated. ... Though he faded badly down the stretch, outfielder Jason Kubel put up good power numbers, was better than advertised defensively and proved to be a good free-agent signing. ... Setup man David Hernandez took another step forward as he showed the ability to limit the big innings that plagued him at times in 2012. ... Montero got into the best physical shape of his career and proved to be an ironman behind the plate. The team rewarded him with a five-year, $60 million contract extension. ... Brad Ziegler proved to be a valuable reliever as he showed a knack for getting hitters to ground into double plays when needed.
What went wrong: The D-backs rushed Young back from April shoulder injury and was not able to replicate his hot start, as he struggled at the plate the rest of the season. ... After winning 22 games in 2011, Kennedy was unable to reach the same level on a consistent basis in '12. Kennedy had his moments, but struggled with his command. ... Outfielder Justin Upton had a productive season, but after he was an NL Most Valuable Player candidate last year, more was expected from him this season than he delivered. ... Takashi Saito was signed as a free agent to provide veteran stability in the bullpen, but he was injured in Spring Training and missed all but a handful of weeks. When he did pitch, the results were not good. ... The team counted on third baseman Ryan Roberts to build on his strong 2011 campaign, but he took a step back and was eventually traded as the team struggled all season to find a solution at third.
Biggest surprise: Wade Miley was a long shot to make the roster when Spring Training began. He made the team as the long man in the bullpen and was pressed into duty when Hudson went down with an injury. Miley never looked back as he went on to pitch his way into contention for the NL Rookie of the Year Award.