Diamondbacks All-Time Top 10. #5: Brandon Webb


Brandon Webb

Acquired: 6/5/2000. Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 8th round of the 2000 amateur draft.
Career with AZ: 617.2 IP, 31-37, 3.35 ERA
Best year 2003: 180.2 IP, 10-9, 2.84 ERA
Records: 1st in wild pitches (40). Season highs for walks, wild pitches and losses (119, 17 and 16, all in 2004)
Other facts: 2nd in walks, 3rd in ERA (3.35), losses (37) and K's (508), 4th in starts (96) and wins (31).
Biggest moment: Winning the 2003 Rookie of the Ye... Oh, hang on: that should have been his biggest moment. Ok, then - his first major-league start. April 27, 2003: seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits. Oh, plus 10 strikeouts. And a win. In Shea Stadium. Against Tom Glavine.
Departed: still here. And looking likely to be around for a while, since he's now signed through 2009.

How does a pitcher with a 4.89 ERA in college, picked at #249 in the draft, end up taking down a future Hall of Famer in his debut start? Webb's translation into one of the most promising young arms around began at Lancaster, where he start working on his trademark pitch: the devastating sinker. It took a while to master, but as his phenomenal arrival showed, the results more than justified the effort.

Ironically, after his stunning debut, he was sent straight back to Tucson, as the Big Unit was coming off the DL. But his return to the minors was brief, and he ended up with the third-best ERA (2.84) of any pitcher - not just rookies - in the National League, a figure also beaten only by Johnson in team history. Braves manager Bobby Cox said it was the best sinker he'd seen in years, and Webb should have won Rookie of the Year, but the writers couldn't see past the 14-6 record of Dontrelle Willis, even though Webb was clearly superior in every other way.

2004 was a difficult year for the Diamondbacks, and Webb was no exception: a sinkerball pitcher, with Scott Hairston and Alex Cintron behind him as defense, must feel like he has died and gone to hell. A franchise-record number of defeats followed, both for the team and Webb personally, though Webb's 3.59 ERA was still the lowest of any 16-gamer loser since Melido Perez went 13-16 with a 2.87 ERA in 1992.

Webb had another very solid season in 2005, posting an ERA+ of 124 once again, and with a better team, went 14-12. Of particular note was his improved control: he halved his total of walks, even though he pitched 21 more innings. Also, his groundball/flyball ratio also continues to increase, from 3.44 in 2003 to 3.55 in 2004, and then an amazing 4.34 last season. With Gold Glove defense now behind him in Orlando Hudson, this year could be Webb's best yet.

Three years into his career and at the age of only 27, he has an ERA of 3.35 and the most similar pitcher through age 26, according to BaseballReference.com, is Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. Long may that trend continue: here's to Webb posting a 1.12 ERA for Arizona in 2011. :-)

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