The pitching staff of the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks was the engine-room which drove the team to the National League West title, and to the NL Championship Series. The overall ERA was 4.13, a significant improvement from the 4.48 posted in 2006, and the best figure for the team since 2003. Taking park factors into account, their ERA+ was the second-best in the National League, trailing only the Cubs, with both the starters (ERA 4.23) and relievers (3.95) contributing to the team's success. Five starters had an ERA+ better than league average, covering 114 games, and five members of the bullpen combined to throw 321 innings with an ERA of 2.92. Of these ten, here are the five nominees for the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks Cy Young. As with Rookie of the Year and Unsung Hero, the winner will automatically qualify for the MVP vote, which starts next weekend.
Doug Davis There were questionmarks over Davis before the season, in particular his control. Those may not have been answered, but you can not argue with the end results: 33 starts, 192.2 innings, and an ERA+ of 111. He started the season in great form, with a 2.36 ERA through his first seven games, and was still at 3.05 following his opening start in June. Walks continued to be an issue - seven times, he handed out five or more free passes - but he showed an uncanny ability to work around these and pitch out of trouble. His first start of the year was typical, allowing no earned runs despite giving up eight hits and five walks in only five innings. But he had some crucial performances when they were needed most, perhaps no more so than eight shutout innings on August 3rd, in a 1-0 victory over LA at Dodger Stadium.
Brandon Lyon To save time, I'll repeat my comments from Lyon in the 'Unsung Hero' category. Valverde may have got the saves, and be dreaming of a $60 million dollar payout, but his set-up man was virtually as good. Lyon posted an ERA only 0.02 worse than Valverde, while pitching more games and innings too. As a result, Brandon's VORP figure was actually higher than Papa Grandes, 24.0 to 21.6, and Lyon was particularly good in hitter-friendly Chase, where his ERA was a miniscule 1.69. He allowed only one home-run in 42.2 innings at home, and his overall HR/9 rate (0.24) was 3rd best in the majors, among the 212 pitchers with seventy or more innings. He blew only three saves all year, in 39 chances, and finished with 35 holds, most in the major-leagues. He also threw strikes a team-leading 66% of the time, and was a crucial part in Arizona having such a good record in one-run games.
Tony Peña And let's also go with my comments on Tony from the 'Rookie of the Year' category. The fuss about Peña's identity seems a long way in the past now, as the pitcher formerly known as "Adriano Rosario" proved his worth with a full season of work from the bullpen. Operating mainly in the seventh inning, he became a crucial part in the chain of Cruz-Peña-Lyon-Valverde, which was used by Bob Melvin to take the team through the second half of games. And given the extraordinary number of one-run games in which the team was involved, having a reliable relief arm like Peña was crucial. virtually half his appearances came with his team tied, or ahead by two runs or less, and he held opposing batter to a .207 average. Tony was particularly brutal on right-handers, who hit just .176, with an OPS of only .521. He did seem to run out of gas later on (a 6.66 era in August and September), but is likely the heir apparent to Valverde's throne as closer.
Jose Valverde He may have caused his share of digestive upsets during the season, but no-one in the major-league saved more games than Papa Grande. He was good enough to complete 47 of 54 opportunities, and there were not very many 'easy' games there - only thirteen of the 54 were with three-run leads. All opposing hitters were kept to a .196 average by Valverde, and it made little difference from which side of the plate they came (RHB: .189; LHB: .202), or whether he was at Chase or anywhere else (Home: .198; Road: .192). The only glitch came when he blew back-to-back saves on July 27 and August 1, but Jose responded by nailing his next four opportunities without a base-runner, striking out six in 4.1 innings, part of a ten-game spell where he allowed three hits over 37 batters faced. His value to a team which lived and died by the one-run game, can hardly be over-stated.
Brandon Webb Anchoring the pitching staff was Brandon Webb, who delivered another tremendous season, to follow up his 2006 Cy Young campaign. Even after that fabulous year, Webb dropped his ERA by nine points, struck out more hitters, won more games, and opponents' OPS facing him was down by twenty points. Of particular note, right-handed batters were sub-Ueckerian against Webb, batting only .199, with just four home-runs off him in 461 plate-appearances. The year will, of course, be remembered for the 42 scoreless innings streak in July and August, including back-to-back-to-back complete game shutouts, the first pitcher since 1998 to perform such a feat. He set the tone for the NL Division Series, allowing one run over seven innings against the Cubs, and finished second in the Cy Young, as well as getting his first National League MVP votes.
Congratulations to Chris Young who overcame a brisk start by Micah Owings (I think Micah got nine of the first 11 votes) to win the Rookie of the Year award, getting 44% of the votes. I was a little surprised Mark Reynolds came in all the way down in fourth, given his vastly-superior OPS+ to Young (110-89), but our center-fielder's contributions with the glove, and all those nifty home-runs, no doubt helped sway the academy of voters. I look forward to seeing all four nominees compete for our Cy Young and MVP awards in future seasons.