The 2008 'Pitties: Unsung Hero

Oh, how the mighty are fallen. From third-place in last year's MVP ballot, Eric Byrnes fell all the way to being the landslide winner, with half of all votes cast, in this season's Least Valuable Person award. Jon Rauch (17%) and Chris Burke (15%) were also the recipients of some disfavor.

However, we now move onto an altogether happier award: Unsung Hero. This one is for the players who may not have received quite the adulation they deserved, one way or another - this will, at least, be one award Brandon Webb is not going to win! But here are five nominees, who all played their part in the season, and could be considered as more or less forgotten by the mainstream media and/or fans.

Juan Cruz
Probably the best reliever on the team this season, Cruz had an ERA of 2.61, with opponents batting a minuscule .192 against him. Over the past two years, only seven relievers have 100 NL innings and a better ERA+ than Cruz's 161: he's ahead of the likes of Jonathan Broxton and Jose Valverde there. His phenomenal strikeout rate of `12.62/nine IP over the same time, is the best in the majors among the 664 pitchers with 15+ innings.

Doug Davis
Merely put off his cancer surgery for a couple of weeks, in order to make his early-season starts, so that the team would not be two starters down. Would have been entirely forgiven had he not pitched again the rest of the season - hell, I'd have milked it for everything it was worth - but came back after only seven weeks. He then pitched solidly the rest of the way, and came closer to a perfect game than anyone else, taking one into the bottom of the seventh against the Padres in July.

Conor Jackson
Only three major-league players since 1995 have played 50+ games in a season at both an outfield and an infield position, while also hitting .300 overall. [Chad Tracy in 2005, and Albert Pujols in 2003 and 2001] After the loss of Eric Byrnes, Jackson moved to the outfield without a whimper, and performed admirably there, both with the bat and the glove, despite a lack of major-league experience at the position. He led the team in OBP, thanks to a K:BB ratio of almost 1:1 and also stole ten bases.

Bryan Price
In his two years as the pitching coach for the Diamondbacks, the team's hurlers have posted an ERA+ of 114 and 115, second and tied for second in the league respectively, and a marked improvement over the couple of seasons before that. Now, part of that may be due to having Brandon Webb in full flight [that'd help any rotation], but Doug Davis has also shaved more than half a run off the ERA from his last season in Milwaukee, even moving to a hitter-friendly park.

Chris Snyder
I'm pretty sure that, this time last year, the phrase 'Chris Snyder testicle' would not have resulted in 21,400 hits on a Google search. Bringing a new meaning to the phrase, 'taking one for the team', our catcher managed to avoid surgery, and came back to post career-highs in homers, RBI and OPS. Threw out 31% of wannabe base-stealers, and was not tagged with a single error in 922.2 frames behind the plate, the most E-free innings there since Mike Matheny in 2003.

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