The 2009 'Pitties: Unsung Hero

Before we head into the next set of nominations, should quickly mention that the Game of the Year award went to the 18-inning marathon against the Padres on June 7th. At five hours, 45 minutes, the longest in franchise history for more than eight years, with the teams combining to use 18 hurlers who threw 592 pitches. Can't really argue with that: it was definitely a memorable contest: as the guy in charge of writing the recap, my major feeling was relief that it was an afternoon game, not an evening one...

We move on to the fourth in our series of awards, for the Unsung Hero of the year. This is the player who made a significant contribution to the team, yet did not receive the appropriate acknowledgment - be that from the media as a whole, or here on the 'Pit - for the services rendered.
  • Juan Gutierrez: 71 IP,1.5 WAR
    Leading the team in pitching appearances and innings of relief work, Gutierrez in 2009 helped make the trade of Jose Valverde look like a good one for the Diamondbacks. The rookie made 65 appearances, and posted an ERA+ of 113 - only two NL relievers aged 25 and younger worked seventy innings with a better ERA+ [Luke Gregerson and Jonathan Broxton]. Outside of a bad ten days in June, when he allowed nine runs in 2.1 innings, his ERA was barely three, and Gutierrez gave up only two home-runs all year - to Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, so hardly an embarrassment. After the loss of Chad Qualls at the end of August, Juan became the de facto closer, going a perfect 8-for-8 in save chances, and ending the Diamondbacks' season with a perfect ninth in Wrigley on only ten pitches.

  • Augie Ojeda: 9.6 UZR, 1.5 WAR
    It'd be easy to look at Ojeda's offensive numbers - .246/.340/.345, with one homer and 16 RBI in 103 games - and see a complete waste of roster space. But that would severely undervalue Ojeda's contribution to the team, especially on defense. There. Ojeda's UZR rating, combined across three positions, was the second-best on the roster, more than twice as much as any other infielder for the 2009 Diamondbacks. In 489.1 innings between second-base and short-stop, Augie committed just three errors, for a fielding percentage of .988..He was perfect at 2B, and only two major-leaguers played more innings there without an error [Craig Counsell and Nick Punto]. Last year, he was paid $712K; fangraphs.com valued him overall at $6.9m. No wonder the team is looking at bringing Augie back.

  • Jon Rauch: 54.1 IP, 110 ERA+ (Arizona only)
    The odds of Rauch being nominated for any kind of award seemed very bleak after the opening month of the 2009 season: over his first fourteen appearances, opponents were hitting him at a .340 clip, and his ERA was 9.00. However, the seriously unsung Blowfish managed to turn it around, impressing fans not just with his pitching ability, but also the excellent character he displayed, such as pitching both ends of the Florida double-header, getting a save in the nightcap. His ERA the rest of the way with the Diamondbacks was a very respectable 2.91, and many people were sorry to see him traded to the Twins. There, he was a crucial part of Minnesota's surge to the AL Central title, allowing three runs in seventeen games down the stretch.

  • Ryan Roberts: 100 OPS+, 2.0 WAR
    Only three Arizona players with 75+ PAs had a higher OPS+ than Roberts - getting regular games for the first time in his career, his overall numbers were also better than those of his middle-infield colleagues Stephen Drew (89) and Felipe Lopez (98). Ryan stepped it up following the departure of his heavily-tattoed team-mate, hitting .290/.374/.465 after becoming the regular second-baseman, and earning the right to have a shot at the starting job there in 2010. Roberts was Mark Reynolds' main back-up at 3B, and made a dozen starts in right-field too - using Vernon Wells' glove - to give the team a right-handed hitter out there, rather than lefties Gerardo Parra, Alex Romero or Trent Oeltjen. All this, and Roberts also became a father for the first time in August.

As a side-note, anyone know whether Ryan Roberts still qualifies as a rookie or not? I know this sounds surprising - he is 29 now, after all! - but he certainly didn't have enough PA's before this year. It's harder to tell whether he hit the pre-September limit on roster days (45); unless he was sitting on the roster without playing, I'm not inclined to think so. Though he isn't listed as a rookie on ESPN's rookie stats, that isn't really definitive. I'm just trying to work out whether he should be listed as a nominee for the next Pittie.

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