Why, yes - I have been waiting all year to use that picture, thank you for asking. Actually, I wanted to use one of that fan at
Joe Robbie Stadium Pro Player Park Pro Player Stadium Dolphin Stadium Land Shark Stadium, who attended a May Marlins-Diamondbacks game in full Chewbacca get-up. I can think of about 29 other stadia in baseball where I'd rather wear a full-body fur suit. Before going on, however, congratulations to Ryan Roberts, who won the award for Unsung Hero of the Year, beating out Juan Gutierrez by a 2-1 margin. I trust he'll be getting our logo inked somewhere on him, to commemorate this honor.
Nine players made their major-league debuts for Arizona in 2009: Brandon Allen, Bryan Augenstein, John Hester, Trent Oeltjen, Gerardo Parra, Rusty Ryal, Daniel Schlereth, Esmerling Vasquez and Clay Zavada. They join other qualifiers Billy Buckner, Gutierrez, Bobby Korecky, Kevin Mulvey and Josh Whitesell - I've checked what I can find as far as transactions go for Buckner and I do not think he reached the 45-day cutoff for pre-September days on the roster since his debut in August 2007. If anyone knows differently, let me know and I'll cross him off . After the jump, we'll lay out the numbers for all the Diamondbacks' rookies in 2009.
After careful analysis, I have come up with the following five nominees for Rookie of the Year. I ummed and ahhed over including Buckner, but questions over his rookie status and the fact that, until September, he largely blew chunks, convinced me that he did not quite qualify.
Juan Gutierrez - 71 IP, 113 ERA+
[What does this "paste" button do?] Leading the team in appearances and innings of relief Gutierrez in 2009 helped make the trade of Jose Valverde look good for the Diamondbacks. The rookie made 65 appearances, and posted an ERA+ of 113, giving up only two home-runs all year - to Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, 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, ending the season with a perfect ninth in Wrigley. Said AJ Hinch, "He has pitched very, very well since the All-Star break. I think a lot of that can be attributed to how he is improving at getting left-handed hitters out."
Trent Oeltjen - .243/.250/.457 = .707 OPS
On August 6th, our favorite Australian baseball player - ok, the only one most of us know - replaced J-Up on the roster and became the first since at least 1954 to hit a home-run and swipe two bases during his major-league debut. He blazed across the baseball firmament for his first five games, going 12-for-24 with three HR and innumerable stolen hearts among the SnakePit Laideez. While he cooled off a bit after that (to put it mildly - his OPS after August 12 was .277!), Oeltjen's enthusiasm for the game and (I am informed) cute accent won him tons of admirers. He said "It's just something I've always wanted to do since I was little. It's been my dream. I wanted to stick it out and give it my all."
Gerardo Parra - .290/.324/.404 = .728 OPS, 60 RBI
The only Diamondback to actually receive any votes in the BBWAA ballot, was not originally expected to be on the team this year. Parra started the season down in Double-A Mobile, but was called up early on, after the loss of Conor Jackson, and wasted no time in making an impression, hitting a home-run in his first major-league at-bat and driving in runs each of his first five game. He won the Rookie of the Month award for May and trailed only the Brewers' Casey McGehee for rookie RBIs. Said Parra, "One thing I have learned is that you have to always stay focused. Sometimes things will go good, sometimes things will go bad, but you have to do the job everyday."
Rusty Ryal - .271/.353/.593 = .946 OPS
Sure, it was only thirty games, and likely completely unsustainable. But over the time after his debut on August 10th, Ryal more than held his own. The OPS Rusty posted put him in the top ten of the 302 NL players with sixty or more PAs, sandwiched right between Manny Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. It was also the best figure by any D-back with as many PAs since Tony Clark in 2005 - mostly because eleven of Ryal's 16 hits were for extra-bases. The most memorable of these was probably the ground-rule double off Hiroki Kuroda's head, which ricocheted back into the stands behind home-plate Obscurist factoid: Ryal is a big baseball-card collector.
Clay Zavada - 51 IP, 136 ERA+
If there were a category for Heart-warming Story of the Year, it would certainly belong to Zavada. See here for why we were so delighted when he made it to the big-leagues - and when he did, both the man and his performances lived up to the myth and the legend. An instant hit with the crowds at Chase [not least at SnakePitFest], Clay also didn't allow an earned run until his twentieth appearance, six weeks after he arrived. Overall, the only AZ rookie pitcher since 2003 with a better ERA+ (in fifty IP) was Max Scherzer last year. But Zavada's attitude is perhaps even more impressive than his pitching ability. Let's finish with a couple of quotes from the man:
Every day is a great day to be here. It's the best job in the world. You don't ever have a bad day at a ballpark. If you have cleats, a glove, a hat and someone has your name on a list to be out on the field for batting practice you've got the best job in the world. That's the way I feel...
Sometimes you ask people how they are doing and they tell you they are living the dream. They're not really living the dream. There's really only one percent that is really living the dream. I'm living the dream, my dream. Not many people get to do that in their lifetime. Life's not fair. Life's not easy. So I'm just thankful... You had better have fun, you had better enjoy it and you'd better give it all you've got. Otherwise you'll regret it. And I don't want to regret it.