2010 'Pitties: The Diamondbacks' Unsung Hero

Both the winner and the runner up in our Game of the Year poll came during the same week in August. Our four-jack stack against the Brewers on August 11th narrowly pipped SnakePitFest v3.2, four days previously, with our crushing defeat over the Yankees also getting a good share of love. Now, about the 97 games we endured with little or nothing pleasant to remember them by...

We head on to the Unsung Hero of the Year. To put it in mathematical terms (and this will be on the end of year test, so I hope you're all paying attention at the back), the basic principle here is that it goes to the player for whom (Performance - Acclaim) is the biggest net result. So it can be someone who did very well, didn't receive much credit; someone who did quite well and was basically ignored, or even someone who was average, in the face of much hostile criticism. I did contemplate including Mark Reynolds, as part of the last group, simply to irritate AZCentral readers, but I live within range of the resulting nuclear devastation...

Still, after the jump, you'll find five people for whom (Performance - Acclaim) was significantly positive for one reason or another.

Stephen Drew
By some measures, Drew was close to the most valuable player on the 2010 Diamondbacks' team. Fangraphs rates him at 5.1 WAR, trailing Kelly Johnson, and even the more conservative B-R.com figure gives Drew 3.3 WAR. Stephen's OPS+ of 113 was a career best for a full season. He reached an all-time high in walks, which helped boost his OBP to .352, also a best over a full year, and the dozen triples Drew hit - for the second consecutive year - has only been beaten once in franchise history (Tony Womack's 14 in 2000). His UZR of 8.7 was the second-best in the NL by a shortstop.

Juan Gutierrez
Gutierrez deserves a lot of credit for the way he completely turned his season around. Early on, Juan was one of the worst offenders in the 2010 Bullpen of Ultimate Suck. On June 8, he was 0-5 with a horrific 10.24 ERA, driven by allowing ten homers in 19.1 innings. But he acknowledged, addressed and corrected the issue, more or less abandoning his four-seamer, using just his two-seamer and slider, and the results were stellar. In 36 games and 37.1 innings the rest of the way, Gutierrez had a 2.41 ERA, converting 14 straight save opportunities after becoming the team's closer in mid-July.

Aaron Heilman
Well, the bullpen certainly were "unsung" this season. And during their deepest, darkest months, of April and May, Heilman was the only half-decent relief arm we had. His ERA over that time was 3.38. Everyone else combined? 8.51. Curiously, it seems as if the talented pitcher inhabiting Heilman's body was transferred to Gutierrez mid-season. On June 8 - exactly the date when Gutierrez's good run started - Heilman's ERA was 2.84, but the rest of the year, it was 5.40. Still, Aaron was the solitary member of the 2010 Diamondbacks bullpen to throw more than 20 innings and avoid having a negative B-R WAR.

Adam LaRoche
LaRoche is only the second Diamondback hitter in the past seven years to drive in a hundred runs, and provided a stability at first-base that had been lacking in Arizona over the past few years. His 143 starts there, was two short of the most by a Diamondback at the position, trailing Travis Lee's 145 in the franchise's debut season, back in 1998. He also became the second player in franchise history to hit 25 homers as a first-baseman (Tony Clark had 26 in 2005). LaRoche's fielding percentage of .991 was the best by an Arizona 1B (min. 700 innings at the position) since Mark Grace's .995 in 2001.

Rodrigo Lopez
Quick: which pitcher threw most innings for Arizona last year? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, was Lopez - he hit 200 innings in his final outing, the first time since 2005 he has reached the mark. Normally, a starter with an ERA of five would not be considered heroic, but for someone who cost little more than league minimum ($650K), he delivered - Fangraphs.com valued R-Lo's production for the Diamondbacks at four times that. Lopez kept going out there and eating frames, averaging more than six innings per outing, and his "Quality Start" percentage of 45% was almost identical to both Joe Saunders (46%) and Ian Kennedy (47%).

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