Age on Opening Day 2011: 28
2011 Stats: 33 games (4 starts), 64.0 IP, 8-0, 3.57 ERA, 44:23 K:BB
2010 Stats (CIN): 22 games, 33.1 IP, 3-2, 5.40 ERA, 35:25 K:BB
I don't know that any Diamondbacks pitcher was as lucky this year as Micah Owings was. How else can a reliever give up five runs in the 10th inning and still get the win?? (Well, sometimes it takes little help from Ryan Roberts.) Micah Owings, being the "I'll pitch any time you want me, Coach" player that he is, was used well by Kirk Gibson this year and compiled an 8-0 regular season record (plus one more win in the post-season). Only four other players since 1901 have appeared in fewer games than Owings (33 games) and had a perfect record. (Most impressive: Ken Holtzman, 1967 Cubs, 9-0 in 12 starts! At age 21!)
Micah Owings was somewhat of an unexpected bright spot this season, and his contributions were invaluable to the 2011 NL West champs.
Micah Owings broke in with the Diamondbacks in their last NL West title year, 2007. He became the team's 5th starter out of Spring Training and put up decent numbers for a back-end guy. He was also impressive with his hitting prowess, winning the Silver Slugger while hitting .333, including TWO home runs in his hometown ballpark in Atlanta. In 2008, he was the PTBNL in the Adam Dunn deal, and his two years with the Cincinnati Reds weren't particularly noteworthy. He returned to Arizona this year on a minor-league contract to be a long reliever, but when The Armando Galarraga Situation unravelled, Micah was recalled from Reno to give it another go as the #5 starter. Whether he would stick around in the bullpen was, at the time, unclear. Would he return to his 2007 status, or remain the 5+ ERA guy that he was with Cincinnati?
Micah ended up only making four starts this season, two in May before Zach Duke came off the DL and two in July before Jason Marquis was acquired. He won three of those starts (and the team won the other), going 5 or 6 innings and pitching well in his first three starts. Micah's role was questioned often throughout the year; when there was a pitching move made, people wondered if his role as the long-reliever might be in jeopardy. But his flexibility, positive attitude, and also pretty good numbers kept him around for the rest of the year as a middle-inning reliever, and he made the post-season roster and got another win there.
Comparing Micah's numbers from 2010, used in a similar role, it's like a completely different pitcher showed up for Arizona this season. He appeared in more games, threw twice as many innings, and his ERA improved by nearly two points. He allowed only marginally more runs (though the jump in home runs was worrisome) and walked fewer men. Micah's ERA remained under 3 until early September, and was almost back down to the 2s when he had the awful 10th inning against the Dodgers. Still, an ERA in the mid-3s from your emergency starter and middle-inning reliever is just as what can be expected from that role. He ended the regular season 8-0 with three holds.
In Game 4 of the NLDS, Joe Saunders was on a short leash. He went three innings and allowed three runs, then in came Micah Owings for two scoreless innings. Since he had pitched the 5th inning when the Diamondbacks were beating the Brewers 7-3, he earned the win. I'm telling you, the man was just a magical winning machine. Need a win? Let Owings pitch, trust us, the offense will come back immediately afterwards, just to get HIM the win!
Despite rumors that the team might also use Owings as a DH/1B, that never came to pass. Micah has previously said that his offensive power is just a plus, what he really is is a pitcher. Still, it certainly helped knowing that you could leave your reliever in to hit for himself and save a pinch-hitter for later. 30 of his 31 plate appearances were as a pitcher; he was only used as a pinch-hitter once, in a blowout loss to San Francisco, and ground out to third.
Unfortunately, Micah was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks back in December. While that doesn't preclude him from returning as a free-agent, it would most likely again be on a minor-league contract. The front office seems satisfied with the bullpen it has put together this off-season with the acquisition of Craig Breslow from the Oakland A's. Yet I do hope he re-signs with Arizona - with so many young prospects in the mix for that #5 starter's position heading into 2012, it'd be nice to know we have a reliable, pitch-anywhere guy down in Reno that we can call up.
snakecharmer's Grade: A-
Really, there were only a few poor outings from Owings this season. His bat, while not as bountiful in its performance as it was in his Silver Slugger year, was not a liability. And the man can just win!
If we're going off expectations and salary, Micah exceeded it all, I suspect. I mean, in March, weren't some of us thinking more about the potential of him as a first baseman than as a pitcher? But Micah came in and gave us some solid work out of the bullpen, along with a couple of starts- it may get lost in the blur of so many highlights this season, but I loved watching Micah hold the Rockies to two hits over five innings, while Ubaldo Jimenez got thrashed in his second-to-last start for Colorado. His 8-0 record may provoke some joking, but it means he gave the team chances to win, and he didn't make many mistakes when the game was on the line. Okay, sure, and Ryan Roberts bailed him out with some thrilling heroics, but it's a team sport. Micah came through when the team needed him plenty, so it's fitting that the team would come through for him.
While a 111 ERA+ and some impressive spot starts certainly exceeded my expectations I can't help but notice the huge amount of ‘mop-up' that Owings did. Nearly half of the games he pitched in (14 of 33) the team was either leading or trailing by four or more runs. Still, getting an out is a hard thing to do, and I can't knock him down for that. He was solid overall and did well enough in the few high leverage situations that he was presented with.
The re-signing of Owings was a surprise. That he was (mostly) an effective pitcher, was an even bigger shock, given his ERA+ hadn't reached 80 since 2007. I liked his flexibility and stamina, e.g. 4.2 bullpen innings on August 5, then three more on August 9, which proved valuable, especially when the back of our rotation was faltering. Certainly, he faded down the stretch, posting a 10.57 ERA in September, and his 3.57 season total is likely as unreproducible as his W-L record. But those 63 innings he threw for Arizona were solid enough, and only the Nats' Tyler Clippard had more IP in the National League last year, without tasting defeat. Definitely all that could be expected, and then some.