It sure seemed like Aaron Hill was the only man who played second base this season, but to be human is to need to rest occasionally. (That's how the saying goes, right?). We look back at the performance of Hill and his few-and-far-between replacements.
(combined position hitting stats)
When the Diamondbacks traded the much-beloved Kelly Johnson to Toronto for the tandem of Aaron Hill and John McDonald in 2011, fans weren't sure what to expect. The position had been a boon after Orlando Hudson, and KJ had filled that void. But with Johnson on the cusp of free agency and Stephen Drew out for the year, the trade was made that brought back both Hill and McDonald.
Together, Hill and McDonald were defensive studs - their chemistry was already there, and the team immediately got better with them on the field. Going into 2012, Aaron Hill was established as the second baseman. What we saw in the last month of 2011 - 17 double-plays, no errors, a .315 batting average and two home runs - made us hopeful that Aaron Hill would at least have a solid year. And if something happened, we had Ryan Roberts as a backup.
"I don't need no stinkin' backup!" It's no secret that Aaron Hill had a phenomenal year. He became an offensive beast, a doubles machine, a cycles machine. He hit for the cycle twice in June and was still left out of the All-Star game for reasons beyond, well, reason. He won the Silver Slugger. He hit 44 doubles, six triples, 26 home runs, amassing a .302 average and .882 OPS.
Defensively, there's no question he's among the best in the league. He turned 94 double plays. He made six errors this year, but his range factor and fielding percentage are still above league average at second base, and his "runs above average" value was 14.
Whether it's his offense or defense, Hill is the man you want in the game.
Aaron Hill played in 153 games at second base. He started all but two of those. That means he really only got nine days off all season long. Ryan Roberts started six games at second base; McDonald started three; and Elmore and Bloomquist one game apiece. (Elmore was a defensive replacement in four additional games.) They were all fine, although Willie made an error in the one game he was in. But everybody's numbers pale in comparison to Hill's.
Looking Towards 2013
Aaron Hill, obviously, is the team's starting second baseman. Whether he can repeat this year's amazing offensive performance, nobody can say. But I still expect him to be among the team leaders offensively, even with a slight drop. His defense should remain solid, if not improve.
Hill and John McDonald both signed two-year contracts with Arizona last off-season, so both will be with the team next year. While McDonald is more comfortable at shortstop, he's an adequate backup at second. Willie Bloomquist, too, is signed through next season. Cliff Pennington, acquired in the trade with the Oakland A's, can also play second base.
Fans of the Diamondbacks don't need stats to know: Aaron Hill is a damn fine second baseman, and let's hope he stays one for years to come. Grade: A+
Other Teachers' Grades
Clefo: If it wasn't for stupid democracy and the general cat hating populace (Snakepit deep cut), Aaron Hill should have been the starting Second Baseman in the All Star Game. We were all skeptical last year when KT smuggled the Hillraiser across the ice wall that separates the United States and Canada, but he found his groove and we are all the better for it. The standard KT 2 year deal is looking genius right now. Considering none of his backups played any significant time (nor did they really need to), this grade is based solely on Hill's performance and as such A.
Jim: Coming in, everyone expected Hill's numbers to drop off from his excellent production after coming in from the cold. That just didn't happen, and the number which stands out for me is how far our 2B production was superior to anyone else's. We had an .865 OPS from the position. That's 127 points better than the next-best Astros (.738), who were far closer to the 16th-ranked Rockies (.668) than they were to the D-backs. That's all down to Hill, whose 6.2 fWAR was a single-season franchise record for second-basemen, and has been beaten in the National League since 2003 only by Chase Utley and Rickie Weeks. A+
soco: Can I just copypasta Clefo's paragraph? Aaron Hill was pretty dang good this year, the best in the NL you coul plausibly argue. A
ZM: I'm trying to justifiably give our second basemen less than an A, just to avoid being all group-thinky. Can't do it. Aaron Hill is a gentleman, a scholar, and a destroyer of worlds. A
John: You just don't get stat lines like that out of second base. Just a ridiculously productive season and we get him for another year at what $5 million? Don't quote me on that. And even more amazing is he puts up numbers like that by hitting to only half the field. Opponents know he's trying to pull the ball, and they still can't stop it. Add in the plus defense and it just brings a smile to your face. A+ all the way.