2013 Diamondbacks: What went right

Christian Petersen

It wasn't all gloom and doom for Arizona this season. After our look at why they didn't improve on last year, let's list some of the reasons why they weren't any worse. As before, we'll go into some of these in more detail down the road, so this is an overview.

MVPaul

Yeah, you're going to be reading a lot about Paul Goldschmidt over the course of our season review, since he was the linch-pin around which the 2013 campaign revolved. By the end of the year, even a certain unnamed ESPN pundit was forced to admit he had been wrong - while credit is certainly due for that, about all I have to say is, "what kept you?" [I believe he is now also giving serious consideration to the belief that America should pull out of Vietnam]. But I think it's safe to say Goldie surpassed just about all expectations, becoming the first Diamondback ever to lead the league in any of the Triple Crown categories.

Never mind the Pollocks

"He's probably the most polished outfielder we have in the entire organization... He's going to play in the big leagues for a long time." -Brett Butler

A.J. Pollock could be considered the most pleasant surprise among position players - though not to Mr. Baragona, who wondered in February whether Pollock should be considered for a spot on the roster. A.J. Pollock appeared in 31 games last season, and was replacement level: despite a good spring training, he probably only made the Opening Day squad as a result of the injuries suffered by Cody Ross and Adam Eaton. But he hit the ground running, with three hits and a pair of RBI on Opening Day, and never looked back. By the end of the year, he had started in more games (102) than anyone outfielder bar Gerardo Parra.

His playing time was certainly justified. Both bWAR and fWAR rated Pollock as the team's third most-valuable player, behind Goldschmidt and Parra, worth 3.5 and 3.6 wins respectively. A.J.'s defense in center field was clearly a large factor: among the 33 players in the majors with 500 innings at the position, Pollock's UZR/150 was second only to the Mets' Juan Lagares. But his offense was also perfectly adequate, A.J. more than doubling his home-run tally from last year in Reno, to eight. An overall line of .269/.322/.409 equates to an OPS+ of 100, which is better than Chris Young over his time with Arizona.

Corbin burns, son

It seems like, almost every year, someone comes out of nowhere to become a key component in our rotation. Josh Collmenter in 2011, Wade Miley last season, and this year, Patrick Corbin, who went from competing for the fifth spot during spring training - and not being given the job until March 30! - to the All-Star Game. His first half was simply phenomenal. Through the end of June, Corbin was 9-0 with a 2.22 ERA, and the team had won all but one of his 17 starts. Thereafter, things weren't quite as good, Corbin going 5-8 and the ERA expanding to 4.74, but it's safe to say he won't have to compete for a roster spot when the team reconvenes in February.

Ziegler's gonna Ziegle

Brad Ziegler has quietly turned into one of the best bullpen arms in the major-leagues. Over the past three seasons, among the 169 relievers with 100+ innings, he's in the top ten by ERA+. His figure of 173 puts him ahead of much more-renowned names such as Jim Johnson (156), Jonathan Papelbon (148), Joe Nathan (151) and Rafael Soriano (135). He's arguably the best reliever in franchise history. Ziegler's ERA of 2.27 with Arizona is the lowest by anyone with 40+ IP, and Brad's 174 ERA+ for the D-backs compares to the following: J.J. Putz (162), Jose Valverde (141) and Byung-Hyun Kim (136).

This year, he started off as our seventh-inning guy (three-quarters of his first 12 appearances), moved up to the eighth inning after J.J. Putz went on the disabled list, and then took over as closer, when the Heath Bell Experience proved unsatisfactory. Ziegler picked up his first save of the season on Independence Day: here's his line from that point on, covering 33 games:
Ziegler: 33.2 IP, 30 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 11 BB, 21 K, 1.60 ERA
Curiously, he wasn't such a double-play machine as previously, with only eight, down from 21. But he was still supremely effective, and the contract extension reportedly being discussed doesn't seem a bad thing to me.

Parra-dise found

Speaking of extensions... Parra is the other name mentioned in the link above, as potentially getting a long-term deal this winter, and if you believe the defensive metrics, he had a breakout season. In particular, his 4.0 defensive bWAR was the third-most ever by an outfielder, and Fangraphs concurs - good as Pollock was in center, Parra's UZR led all major-league outfielders. He again had most assists in the National League, gunning down 17 runners, and I'm just waiting for the surely inevitable box-score line, "X grounds out to Parra, RF" [X will probably be the Cubs' Welington Castillo, supposedly the slowest runner in the majors]

Certainly, pre-season concerns about Parra being blocked this year turned out to be entirely unrealized, as he started 147 games for Arizona, and blew away his previous career best of 493 PAs by a cool 170. That helped him reach highs in hits, doubles (43), walks and home-runs. Like Pollock, his offense (OPS+ of 99) was good enough to pass muster, and when combined with his defense, made him one of the most valuable players on the team overall. It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see him receive his second Gold Glove when the winners are announced. Maybe the team should extend Parra, before that drives up his price any higher.

Coll to the bullpen

In his first year working strictly as a reliever, Josh Collmenter turned in a career-best 122 ERA+. Equally as notable was his stamina, Collmenter leading all National League relievers with 92 innings of work, the second-most by a non-starting Diamondback (Kim had 101.2 in 2000). Before this year, the only Arizona pitcher to throw five innings in relief was Randy Johnson for the power-outage game in San Diego. Collmenter did it twice. He threw five in the finale of the opening series vs. St. Louis, then six shutout innings of one-hit relief against the Marlins, after Trevor Cahill had to leave injured. It was the first such NL outing since Ryan Jensen for the 2002 Giants.

Not so bad...

The following didn't quite perform either well or consistently enough to justify entire paragraphs of their own, but had their moments in the sun

  • Eric Chavez - genuine power threat when healthy
  • Martin Prado - after the first month, he was who we thought he would be
  • Aaron Hill - curse you, James McDonald!
  • Wade Miley - while no Sophomore of the Year, a very solid second season
  • Trevor Cahill - lowest ERA of our starters during the second-half.
  • Will Harris - Nice dumpster diving pick-up off the waiver-wire.

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