With the All Star Break upon us, I decided to do my version of an All D-backs Team. Criteria include on-field performance, as well as popularity and also everyone's favorite: GRIT. Starters for each position, as well as a backup catcher, corner infielder, middle infielder, and outfielder, and four starting pitchers and five relievers.
Catcher: A tough decision first off, as the starting catcher is between Miguel Montero and Damian Miller. Both have posted similar numbers, but with Miggy having the longer tenure, as well as better power numbers, I have to give him the nod.
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, and it really isn't close. Sure, there have been D-backs with better career numbers, but performance with other teams doesn't count for this purpose. While Conor Jackson put up some decent numbers, it would be possible (and even sensible) to argue that no Diamondback has meant as much to this team as Goldy since he made his debut in 2011. And with his MVP candidate numbers this season, he's putting even more distance between him and the field.
Second Base: Jay Bell. Yes, Orlando Hudson and Aaron Hill have better numbers, but Bell deserves some credit for scoring the biggest run in D-backs history. Also, his career year in 1999 was key to the D-backs winning their first division crown. Besides, his batting stance made him look like an awkward flamingo.
Third Base: Here is another tough decision, this time between Matt Williams and Chad Tracy. The D-backs got the twilight of Williams' career, and the prime of Tracy, but their overall numbers were very similar (Tracy's marginally better). Their best seasons were also similar (2005 for Tracy, 1999 for Williams). But I get the feeling that if D-backs fans were asked which they would prefer at 3rd, Williams would be the winner. So Matt Williams it is, getting the start at third.
Shortstop: Tony Womack gets the nod over Stephen Drew, his 72 stolen bases in 1999 being a large part of it. Seriously, one wonders how good Pittsburgh could have been in the mid 90s if they had gotten the production from Bell and Womack that we did. He also served well as the leadoff hitter for a few years, and got one of the key hits off of Rivera in the greatest 9th inning ever, endearing himself to D-backs fans.
Left Field: There can be no debate. Luis Gonzalez is not only the best left fielder the D-backs have ever had, but also the best position player. His number is the only number the franchise has retired. He picked up over 200 hits in 1999, then played every game in 2000 and 2001, crushing a franchise-record 57 home runs in the latter season. I'd also hazard that trading Karim Garcia straight-up for Gonzalez more than makes up for giving up Max Scherzer. (Although Garcia did become the 34th, and I believe the last, person to hit a home run out of Tiger Stadium).
Center Field: Looking at the other outfield positions poses more of a problem, however. Center field is a clear contest between Steve Finley and Chris Young. Both had their upsides. Young was a little more frustrating, as he never seemed to realize his full potential. Both played more than adequate defense, with Young the better fielder. I decided to let WAR decide, and that gives the nod to Finley, whose 18.1 tops Young's 14.7 by a decent margin.
Right field: In fairness, I have to give this to Justin Upton, although Gerardo Parra is breathing down his neck. Upton was frustrating just as Young was, but there's little competition. Parra has moved around between the outfield positions, and Danny Bautista (who would come in third) had a negative WAR over his time in Arizona. So Upton it is.
Backup Catcher: it might make sense to give that to Damian Miller, but in the spirit of the All Star game, which rewards players for a great half-season, I decided instead to honor the best offensive numbers from the catcher position in D-backs history. Yes, Johnny Estrada and his .302/.328/.444 slash in 2006 gets my nod as backup catcher. If I were a Dodgers fan (or worked for ESPN), I would give the spot to Wil Nieves on the strength of his numbers in limited action this season, but I'm not.
Backup corner infielder: When choosing backups, the decision is made based on whether the player would be primarily used for pinch hitting or for fielding purposes. And with Goldschmidt and Williams both capable with the glove, this backup is probably going to be a pinch hitter. And there really aren't very many options. Sure, Mark Grace's career numbers would make him an ideal candidate, but his batting wasn't nearly on the same level in Arizona as it had been earlier in his career (his Rbat in Arizona was actually negative). Plus, given other spots, it might be necessary to have a right handed bat here. So Mark Reynolds gets the spot. Sure, he struck out a lot (which is about the equivalent of saying that in Phoenix, it's hot some of the time). But despite the strikeouts and very poor fielding, he still had a positive value during his time here.
Backup middle infielder: In this case, neither Bell nor Womack were great fielders, although they were serviceable. They made the team on the basis of their offense, so their backup should be great with the glove. This is where Craig Counsell comes in. His batting was better in Arizona than elsewhere, but his real value to the team comes from his glove and versatility. His Rfield of 87 more than balances out his Rbat of -59, and he can play 3B as well. That, and Counsell just seemed to be involved in key plays. He scored the winning run in Game 7 in 1997, then had the offensive prowess to get hit by Rivera in Game 7 in 2001. He also deserves recognition for being NLCS MVP in 2001, and his GRIT was on a level that some of the current D-backs can only dream of.
Backup outfielder: Parra is, of course, the fourth outfielder. His defensive versatility is a huge benefit to the team, and his offense has come along nicely, despite falling off a bit in the last month. With his ability to play anywhere in the outfield, he is a dream backup for this team, while also being capable of being used as a pinch hitter if needed.
Starting Pitchers: Most metrics provide the same four starting pitchers. But there would be very little disagreement about three of the four.
- Randy Johnson is far and away the ace. No need to discuss.
- Curt Schilling, despite not winning any popularity contests, was a key pitcher while here.
- Brandon Webb owns the only D-backs Cy Young award not given to Johnson.
- Dan Haren rounds out the rotation. There might be some debate here, but he is fourth in WAR, despite having fewer innings than the pitchers in 5th and 6th (Miguel Batista and Ian Kennedy, for the record). He's also the only member of this rotation still giving the D-backs any benefit, thanks to his being dealt for Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin. So while Johnson and Schilling (and to a lesser extent Webb) all hurt the franchise one way or another after their great days with the team were over, Haren is still helping the team.
Relief Pitchers: It's very difficult to decide on relief pitching. Basically, being restricted to five, I decided on a long reliever, two situational guys, a set-up man, and a closer.
- Long reliever: Miguel Batista, as the fifth most valuable D-backs pitcher according to WAR, gets the long reliever spot. Of course, he started more often than not, but his relief in the LDS and LCS in 2001 was key in the D-backs eventually winning it all.
- Situational relievers: I take this to be the spot for a LHP who can get key outs. Unfortunately, that's not something the D-backs have ever really had. Thus, I'm putting Greg Swindell in this spot, as he's quite possibly the best left handed reliever in team history. He was never a situational guy, but probably fits better in this spot than the other options. Against right handers in situational roles, it's between Byung-Hyun Kim and Brad Zeigler. Both are good at getting right handers out, but because Zeigler does better at keeping the ball in the park, I'm choosing Zeigler.
- Set-up: Finding a player for this role may be the hardest task. Greg Swindell often filled this role, but I used him above. I'll go with Gregg Olson, who was the team's first closer and still ranks 6th on the team in saves, but moved to the 8th inning in 1999 after the team acquired Matt Mantei. I'd be happy to hear better ideas for this spot, and others.
- Closer: There's bound to be some disagreement, but Jose Valverde holds the club record for saves, including leading the league with 47 in 2007. He also never blew more than 7 saves in a season (also in 2007). While he got even better with the Tigers for a time, there's little doubt he was the best bullpen anchor the team has ever had.
What do you think? What improvements could be made to this roster? Also, if you want to add in the other four roster spots (assuming a roster of 25) feel free to do so in the comments, with the requirement that at least two must be pitchers.