Hark? Is that the sound of foulpole's head exploding in the distance? Could be, when he sees the news that Conor Jackson was indeed the popular choice as winner of the Unsung Hero 'Pittie, just pipping Chris Snyder by five percent, an overall margin of 42%-37%. We now move on to the Cy Young for the Diamondbacks, an award which was basically a foregone conclusion last two years, with Brandon Webb notching himself no less than eighty percent of the votes, more than nine times as much as the next man.
Of course, last season, no other pitcher with more than ten starts had an ERA better than 4.25 - Webb's in 2007 was 3.01, so he was clearly our best pitcher. Not quite the same here, as we had three such arms, including Brandon, in our rotation this year. Will that make any difference to the final voting? And your nominees - foulpole will be relieved to hear that Jackson is not among them - are...
Juan Cruz. 4-0, 2.61 ERA. Was the only National League pitcher (min 15 IP) to strike out twelve batters per nine innings of work. Over the past two seasons, working largely in Arizona's hitter-friendly park, Cruz has a 10-1 record with a 2.88 ERA and K/9 rate of 12.62, the best in the majors (again, min 15 IP). In 2008, he held all batters to a line of .192/.319/.339 - basically, turning opposing hitters into a series of Chris Burkes. He was particularly brutal on lefties, who batted only .159 against Cruz, and against the first man in an inning, with those going 3-for-40.
Dan Haren. 16-8, 3.33 ERA. Led the team in strikeouts (206) and also posted the best WHIP (1.130) of any Arizona starter since the Big Unit's 0.900 in 2004 [itself a number only Maddux has surpassed in the NL since the mound was lowered]. His record deserved to be better than it was, as in his nine no-decisions combined, Haren allowed only eighteen earned runs, for an ERA in those games of just 2.79. His best stretch came from June 1-July 19, during which time his ERA was 1.29. With just 40 walks in 216 innings, his K:BB ratio was better than 5:1 for the whole season, the first NL pitcher to do that in four years.
Randy Johnson. 11-10, 3.91 ERA. Johnson missed his first couple of starts of the season, and a 5.40 ERA in the first six appearances suggests that he was probably not fully fit, even when he returned. But after his first outing of July, he was a a totally different pitcher, and arguably, was among the best starters in the major leagues from then on in the season. Over those fifteen starts, Johnson's ERA was a mere 2.56, culminating in a complete-game two-hitter of the Rockies, the final game of the season. If, as it appears likely, that was indeed the last hurrah for the future Hall of Famer, there was no better way to go out.
Chad Qualls. 4-8, 2.81 ERA. Our E-Qualls-izer pitched better than his record would appear to indicate: on May 7, he was 0-3, despite having only a 0.93 ERA - that was thanks to six of the first eight runs he allowed, being unearned. He didn't give up an earned one in the opening or final month of the season, two scoreless streaks which totalled 31.1 innings. Admittedly, he had his issues in the middle, especially with inherited runners ['Skins has a diagram to prove it], but bounced back, nailing down seven consecutive saves after replacing Lyon in the closer's role at the end of the season. It's a role he will reprise from Opening Day 2008.
Brandon Webb. 22-7, 3.30 ERA. Webb merely posted more wins than any pitcher in Arizona - or, indeed, the National League - since the glory days of the Johnson-Schilling tandem. He was the engine which powered the Diamondbacks' blistering start, winning his first nine starts, flummoxing hitters to the tune of .198 over that time. However, possibly even more impressive were his nine appearances from July 8-August 21, where he went 7-0 with a 1.50 ERA. In 28 of his 34 starts, Webb went six innings or more, and he pitched seven-plus in twenty games. Three bad starts in late August and early September cost him the Cy Young.