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The 2012 'Pitties: Unsung Hero of the Year

In the least-surprising award of the season, Wade Miley won AZ Rookie of the Year, by a landslide. He got 90% of the tally, though all the candidates did get at least one vote. I'd like to thank their mothers for turning up. :) We now move on to the Unsung Hero category, where we give credit where it's perhaps not normally due...

Norm Hall

Willie Bloomquist

As Spring Training arrived, and it quickly became clear that Stephen Drew would not be ready to play for quite some time, the team was forced to rely on Bloomquist as an everyday replacement, a man who came in with a lifetime batting average of .264. However, Bloomquist really went above and beyond, hitting .302 and giving Arizona an entirely adequate 91 OPS+, a career high, except for Willie's 12-game rookie season in 2002. While there was grounds for criticism - he couldn't walk to save himself, and was a significant liability on the basepaths (caught 10 times in 17 SB attempts) - the bottom line is 0.8 fWAR, more than reasonable value for his $1.9 million salary.

David Hernandez

Since the start of 2011, Hernandez has given us a 138 ERA+, comparable with some of the much more highly-paid star closers in the business, e.g. Jose Valverde (140) or Rafael Soriano (144). Indeed, in terms of pure, dominating "stuff", he was even better, ranking twelfth in the entire majors among relievers for K-rate, striking out 11.44 batters per nine innings. Arguably, Hernandez has been a better bullpen pitcher for the Diamondbacks than our own closer, J.J. Putz. Since they both came to Arizona two years ago, David has held opposing batters to a .553 OPS, thirty points below J.J over the same time, while also appearing in 29 more games.

John McDonald

The Prime Minister of Defense truly lived up to expectations, making 47 starts at shortstop, and four elsewhere, for his highest number of starts since 2008, and exhibiting sure hands and a strong arm that were a genuine delight to watch. He also showed some surprising pop at the plate, tying a career-high with six home-runs in less than 200 at-bats, leading to a 79 OPS+ that was not an embarrassment, being a number Johnnie Mac has matched only once since the 2000 campaign. All told, between that his sterling glovework, McDonald was worth 0.7 fWAR or 0.9 bWAR. Either represent a very solid return for a backup who cost Arizona only $1.5 million for the year's work.

Gerardo Parra

It really can't be easy for any player to be told, after hitting .292, winning a Gold Glove and putting up 2.8 WAR for league minimum salary, "Sit on the bench." But that's where Parra found himself at the start of 2012. Courtesy mostly of Chris Young's injury, he managed to make 90 starts, but his total AB dropped by approaching 15%. Still, he put up another two fWAR, again at close to league-minimum. His defense and arm perhaps proving more valuable than his bat, though his numbers at the latter were not helped by hitting .192 with no walks as a pinch-hitter - perhaps symptomatic of Gerardo "trying too hard"? Will 2013 be any different, role-wise? Time will tell...

Brad Ziegler

There were pitchers who got more double-plays than Ziegler's 21 this year. However, they all needed at least twice as many innings as Brad's 68.2 frames. Only one other man in baseball history has reached 20 GIDP's in less than 85 innings - Dick Fowler for the 1950 Philadelphia Athletics. Ziegler could generate ground-balls almost at will, and that helped him strand inherited runners: only 20% of those scored against him, compared to MLB average of 29%. And Ziegler was a very busy man, quietly plugging away in and around the seventh inning : his 77 appearances for Arizona this season had not been topped by a pitcher since the 2003 campaign.