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2014 Diamondbacks Unsung Hero: Evan Marshall

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"Sing we the praises of the great reliever,tell forth the mighty wonders of his story."

The voting
  1. 27% Evan Marshall
  2. 24% Vidal Nuno
  3. 19% Ender Inciarte
  4. 15% Chase Anderson
  5. 12% A.J. Pollock
  6. 2% Cliff Pennington [write-in]
  7. 1% Bronson Arroyo

This is certainly among the most distributed voting of all time in 'Pitties history: not many people win with less than 30% of the vote. I guess this says something about the quality of the candidates, though given how disappointing the season was as a whole, I'm not really sure exactly what! In the end, Marshall just pipped our winless wonder Nuño for the top spot, but there were barely a handful of votes covering the top three spots, and I don't think I would have argued too much if any of them had come out ahead.

Evan Marshall

Marshall began the year in Reno, and put up video-game numbers there despite the hitter-friendly park, posting an 0.55 ERA over 14 appearances, allowing one run over 16.1 innings, with 19 strikeouts. So it wasn't really much of a surprise, when the team needed a replacement for J.J. Putz after he went on the DL with forearm tightness, that Marshall got the call on May 5. No time was wasted: the following night in Milwaukee, with his wife and parents having frantically flown across country to be there, Marshall made his debut in the sixth and seventh, retiring all four batters faced with a pair of strikeouts.

Even better, thanks to a Diamondbacks comeback in the eighth inning, Marshall got the W in his first-ever major-league game. becoming just the third reliever in team history to do so [the others were Josh Collmenter - the starter for this game! - in 2011 and Clay Zavada in 2009]. Here are this thoughts after the game.

Marshall settled in nicely, not allowing an earned run over his first eight appearances and 8.2 innings, before the Padres' Tommy Medica took him deep on May 27. There was some adjustment necessary, with Marshall having to be flexible with regard to warming up. He said, "The biggest difference is that when things go south they can go south really fast. A one-run inning can turn into a four-run inning in just a couple of batters, so you really have to just make sure that doesn't happen." By and large he avoided that, only allowing more than one earned run in three of his 57 appearances.

The first such was certainly memorable. On June 17, at Chase Field against the Brewers, Marshall came in and allowed a single and double, bringing up Ryan Braun. The first pitch sailed behind Braun, prompting a visit from the umpire. The second struck Braun on his large, well-padded ass, and Marshall got to tick off another couple of firsts - his first ejection from a game, and his first standing ovation, the home crowd appreciating the tagging of a man whose cheating perhaps cost the Diamondbacks the 2011 NLDS. Marshall, of course, disavowed all knowledge: "My best stuff is to work sink down (and) in. The ball got away. I got him. That's just what happened."

Both the subsequent Gibby fist-bump and the crowd reaction, suggest otherwise - neither exactly normal for a reliever who faces three batters and doesn't retire any. Though Marshall even had an explanation for the ovation: "They just were able to recognize that I was going out there and trying to get guys out and perform for my team." SUUUURE.... I don't think this genuinely fooled anyone - though it was deemed enough for MLB authorities, who did not suspend the young pitcher, merely levying a fine of an undisclosed amount. Unfortunately, the first batter up after Marshall left, hit a grand-slam, and a few days later another bumpy outing raised his ERA to a season-high 4.19.
However, Marshall regrouped admirably, He appeared in 37 games thereafter, and had a 1.80 ERA over those 30 innings, with a K:BB ratio of 35:10. He held batters to a .642 OPS - and with a BABIP of .359 in that time, could be forgiven for feeling hard done-by. Initially working in the seventh inning, he saw higher-leverage work later on. of his dozen September appearances, two-thirds came in the eighth inning or later. Fittingly, Marshall got to get the last outs of the 2014 season by a Diamondback, closing out the ninth inning of game 162 against the Cardinals, with a perfect frame.

Marshall ended the season with a 2.74 ERA. That's good enough for fourth all-time among Diamondbacks' rookie relievers (min 40 IP), and the best figure since 2003. His K-rate of 9.85 was also fourth-best, and hasn't been matched since 2005. While reliever volatility is always a thing of which to be aware, his 2014 performance gives every reason to hope that Evan Marshall will become a key component in the Arizona bullpen, not just for 2015, but a number of seasons beyond that.