- 57%: Josh Collmenter
- 29%: Evan Marshall
- 7%: Brad Ziegler
- 4%: Vidal Nuño
4%: Oliver Perez
Likely to no-one's great surprise, Josh Collmenter topped the poll, and takes home his second 'Pittie of the 2014 season. However, even he would probably admit, the Class of 2014 was not a great year for Diamondbacks' pitching, and Josh was the best of a generally unimpressive bunch, particularly among the starting pitchers, supposed to be the engine-room of the team. This is clear when you realize Collmenter was the sole arm in Arizona to be worth more than 1.2 bWAR: as recently as 2012, we had five pitchers as productive, and every other team in the majors this year had at least two [despite finishing last in the Central, the Cubs had eight!]
At this point last season, it looked like the Diamondbacks rotation was set for the year . Behind ace Patrick Corbin, we'd see Wade Miley, Arroyo, Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill. Even after Corbin went down with a season-ending injury, eventually requiring Tommy John surgery, in what should have been his final warm-up start before the Australia trip, the decision as to his replacement seemed to be between Randall Delgado and Archie Bradley, with Collmenter apparently eliminated, as he "had not been extended out enough to realistically join the rotation."
It didn't take long for that to change. Delgado's two starts were terrible - 16 hits, five walks and nine earned runs over 7.1 innings - and the Diamondbacks turned to Collmenter, who hadn't started since 2012. Said manager Kirk Gibson, "You know we need innings out of guys, and he gives us a chance to win a ballgame. He did it in relief last year, and he did it in 2011... He has a special arm." Apparently not "special" enough to make the rotation, the team preferring to throw $23.5 million at a 37-year-old with a 94 ERA+ over the previous three seasons, but whatevs. It's safe to say Collmenter has likely been under-estimated his entire career, since being a 15th-round pick in 2007.
Josh did take a little while to re-adapt to starting. He lost his first two games, giving up seven earned runs in ten innings, but bounced back to get his first win of the season with six shutout innings against the Phillies on April 25. This began a streak of eight undefeated games for Collmenter, during which the Diamondbacks went 7-1, and Josh held opponents to a .684 OPS over 48 innings of work. This spell peaked on May 29, when he faced the minimum 27 batters during a complete game against the Reds at Chase Field, an outing which already won him the 'Pittie for Single-Game Performance of the Year.
It was one of only a number of impressive outings for Collmenter, who had three of the top ten starts, by Game Score, from a Diamondbacks pitcher this year. As well as the Reds game, he also took a shutout into the ninth inning on August 22 against the Padres (video, top), losing it with two outs after he left the game, on an unearned run resulting from a passed ball. And the final game of the 2014 season saw Collmenter throw eight innings of three-hit ball against the Cardinals (below), facing two batters over the minimum - however, he still took the loss as the Diamondbacks offense were shutout and we went down, 1-0.
Of course, Collmenter wouldn't be Collmenter without his rubber arm, and he proved it this year, with a nine-day spell in which he won three games. Two of those came as starts, and in the middle, for a bit of relaxation, he picked up a win out of the bullpen, working a perfect 14th inning to finish a game against the Indians, after all our relievers had already been used. It's the third time in his four seasons here, that Josh has won games both as a starter and out of the bullpen. Over his eight relief wins for Arizona, he has now pitched a total of 18 innings, and allowed just one earned run.
In some ways, it wasn't Collmenter's best season. His ERA+ of 108 was the worst of his career, and his strikeout rate of 5.8 per nine innings was also sharply down on 2013's figure of 8.3. However, he did reduce his walk-rate, with only two bases on balls per nine innings, and that gave Collmenter a WHIP of 1.126, his best figure since his rookie campaign in 2011. Also worth pointing out, there are only three National League pitchers with 90+ innings and an ERA+ of 108 or better, in each of the past four seasons. Collmenter, obviously enough, is one - the other two are Jordan Zimmermann and Clayton Kershaw. Hard to complain about any pitcher who is in company like that.
We should also mention Collmenter cementing his status as a favorite, with his easy-going demeanor, dry humor, and willingness to engage fans at every opportunity. Highlights from 2014 include the "Win a date with Josh" contest during the Australia trip, dressing up as a Jedi and attending Phoenix Comicon to promote Star Wars day, and even going caroling as Santa (below). A genuinely likeable character who has repeatedly shown himself happy to do whatever will help the team, he's a worthy winner of the award.