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Arizona Diamondbacks 20th anniversary team: Filling out the roster

In which we sort out the bench, bullpen and rest of the rotation.

Arizona Diamondbacks' starting pitcher Randy Johns Photo credit should read ROY DABNER/AFP/Getty Images

Regular readers will know Michael has been crowd-sourcing and assembling a 20th anniversary celebration of the best players in team history. This round table is devoted to filling out the rest of the 20th anniversary roster. For a bit like the All-Star Game, since we’ve had a popular vote for the starters [though in this case, we also included a left- and a right-hand starting pitcher and closer], the SnakePit writers now get to choose the remaining candidates.

There are three categories which will complete the roster: three starting pitchers, five bench players and six relief pitchers. Below, you will find spaces for each category, in which we have provided our selections, and explained the picks. Writers were asked to think about overall roster construction, especially for the bench. The most popular choices will make the roster; Michael gets to cast the deciding vote in case of ties, as appropriate. Feel free to make a case for your favorite in the comments!

STARTING PITCHERS

Already selected

  • RHSP: Brandon Webb
  • LHSP: Randy Johnson

Michael: Curt Schilling, Miguel Batista, Patrick Corbin. Schilling is the easy pick, so it came down to 4 pitchers. Batista, Corbin, Dan Haren, and Brian Anderson. I do think Corbin is superior to Anderson in his time in AZ, which is why Corbin got the nod. Batista got it over Haren due to longevity and the 2001 World Series bump in which he pitched 8 shutout. 25th anniversary team could look drastically different with how Ray, Godley, and Walker turn out.

Jim: Schilling is the first name on there. But I’d go with Dan Haren and Robbie Ray. Haren was just a super-consistent workhorse over his time with Arizona, never missed a start, and threw strikes - his K:BB ratio here was 5.33, which is insanely good. With a steady arm like that as my #4, I feel I can push the boat out a bit and go with a high-risk/high-reward guy as a wildcard at the back of the rotation. And on his day, Ray is as overwhelming and dominant a pitcher as Arizona has seen since the Big Unit in his prime.

Makakilo: My picks for the other three starters are Schilling, Haren, and Ray. My process follows. I looked at career FIP and SO/9 for Diamondback starters. First point is that Randy Johnson ranked # 1 in both measures. Second point is that Schilling and Haren ranked 2 & 3 in FIP, while Ray ranked 7th. Third point is that Ray ranked #2 in SO/9.

Keegan: Schilling, Haren, and Ray. This was difficult for me as I wanted to select Greinke instead of Haren to break the mold. I probably would if his 2018 season mirrors 2017, but without it 2016 was just too much to overlook. I think Greinke will age better than most anticipate, but I understand his contract size leaves a bad taste in many mouths.

POSITION PLAYERS

Already selected

  • C: Miguel Montero
  • 1B: Paul Goldschmidt
  • 2B: Craig Counsell
  • SS: Stephen Drew
  • 3B: Matt Williams
  • LF: Luis Gonzalez
  • CF: A.J. Pollock
  • RF: Justin Upton

Michael: C Damian Miller, INF Jay Bell, OF Steve Finley, OF Chris Young, INF Orlando Hudson. If it were up to me, I’d have Hudson in the starting lineup with Counsell on the bench so Hudson takes a spot despite the lack of versatility. Bell, Miller, and Finley were key role players on the Diamondbacks in their early seasons. Miller was the starting catcher from 1999 to 2002, Bell started at 2B, SS, and 3B for the team, and Finley was a steady presence in CF. Chris Young made the final spot over Gerardo Parra despite the latter’s better defensive skills due to the fact that Young provided more pop and was coming off back-to-back 5 WAR season before suffering a career-altering injury.

Jim: With Montero as the main catcher, I’d want someone defensively-minded, and a quiet, steadying personality who wouldn’t get into spats with our pitchers. Miller works for me in that area. At the next spot, I value positional flexibility. It’s often forgotten that Bell started 135 games at short in 1998, then 145 at second the following year - and even 33 at third in 2001. For the other infield spot, I’d want someone who can provide some power off the bench and sub at the corners, so I’ll go with Mark Reynolds.

In the outfield, Gerardo Parra’s defense and ability to play all three positions makes him my first choice as the ideal fourth outfielder [Cue wild cheering from our nation’s capital!], though I did give serious thought to having Ender Inciarte there. The final spot… J.D. Martinez. Sure, there were people who were here for a lot longer, and accumulated more counting stats, but for the time he was here, Just Dingers was positively incandescent. There hasn’t been a half-season like it since I started the SnakePit.

Makakilo: My bench will include 1 outfielder, 1 catcher, and three infield utility players.

Ender Inciarte will be my fourth outfielder (although I would not object to Gerardo Parra) for the following reasons:

  • Gold glove in 2016 and 2017. Outfield defense is worth a lot in Chase Field. To be fair to Gerardo Parra - Parra was a gold glove in 2011 and 2013.
  • Inciarte can play center field or the corners. In 2014 and 2015, he mostly played left field and right field. In 2016 and 2017, he mostly played center field. To be fair, Gerardo Parra has played all three positions.
  • The season before Inciarte was traded I tracked who made a difference in games that were very close and the D-backs won. Inciarte made a difference in many close games.
  • In 2015, Inciarte won the Fielding Bible Award for players who covered multiple positions (hat tip to Keegan Thompson for his article on Ender Inciarte).

Chris Snyder will be my backup catcher. I considered three defensively skilled catchers: Jeff Mathis, Chris Snyder, and Robby Hammock. Their caught stealing percentages were about equal (39.8%, 41.0%, and 42.1%). Hammock had the best pitch framing (measured by average of best two seasons) (+calls per game of 2.13 vs Snyder’s 1.07 vs Mathis’s 0.86). Snyder had the best two-season-average OPS+ of 112 (besting Hammock’s 62 and Mathis’s 68) (excluded seasons with less than 10 games) . I went with Snyder because a) he has a balance of defense and offense, and b) he showed he can play more games per season in the demanding job of catcher.

My two infield super-utility players will be Jay Bell (shortstop and third) and Orlando Hudson (second). Jay bell was picked for hitting (silver slugger) and defense (gold glove). Orlando Hudson was picked for defense (4 time gold glove).

Yesterday, my preliminary pick was Mark Reynolds for the fifth bench spot (I later changed my mind). He was picked because he plays first base and outfield. I needed a backup at first, and I felt uneasy about only having one bench player who could play the outfield. I also considered Conor Jackson. No surprise that Mark Reynolds’ best seasons have a higher OPS+. What surprised me was that Mark Reynolds plays better defense. He had a better UZR/150 at first (-3.5 vs -4.5) and in the outfield (31.0 vs -0.7).

When I woke up this morning, I realized two things: First, Goldschmidt rarely needs a day off. Second, Gerardo Parra can play first base (and outfield). All three players (Reynolds, Jackson, and Parra) are below average defenders at first. Gerardo Parra has an advantage because he has two gold gloves and he may improve with experience at first. Therefore Gerardo Parra (first base and outfield) will complete my bench.

Keegan: My first selection is given to Ender Inciarte. He simply is not appreciated enough for what he was able to accomplish in his short time here. Check my praise of him in our Top 50 countdown. Jean Segura gets my nod for the infield. Not many anticipated how special he would be upon arriving in Arizona especially following the death of his son. His performance in Seattle proves that he wasn’t a fluke. He doesn’t deserve to be penalized for his brief time spent here. Orlando Hudson and Steve Finley are fairly easy selections. I don’t historically value any of our catchers outside of Miguel Montero, so because this is completely fictional I will do as I please and give the 5th bench selection to J.D. Martinez.

RELIEF PITCHERS

Already selected:

  • Closer: Byung-Hyun Kim

Michael: Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez, JJ Putz, Jose Valverde, Matt Mantei, Greg Swindell. The Diamondbacks don’t particularly have a lot of long-standing relief success with particular players. Ziegler was the easiest choice because he was the only one who had consistent success for more than 2 years in a row. Hernandez made it in due to his big 2011 and 2012 seasons over Archie Bradley (2017 version of 2012 Hernandez). Valverde was an All-Star in 2007 as the team’s closer and Putz was electric in 2011 and 2012. Swindell was an underrated reliever due to his versatility, but his WAR numbers certainly appreciated it. Bradley is probably the only player I can see bumping off one of these guys at the 25th anniversary mark.

Jim: Ziegler is the obvious first name out of the pen, arguably the best reliever the D-backs have had, certainly since Kim. [Interesting they were both sidewinders. Their success makes we wonder why more pitchers don’t give it a shot] I don’t really want to load up the entire bullpen with closer types, but at his height, Papa Grande was as dominant as anyone else, so put him in. I’d want to go with two lefties: Swindell is a lock: the fall-off is pretty steep after that, but Andrew Chafin gets the nod. For long relief, I’d have Josh Collmenter and his amazingly rubber, tomahawk-tossing arm, then I’d put Bradley in there: much as with Martinez, others have played longer, but the peak performance is the clincher for me.

Makakilo: To arrive at my picks I used three metrics (data from Fangraphs).

  • FIP to measure pure pitching ability, independent of fielding.
  • RE-24 to measure relief situation results based on base-runners and outs.
  • shutdown/meltdown (SD/MD) ratio to measure consistency.

Using those measures, my picks (in priority order) would be:

1. Archie Bradley. Ranked #1 in pure pitching, #6 in situation results, #1 in consistency.

2, JJ Putz. Ranked # 2 in pure pitching, #5 in situation results, #3 in consistency.

Bradley and Putz are the only two relievers who ranked at the top in all three measures.

3. Brad Ziegler. Ranked #1 in situation results, #2 in consistency.

4. Jose Valverde. Ranked #3 in situation results, #4 in consistency.

Ziegler and Valverde ranked at the top in two measures.

5. Josh Collmenter. Ranked #4 in situation results.

6. Will Harris. Ranked #3 in pure pitching.

Collmenter would be used in long relief and Harris would be used in situations with no baserunners.

Although Byung-Hyun Kim was previously picked as the team closer, he was included in the chart.

Keegan: Bradley, Ziegler, Collmenter, Rodney, Putz, Hernandez. In my eyes, Rodney and Valverde are interchangeable in the sense that they both gave me the same stomach churning anxiety upon entering the game. Bradley (see above my votes for Segura and J.D.). Can’t deny the consistency of Ziegler. Collmenter always transitioned seamlessly from starter to fireman/long relief. Plenty of good memories of the 1-2 knockout punch of Putz and Hernandez.