Continuing with our look at the best Diamondbacks line-up with specific skill-sets, we now look at the players who were best on the basepaths in a single season. Most obviously, this shows in stolen-bases, but there are other factors which should be taken into consideration. There’s snagging an extra base, for example, going from first to third on a single. On the other side, there’s also the ability to not hit into double-plays, legging it up the first-base line in time to beat the throw, and also avoid other outs on the basepaths.
Fortunately, Baseball-Reference.com provides metrics that take these into account: Rbr (base-running runs) and Rdp (grounded into double-play runs). So, as with defense, what I’ve done is find the best single season in Diamondbacks’ history at each position, based on the combination of Rbr and Rdp.
C. Chris Herrmann, 2016 (2.2 runs added)
Catchers are not renowned for the fleetness of foot, and that’s not why they’re hired. So it makes sense the best catcher in Diamondbacks history is less a catcher, and more a utility guy who does a good bit of catching on the side. This was accomplished in only 56 games, but that included 29 starts behind the plate, so was a legit catcher’s effort. Herrmann’s 2017 (2.1 runs) is second on the list, though his percentage of time in the mask was lower, only about one-third (35 starts at catcher in 106 games played). Herrmann had two SB in the last month of 2017: Robbie Hammock is the only other catcher to have more than that in any season.
1B. Paul Goldschmidt, 2016 (4.5 runs added)
The same goes for 1B: they’re not generally good base-runners. But Goldschmidt is a legit threat: not lighting fast, but incredibly smart. Six men have put up plus-two runs or better at the position for Arizona: Paul is four of them, doing so each season since 2014: it’s an area of the game at which he has unquestionably put in the effort to improve, and seen the impact in results. That 4.5 is the highest tally by a first-baseman in the National League since Jeff Bagwell - a player with whom Goldschmidt is increasingly compared - reached 5.6 base-running runs in 2001. Goldy’s 32 stolen-bases that year was the most in the majors by a 1B since Gregg Jefferies (46) in 1993.
2B. Jean Segura, 2016 (6.4 runs added)
Jean, Jean the
hitting base-running machine... Our 2016 Most Valuable Player pretty much did everything well: led the league in hits, batted .319, smacked twenty home-runs, and gave the team solid defense up the middle. But for our purposes, the 33 stolen-bases, at a 77% success-rate, was key. However, it’s worth noting Segura was very good at some of the other areas mentioned above. In particular, he took an extra base 56% of the time it was possible, compared to a league average of only 40%. [Notable: Hermann led the 2016 team in extra-base rate, among those with 100+ PA, with a figure of 58%]
SS. Chris Owings, 2016 (6.5 runs added)
CO wasn’t actually the best. Or the second-best. Both of those belong to Womack, who posted figures of 6.6 and 7.2 runs in 2000 and 2001. However, save Tony for later, and use him in a more valuable spot. Here, Owings gave him a good run (pun not intended), and it emphasizes how great the 2016 team were on the bags. Their 82 percent SB% led the majors, and their extra-base rate was tied for fourth, but they ranked 23rd for outs on the basepaths. The team’s overall tally was +18.2 runs added by their base-running, which is five runs more than any other season in franchise history. I think first-base coach Dave McKay played a very significant part in that.
3B. Ryan Roberts, 2011 (3.7 runs added)
This is an area where double-plays proved decisive. By straight base-running, the best season belongs to Matt Williams, who was +3.1 runs in 1998. But Matty hit into 19 double-plays that season, five more than anyone else on the D-backs that season, and his overall base-running value crumpled to +1.7 runs. In contrast, while Roberts was initially at +2.9 runs for pure base-running, TatMan had only six GIDP in a virtually identical number of PA’s as Williams. That good ratio helped kick Roberts’s total value up above his predecessor. Roberts was also one of only two 3B for Arizona to reach a dozen SB, actually stealing 18 [Mark Reynolds had 24, two years earlier]
LF. Eric Byrnes, 2007 (6.0 runs added)
All together now: “Josie’s on a vacation, far away...” Back before Eric’s hamstrings were replaced with spun glass, he was a real terror on the base-paths. He and Womack are the only Diamondbacks ever to steal even forty bases in a season, and Byrnes reached 50 here, at an 88% success-rate. Since 2000, that’s a combo only Billy Hamilton and Willy Taveras have also reached in the NL. It’s not even close: No other left-fielder in team history has more than 15 stolen-bases in a season. EB’s subsequent (post-contract) fall from base-running grace was spectacular and immediate: in 2008, Byrnes swiped just four bags, and was caught the same number of times.
CF. A.J. Pollock, 2015 (7.7 runs added)
Pollock’s value here would be even higher, except for his surprisingly high number of double-plays: 19, the same as crippled Williams above. I think it was probably just freakish bad luck; for the entire rest of his career, 367 games, Pollock has only 20 more GIDPs. Certainly, not many players lead their team in both SB and double-plays over the course of a season! The last NL player to match A.J. in both categories (39 SB, 19 GIDP) was Vladimir Guerrero in 2002. Before that? Lou Brock in the mid-seventies. While it didn’t cost Pollock his spot here, those twin killings did knock him out of the overall top spot: by pure base-running, his +8.6 runs was our best ever. Instead, it goes to...
RF. Tony Womack, 1999 (10.6 runs added)
If Pollock was the king of double plays, Womack was the king of avoiding them. In 684 plate-appearances this year, he hit into only four double-plays. That’s impressive, and was apparently a repeatable talent, as the previous year, he had four in 704 PA. [The all-time master, however, is Craig Biggio: in 1997, he had 744 PA and zero GIDPs] But it’s the 72 stolen-bases which stagger belief. For comparison, Billy Hamilton has never even reached sixty in a year: Womack passed that in August. Put another way, Tony stole more bases than ten entire major-league rosters did in 2017. Whatever you can say about the rest of his game, he had mad skillz on the bases.
P. Brian Anderson, 2002 (0.9 runs added)
This is included, more for amusement than anything else. Pitchers do not run the bases often, and nor do they do so particularly well. No true pitcher in the live-ball era has had more than seven SB in a year, and to find even seven, you’ve got to go back to 1943 and Rip Sewell. In the D-backs’ era, it tops out at two, most recently by Zack Greinke as a Dodger in 2013. [To his credit, both were solo, not coming as the back end of a double steal]. Anderson’s two career SB remains the franchise record for Arizona pitchers - though neither came in this campaign. But he was also adept enough at avoiding the DP, with only five in his 284 PA.