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Arizona Diamondbacks 20th Anniversary Team: All-batting line-up

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Purely on single seasons at the plate, who makes our ultimate nine?

Arizona Diamondbacks Photo Day Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If we’re talking just about production with the lumber, two men dominate the rankings for the Arizona Diamondbacks over the first 20 years: Gonzo and Goldy. Between them, they have nine of the top eleven seasons for the team, as measured by Baseball-Reference.com‘s bRuns metric.

C. Miguel Montero, 2012 (20.5 bRuns)

Montero is basically the only offensive-minded catcher the team has ever had. He’s not just first, but also second (2011, 10.8) and third (2009, 10.2) on the list. The first non-Miggy name is Chris Iannetta, this year, at 7.6. It’s not just about hitting, however: playing time is also a significant factor. We have had four seasons where a catcher has appeared in 125 games or more. They all belong to Montero. But all the 32 seasons for the D-backs’ catchers with 200+ plate-appearances, only six of them have resulted in a positive value for bRuns. It has clearly been a position where any hitting ability is regarded as a bonus, not a fundamental.

1B. Paul Goldschmidt, 2015 (52.9 bRuns)

  1. Paul Goldschmidt, 2015 (52.9)
  2. Paul Goldschmidt, 2013 (45.5)
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 2017 (33.3)
  4. Paul Goldschmidt, 2014 (32.6)
  5. Paul Goldschmidt, 2016 (29.1)

Any questions? Yes, up until five years ago, no Diamondbacks first-baseman had been worth even 24 bRuns. The leader was Tony Clark’s 2005, at 23.6. Since then, Goldschmidt has surpassed that figure, each and every season. Including the one where he had basically to sit out the entire final third.

2B. Jay Bell, 1999 (29.4 bRuns)

38 home-runs and 112 RBI will do that for you, and seeing Bell on top of the list is likely no surprise to anyone (least of all, Gylene Hoyle!). Though what was a little unexpected to me, is how close this one ended up being. Bell’s value was not that far ahead of either Jean Segura (26.2 in 2016) or Aaron Hill (25.7, 2012), with both Kelly Johnson and Junior Spivey also coming in at over 20 bRuns, in 2010 and 2002 respectively. After that, there is a steep drop-off - those five are the only ones in double-digits for the Diamondbacks. Somewhat surprised not to see O-Dawg in there, but his best season was only worth 5.6 bRuns.

SS. Stephen Drew, 2010 (13.0 bRuns)

The worst of the best across all the position players: like catcher, this is a position where defense is valued over offense, and Drew’s campaign is the sole season to reach even double figures in Arizona. Indeed, the skew is even more negative than for behind the plate. Of 28 seasons at short, with 200+ PA, five were in positive territory. There were ten which were more negative than Drew’s campaign was positive, going all the way down to Alex Cintron’s -29.6 in 2004. That’ll happen when you get over six hundred plate appearances while hitting four home-runs, and getting on base at a hair over a .300 clip. Funnily though, next worst was Stephen Drew’s 2007, at -26.4 bRuns.

3B. Mark Reynolds, 2009 (25.0 bRuns)

Close at the top, with Special K just edging out Troy Glaus’s season four years previously, which was worth 23.5 bRuns. The two had almost the same OPS too, Reynolds seven points ahead at .892. Matt Williams’ 1999 rounds out the top three at 14.1, despite Matty driving in a staggering 142 runs - no bonus points for that, because it was more a result of the players ahead of him in the line-up getting on-base. Also worth pointing out, Reynolds’ value was not apparently impacted at all by setting the major-league record for strikeouts that year, with 223, a mark which still stands. They really are not significantly worse than any other out.

LF. Luis Gonzalez, 2001 (64.7 bRuns)

The pattern here is almost the same as at 1B, with Gonzalez taking the top four positions, and being the only left-fielder for the D-backs to surpass 24 bRuns. The top non-Gonzo guy is David Peralta from 2015, who was exactly at 24.0. That’s quite a bit smaller than the 29.5 bRuns by which Luis’s 2001 surpasses his own next-best season, the 35.2 he posted two years earlier. In terms of outliers, that has to be one of the greatest in recent baseball history. Of course, anyone seeking to explain the sharp increase, has also to explain the equally sharp decrease which took place the following season in Luis’s production.

CF. A.J. Pollock, 2015 (26.2 bRuns)

This was perhaps a surprise: I expected it would be one of Steve Finley’s seasons. And, indeed, he ranks second, fourth and fifth. But Pollock was a runaway winner here, with Finley’s best year, 2002, being more than a dozen runs back, at 14.1 runs. Steve did have a fractionally higher OBP and SLG (and, thus, OPS) than Pollock. But 2002 was a considerably more offensive environment, with the average OPS across the majors being 27 points higher in Finley’s day, than when Pollock took the field. Also a little stunned that Chris Young’s 27 home-run season in 2010 could finish no higher than sixth, with a value of 7.7 bRuns.

RF. Justin Upton, 2011 (32.8 bRuns)

If we had had another six weeks of J.D. Martinez this year, Upton might well have been displaced at the top. It took J-Up 159 games and 674 PA of effort for the production above: Just Dingers, in 62 games and just 257 PA, was worth 21.8 bRuns. That made it the second-best offensive season by any right-fielder in Diamondbacks history, despite J.D. seeing barely two and a half months of playing time. Beyond that pair, and another season of Upton, it’s a sharp drop-off, with only Reggie Sanders (11.2 in 2001) standing out. Dead last on the list is someone from Tuesday’s article: Tony Womack’s 1999, despite 72 SB, was -20.4 bRuns. This is why he’s not in the all-time top 50, folks...

P. Micah Owings, 2007 (4.8 bRuns)

Only three Diamondbacks have posted seasons with an OPS greater than 1.020 over more than 50 PA. Gonzo in 2001; Martinez this year... And mighty Micah, who hit .333/.349/.683, with four home-runs and 15 RBI in only sixty plate-appearances. That’s the most runs driven in by any pitcher with the D-backs, though Owings ranks only 39th for PA - and this figure includes the six times Owings was used as a pinch-hitter over the course of the season. Owings ended his time in the majors with a 106 OPS+. Among players who were mostly pitchers with 100+ PA, that’s the highest career figure during the live-ball era.