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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #25, Miguel Batista

Poet. Novelist. And not a bad pitcher, either.

Arizona Diamondbacks Photo Day Photo by Stephen Dunn /Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 25.76 (9/49/23)
  • Seasons: 2001-2003, 2006
  • Stats: 154 games, 109 starts, 723.2 IP, 3.99 ERA, 117 ERA+, 11.7 bWAR
  • Best season: 2003 - 35 games, 29 starts, 193.1 IP, 3.54 ERA, 132 ERA+, 4.4 bWAR

Before there was Josh Collmenter, the role of eccentric swing-man was played on the Diamondbacks by Miguel Batista. One example: in the decisive Game 5 of the 2001 NLCS in Atlanta, when Erubiel Durazo smacked what proved the series-winning homer, Batista was “nestled in a corner of the visitors' bullpen at Turner Field, working on a poem commissioned by pitching coach Bob Welch.” That was just who Batista was. According to manager Bob Brenly, “Miguel has opinions on everything. He's extremely well read, extremely well spoken and a very thoughtful, caring human.” Oh, yeah, and he blanked the Yankees for eight innings in the 2001 World Series.

He had been around for quite some time prior to signing with Arizona before that glorious campaign. We were his sixth organization since being signed by the Expos in February 1988, nine days after his 17th birthday. To that point, he’d had little success, posting a 13-24 record and an ERA of 5.24, gaudy even for that period (ERA+ of 85). But after signing with the Diamondbacks, teammate Armando Reynoso taught him how to throw a cut fastball, and the 30-year-old blossomed. In 2001, he started 18 games and relieved in 30 more, putting up a 3.36 ERA (139 ERA+). He then started in each playoff round going 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA over 21.2 innings.

“We were out there after the World Series was over and people were looking at us like we were rock stars. I understand that probably Randy Johnson is used to that kind of attention, but not me. I was going down the street and people were waving at me like they knew me. I was like, “Okay…” I wasn’t even used to that much attention.”
Miguel Batista

It’s often forgotten that he appeared in Game 7 of the World Series too - understandable, since he threw one pitch, retiring Derek Jeter in between Curt Schilling’s exit and Randy Johnson’s entrance. But let’s not forget that Batista also started Game 5, spinning 7.2 innings of five-hit ball and leaving the mound in Yankee Stadium with a 2-0 lead, before it all went a bit Byung-Hyun Kim. Miguel fulfilled a similar swingman role for the D-backs in each of the following two seasons, in both years starting 29 games and relieving seven times. 2003 turned out to be his best year for Arizona, throwing 193.1 innings at an ERA+ of 132.

He signed a three-year $13.1-million contract with the Blue Jays at the end of that season, but his time in Arizona wasn’t done. For before 2006, he was traded by Toronto, coming along with Orlando Hudson back to the Diamondbacks, in exchange for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos. This time, he was almost exclusively a starter, and the final season as a Diamondback saw him start 33 games (as well as one relief appearance, just for old time’s sake!), going 11-8 with a respectable 103 ERA+. He pitched in the majors for six more years, including a pinch-start for Stephen Strasburg that turned him into “the most hated man in Iowa”.

But who has in their locker an Einstein portrait and a biography of Milton? But the pitcher wrote a novel, The Avenger of Blood, telling the story of a 14-year-old boy accused of murders. He also had published a book of poetry, "Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro (Feelings in Black and White).” According to Miguel, "I think poetry, reading it, and especially writing it, is the evolution of the mind and the spirit. You have to get the soul and your heart elevated to a certain degree of understanding to write it. To read, you're reading someone who did that. The poem is to elevate the understanding of the human being to a higher level."

Yes, Miguel Batista: Not your average ballplayer. But a better than average Diamondback, that’s for sure.