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Unsung Diamondbacks Hero of the Year: Nominations

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These five men flew below the radar, but deserve recognition for their work on the 2019 D-backs.

‘Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version)’ Premiere - 64th Berlinale International Film Festival Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

Fun reading through the nominations and pitches in the thread - thanks to all those who chipped in with their two cents worth. The final cut-off came at the two recs mark, so Zack Godley, Matt Koch, Christian Walker and... (fans self with rolled-up D-backs Insider magazine) Yasmany Tomas did not make to the final cut. Here are the five who did:

Silvino Bracho

  • March 18, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • April 15, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • April 20, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • April 30, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • May 4, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • May 8, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • May 11, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • June 5, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • June 14, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • July 1, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • July 2, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • July 5, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • July 7, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • July 12, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • July 23, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • July 31, 2018 - recalled Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.
  • August 2, 2018 - optioned RHP Silvino Bracho to Reno Aces.
  • September 1, 2018 - recalled RHP Silvino Bracho from Reno Aces.

If you’re counting, that’s nine times Bracho was optioned to AAA, and nine times he was recalled. Before rosters expanded in September, his longest stay with the team was 11 days. Despite this, “Bus-pass” Bracho still posted a very respectable 3.19 ERA, striking out 34 over 31 innings, and holding opposing hitters to a .223 average.

Clay Buchholz

I guess a nomination as Comeback Player of the Year would technically disqualify him, but since he didn’t win this relatively minor award [quick, who won it in 2017?], it seems churlish to exclude him. This was a man who couldn’t even crack the Opening Day roster for the Royals, and hadn’t won a major-league game since 2016. Yet remarkably. he ended up being more valuable by bWAR to the D-backs this season, than J.D. Martinez was in 2017. After seeing Kris “I’m retiring” Medlen and Troy Scribner make starts, we’d have been fine if Clay had merely been replacement level. Instead, he gave us the lowest ERA in franchise history by any pitcher with 80+ innings of work.

Daniel Descalso

We already wrote about Descalso’s time in Arizona. So I’ll just copy-paste this: “It is for his remarkable clutchiness that Daniel will be best remembered. By Fangraphs’ Clutch metric, Descalso scored a 3.22 in 2017-18. No other Arizona batter is better than 1.14. Only two - Jake Lamb (1.14) and Chris Owings (1.10) - score above 0.40. Indeed, Descalso was the clutchiest hitter in the major leagues over the last two seasons. He was worth more Win Probability at the plate in that time than anyone for Arizona bar Goldschmidt. And also more than the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Robinson Cano or Justin Upton gave their teams in WP - those three men earned $28.75 million, $48 million and $38.1 million in 2017-18 respectively.”

T.J. McFarland

Over 89 appearances and 119 innings from 2015-17, McFarland had an ugly 5.52 ERA, helping lead to the sardonic nickname “McERA” during his first year in Arizona. But last season, it all clicked, with the ground-balls he generated now turning into outs. His ERA of exactly two was the third-best by any Arizona reliever with 40+ innings of work (behind Archie Bradley in 2017 and Brad Ziegler in 2015) - and McFarland was well past that minimum, his 72 IP leading the team among all relievers. He simply didn’t allow hard contact, his line-drive rate of 15.2% being the sixth lowest of the 332 pitchers in the majors to throw fifty innings in 2018. I move to rename him “McOut” for 2019.

Jeff Mathis

Mathis is one of the worst hitters in the live-ball era. By OPS+, only five of the 2,156 position players with 2,000+ career PA since 1919 are lower than Jeff’s 52. But there are good reasons he has played 14 years in the major-leagues (with further years apparently to come). Defensive skills, pitch framing and a reputation as being a “pitcher whisperer” have more than balanced out his lack of offense. We just need to look at the improvement pitchers like Zack Greinke or Patrick Corbin showed after Mathis’s arrival in 2017. It’s hard to be sure, but it seems likely he was a major factor in our staff ERA improving from dead-last in the league for 2016, to second and third over the last two years. We’ll know more this season...

Here’s the poll, please feel free to explain your choice and reasoning in the comments!

Poll

Who was the D-backs unsung hero of 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Silvino Bracho
    (6 votes)
  • 49%
    Clay Buchholz
    (75 votes)
  • 25%
    Daniel Descalso
    (39 votes)
  • 15%
    T.J. McFarland
    (23 votes)
  • 5%
    Jeff Mathis
    (9 votes)
152 votes total Vote Now