With the 2010s now in the rear-view mirror as far as baseball is concerned, I thought it might be fun to put together a series of articles looking at various aspects of the D-backs over the decade. Fielding, offense, and in this first installment, base-running. These aren’t strictly the best base-runners to pull on the team uniform in this decade. Because if that were the case, we’d have no-one to play catcher. So we’re instead looking at the best single season at each position, with a minimum of 50% of appearances at the spot in question. This is based on Baseball Reference’s Baserunning Runs (so does not include the component for avoiding hitting into double-plays), and covers just the period 2010-19.
As a quick aside, would you care to guess who this metric spits out as the best base-runner in the majors during the ten-year period? Billy Hamilton? Dee Gordon? Rajai Davis? Nope. The correct answer is, in fact, Jarrod Dyson, who was worth 39.8 runs on the basepaths for the decade. That’s particularly impressive, considering he averaged only 86 games per season over that time. Dyson also led the majors in stolen-base percentage (min: 150 attempts in the 2010s) at 85.0%.
Here’s the list, now limited strictly to members of the Diamondbacks
P. Zack Greinke (2018, 0.9 BSR)
Not really a surprise to see Zack here, and not a surprise it’s that season, as he was a veritable whirlwind (by pitcher standards!) on the basepaths. He was 3-0 in stolen base attempts: that’s almost as many in a single season as every other pitcher for the D-backs combined managed to steal across the entire decade (4).
C. Chris Herrmann (2017, 1.7 BSR)
For a catcher, Herrmann was always very athletic. This is shown by the fact that in his time with Arizona, he also played at all three outfield positions and at first-base. Indeed, Herrmann is the only currently active player who can say they’ve started games at catcher and in center-field. The last such was Brandon Inge.
1B. Paul Goldschmidt (2016, 5.1 BSR)
This is my unsurprised face. He also occupies the second, third and fourth spots on the list, through Christian Walker’s 2019 comes in fifth, at a decent 2.6. [All hail Dave McKay!] Goldschmidt makes the top 25 at any spot for the decade, and among 1B it isn’t even close. He’s #1 at +19.4. Second is Cody Bellinger, at just +3.4. Third is Walker!
2B. Jean Segura (2016, 5.4 BSR)
Segura may only have spent one season in Arizona, but he was close to the total package. He led the league in hits that year, batting .319 with 20 home-runs and stole 33 bases as well. He and Goldy were both in the 20/30 club that year, still the only NL team-mates to do so since Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio on the 1997 Astros.
SS. Nick Ahmed (2019, 4.3 BSR)
A lot of attention was, justifiably, paid to the improvement of Nick Ahmed at the plate this year. Considerably less well-noticed has been his improvement as a base-runner. This can be seen in his BSR over the last three seasons. He was at -1.3 in 2017, improved to being exactly even in 2018, and was the best shortstop in the league this year.
3B. Jake Lamb (2016, 2.9 BSR)
Lamb just edges out Ryan Roberts’ 2011 performance, which also returned a 2.9 score. This isn’t a position generally known for speed, and those two men are the only third-basemen for Arizona to have stolen more than five bags in a season. Roberts reached 18, but was also caught 9 times, while Lamb was a better 6:1.
LF. Gregor Blanco (2017, 3.0 BSR)
This probably counts as a surprise, to the point that I’d initially forgotten Blanco had played for us at all, then confused him briefly with Henry Blanco. Sorry, Gregor. It’s all the more impressive, as Blanco appeared in just 90 games for the D-backs that season. But he was an impressive 15-1 in stolen-base attempts.
CF. A.J. Pollock (2015, 8.6 BSR)
The best base-running season of the decade, and also the only one in which Pollock was fully healthy. He stole 39 bases, the most by a Diamondback in the 2010s and was only caught seven times. But it’s not all good news in this article for Pollock, as you’ll see later. Dyson’s campaign this year was second-best for the decade, at +7.0 in 27 fewer games.
RF. Ender Inciarte (2015, 3.8 BSR)
Last but not least, we find Inciarte. He’s one of two RF to have reached twenty SB, the other being Justin Upton in 2011. How important his base-running and defence were, as part of an overall 5.2 bWAR campaign that year, can be seen in that he’s the only player of the last five years to post that much WAR, while also hitting six or fewer home-runs.
And, in case you’re wondering - I know I was - here is the all-baseclogging team, with the worst single seasons in Diamondbacks’ history over the last ten years!
- P. Robbie Ray (2016, -1.0 BSR)
- C. Miguel Montero (2012, -4.2 BSR)
- 1B. Adam LaRoche (2010, -4.6 BSR), worst of the decade
- 2B. Kelly Johnson (2010, -3.9 BSR)
- SS. Willie Bloomquist (2012, -3.2 BSR)
- 3B. Martin Prado (2013, -3.9 BSR)
- LF. Jason Kubel (2012, -3.6 BSR)
- CF. A.J. Pollock (2012, -1.2 BSR) - yes, A.J. makes both teams!
- RF. Yasmany Tomas (2016, -3.5 BSR)