The 2010’s are just about in the books, so it’s time to start looking back at the decade, and trying to assemble a consensus as to the best Diamondbacks team over that period. Beginning today, and for the next ten weeks, we’ll be looking at each position (splitting pitchers into starters and relievers). On Monday we’ll be presenting five candidates for your consideration, with a brief discussion of each and a poll. On Friday, we’ll be doing a deeper dive into the winner and their time with the Diamondbacks.
We start with the catchers, and it’s probably fair to say that this is an area where one candidate stands head and shoulders above the others. But below, is a chart which shows everyone who started a game for the Diamondbacks this decade. In each year, you can see the number of games started, and I’ve color-coded the cells so you can get a general overview.
There were a total of five men who started 100+ games as a catcher for the Diamondbacks over this time, so the candidates more or less chose themselves. Carson Kelly fell just short, at 85 - but he’s certainly the early favorite to be on this team when we repeat the exercise in ten years time. [It will, hopefully, prove to be a tough decision between him and Daulton Varsho] So here are those five men, in alphabetical order.
Alex Avila (106 starts)
Part of me wants Avila to win, purely to troll Gambo. Alex will be most infamous for a wretched start with the D-backs over his first 44 games, he hit just .109 with a .392 OPS. But thereafter, over the remaining 79 games, his OPS more than doubled, at .792. In particular. his plate discipline was awesome - there’s no other word for it. Avila walked in 16.8% of his PAs over his two seasons here, a rate surpassed only by Mike Trout during that time among the 371 players with a combined 400 PA). Avila had more walks than hits both years with Arizona, and since 1998 has four such campaigns, with at least 200+ in each. The only players in baseball history with more are Barry Bonds and Max Bishop, who had six apiece.
Welington Castillo (174 starts)
At .772, Castillo has the highest OPS of any of these, and there’s little doubt, he was probably the most offensive-minded among these candidates. He had 31 home-runs over a total of 760 plate-appearances as a Diamondback. After he arrived from Seattle in June 2015, as part of the Mark Trumbo trade, Beef hit seventeen of them over his remaining eighty games. That’s one off the franchise record for a D-back catcher in any season, despite giving everyone else a two-month headstart. His 103 starts the following year make him one of only two catchers to start 100+ times in a season. Bonus: Welington was a perfect 2-0 in stolen-base attempts during his time with Arizona.
Tuffy Gosewisch (103 starts)
The quintessential backup catcher. But as the chart above shows, Tuffy was a cog for the Arizona catching position in four different seasons, a number only Montero can match. Over that time, Gosewisch threw out better than 35% of attempted base-stealers, well above the league average of 28%. That peaked in 2014, when he nailed eight of nineteen, a 42% rate which ranked Tuffy fourth-best in the majors (min. 15 attempts). He also never made more than one error in any season as a D-back. He only hit five home-runs here, but two of them came off Cy Young winners, in Jake Arrietta and David Price. And, of course, did you know Tuffy went to ASU?
Jeff Mathis (117 starts)
One of the worst non-pitcher hitters ever to stand at the plate, Mathis has still been employed in the majors for 15 years. Such is his skill in the other aspects of the catching game, such as pitch-framing, blocking and working with pitchers. His arrival in Arizona for the 2017 season signaled a sea-change in the team’s approach under new GM Mike Hazen, one that valued defense. Despite catching less than a thousand innings in 2017-18, Mathis was still fifth among catchers for Defensive Runs Saved - the four above him averaged almost 1,800 innings. The impact of Mathis’s time here continues to be felt, even though he has moved on.
Miguel Montero (583 starts)
Montero accumulated 11.4 bWAR over the decade - only Castillo (3.4) even reached two wins among the other catchers. An iron man behind the plate, Miggy started 130+ games in three different seasons: no-one else in team history has passed 111 (Damian Miller in 2001). He spent a total of nine years in the desert, more than any other player ever. Montero is third on Arizona’s all-time list for games played, as well as ranking fourth for both hits and RBI. He was twice selected to the NL squad for the All-Star game, in 2011 and 2014: that feat was achieved by no other Arizona catcher this decade, with only Miller doing so in team history. [And that was courtesy of Damian’s manager!]
After some quite blatant ballot-stuffing, we’ve had to reset, and limit polling to registered SnakePit users. This is why we can’t have nice things, people. :) Link for mobile users. And IT’S THE WORK OF 2 SECONDS TO CHECK YOUR USERNAME DOESN’T EXIST. Don’t even bother.