To be honest, this poll was closer than I expected it would be. I didn’t expect anyone else to receive as much as 5% of the vote. As of this morning. J.J. Putz dropped from 10% to 9% and Archie Bradley moved up to 12% of the total votes cast. Still, the entirely unsurprising outcome of Brad Ziegler winning by a landslide came to pass as he finished with 73% of the vote.
This sort of finish is what one would expect. After all, Ziegler is the franchise’s all-time leader in pitching appearances with 377. Also, as discussed in the comments section of the poll, Ziegler managed to accumulate the most WPA among all relievers in franchise history, putting together a score of 11.122. Number two on that list is fellow nominee, J.J. Putz - with a whopping 2.678. It isn’t even close.
One can only wonder how much more exaggerated Ziegler’s numbers with the team would have been if not for the business of baseball getting involved. Acquired at the trade deadline from Oakland in 2011, Ziegler wasted no time in establishing himself. From then until July of 2016, all Ziegler did was continue to get better. But then, in July of 2016, with the Diamondbacks nowhere near contention and with Zigler preparing to reach free agency, the business of baseball dictated that Ziegler be traded. Thus, during his peak performance with the team, he was traded to Boston for two prospects, Jose Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe. To date, neither one has made it beyond A+ ball. After finishing the year in Boston, Ziegler signed a lucrative deal with the Miami Marlins. Maybe it was the fact that Miami is just a terrible team that was playing in a rough division, but Ziegler was anything but good in Miami. In some ways, it looked like Arizona might have made the right call and dodged an expensive Ziegler bullet.
That was not the end of the story though. In 2018, fresh off a brief postseason appearance, the Diamondbacks found themselves in desperate need of bullpen help to make a run at a second consecutive round of games in October. Mike Hazen was aggressive in acquiring relief pitching and took a chance on bringing Ziegler back into the fold. Given his contract and his performance, the Marlins were only too happy to part ways with him. At the deadline, this seemed like a gamble. Of the relievers added to the team, Ziegler was (at the time) the one with the biggest performance issues. Anyone who paid attention to the Diamondbacks in 2018 knows what happened next. The team’s relief woes only increased, contributing to the team going into a tailspin in September and completely falling out of the playoff picture. Matt Andriese was mediocre at his best. Jake Diekman was a human white flag. The questionable acquisition, Brad Ziegler, returned to pre-Miami form and was easily the team’s best and most reliable relief pitcher over the final two months of the season. Given how strongly he bounced back once he returned to Arizona, one can only wonder what might have been had the Diamondbacks never parted ways with him in the first place.
Ziegler chose to retire after the 2018 season, listening to his body as it told him it was time to walk away. Ziegler’s reliability and consistency, coupled with his unique gameplay and his winning personality made Ziegler a fan favorite early in his tenure. Even after his untimely departure, he remained a common topic of conversation among fans of the Diamondbacks, often with lamentations that he no longer pitched for Arizona. GIven his prolonged and outstanding body of work in Arizona, this is hardly the last time when looking back that Ziegler will come up in conversation. I could take another 20 years of Diamondbacks baseball to find another reliever that gives Ziegler or Kim a run for the title of best reliever in franchise history.