In the absence of real baseball, everyone is running various virtual scenarios to fill the void. Here on the ‘Pit we have James executing a virtual 2020 season, while Jack and I are pitting the historical D-backs’ rosters against each other. Over on MLB.com, they’ve gone a different rout. They have asked their beat writers to come up with an all-time roster for each of the 30 teams (plus a Negro League, and current 25-and-under stars squads to get a bracket-friendly number), and are pitting them against each in their MLB Dream Bracket tournament. Team go head-to-head in a best-of-7 series, with the winners progressing to the next round.
Arizona’s first-round opponent is Pittsburgh, and you can watch the series unfold on Twitch/MLB.com, beginning at 1 pm local time today. The rosters used were apparently the work of the MLB.com beat reporters, so I’m presuming this is the work of Steve Gilbert. Let’s face it, it’s not as if he has much else to do right now. :) Here’s what he came up with:
Starting Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Brandon Webb, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Patrick Corbin, Robbie Ray
Relievers: Byung-Hyun Kim, Archie Bradley, Brad Ziegler, Jose Valverde
- C: Miguel Montero
- 1B: Paul Goldschmidt
- 2B: Ketel Marte
- 3B: Matt Williams
- SS: Stephen Drew
- LF: Luis Gonzalez
- CF: Steve Finley
- RF: Justin Upton
- DH: A.J. Pollock
Bench: Craig Counsell, Jay Bell, David Peralta, Chris Young, Nick Ahmed, Damian Miller
It seems a bit of a weird construction. Seven starting pitchers, four relievers - so only 11 pitchers in total - and a six-man bench. But a quick glance at some of our divisional rivals suggests this is in line with theirs, so I’m presuming it’s what was required by Out of the Park [the MLB simulator of choice for just about anyone this summer, it appears!] I also note that players can appear on more than one roster. I’d quite like to see us face the Mariners at some point, for that sweet Randy Johnson vs. Randy Johnson match-up! But what’s less clear is the criteria for inclusion, Are we talking peak or composite? For example, is Luis Gonzalez the one who played for us in 2001, or the average from 1999 through 2006?
For amusement, I put together a starting line-up of D-backs based on that single-season metric, and here’s what I came up with:
- C. Miguel Montero (4.5 bWAR, 2012)
- 1B. Paul Goldschmidt (8.3, 2015)
- 2B. Jean Segura (6.4, 2016)
- SS. Nick Ahmed (4.4, 2018)
- 3B. Matt Williams (4.1, 1999)
- LF. Luis Gonzalez (7.9, 2001)
- CF. Ketel Marte (7.2, 2019)
- RF. Justin Upton (5.5, 2011)
- DH. [Best offensive WAR not already selected] A.J. Pollock (5.8 oWAR, 2015)
This seems close enough to the Dream Bracket line-up. There are a couple of differences on the middle infield. Marte was used at second, and Drew preferred over Ahmed at short. I’ve got qualms about both of those. Marte has only 150 career starts at second-base as a D-back, and last year (his obvious breakout season) made only 45 there. That said, I can see the logic of using him there, opening up CF for Finley. But it’s harder to justify Drew as being picked in front of Ahmed. Nick’s last two seasons have been worth 4.4 and 4.3 bWAR, both better than Drew’s best, at 4.0. It’s only if you take a three-year span or longer that the balances moves in favor of Stephen.
The other change I’d make would be at DH. I’d probably go with J.D. Martinez’s 2017, where he put ip 2.5 oWAR in only 62 games. Pro-rate that to the 157 games Pollock played in 2015, and you get 6.3 oWAR.
Going with the same split of seven starters and four reliever, who would I pick? The top five basically pick themselves, with single-season bWARs as follows:
- Randy Johnson (10.7 bWAR, 2002)
- Curt Schilling (8.8, 2001)
- Brandon Webb (7.0, 2006)
- Dan Haren (6.5, 2009)
- Zack Greinke (5.7, 2017)
Those five men are responsible for the top sixteen seasons in franchise history by bWAR: Johnson and Webb with five apiece, Schilling has three, two for Haren and one by Greinke. No-one else has got past 4.8 bWAR for a season. By bWAR, the last two spots should belong to Ian Kennedy (4.8, 2011) and Robbie Ray (4.7, 2017). Gilbert went with Corbin instead of Kennedy, even though Patrick’s peak was lower. But whatever. For the last two seem almost irrelevant. Indeed, as the 2001 World Series showed, it almost doesn’t matter who else pitches apart from Randy + Curt. It’ll be interesting to see how far the D-backs can go, with arguably the best 1-2 pitching punch of the expansion era.
Picking bullpen arms is always tough. bWAR doesn’t necessarily provide a true reflection for relievers. But you can hardly argue against Kim’s 4.0 from 2002 - the same as Corbin’s best season in 2012! Bradley’s 3.5 in 2017 would also be good for most starters. Valverde had a 2.2 in 2003, though that figure was matched by Oscar Villarreal in 2003, the season he appeared in 86 games as a 21-year-old [and was never the same again, but that’s a story for another time...]. It is slightly higher production than Ziegler’s best campaign, the 2.1 put up in 2015. But given Brad pitched 30 fewer innings than Oscar, I can see the argument for going with the Z.
For variety, I thought I’d also look at the Win Probability numbers, and see if those are in agreement. There are four relievers to have posted better than +300% for a season, two of them twice. They’re led by Ziegler’s +380.5% in 2013. with Kim’s best being 364.6% in 2001 - each man also did so in 2015 and 2002 respectively. Papa Grande reached 332.9% in 2003, so those three are more or less in agreement with the bWAR selection. However, the fourth man was J.J. Putz, who posted 318.6% in 2011, more than fifty percent more than Bradley’s 264.2% in 2017. So, it looks like there’s some consensus for Kim, Ziegler and Valverde, though you can argue over who gets the fourth and final spot.