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2021 Play of the Year: Nominations open

You probably have as good an idea as I do!

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I actually started off the season by diligently keeping a list of potential play of the year candidates from each game. However, reviewing my notes, the last entry was on June 4. Which seems about appropriate, as after that point, I mostly watched only the 2021 Diamondbacks games I had to recap. Which means that I was in a bit of a quandary when it came to writing this piece. Should I just throw it open to readers to suggest plays? Fortunately, the radically improved MLB Video Room came to my rescue. With the appropriate search filters, I was able to find the 97 plays tagged there with “defense” for the D-backs in 2021.

I then watched them all, so you don’t have to. :) Below, you’ll find three reels. showcasing what I felt were the best. There are two for defensive plays, one for the first half of the season, the other for the second half, and a third reel for the best offensive plays, either in terms of clutchiness, power, or pure entertainment value. Hello, Humberto Castellanos, potentially with the last home-run ever hit by a Diamondbacks pitcher.

Defensive plays, April-June

Defensive plays, July-October

Offensive plays

The contents of this reel are as follows: the two walk-off homers (Daulton Varsho. and Josh VanMeter in the final game); the hardest hit (Andrew Young, 115.9 mph exit velocity); the two longest (Ketel Marte, 457 feet, and Eduardo Escobar 453 feet); two grand slams (Andrew Young and Ketel Marte); the clutchest (Eduardo Escobar, +49%); and the first by a pitcher since June 2019, also only the third three-run pitcher homer in franchise history (Humberto Castellanos).

In particular though, I want to highlight the four plays made by the D-backs this season which Statcast regarded as “five-star”. Those are ones which, based on the velocity, launch angle, etc. are assessed at less than a 25% chance of becoming outs. Thanks to Jack and tangotiger for their help in putting together the following, which highlight each of the quartet of 5* plays (and a couple of bonus 412* ones!). Comments by tangotiger:

You can’t tell, but the outfielder got a great jump:

This one is a great example of a good jump, and perfect catch:

Another excellent looking catch:

Terrific looking as well:

This just missed the cut for 5-star:

This one also just missed:

The first is a particularly interesting example, in that you’d look at that and never think it was one of the most unlikely catches of the year. But that’s always the thing. Great outfielders get such a good jump and first step, that plays others would have to make spectacular dives to catch, they turn into routine outs. Not that I’m necessarily calling Josh Rojas a great outfielder. :) I suspect some of the other plays included in the highlight reels may fall into the opposite category: those that look better than they might have been. We tend to judge catches on how they finish, rather than how they start.

Anyway, when you have had your chance to watch, we need to narrow them down to five or thereabouts, for the final poll. This will be done largely on the basis of recs in the comments, though the decision of the judging committee i.e. me, will be final in this regard. Please identify the play in the subject line, ideally in a format that easily identifies it: include the player, date, opponent, score, play description or whatever. If you agree with a choice already made, give it a rec. If you don’t see your choice, post a new comment. I will delete subsequent top-level comments about the same play. I trust this will not be too confusing.

But I must admin, putting this together was quite a bit of fun. The 2021 season, terrible though it was, clearly still had its moments...