Damian Miller, 1998-2002
.269/.336/.437 in 1632 PA
Best Year: 2000 (10-44-.275)
Miller never had a standout year offensively, but he was consistently a
productive bat out of the catcher position for four years. His biggest
contributions came as a defender, as he generally ranked in the upper echelon of
caught stealing percentage. Some people would no doubt want to consider
2001 Miller's best year because he hit a career high 13 homers while shouldering
the biggest workload in his career in a season that would culminate in a World
Championship. Not only were all of Miller's offensive rate stats superior
in 2000, but his defense was markedly better. He committed six errors,
lost three passed balls, and allowed 17 wild pitches in 2000 as compared to
seven errors, 11 passed balls, and 27 wild pitches the following season.
In 2000, he tossed out 40% of baserunners, a figure that would drop to 36% in
2001. Furthermore, Miller wasn't terribly impressive during the 2001
Chris Snyder actually spent more time with the D-backs in terms of seasons,
games caught, and plate appearances, but Snyder's batting average is 36 points
lower and his slugging average is 39 points lower. He is almost certainly
on his way out of the organization to make way for Miguel Montero, who will
almost certainly pass Miller as the best backstop in franchise history in a
couple of seasons.
Conor Jackson, 2005-2009
.281/.361/.431 in 1854 PA
Best Year: 2008 (12-65-.300)
This was a very difficult choice. Tony Clark had his incredible 2005 season
in which he slugged .636, plus came up with lots of big hits during the magical
2007 season. Greg Colbrunn and Mark Grace formed a formidable righty/lefty,
offense/defense platoon during the Bob Brenly years. Erubiel Durazo had
teamed up with Colbrunn prior to Gracie's arrival and actually has the best OPS
of any Diamondbacks first baseman at .918.
In the end, I had to go with CoJack. He played at a very consistent
level for three seasons as the D-backs' primary first baseman rather than as a platoon
guy. He's driven in 74 more runs than the runner up Diamondbacks first
baseman (Travis Lee). Although he's not a strong defensive first baseman,
he's not such a liability as to negate his combination of productivity,
consistency, and longevity at the dish.
Jay Bell, 1998-2002
.263/.355/.458 in 2547 PA
Best Year: 1999 (38-112-.289)
It's easy to forget just how good Jay Bell was in Diamondbacks purple.
He was the first free agent to ever sign with the franchise, was one of their
best hitters in the inaugural 1998 season as a shortstop, had one of the best
seasons ever by a second baseman the following year, and scored the winning run
in the 2001 World Series. He was a heady baseball player, a solid
defender, and a class act. What's not to like?
Unfortunately, Bell is remembered more for the ill-advised $34 million
contract that he was given than the fact that he lived up to that contract
better than anyone could have realistically expected. He is remembered
more for his failed sacrifice bunt in Game Seven than the fact that he scored
the winning run. He was overshadowed by Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, and
Curt Schilling. You could make a decent argument that Orlando Hudson
deserves this title because he played better defense and because Bell spent time
at other positions, but Bell's counting stats with the D-backs simply dwarf
Matt Williams, 1998-2003
.278/.327/.421 in 2462 PA
Best Year: 1999 (35-142-.303)
Like Bell, Williams is somewhat maligned for not living up to a large
contract apart from a monster 1999 season. Williams carries the additional
stigma of being named in the Mitchell Report, although Bell's career path
certainly raises some eyebrows in that regard as well.
Chad Tracy's career numbers are very similar to Williams' as a Diamondback,
but only about half of Tracy's games have come at the hot corner, and his
defense there pales in comparison. Mark Reynolds edges out Williams in
terms of rate stats, but Williams wins in every counting stat, including
strikeouts and errors. A couple more seasons like 2009 and Reynolds will
snatch the honor from Williams, but for now, Carson Crusher is the best
Diamondbacks third baseman of all time.
Stephen Drew, 2006-2009
.270/.326/.445 in 2103 PA
Best Year: 2008 (21-67-.291)
It's Tony Womack versus Stephen Drew here. Do you prefer Womack's huge
edge in stolen bases or Drew's gargantuan advantage in slugging?
Interestingly, neither is an ideal leadoff hitter - Womack because he could get
on base more than a third of the time and Drew because he isn't much of a base
stealer. As they are both imperfect as table-setters, I had to go with the
player who can also drive in runs when needed.
The interesting thing about Drew is that he has hit very well while leading
off or batting low in the order, but poorly in the #2-#5 lineup slots. It
will be interesting to see what role he eventually settles in and whether he can
improve upon his fantastic 2008 season. Even if you aren't yet convinced that
he is the D-backs' best all-time shortstop, you likely will be by the end of
Luis Gonzalez, 1999-2006
.298/.391/.529 in 5246 PA
Best Year: 2001 (57-142-.325)
This is, of course, the easiest call of all. Gonzo is not only the best
offensive force in Diamondbacks history, but arguably the only left fielder.
Eric Byrnes is the only other Diamondback to play over 200 games there, and he
spent a considerable amount of time in center as well. The only year in
which Byrnes started more than 50 games in left field was in 2007, when he
stated 113 contests. Gonzo started over 100 games in left for eight
straight seasons with the D-backs, and in seven of those, he started over 140.
Now a member of the front office, Gonzalez has been a valued member of the
Arizona community for over a decade. Barring a Brandon Webb contract
extension, Gonzalez and Randy Johnson will still be considered the faces of the
franchise for years to come.
Steve Finley, 1999-2004
.278/.351/.500 in 3449 PA
Best Year: 2000 (35-96-.280)
This is another runaway. Chris Young is the only other true
centerfielder in Diamondbacks history. The rest of the notable
centerfielders were just athletic corner outfielders who were filling in:
Byrnes, Danny Bautista, Shawn Green, Quentin McCracken, David Dellucci.
Even in his late-30s, Finley was a legitimate defensive centerfielder. He
was also a late-bloomer offensively who continued to hit during his entire
Ironically, Finley had his worst offensive season during the 2001 World
Series run. The bat came alive in the playoffs though, as Finley would hit
.322 and drive in nine runs that postseason. His claims to fame include
being one of six members of the
and playing in 162 games while hitting 36 homers as a 39-year old centerfielder
Justin Upton, 2007-2009
.272/.350/.485 in 1157 PA
Best Year: 2009 (26-86-.300)
I have to admit, I was surprised when I came up with Upton's name here after
basically just two seasons, but the numbers back this up. Bautista has
played more games in right field than any other Diamondback, but he was rarely
more than a role player. Reggie Sanders was terrific in 2001, but his
season was no better than Upton's was this year, and it was Reggie's only season
as a Diamondback. The closest competitor of Upton's is Shawn Green.
While Green has six more hits and two more doubles as a Diamondback, Upton has
nine more triples, 10 more homers, seven more runs scored, 15 more RBI, 21 more
walks, and nine more stolen bases.
Upton turned 22 in August, and appears to be the best bet to usurp Luis
Gonzalez as the best position player in franchise history. The question
isn't even whether Upton will put up the numbers; it's whether the Diamondbacks
will have the resources to keep him once he is eligible for free agency.
Right-handed Starting Pitcher:
Brandon Webb, 2003-2009
87-62, 3.27 ERA in 1319.2 IP
Best Year: 2007 (18-10, 3.01)
Left-handed Starting Pitcher:
Randy Johnson, 1999-2004, 2007-2008
118-62, 2.83 ERA in 1630.1 IP
Best Year: 2002 (24-5, 2.32)
No, I'm not going to cop out and leave it at this. Randy Johnson is
also the best starting pitcher overall, and there's nothing Webb can even do
about it this year except sign long-term. Both pitchers have the same
amount of losses while the Big Unit has 31 more victories, 1,012 more
strikeouts, and an ERA 44 points lower. Then there are the four
consecutive Cy Young Awards (and he deserved a fifth in 2004), the utter
dominance in the 2001 postseason (culminating in the co-MVP Award for the World
Series), and the 2002 Triple Crown (one of the 50 best pitching seasons of all
time). I don't want to sound as though I don't respect Webb... it's just
tough to be compared to Randy Johnson, which is why I've carved out a niche for
Webb as best right-handed starter.
Curt Schilling deserves an honorable mention, though. He was only with
the club for three-and-a-half seasons, but managed a better winning percentage
than Randy Johnson and a lower ERA than Brandon Webb. His 875 strikeouts
with the D-backs ranks third all-time; Miguel Batista is fourth with 454.
Meanwhile, Schilling is 10th on the walks list with 117. He was even
better in the postseason than Johnson was. Dan Haren also merits a shout
out, as he figures to pitch with the club for at least four more seasons and
might eventually challenge Webb for the title of best right-hander.
Jose Valverde, 2003-2007
98 Saves, 3.29 ERA in 260 IP
Best Year: 2007 (47/54 SV, 2.66)
Matt Mantei and Byung-Hyun Kim are the only other Diamondbacks with at least
50 saves. It surprised me to learn that Mantei has an ERA just over 4.00
with the D-backs while Kim's rests at 3.43 and would be considerably lower had
he not made 10 ill-advised starts with the Diamondbacks. Kim is of course
best known for allowing just one hit and no runs in his first 6.1 postseason
innings, then eight hits, eight runs, three homers, and five walks over his next
5.0 playoff innings, so it's east to forget just how dominant he was prior to
facing the Yankees in the World Series.
Mantei, like Valverde, was frightfully inconsistent; every other year was a
bad one, and he sat out most of the 2001 and 2002 playoff seasons with injury.
Valverde may have been inconsistent, but without him, the Diamondbacks do not
make the playoffs in 2007. The closer's role has always been a revolving
door in Arizona, so it is hard to predict who will eventually surpass Valverde.
Chad Qualls has a lower ERA at the moment, but becomes a free agent after this
year. All it would take is three full seasons as the Diamondbacks closer
for someone to pass Valverde in saves, but it still may not happen in the next decade.
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