This is the second in a series chronicling a Diamondback’s best seasons at every position around the diamond. In the franchise’s short 25-year history, they’ve had some great player seasons. However, in order to prevent certain players from appearing more than once, this will be limited to one mention per player at a position. Objective statistical measures are of course used, but this is not a direct WAR ranking. Subjective factors, intangibles, team success, and even “the clutch” are all considered equally, if not more, important than a few decimal places of difference in WAR.
So here are the five greatest first base seasons in Diamondbacks history.
Number 5: Mark Grace 2001
Mark Grace signed as a 37-year-old free agent with the Diamondbacks in December 2000. The 13-year veteran with the Chicago Cubs was a perfect fit in Arizona both on and off the court. Although not quite on par in his peak years, his high batting average and on-base percentage were second on the team behind Luis Gonzalez. This contact approach provided balance to a roster that had the second-most strikeouts the previous year. His defense was better than average as it had been throughout his career. Perhaps just as important, his leadership and camaraderie helped the team qualify for the World Series where he went 5-19, with a brace and a home run, helping the team win the ultimate prize.
Grace remains a fan favorite to this day. His likeness is used in the team’s entertainment game “Legends Race”, and he is a pre- and post-game analyst for Bally Sports.
Number 4: Chad Tracy 2005
Chad Tracy had a standout season in 2005. Splitting his time with Tony Clark, Tracy appeared in 80 games, starting 72 at first base with the rest of his time in right field. Thus, he qualified first for this exercise since more than half of his playing time came first. The line-hitter burst with power in a big way, hitting 27 homers and hitting 65 more total base hits. The only franchise first baseman to qualify for the batting title (502 AP) and have higher Slugging and OPS than Tracy’s .553 and .911 marks was Paul Goldschmidt. And he did it without sacrificing batting average and contact, as he batted over .300 and struck out just 78 times. His 9-over-average on first base was also exemplary.
Number 3: Tony Clark 2005
While it’s somewhat unusual to have two first basemen in the same year and a team making such a roster, Clark’s 2005 season was nothing short of amazing. The switch hitter had a career year at the plate at the age of 33. Playing 83 games at start, seven at DH and 48 pinch shots, manager Bob Melvin managed to get him 393 AP. The production he packed into those bats was off the charts. His 1,003 OPS is second among first basemen in the franchise, as is his 154 OPS+. (min 200 AP)
But perhaps it was in clutch situations that Clark really made his mark that season. He came to the plate 89 times in “Late and Close”* situations, hitting an incredible .397/.472/.833, 1.305 OPS with 8 home runs and 27 RBIs.
Clark’s leadership would come more front and center as he later became the heart and soul of 2007’s ‘Anybody Anytime’ D-backs and of course after his playing career he became the executive director of the MLBPA.
* Late and closed are appearances at plate in the 7th or later with the team batting tied, ahead of one, or the run tied at least on the deck.
Number 2: Christian Walker 2022
Christian Walker had a career year in 2022, winning the Gold Glove Award for first base and posting career highs in home runs and the RBI. While some may consider batting average and rate stats not comparable to other players on this list, it’s important to keep in mind that offense and batting average were down in every game. areas in 2022 MLB. His adjusted league 126 OPS+ was 26% better than the league average
Playing every day, he provided stability both on the pitch and in the clubhouse where he became a quiet leader. His work ethic and determination to improve in all facets of the game were great examples for a young team. It was common to see younger and older players congregating around his locker after games, win or lose.
Number 1: Paul Goldschmidt 2015
It will surprise no one that Paul Goldschmidt tops the list. He has six of the franchise’s seven best seasons at first base as ranked by WAR. The perennial All Star, MVP nominee and future Hall of Famer, however, had his best season at Sedona Red in 2015. Coming second to Bryce Harper in MVP voting that year, Goldy set career records in WAR, Batting Average, OBP, OPS and Fielding Runs.
He hit .340 with runners in scoring position and had 1.033 OPS in high leverage situations. At this point in his career, pitchers stopped pitching to him when it mattered most. His 29 intentional walks were nearly double the second-highest total (15 for Harper). No one in MLB has had more since. Mike Trout came closest in 2018 with 25.
Honorable mentions include Erubiel Durazzo, Greg Colbrun and Connor Jackson. Durazzo and Colbrun each had several excellent seasons off the bench in part-time roles and were extremely productive in those roles. Jackson’s 2008 season narrowly missed the 50% first base playing time mark as he split time in left field. But it was his best season and was statistically comparable to Grace’s 2001 season.
Follow this link for the Diamondbacks all-time first baseman stats page.
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. The five great seasons first base the history of the Diamondbacks