Players of the Year: Tucson Sidewinders

The final season for the Tucson Sidewinders was a sad one, marred by the worst attendance in the Pacific Coast League, a 2-17 start to the season, and a last place finish. Here are the final Players of the Year for the Sidewinders before the Reno Aces become the Arizona Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate.

The Tucson Sidewinders hit .298 as a team, second-best in the Pacific Coast League.  Their 763 runs scored ranked middle-of-the-pack, however, as the PCL is a high-scoring league and the Sidewinders finished 15th of 16 teams in walks.

The pitching was simply abysmal.  They posted a team ERA of 5.47 and WHIP of 1.60, both horrible marks for even a great hitter's league.  They ranked next-to-last in those categories, as they did in walks allowed, plus they finished last in both saves (23) and complete games (0).

It's hard to believe that as recently as 2006, the Tucson Sidewinders were the best minor league team on the planet, certainly capable of defeating some of the less successful major league teams at the time.  The Sidewinders' recent struggles have made the move to Reno a welcome fresh start.

That said, there were certainly some standout performances on the offensive side of the ball in 2007.  

Final 2008 Tucson Sidewinders Statistics

Position Player of the Year - 1B Joshua Whitesell

Jaime D'Antona flirted with a .400 batting average for half of the year and finished the season with the second-highest mark in the PCL (.365).  His other stats were good as well, making his OPS of 1.009 second in the league.  He was also one of 13 players who made the All-PCL Team.

How, then, can first baseman Josh Whitesell get the nod over third baseman Jamie D'Antona? 

D'Antona may have played the more valuable position, but he did not play it well.  His fielding percentage at the hot corner was an abysmal .904, and it was just .965 in 15 games at first base.  Whitesell managed a respectable .989 fielding percentage at his first base position.

We can see separation on offense as well.  D'Antona got the call to the big leagues earlier than Whitesell did, making the first baseman's counting stats far superior.  Whitesell hit five more homers (26 to 31) drove in 31 more runs (110 to 79), scored 17 more runs (86 to 69), and walked 44 more times (74 to 30).  Keep in mind, this was D'Antona's second full season in the PCL, while Whitesell won the league's Rookie of the Year Award.  Whitesell also finished strong (.399/.497/.696 in the second half) whereas D'Antona tapered off (.333/.369/.563 after the break).

Both players will compete for big league roles in Spring Training, but Whitesell has the inside track due to his terrific finish and solid defense.  He was named Player of the Year by the organization for the whole system, so he certainly qualifies for the FututreBacks Position Player of the Year for Tucson.

Pitcher of the Year - RHP Max Scherzer

You won't often see a pitcher who won only one game all season long win an honor of this sort.  But the wins leaders for the Tucson Sidewinders were Evan MacLane and Connor Robertson, and they each won just seven games.  MacLane even had a sub-.500 record, an ERA just under 5.00, and finished 6th in most hits allowed in the PCL, although he was still much improved from last season.  Robertson was a reliever who spent time in the majors, and he still shared the team's lead in wins.  His ERA was just over 5.00 and his WHIP was nearly identical to MacLane's.

Those weren't awful seasons, but as the best that Sidewinders pitchers had to offer, they come up short for the FutureBacks Pitcher of the Year Award.  38 strikeouts, three walks, and 12 hits allowed in 23 innings, leading to a 1.17 ERA would be solid credentials for the award, and coincidentally, that is what Max Scherzer put up in April before earning a promotion to the big leagues.

After shoulder fatigue set in for Scherzer, who only tallied 103.1 innings between the minors and the AFL last year, he went on to fan 36 PCL batters in 27.2 July and August innings with Tucson, leading to a 2.60 ERA this time.  Overall, he had a 2.72 ERA for the Sidewinders, a 3.05 ERA for the Diamondbacks, and threw seven innings while allowing just one earned run in his first Arizona Fall League start.  Even though that has only translated into one total win for him so far, that's some pretty dominant pitching.

Before we close the door on this award, we need to send a shout out to Yusmeiro Petit; his excellent season has gone relatively unnoticed.  He did not allow a walk until June and finished his time in Tucson with 67 strikeouts to just eight walks.  While Scherzer rested and rehabbed his shoulder, Petit helped keep the Diamondbacks in games  going 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA over six major league starts in July and August.  Petit hasn't been considered a prospect here at FutureBacks this season due to his '07 service time, but he doesn't turn 24 until November and has a bright, bright future ahead of him. 

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