Rise of the Silver Slugger

Coming out of Spring Training this year the Arizona Diamondbacks were hoping that pitcher Micah Owings would be able to make an impact for the team. Given the tremendous year he had in the minor leagues this season the team was hoping he could make the transition to the major leagues and offer some relief as starter Randy Johnson began the season on the disabled list. I’m sure the front office was hopeful that Micah could become the fifth starter at least temporarily and perhaps grow into a valuable member of the pitching staff. I am not sure anyone fully expected that he would have the kind of year he did especially at the plate.

The Diamondbacks have always known that Owings swings a good bat, they just didn’t expect everyone else to recognize it this quickly. But that is what happens when you have a pitcher who hits two home runs during one of his starts and ties the Diamondbacks franchise record for doubles in another start. By the end of the season opposing teams had to prepare a little differently on days when Owings started. Not only did they have to worry whether his fastball had that electric movement, they also had to realize that the Diamondbacks were playing with a designated hitter in their line-up; literally.

During his college playing years Micah Owings was elected to an all-star game as the designated hitter which is not exactly a normal occurrence. He has always taken hitting very seriously and if you happen to be at Chase Field while the Diamondbacks are taking batting practice you can see for yourself how intense Owings can be in the batting cages. Most pitchers go to the plate hoping not to embarrass themselves. Micah goes to the plate fully expecting to get a hit and hoping for extra bases. It is this dedication and approach that led to Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin to use Owings as a pinch hitter 6 times during the season. Over the course of 2007 Micah saw his batting average climb to .333 in 60 at-bats. Of the 20 hits he had 4 were home runs, 7 were doubles and one was a triple. This meant that 60 percent of his hits were for extra bases. Those hits allowed him to drive in 15 runs, an impressive total for a pitcher. Owings .683 slugging average led the team as did his batting average. His On-Base Percentage of .349 ranked him fifth on the team. These rankings are not among pitchers on the Diamondbacks roster, these are rankings against position players. With Owings at the plate it truly is like having another hitter with power in the line-up.

Micah Owings incredible year at the plate did get noticed with the Elias Sports Bureau stating he had the best offensive year of any pitcher in the modern era of baseball. Coaches and managers also took note and voted Micah Owings as the 2007 recipient of the Silver Slugger award for the best offensive production for a pitcher. The Silver Slugger Award winners are selected for each position to determine which players are the best. Voters take into consideration batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and general impressions of a player’s value to the offense. The only stipulation is that a coach or manager cannot vote for their own player. Given Owings numbers for this season Bob Melvin is about the only manager would didn’t vote for him. The only problem with winning an award like this is that expectations will be much higher for Micah next year both on the mound and at the plate. You can rest assured that the opponent’s advance scouts will be paying close attention when Micah steps into the batter’s box. Someone has got to figure out how to stop this hitting machine.

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