The Arizona Diamondbacks have started off great in 2013, and they're surprising people by how well they've played, even through sustained injuries to key players like Eric Chavez, Aaron Hill and Adam Eaton. They hope to see something from all three players this year, with some projecting to be back by the end of June, which would be a huge boost to their offense, which has at times been inconsistent, preventing them from going on any long winning streaks this season.
One of the main reasons they are in first place is that they are receiving great contributions from two players on their team. The first baseman for Arizona Paul Goldschmidt is having a great offensive year, and he has carried the team as far as run production goes for much of year. They've also received great pitching from starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. Corbin had to earn the fifth spot in the rotation for the Diamondbacks in Spring Training, but he's been nothing short of phenomenal since taking over that role, pitching like the ace of the staff. He has yet to lose a game this season, and Arizona is 12-0 in his starts. He's been by far the most dependable starter for the club, and has given Arizona a chance to win every time he has pitched.
There is also one more player that sometimes is overlooked for the Diamondbacks, and this is reliever Josh Collmenter. Collmenter is the unsung hero of the bullpen, because he has the job that most relief pitchers would do anything to avoid, but Collmenter is the perfect guy for Arizona to have as the long man out of the bullpen. He's bailed Arizona out in extra-inning games, and saved the bullpen from being too taxed.
He has worked two games where he had to throw at least four innings, and it's impossible to overstate how significant and valuable this kind of performance is for a bullpen and for the team at large. Very few teams have a pitcher in their bullpens that they could call upon to pitch effectively in this kind of role, but Collmenter is very much that kind of pitcher.
The one thing that makes him very effective is that he has a deceptive throwing motion, and this impacts how opposing teams approach him. Most pitchers in professional baseball throw overhand, but Collmenter's delivery is unusual in that he throws straight over-the-top. The way he developed this unique throwing motion is that when he was young, he threw tomahawks at tree stumps in the woods with his brothers. The aspect that makes him really tough on hitters is the arm angle. The average right-hander throws from about 10 o’clock, but Collmenter is straight up-and-down at 12 o’clock, and this allows him to hide the ball for longer than would be possible throwing from a conventional arm slot. This deception is what allows him to get by throwing a fastball that sometimes barely cracks 85 mph. He also throws a change-up that further confounds hitters, coming from the same arm slot and dropping like a rock before reaching home plate. Some of his teammates call it the “invisiball,” and it is a tough pitch to make contact with.
Collmenter on the season is holding the opposition to just a .219 batting average and has a 2.86 ERA. He has done a great job of limiting the damage done by both left-handed and right-handed pitchers this season, as indicated by holding righties to a .211 average and lefties to a .231 average.
Collmenter is just what the Diamondbacks needed this season, with them playing so many close and extra-inning games. An unsung hero as the bullpen swing man, he will be a big part of their success should they make the playoffs in 2013, and he will have helped his team immensely in their ruin at a pennant.