PHOENIX -- It’s easy to look at the 2001 World Series champion D-backs and immediately think of Luis Gonzalez and his 57 homers. Or maybe Randy Johnson with 21 wins and the Majors' lowest ERA, at 2.49. And Curt Schilling and his 22 wins were also among the headliners of that team.
But don’t overlook the D-backs' bench from that season or deny them the credit they deserve for the lone major professional championship in Arizona state history.
The American League ranked the top five designated hitters in each franchise this week, as part of MLB.com’s all-time by position series each week. So the National League beat reporters are looking at the best utility/bench player in each club's history. That’s where the D-backs' 2001 contingent comes in.
Brenly used 123 different lineups during the 2001 regular season and had a different lineup in 15 of the team’s 17 postseason games.
“We had a great bench,” Brenly said. “A lot of those guys could have been everyday players in other situations. [Former D-backs bench coach] Bob Melvin and I spent a lot of time figuring out the best matchups for these guys, both to start games and when to have them pinch-hit.”
Colbrunn, Dellucci, Durazo and Bautista combined for 14 homers, with Durazo and Dellucci each hitting five, Colbrunn contributing three and Bautista, who appeared in 100 games, including 42 as a starter, chipped in one.
In the postseason, Durazo hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the NL Championship Series that broke open a tie game as the D-backs eliminated the Braves.
The 14 regular-season homers from the bench set a Major League record at the time matched only by the Giants, who also accomplished the feat in 2001.
“Our bench was amazing,” Colbrunn said. “Erubiel, God, he could hit. David Dellucci, he was really good coming off the bench. He had a short swing and he could hit a fastball so he could get to anyone. Danny could have started if not for us having Reggie Sanders in right. Durazo and Dellucci had five pinch-hit home runs, I mean, that’s unbelievable.”
In fact, the D-backs were the first team to have two players hit five pinch-hit homers.
Overall, the D-backs' pinch-hitters were 76-for-274 (.277) and in addition to the 14 homers, they also had 14 doubles, good for a .478 slugging percentage, an .836 OPS and a 150 OPS+.
The key to getting buy-in from the players, according to then-D-backs general manager Joe Garagiola Jr., was that Brenly and Melvin did a good job of letting the players know when they would play based on upcoming matchups.
“As a result, I think guys really embraced their roles,” Garagiola said. “They understood that they were going start infrequently, but they were going to get used a lot and it would be big situations and they had a chance to make big contributions. So the whole bench -- Colby, Durazo, Dellucci, Bautista -- they knew they were going to get their chance and it was going to be in a big spot. And boy did they produce. We had guys that could come off the bench in the eighth and ninth innings when you’re seeing the best bullpen guys, and man, did we have guys that could handle that.”
They sure did.