Josh Collmenter was born February 7th, weighing in at 10-pounds, 8-ounces. He was the last of my four children, and the only one who didn’t give me any pain when I gave birth to him. That’s how I knew he was a special child.

Okay, so between those three sentences and the title of this post, perhaps you’ve come to understand that I’ve somehow confused one Sean Carter (commonly referred to as “Jay-Z”) with Josh Collmenter. It’s not that hard to see why. At their peak, they were among the best of their respected professions — Jay-Z as a rapper and Josh as a long man out of the bullpen. They have both provided plenty of entertainment for the public, much of which while wearing size XL professional sports jerseys. Both were ultimately betrayed by those they trusted after they had betrayed those they trusted first. Jay-Z was put in his place by Beyonce via her hit album “Lemonade,” but not until after he cheated on her (allegedly). Collmenter was outright released Sunday by the Diamondbacks, the team that drafted him in 2007, but not until after he’d posted the worst ERA of his career after battling injuries. You can tell, these are basically the same guys.

There’s no denying that Collmenter was a boatload of fun off the field. He had an infectious personality and became a true leader for the D-backs during a time in which there was quite the power vacuum. He served as the team’s long man for a few seasons, making spot starts when needed and never complaining about being bounced around roles on the team. When he was announced as the team’s “ace” and Opening Day starter for 2015, he filled a void by sheltering less-experienced starters and took the ball to begin the season. While we don’t often talk about it here, honors like being announced the team’s Opening Day starter really do garner a bevy of attention. Never one to shy away from the spotlight, instead often opting to make it his own, Collmenter took the ball and did the best he could with raw stuff that would grade out as, well, not very good.

Still, it’s hard to argue that Collmenter didn’t get the most of what he had while wearing a Diamondbacks uniform. He left nothing in reserve. He did all he could. His departure was abrupt, and while one can’t blame the national media for focussing on A-Rod’s release rather than Collmenter’s, Josh’s dismissal has come with surprisingly little fanfare. Maybe that’s because his career with Arizona ended with a whimper. Maybe that’s because there are bigger fish to fry at the moment as the team holds the second-worst record in baseball through 111 games. Saying goodbye to Josh Collmenter seems so minor when most of Baseball Twitter and the greater fanbase seems ready to say goodbye to the team’s front office. And while the front office is still in tact, despite increasing heat from the mainstream media, Collmenter really is gone, just like that.

No matter where Josh Collmenter lands, he’ll always be best known for his throwing style. “The Tomahawk” really was something to behold, and while fans around the country were celebrating triple-digit velocities out of their bullpens, D-backs fans had their own oddity in a guy who threw over the top and a cutter in the lower 80’s to the tune of consistently sub-four ERAs. Baseball’s weird. Josh Collmenter was seemingly weirder, on and off the mound, and it usually worked. He was a special pitcher in a lot of ways.

If there’s a knock on Josh, it’s that he pitched in “non-critical” innings most of the time. His career results as a starter were underwhelming: a 4.03 ERA over 435.2 innings in 75 starts. As a relief pitcher, however, he shined: 223.2 career innings over 125 appearances with a 2.58 ERA. We’ll probably always choose to remember him as a reliever given that he had the bevy of his success in that role, even though he racked up the vast majority of his innings in the rotation. He was better against righties than lefties. He survived by controlling batted balls, letting hitters elevate them, but usually too much and without the required precision to do major damage against him. He didn’t strike a lot of guys out, but he didn’t walk very many either. He was a model of productivity over flashy domination. Watching Josh Collmenter pitch wasn’t every really must-see TV, but he almost never let you down, either. You knew what you were getting with Josh Collmenter.

But the team’s going another direction these days. I wish I could say that that direction is “up,” but that’s not necessarily the case. They are actively trying to get younger, though, and in that way, Josh Collmenter was an easy casualty. His cut fastball had flirted with the low 90’s in 2012. It rarely exceeded 85 this season. It’s been cutting more as it’s slowed down, but the pitch has lost “rise,” the critical element to getting hitters to pop it up. More horizontal movement sounds nice, but the vertical movement was most important, and when coupled with the lost velocity, Josh Collmenter just didn’t look like a major league pitcher any more, not that he ever really did, yet he mostly succeeded. For that, we have to be grateful, because while his innings weren’t always the most important, they were often very good and they often saved the rest of the bullpen. He also gave fun interviews. All of that is worth something.

Josh Collmenter’s pitching days aren’t over; not unless he wants them to be. He’ll get a chance to pitch in the minors somewhere this fall. He’ll show up somewhere next spring. Maybe he’ll take a minor league deal and pitch in AAA, waiting to see if there’s one more call-up ahead of him. fWAR for pitchers is bad. For relievers, it’s even worse. But Josh Collmenter was worth far more than his salary and the Diamondbacks certainly got tremendous value from their right-hander. Someone, somewhere will be willing to take a flyer on him and see if there isn’t just a little more production to milk from that cutter/changeup combo. And in a way, I hope there is. I hope Collmenter can latch on somewhere and find another run of success. Even if it’s not some tremendous re-emergence, I hope he can miss a few more bats and pop up a few more hitters before it’s all over for good.

Josh Collmenter was a blast, and while he rarely dominated, I’m going to miss him. Good luck, Josh.

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4 Responses to The Life and Times of J. Collmenter, Vol. 1

  1. coldblueAZ says:

    Nicely done, Jeff.

  2. Ben H says:

    Great article.

  3. James Attwood says:

    If Collmenter can be key for the Cubs down the stretch this season, it would be very fitting indeed, especially after the way he was dismissed from Arizona. Frankly, I’m pulling for the guy to get another taste of the playoffs. It’s nice to see the nice/good guys rewarded once in a while.

  4. Chung-Han says:

    Very good write up Jeff

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