The Diamondbacks' Longest Season

Josh Collmenter trots in from the bullpen. Must be extra innings. - Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

If it seems like the 2013 campaign would never end, there's good reason for that. According to Elias, the Diamondbacks played a Major-League-record 1,538 innings this year.

Overview

That number surpassed the regular-season record, set by the 1964 Yankees - and they actually took 164 games to reach their mark of 1,537 innings. For that was back in the day when contests could end tied, and the numbers would still count for the official statistics, just not the final standings. Here are a few other nuggets of interest

  • Elias also reports that our 80 extra innings played finished two shy of Major League record 82 innings by 1918 Washington Senators
  • D-backs' franchise-record 25 extra-inning games were 2 shy of NL-record 27 by 1943 Braves, 1967 Dodgers and 1990 Astros.
  • Arizona's 17 wins and 11 road wins were club records, and were the most in the National League for 14 seasons, matching the tally of the 1999 Braves (17) - the MLB record is 19, set by the 1959 Pirates, who went a remarkable 19-2.
  • No other team in baseball had more than 12 extra-inning wins, and the D-backs were particularly good on getaway day, going 10-2 in extra innings.
  • We also continued to be unstoppable in the real marathons, going 4-0 in games which went past fourteen innings. Arizona has won eight such straight, not having lost one since April 2005.
  • Arizona had seven games where their pitchers recorded at least one out in the 14th innings. The other four teams in the division combined for only five, while the Mets (4) and Cardinals (5) were the only major-league teams who had more than three.

History

It didn't take long for the records to start falling. The opening series at Chase ended with a barn-burner against the Cardinals, a five hour, 32 minute epic which was the longest in stadium history. It saw St. Louis blow four leads before Cliff Pennington drove home the winning run in the 16th inning, with Josh Collmenter getting the win with five innings of relief. The team also won series finales in Milwaukee and against the Yankees in New York, and scratched out back-to-back extra inning wins in San Francisco, the first consecutive victories in these since June 12-13, 2008. Matt Reynolds closed out both games, the only two saves he'd have this year.

The Diamondbacks ran their extra-inning record to 6-0 before suffering their first defeat, going down 4-2 in 10 innings to the Phillies at Chase: the visitors scored two in the ninth and two in the tenth to snatch victory. The June series in St. Louis again featured some bonus baseball and another heroic performance from Collmenter. He pitched four scoreless innings, again getting the W as the Diamondbacks prevailed, 7-6 in 14 innings, this one lasting seven minutes short of five hours. He also won our next extra-inning contest eight days later, when we scored four in the 12th and survived the Heath Bell Experience, beating the Dodgers 8-6.

Arizona's first series of July took place in New York, and featured two extra inning games. We lost the first in 13 innings, but three days later, survived blowing saves in the 13th and 14th innings, finally holding on in the 15th. By one measure, it was the most exciting game in the National League this year. After the break, the games continued to pile up: in particular, one six-day period featured consecutive contests of 11- and 14-innings against the Orioles, both won by Bell, and a 16-inning game in Pittsburgh, where Wade Miley and the bullpen blanked the Pirates for fourteen frames in a row.

That was just a warm-up for what would happen a further six days later in Philadelphia, when we would battle the Phillies in the longest game ever by the D-backs. It lasted seven hours and six minutes, finishing well after 2am local time. Here are some stats, taken from our recap of this monstrous beast:

  • Adam Eaton became the first player with 10 at-bats in a game since the Rockies Willie Taveras on April 17, 2008.
  • Over their first 2,557 regular season-games, no Diamondback had five walks. Two did here (Campana + Pennington). They were the first team-mates in the live ball era with five times in the same game.
  • Arizona's 18 walks blew away the previous franchise record of 13. Only one other team since 1971 has had as many.
  • The Phillies threw 395 pitches, fifty more than any other team since they started tracking those things. Their bullpen worked 17.1 innings, as their starter had to leave in the first.
  • During our five-run 18th, Cahill got an RBI single in the 18th off McDonald. When was the last time a regular starting pitcher got a hit off a regular starter who was pitching?

Nothing afterward could quite compare: while we did play in six further extra-inning games, none of them went past the twelfth inning. That was the most well-pitching such game, as we held the Padres to one unearned run on seven hits, Didi Gregorius driving in the go-ahead run with a triple in the 12th. The last of the season took place too days later, extra-inning contest #25 being only our second loss of the year on get-away day, San Diego walking off at Petco (in front of me and Mrs. SnakePit), with a 3-2 victory. Is it time for bed yet?

Pitching

RK Player ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG WHIP
1 Collmenter, J 2.48 29.0 28 8 8 3 12 28 .257 1.38
2 Bell, H 2.77 13.0 12 4 4 2 2 13 .235 1.08
3 Ziegler, B 0.00 8.2 6 0 0 0 6 5 .200 1.38
4 Reynolds, M 4.26 6.1 8 3 3 0 1 6 .308 1.42
5 Sipp, T 0.00 4.2 1 0 0 0 2 7 .067 0.64
6 Cahill, T 0.00 4.0 2 0 0 0 1 2 .143 0.75

Roe, C 2.25 4.0 2 1 1 1 5 5 .167 1.75
8 Putz, J 0.00 3.1 1 0 0 0 3 6 .091 1.20
9 De La Rosa, E 0.00 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 0.00
Harris, W 0.00 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 1.00
Hernandez, D 9.00 1.0 1 1 1 0 1 1 .250 2.00
12 Thatcher, J 27.00 0.1 3 1 1 0 0 0 .750 9.00

No doubt who was our emperor of extras. Josh Collmenter was the go-to guy, throwing however many innings we needed. Before this season, and excluding Randy Johnson's power-outage "bullpen" appearance, the maximum number of pitches ever by a D-backs reliever was 73 (Andrew Good in 2004). Collmenter passed that mark three times: ironically, his longest outing wasn't even an extra-inning game, but the one where he replaced Trevor Cahill after one inning. However, he pitched in the majority of them, appearing 13 times, averaging seven outs per game, and going 7-4 with a 2.48 ERA. He had nine outings of 3+ innings; no-one else in the league had more than five.

It wasn't just Collmenter (even though he did throw 38% of all the extra frames pitched by Arizona!). All told, the bullpen (and our pitchers - we mustn't forget Cahill's emergency outing!) were a huge part of why our team performed so well: shutting the other side down when their team needed it most. That's why they had the highest leverage index of any relief corps, and why their 163 shutdown outings was the most in the major-leagues. Over the 76.1 additional innings required from them this season, they struck out 75, put up a collective ERA of 2.12 and held opposing batters to a .230 average.

Hitting (min 10 AB)

RK Player AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
1 Prado, M 31 2 4 1 0 0 4 2 1 0 0 .129 .176 .161 .338
2 Parra, G 29 4 6 3 0 0 5 3 8 1 1 .207 .281 .310 .592
3 Goldschmidt, P 28 4 8 1 0 1 2 9 6 0 0 .286 .459 .429 .888
4 Gregorius, D 23 4 6 2 1 0 2 3 7 0 0 .261 .346 .435 .781
5 Pollock, A 22 3 5 1 0 0 0 4 5 1 0 .227 .346 .273 .619
6 Pennington, C 19 4 9 2 0 0 3 3 2 0 0 .474 .545 .579 1.124
7 Eaton, A 16 3 6 3 0 0 3 0 2 0 0 .375 .375 .563 .938
7 Montero, M 16 2 5 1 0 0 0 3 5 0 0 .313 .450 .375 .825
9 Hill, A 15 0 4 0 0 0 2 1 1 0 1 .267 .313 .267 .579
9 Nieves, W 15 0 3 1 0 0 1 0 4 0 0 .200 .188 .267 .454
11 Ross, C 13 3 6 3 0 1 4 3 0 0 0 .462 .529 .923 1.452
12 Chavez, E 10 0 2 1 0 0 3 2 1 0 0 .200 .385 .300 .685

If you were asked who the most valuable Diamondback in extra innings was, your first reaction might be Paul Goldschmidt, and it would be reasonable, because betting against Goldzilla is a bad move. He was certainly solid - as in everything else - but the man with more extra-inning hits than anyone was Cliff Pennington, who went 9-for-19, and put up a .545 on-base percentage. In more limited playing time, Cody Ross was also a powerhouse, going 6-for-13 with a home-run and three doubles. At the other end, we find Martin Prado, who didn't live up to his "clutch" legend, at least here, going just 4-for-31.

Overall, the team's performance at the plate was much more in line with their normal output. Their overall OPS in extras was .726, only 11 points above their total figure for the season, and tied for sixth in the National League. Of course, that's less surprising when you learn that, at 284 at-bats, they were the only team with more than two hundred ABs, so the "small sample size" warning applies a bit less than usual! Interestingly, even with the presence of Tony Campana at times, there were only four stolen-base attempts by the team in extra innings: two succeeded, two failed.

Looking forward

Will this good performance be reproducible going forward? To start with, let's see if Arizona's record here was in line with what we'd expect, or if there is cause for concern next season. In extra-innings games, we outscore the opposition by a margin of 128-112, which would convert to a Pythag expected record of 14-11, three games below what we achieved. However, if you look purely at those extra innings (since all those games were tied after nine), the run margin was 34-18, almost two to one. That works out to a much better 19.5 expected wins, though obviously, with a much smaller sample size.

It's general sabermetric thought that one-run records largely come down to "luck", tending to even out across seasons (see the D-backs in 2007/2008 for a good case in point). Whether the same applies to extra inning performance is something I'll save for another day. There may be more control: as we've seen, getting good results out of the bullpen can certainly be a huge help. However, our extra-inning ERA was 1.4 runs better than our overall bullpen ERA. If, as it seems, the team played "over their heads" in such situations, that may not be sustainable, due to the ephemeral creature which is clutchiness. I'm not optimistic it's something on which we should rely for 2014.

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