Kelly became the seventh Diamondbacks pitcher in franchise history to throw a quality start in his MLB debut, and the first since Zack Godley in July 2015. It was, admittedly, a squeaker in terms of quality starts, being the bare minimum in both innings pitched (six) and earned runs allowed (three). But on the other hand, it consisted of five excellent innings, and a mistake pitch which Fernando Tatis Jr. brutalized with the enthusiasm of a lion spotting a gazelle wearing a surgical boot. Still, you’d have got long odds against Kelly being the first member of the 2019 rotation to throw a quality start, and after the horrors of our pitching in Los Angeles, it seems churlish to quibble about the quality of the quality start.
Below are details of last night’s outing, and how it compares to the six previous QS debuts for Arizona.
D-backs quality starts in debuts
|Geraldo Guzman||Jul 6, 2000||HOU||W 2-1 (W)||8.0||4||1||1||1||3||0||72|
|John Patterson||Jul 20, 2002||SDP||W 7-1 (ND)||6.0||3||1||1||2||4||1||64|
|Enrique Gonzalez||May 28, 2006||CIN||L 4-5 (ND)||6.0||3||1||1||1||4||1||65|
|Tyler Skaggs||Aug 22, 2012||MIA||W 3-2 (W)||6.2||3||2||2||5||4||1||59|
|Archie Bradley||Apr 11, 2015||LAD||W 6-0 (W)||6.0||1||0||0||4||6||0||72|
|Zack Godley||Jul 23, 2015||MIL||W 8-3 (W)||6.0||4||0||0||0||7||0||71|
|Merrill Kelly||Apr 1, 2019||SDP||W 10-3 (W)||6.0||5||3||3||2||3||1||51|
What’s notable is, of course, Kelly’s age: 30 years and 169 days. That’s about two years and ten months more than the next-oldest on the list (Gerardo Guzman), and nine years older than our youngest QS debutant, Tyler Skaggs. It makes him the third-oldest rookie to pitch their first game for the Diamondbacks. I’m sure you can guess Yoshihisa Hirano is top; the other was Matt Buschmann, 32 when he appeared for Arizona in 2016. Since the D-backs entered the majors in 1998, only four older players have pitched a quality start and got a win in their first appearance. Unsurprisingly, three of those are Japanese “rookies” [Kenshin Kawakami, Hiroki Kuroda and Masato Yoshii], while the fourth was Orlando Hernandez.
With his three scoreless innings, Duplantier also joins his own elite club. There were also six previous Diamondbacks to throw three or more scoreless innings in their debut, though Kelly is the only one to have picked up a save. Unsurprisingly, there is some over lap with the list above for Kelly: Archie Bradley and Zack Godley’s first times on the mound, appear on both tables. However, there are some new entries to consider as well.
3+ scoreless innings in debut
|Micah Owings||Apr 6, 2007||WSN||W 7-1 (W)||5.0||1||0||0||3||6||0|
|Max Scherzer||Apr 29, 2008||HOU||L 4-6 (ND)||4.1||0||0||0||0||7||0|
|Jarrod Parker||Sep 27, 2011||LAD||W 7-6 (ND)||5.2||4||0||0||1||1||0|
|Andrew Chafin||Aug 13, 2014||CLE||W 1-0 (ND)||5.0||3||0||0||2||3||0|
|Archie Bradley||Apr 11, 2015||LAD||W 6-0 (W)||6.0||1||0||0||4||6||0|
|Zack Godley||Jul 23, 2015||MIL||W 8-3 (W)||6.0||4||0||0||0||7||0|
|Jon Duplantier||Apr 1, 2019||SDP||W 10-3 (Sv)||3.0||1||0||0||0||2||0|
The closest parallel is probably the first appearance of future Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, which is the only such game where the pitcher appeared in relief. Similarly to Duplantier, Scherzer was a highly-rated prospect whose arrival was hotly anticipated. But if Jon’s first appearance was good, Scherzer’s was off-the-charts amazing. He faced thirteen batters that night, and retired all of them, seven by the strikeout. I wrote at the time, ‘Tonight may be one of those games we look back on in twenty years and say, “Yes, I remember seeing Scherzer make his major-league debut.”’ Almost 10 years on, it’s certainly true; here’s to us saying the same thing about Duplantier’s debut, in 2029!