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World Series of Arizona Diamondbacks: 2016 @ 2002

A preliminary round upstart gets another chance to take down a higher seed.

MLB: APR 13 Diamondbacks at Dodgers Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


The 2002 Diamondbacks followed up their historic World Series Championship in 2001 by winning the NL West again the next year. They won 98 games, 6 more than the previous season. However in a game that served as somewhat of a harbinger of things to come, game 7 hero Luis Gonzalez suffered a season ending shoulder injury, putting a major dent in the post season lineup. Earlier that year another World Series Hero, Danny Bautista, who’d been signed to a three-year deal prior to the season, went down with a season ending injury in May. It was a shame, as he was hitting .325 with a 117 OPS+ at the time.

Junior Spivey had an excellent season, making the All-Star team by batting .301/.389/.476 with 16 HR and 103 runs scored. Steve Finley also chipped in with a .287 Avg, 24 HR and 87 RBI, 117 OPS+ of his own. The bench had firepower again from Erubiel Durazzo (136 OPS+) and Greg Colbrunn (148 OPS+). But Tony Womack (71 OPS+), Craig Counsell (78 OPS+) and Mark Grace (86 OPS+) combined to help drag the team OPS+ down to a mediocre 93, which ranked 8th in the 16 team NL

As the year before, the team rode their two Aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. As great as they were in 2001, their 2002 regular seasons were even better. Combining for a 47-12 record, and each throwing 260 Innings, they were once again virtually unbeatable.

Except Randy was hit hard in a game 1 loss of the NLDS the team would lose to the Cardinals 12-1. Schilling pitched well in game 2, but the offense was nowhere to be found and they lost that game 2-1, on the way to being swept out of the playoffs in 3 games.

The Big Unit gets the ball for this game as the 2002 squad faces off against Lefty Robbie Ray of the 2016 team.

That year’s team never really got it going, as they had a sub .500 record every month of the season, ending with a 69-93 record.

Robbie had a strange year. He posted career highs in Starts (32) and IP (174.1) and had the lowest Walk Rate of any of the last 4 seasons. But he was hit very hard, giving up 24 HR, and was BABIP’d to death, giving up far and away the highest hit rate of his career due to an unbelievable .355 BABIP against. This resulted in an 8-15 Record and a 4.90 ERA, despite a FIP of 3.76, over a run lower.

It’s rather interesting to look at the variance year to year for Ray between his actual run prevention and his peripherals based expected run prevention. For this I’ll flip over to Fangraphs. They post two Value Metrics for Pitchers, RA-9 or Runs Against per 9 IP WAR, and FIP Based WAR. RA-9 counts ALL runs the pitcher allows, earned and unearned. FIP is Fielding Independent pitching, and the inputs are Walks, Strikeouts, and Homeruns.

RA-9 measures the value of what actually happened in terms of runs allowed, while FIP focuses on the things the pitcher can more readily control, as there is limited ability for the pitcher to control the balls in play. (There’s some, but it’s limited)

What this table is telling you is that in 2016 and 2018 Ray was somewhat unlucky and probably pitched better than his results. But in 2017 and 2019 he got better results than he probably deserved. (Although the 3.3 fWAR in 2017 was still very good)

We also see a steep drop off in the underlying quality of his 2019 performance, and that coincided with velocity loss.

It makes it very hard to project what he’ll do going forward and the events of 2020 have only served to make the decision whether to make him a Qualifying Offer for 2021 (Approx 18-19M) a tough one for the team.

But for this one game, anything can happen, (as we’ve learned from these sims). The 2002 team should be the favorite, but 2016 Team actually matched 2002 with a 93 OPS+. Besides Paul Goldschmidt anchoring the offense as usual, Jean Segura (122 OPS+, 203 hits) and Yasmany Tomas (108 OPS+, 31 HR) both had decent years at the plate, (Tomas not so much in the field though). Jake Lamb takes a seat on the bench vs. the Big Unit but may get a chance late in the game.

Game recap

#18 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks 5, #2 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks 12

2016 took the lead in the top of the first on an RBI double by Yasmany Tomas, and another upset looked possible, after their win over the #15 seeds in the preliminary round. But the 2002 D-backs exploded for a seven-run third inning, all the runs scoring with two outs, and blew the game apart. They cantered to victory, Danny Bautista getting four hits, and Matt Williams three plus a trio of RBI. Even though Randy Johnson was tagged for five runs, he struck out sixteen in a complete-game performance for the W.

Things might have been different. After going ahead, 2016 had Rickie Weeks lead off the top of the second with a triple, and looked likely to go 2-0 up. But Johnson bucked down, stranding Weeks there. Instead, the next time 2016 put a man on base, they would find themselves on the wrong end of a 10-1 scoreline. 2002 tied things up in the bottom of the second, Williams crushing a pitch from Robbie Ray into the right-field bleachers. But that third inning ended the game as a meaningful contest.

Luis Gonzalez gave 2002 the lead, his RBI double scoring Tony Womack. After a free pass to Greg Colbrunn, Williams made Ray pay with a line-drive to left which brought Gonzo home for a 3-1 lead. Robbie should have escaped there, getting a fly ball to Weeks in right. However, instead of the final out, it clanked off his glove for an error and another run. That clearly disturbed Ray, who gave up three straight hits - including one to the Big Unit - as well as uncorking a wild pitch. Five unearned runs crossed the plate in total, and 2002 had blown the gates off, taking an 8-1 advantage.

Colbrunn added a two-run homer in the fourth, finally chasing Ray from the game. He allowed as many hits as outs recorded (10 of each), with a walk and four strikeouts. Even discounting the error, he still gave up five earned runs, in a rough outing. To their credit, 2016 didn’t give up, scoring in both the fifth and sixth, on an RBI single by Jean Segura, and a solo homer from Tomas, making the score 10-3. But 2002 were not rattled, getting those runs back in the bottom of the sixth, off the bat of Williams and Junior Spivey.

2016 pulled slightly closer again in the seventh, RBI being credited to David Peralta and Chris Owings. If you’d told them they would score five off Randy Johnson, they’d likely have been happy with that. But it was far from enough on the day, and Johnson continued to rack up the strikeouts. He finished things off most emphatically in the ninth, striking out Nick Ahmed and pinch-hitter Peter O’Brien, then getting Jean Segura to chase Johnson’s 130th and final pitch. as 2002 justified their second seeding with a statement performance.

Full box-score

They move on to the Elite Eight, and await the victors of our next contest. That brings things right up to date, featuring the two most recent Diamondbacks squads from 2018 and 2019, both of whom will be making their debut in the tournament. That will take place a week from today. Here’s the bracket as it stands following this contest, or a link for mobile users.

The result above also means the quarter-finals will feature one Arizona team from the nineties, four from the noughties, and three from the 2010, as the remaining three Sweet Sixteen match-up all see teams from the same decade facing off.


Who will win?

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  • 61%
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  • 38%
    (14 votes)
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