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World Series of Arizona Diamondbacks: 2004 @ 2007

Can the worst team in franchise history pull off another shock?

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres


EDIT: Due to a typo by Jack, Tracy ended up at SS and Cintron at 3b. Was supposed to be the other way around. However I didn’t realize my error until after Jim ran the sim and wrote the recap. So we let it ride. ;)

In 2007 the Diamondbacks had one of the strangest runs in modern history. Despite a weak offense and negative run differential, they scrapped their way to 90 win in the regular season, a full 11 games better than their Pythagorean W-L record would suggest. This is a record for a division winner.

The combination of excellent pitching, a strong bullpen, and timely hitting propelled them to a 32-20 record in 1 run games. The team’s spiritual leader was Tony Clark, who authored the phrase “Anybody Anytime”. Indeed, they managed to get the big hits at just the right times on a continual basis. Despite ranking 15th in the league in OPS+ (82), they ranked 4th in the NL in OPS in High Leverage Situations and ranked 5th OPS in Late & Close Situations. Flukey or not, sustainable or not, this team managed to come up with the big hits when it counted most throughout the regular season.

Left Fielder Eric Byrnes became the “face of the franchise” and enjoyed a career year, hitting for average, power, stealing bases, and playing good defense. All Star Second Baseman Orlando Hudson had another very solid season for the team, but unfortunately went down with a thumb injury on September 5th, ending his season and making him unavailable for the post season.

Jose Valverde had a big season as the team’s closer, racking up 47 saves.

Edging the Rockies by a 1/2 game in the regular season they swept the Cubs in the NLDS before getting swept themselves in the NLCS by the Rockies.

The 2004 team was simply the worst in franchise history. While Randy Johnson put up a Cy Young Caliber season, posting the highest pitching WAR of anyone in the league, little else went right for the team. The big trade for first baseman Richie Sexson backfired horribly. Giving up multiple players for the slugger cost the team dearly. Just as he was getting going after a slow start, Sexson injured his shoulder on a check swing and after an aborted comeback attempt, was lost for the season.

Off season free agent Roberto Alomar was signed to play 2b, and hit well enough when available, but missed a lot of time due to injury, and then was traded in August. Steve Finley, in his final year before free agency, was moved at the trade deadline to the Dodgers. Young players called upon to fill in such as Scott Hairston & Luis Terrero hit poorly and played even worse defense.

The poor start cost manager Bob Brenly his job when the team had a 29-50 record. Replacement manager Al Pedrique “piloted” them to an even worse 22-61 record the rest of the way.

Today’s game features Brandon Webb vs……Brandon Webb.

In 2004 Webb, coming off a terrific rookie campaign the year before, had a 7-16 record and 3.59 ERA. While his ERA was more than respectable, in fact he led the league in both walks (119) and Wild Pitches (17). Indeed his FIP was almost a full run higher at 4.41. He gave up a whopping 28 un earned runs. While the defense behind him was certainly a big factor in his struggles, his control and command troubles created a lot of self- inflicted damage.

Fast forward to 2007, and Webb was in the middle of a three-year run as the best pitcher in the National League, and arguably the best in all of baseball. He’d cut his walk rate in 2005, and further still in 2006, capturing the Cy Young award that year. He was even better in 2007 despite coming in 2nd in the Cy Young to Jake Peavy

The highlight of Webb’s season was a 42 inning scoreless streak between July 25-August 22nd that included 3 straight complete game shutouts.

For today’s game, the 2004 team will attempt the upset once again. With somewhat of a “rigged” lineup, Alomar and Sexson are both in the lineup, simulating what might have been perhaps.

Will the 2007 version of Webb keep them in check and lead his team onward in the tournament?

Game recap

#22 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks 4, #6 2007 Diamondbacks 5

“Anybody, anytime...” Tony Clark came off the bench with one out in the ninth, hitting a two-run walk-off homer for the 2007 D-backs. It was an agonizing defeat for 2004, who had held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. The much-hyped match-up of Webb vs. Webb lived up to expectations, with both versions tossing complete games. v.2007 held the opposition to six hits and four walks, fanning eight for the W in a 123-pitch effort. v2004 scattered eight hits and three walks, with six strikeouts, in a losing cause.

That prospect looked unlikely over the opening third, the two starters struggling in the early going. 2004 jumped out to a quick lead with one out in the top of the first. Steve Finley walked, and Luis Gonzalez dumped a Texas Leaguer into the right-center gap, which left Gonzo standing on second, while Fins motored all the way around to score. 2007 hit back quickly, scoring three times in their half-inning. They loaded the bases on a single, error bby Chad Tracy (playing the unfamiliar position of shortstop) and walk, then unloaded them on another walk, to Mark Reynolds, and a two-run single off the bat of Chris Snyder v.2007.

But 2004 were not to be cowed, immediately tying things up at three. Roberto Alomar came up clutch with two outs in the second, his triple scoring Snyder v.2004 and Danny Bautista, both of whom had singled to open the frame. They then took the lead in the third. Gonzo singled, Richie Sexson walked and Tracy redeemed himself with a flyball down the right-field line. It bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, scoring Gonzalez but forcing Sexson to stay at third with no outs. And that proved crucial as Webb v.2007 buckled down to strand the runner. He struck out Snyder v.2004, got Bautista to ground out and, after an intentional walk to Alex Cintrox, fanned himself to end the third.

That settled Webb down, and the middle innings generally proved to be quick. Indeed, neither side managed to get a man past first base until two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Snyder blooped one down the line in right for a double. There was only one hit over that point. Orlando Hudson led off the bottom of the fifth, smoking a line-drive single into left-center. That was the only time from the middle of the third through the end of the sixth that either Webb did not face the minimum, helped by a pair of double-plays off the famous Webb sinker.

Both sides drew a walk and stranded it in the seventh, and Snyder’s hit in the eighth was also left on base. Webb hit for himself in the top of the ninth, making it clear that manager Al Pedrique was going to send him out there in the bottom half. Webb v.2004 was greeted by Chris Young with a single, and after Stephen Drew struck out, Bob Melvin replaced his starter with veteran pinch-hitter Clark. Though Young stole second, to move into scoring position, Clark rendered it moot, getting just enough of Webb’s 122nd pitch to get the ball over the wall into the pool area, and set off a raucous celebration at home-plate.

Hudson went 3-for-3 with a walk and Snyder had two hits and a pair of RBI for 2007. Gonzalez had two hits and an RBI for 2004, while Finley drew two walks. 2004’s Cinderally run comes to a heart-breaking end, two outs from pulling off a second shock. Instead, it is 2007 who move on to the quarter-finals, where they will face another upstart, the #19 seeded 2010 Diamondbacks.

Full box-score

That completes the Sweet 16, and we now have the complete line-up of teams for the Elite Eight, which can found below or at this link.

We begin things with the only one of the four contests which has unfolded exactly as imagined by the seeding committee. The top-seeded 1999 Diamondbacks will host the eighth seeds, from the following year of franchise history. That will take place a week on Thursday, June 4th.


Who will win?

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