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World Series of Arizona Diamondbacks: 2018 @ 2002

2018 seek to follow in the footsteps of 2012, and pull off an upset quarter-final win

Padres v Diamondbacks

Preview

In the previous round Paul Goldschmidt had the batting performance of the tournament so far for the 2018 squad. He went 4-4 with 6 RBI, including two homers. That performance backed a mediocre but good enough performance from Patrick Corbin as they defeated 2019. Recap here.

The 2002 team put on their hitting shoes last time out, scoring 12 runs on 17 hits against the 2016 team. 10 of those runs came off Robbie Ray. Randy Johnson went the distance for 2002 despite allowing 5 runs on 10 hits. He struck out 16 and threw 130 pitches. Ah the days… Recap here

Both of today’s teams had a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. This game will feature 2018 ace Zack Greinke going up against the 2002 version of Curt Schilling.

For today’s rabbit hole, I thought I would highlight a few of the non-pitching details for today’s starters.

The first thing you’ll notice in the lineup sheet is that Zack had a 50 OPS+ in 2018, whereas Curt had a -1. Such a large discrepancy didn’t have much impact in the W-L column that year as Zack went 15-11 and Curt’s record was 23-7. They were pretty close in ERA (Zack 3.21, Curt 3.23) and ERA+, (Zack 131, Curt 140).

But Zack’s run support was much weaker. He got just 4.1 Runs per game started. 2018 Arizona scored 4.27 R/G. Despite having a good hitting pitcher in the lineup, the overall support was mediocre.

By contrast, Curt’s received 5.5 R/G in support of his efforts. The D-backs scored a lot of runs in 2002, in fact 5.1 per game was the most in the NL that year. Despite Curt’s wet noodle at the plate, the guys stepped up and scored more for him than they did on average.

**It’s notable that while 2002 was still part of the silly ball era the NL as a whole scored just slightly higher than 2018, 4.45 vs. 4.37 NL year by year averages here

Another point of interest for me was for his career, Zack has been credited with 5.1 Batting WAR and 65.9 Pitching WAR for a total of 71 WAR. Curt had 80.5 Pitching WAR but -1 Batting WAR, for a total of 79.5. The gap between these two pitchers is closed somewhat by their hitting.

BB-REF does not calculate fielding runs for pitchers in pitchers batting WAR section like they do for position players. So you might notice that for Pitchers, their Batting WAR is always the same as their “oWAR”. That is because prior to 2003 they do not have pitcher fielding runs from Total Zone, the fielding metric they used prior to 2003. Since 2003 they have rDRS, (defensive runs saved from Baseball Information Solutions)

Zack has an astounding +79 Defensive Runs Saved per BIS. LINK . This passes the smell test. I can honestly say that Zack is the best fielding pitcher I’ve ever seen day in day out. He’s always in a perfect fielding position, has great reflexes and hands, and always seems to make the heads-up play. Contrast that with a guy like Max Scherzer, who is NOT in good fielding position after he delivers the pitch. Despite being an excellent athlete, he has -18 rDRS for his career.

I didn’t see Mark Buehrle play a lot, but he had +87 from 2003 on and he had over 500 IP prior to 2003, so his total rDRS even more impressive than Zack’s. Someone will surely bring up Greg Maddux. He had +25 rDRS from age 37 onward, which is pretty impressive. I’m sure if we had BIS data for the peak of his career, his numbers would be just as good as these too.

We only have BIS data for Curt during his later years from 2003, and his total is -6. Curt was kinda fat and slow. Lumbering overweight CC Sabathia has -28 rDRS for his career. No surprise there. Madison Bumgarner is +10 for his career. Robbie Ray just +3. Last year Zack lead the league +7, Merrill Kelly was -4, 5th worst in MLB.

These random examples kind of pass the smell test for me on the metric, for the most part. (Although Zack Godley is +1 for career and just -1 last year so obviously can’t account for the yips) If anyone is interested in any one else simply go to Baseball Reference and scroll down to the fielding section of the pitcher’s page…..or ask me in the comments.


Game recap

#10 2018 Arizona Diamondbacks 10, #2 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks 3

A three-run third and a five-run fourth decided this game, as the 2018 D-backs pulled off another shock, blasting Curt Schilling and the 2002 franchise, to move onto the Final Four. Schilling was unable to make it through four inning, being torched for eight runs on 12 hits in just 3.2 innings. That was more than enough support for Zack Greinke, who cruised through eight innings of two-run ball, scattering seven hits. Both starting pitchers walked none and struck out six. Ketel Marte and Paul Goldschmidt each had three hits for 2018, while Daniel Descalso drove in three runs.

It didn’t start out that way, however. Schilling put up a zero in the top of the first, and Tony Womack jumped on an offering from Greinke, dispatching it to center for a solo homer. One batter in, 2002 had taken a 1-0 lead. Neither team could score in the second, but 2018 bounced back, scoring three times in the third. Marte blooped an RBI double to right-center, Goldschmidt added an RBI single, and after a David Peralta single put runners on the corners, Descalso made if 3-1 with a line-drive RBI single to left.

That was. however, merely an appetizer for the main course, which was a five-run fourth. All the damage came after Schilling had got Nick Ahmed and Jeff Mathis, to have two outs and the bases empty. Greinke got things going with a single, and A.J. Pollock launched a two-run homer to center, making it 5-1. Marte, Goldschmidt, Peralta and Descalso all got hits, making six in a row off the 2002 starter, adding three more runs and chasing Schilling. He was somewhat BABIP’d to death, giving up more hits than he retired batters. But there’s no good way to paint an 8-1 deficit after four, even if all eight runs scored with two outs.

Truth be told, the game was not very interesting the rest of the way, with the wind truly taken out of the 2002 D-backs’ sails. Their bullpen didn’t perform badly, Matt Mantei in particular, who retired all seven batters he faced. on only 21 pitches in total. But their offense was unable to get much going against Greinke, who didn’t permit any at-bats with a runner in scoring position until Junior Spivey’s one out double in the bottom of the sixth. Spivey scored on a hit by Erubiel Durazo, to make it 8-2. But John Patterson gave the run right back, Ahmed singling home Peralta in the top of the seventh.

2018 reached double digits in the top of the ninth, as their first three batters reached against Mike Morgan, including a Mathis RBI single. Greinke was lifted for a pinch-hitter after a crisp performance of exactly 100 pitches. He was replaced by Silvino Bracho in the bottom of the ninth, who did give up a solo home-run to Steve Finley. They did put two men on base before pinch-hitter Danny Bautista flew out to the warning track in right, and 2018 were able to celebrate another upset, and advanced on to the semi-finals.

They pounded out a total of 17 hits, with six starters getting multiple hits. Peralta and Mathis each reached base three times, on two hits and a walk. Spivey and Chad Moeller each had two hits for the 2002 team, but for a side seeded to reach the final, this has to be as disappointing an exit as their NLDS one.

Full boxscore

The surprise victory does mean there will be a team outside the top four in the grand final. Today’s victors are the 10th seeds, and they will face the winners of the final quarter-final match-up. That pits our lowest-ranked remaining team, the #19 seeds from 2010 against the #6 seeds of 2007. That will be next Thursday; looking at the schedule, we’ll then have the first semi-final on July 9, and then get the second semi and the championship game played during what would have been the All-Star Break, from July 13-16. Fingers crossed, we should then be within touching distance of actual baseball...

Bracket to date