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2022 Diamondbacks Pitcher of the Year: Zac Gallen

My final unsurprised face of 2022.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Houston Astros Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

I could have started writing this article as soon as the poll was posted, since the result was more or less a foregone conclusion. And, lo, it did come to pass: there have not been many cases where a single player has passed the 90% mark in one of our Awards polls. So this is definitely one of the bigger landslides in SnakePit history. We’ll be hearing more about Gallen’s season when we get to his spot in our player reviews next week, and I don’t want to steal ish95’s thunder. But let me see if I can highlight some more obscurist numbers, which show how good a season Gallen had.

I suspect the people who didn’t vote for Gallen, probably did so simply to acknowledge the contributions of the other pitchers, knowing it would not make the slightest difference to the overall outcome. And I’m fine with that. For Gallen was not just the best D-backs pitcher this year, he was only the second Arizona pitcher since 2009 to be worth more than five bWAR in a season; the other being Zack Greinke in 2017. You could argue Gallen’s performance was actually better, with a higher ERA+ and lower WHIP and FIP than Greinke, though Zack-with-a-K did throw eighteen more innings than Zac-without-a-K. So you could say Gallen’s was the best season for Arizona since Dan Haren in 2009.

At the core was Gallen’s franchise-record scoreless streak. Those of us who remember the run of previous record holder, Brandon Webb, would be forgiven for thinking they’d not see anything like it again by a Diamondback in their lifetime. After all, over the 15 years since Webb’s 42 consecutive zeroes, only one pitcher in all of the majors had matched it (oddly, Greinke, back in his Dodger days with 4523 scoreless innings during the 2015 season). But Gallen went even further than Webb, tossing 4413 innings, the seventh longest streak without allowing a run, in the history of the American and National Leagues. Below, are the seven starts which formed the heart of the streak, and a post-streak interview with Zac.

He wasn’t exactly terrible the rest of the season either. Gallen produced easily the best starting pitching performance of the year on September 22, when he tossed eight innings of two-hit ball, with 13 strikeouts and no walks. Oh, yeah: that was against the toughest offense in the majors this season, the LA Dodgers - they averaged 5.23 runs per game, when nobody else even reached five. He had two other starts with a Game Score of 80 or better, and delivered seven of the eight highest Game Scores by a D-backs starter this year (Merrill Kelly pitching the other). His average Game Score of 61.5 was a full five points higher than anyone else, and the best by a qualifying AZ starter since Randy Johnson’s 64.8 in 2004.

Gallen also threw a quality start in 61% of appearances, the highest figure by a qualified AZ starter over a full season since Greinke reached 64% in 2018. Before that, you need to go back to 2013 (Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley). When looking at this stat, it’s worth noting how uncommon the QS has become. In 2013, it was more common than not for a pitcher to throw a quality start (53% of MLB games); this year, it happened little more often than one start in three (37%) - and that’s with the addition of the DH in the National League, which should have helped starting pitchers to go deeper into games. For Zac to be so far in excess of league average, is more evidence for his spectacular performance in 2022.

It’s Gallen’s second win in this category, which puts him alongside Greinke (2016 + 2019), Patrick Corbin (2013 + 2018) and Brandon Webb (2007 + 2008) as repeat honorees. Though since Webby won MVP in 2006, the year before we started the Pitcher of the Year award, he really should be considered a three-time champion. I suspect Gallen may well challenge Webb before many more seasons have passed.

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