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Diamondbacks Game Preview #45: 5/24 vs. Royals

How good has Zac Gallen been this year?

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Today's Lineups

Whit Merrifield - RF Daulton Varsho - C
Andrew Benintendi - LF Pavin Smith - DH
Bobby Witt - SS Ketel Marte - 2B
Hunter Dozier - 1B Christian Walker - 1B
MJ Melendez - C David Peralta - LF
Carlos Santana - DH Jake McCarthy - RF
Kyle Isbel - CF Alek Thomas - CF
Emmanuel Rivera - 3B Geraldo Perdomo - SS
Nicky Lopez - 2B Jake Hager - 3B
Jonathan Heasley - RHP Zac Gallen - RHP

Roster moves

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the following roster moves:

  • Reinstated C Jose Herrera from the injured list.
  • Returned C Grayson Greiner to Triple-A Reno following last night’s game.

Gallen is certainly having a hell of a season. At 39.1 innings, he’s just a little short of qualifying for the ERA title. He would need to throw 5.2 innings tonight to reach the “1 IP per team game” mark necessary. But no qualifying pitcher has a better ERA than Zac’s current figure of 1.14. the best being the Marlins’ Pablo Lopez at 1.57. But even if you drop the number of innings to 25, Gallen has the best ERA in the league. It’s also there or thereabout when you look at D-backs’ history. Below are the lowest ERA as a starter by Arizona pitchers to this point in the season (min: six starts).

Best ARI starters, through 44 games

1 Zac Gallen 2022 3 0 1.14 39.1 20 5 5 1 8 39 0.71
2 Randy Johnson 2000 7 1 1.44 81.0 52 17 13 8 16 113 0.84
3 Patrick Corbin 2013 6 0 1.52 53.1 40 9 9 2 17 41 1.07
4 Randy Johnson 2002 7 1 1.88 67.0 49 16 14 6 17 85 0.99
5 Wade Miley 2012 4 1 1.91 37.2 34 9 8 1 10 28 1.17
6 Miguel Batista 2003 3 0 2.09 43.0 39 13 10 2 12 25 1.19
7 Zac Gallen 2020 1 1 2.29 55.0 37 14 14 6 17 60 0.98
8 Randy Johnson 2004 5 4 2.44 70.0 38 22 19 6 17 86 0.79
9 Brandon Webb 2006 7 0 2.44 73.2 73 21 20 5 8 48 1.10
10 Trevor Cahill 2013 3 4 2.48 58.0 44 17 16 3 24 43 1.17

Gallen’s ERA is the lowest by three-tenths of a run, so it is not even close. However, a couple of things must be said in favor of Randy Johnson, the man occupying the second spot on the list. Firstly, he pitched in a much more offensively heavy environment. The NL ERA in 2000 was 4.63, and that was with pitchers hitting for themselves. The NL ERA this year is 4.01. Also, look at the number of innings the Big Unit pitched: more than twice as many as Gallen to the same point in the season. Part of that is more starts (10 vs. 8): Buck Showalter rolled RJ out there, every fifth day, off-days or not. But he had five complete games and didn’t record fewer than 20 outs. Gallen has reached that number just once so far.

Now, I would not expect Gallen to continue to post an ERA beginning with one. However, even his fielding-independent ERA is 2.44, which is close to one and a half runs better than his career figure coming into 2022 (3.91). The main factors there are, Zac has really cut his walks back, to 1.8 per nine innings, half his previous career figure, and he has kept the ball in the park, allowing only one home-run to date. While the strikeouts have been a little lower than previously, as long as his K:BB ratio sits around it’s current figure, just shy of 5:1, it’s hard to be too concerned. He’s also in the top 10% in terms of avoiding hard contact, as measured by average exit velocity. That helps his fielders, and leads to a lower BABIP.

Hopefully it’ll continue tonight, against one of the (save for the first inning yesterday!) one of the weakest offenses in the league. With Gallen under control through the end of 2025, he is well primed to be part of the next competitive D-backs outfit. I wonder if the team should look into locking him up, though as a Scott Boras client, that’s a difficult ask.

Joe Mather audio [via Jack Sommers]

  • Not much changed from April to May. You’re going to have streaks like that in ever season, but having it at the beginning magnified the scrutiny. The process remained the same.
  • Christian Walker put in a lot of work this winter as to where the holes in his swing and approach were. He has been very consistent, and gives pitchers a lot less options in terms of attacking him e.g. has been less vulnerable to heaters up in the zone.
  • Praised Daulton Varsho for accepting the increased work-load behind the plate.
  • It’s “extremely important” for the team to be firing across the whole line-up, rather than putting all the pressure on Ketel Marte. That consistency is what he wants to see.
  • Carson Kelly has worked a lot on lower-half adjustments, getting back to what he did earlier. A key will be that Kelly needs to trust that he is there, having put in the work.
  • Alek Thomas just needed to settle in, relax and wait for his time to come. We trusted the minor-league staff to get in the work, and keep him ready to go. “It wasn’t a ton of ‘make sure he’s working on this’.”