2022 Stats: 31 GS, 184 IP, 12-2, 192 K’s, 2.54 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 158 ERA+, 5.1 WAR
DOB: August 3rd, 1995 (27 years old)
2022 Earnings: $745,600
2023 Status: Pre-arb, contract tendered, and hopefully contending for the NL Cy Young Award
Let’s start with a brief recap of Gallen’s season.
- 31 games started, zero games on the IL
- Fourth best ERA in the National League
- Fifth best ERA+ in the NL
- Sixth highest WAR total for a pitcher in the NL
- Best WHIP in the NL
- Best H/9 in all of Major League Baseball
I probably could end this article right there, and no one would leave the site wonder why Zac Gallen easily took the top spot in our rankings this season. The voters clearly favorited him over all the other choices, with Gallen getting an average score of 0.74 higher than second place Merrill Kelly and 1.44 over third place Christian Walker. Both of those players had fine seasons themselves, and Walker even had the same WAR as Gallen did. However, Gallen’s impact on the team and evolving into the Ace that Hazen traded top prospect Jazz Chisholm for.
Going into the season, the Diamondbacks had many question marks and concerns on the roster. Gallen was no exception. He had show flashes of brilliance since coming over from the Marlins, even winning the Best Pitcher and MVP Pitties in 2020, and finishing 1st overall in the postseason rankings that year as well. However, 2021 saw him take a huge step backwards, with a first half that was riddled with injuries, limiting him to just 21 games started and 121.1 IP. He was entering his fourth season in the league, and he had yet to pitch a full season’s worth of games. Worries were starting to take nebulous shape at the edges of thought.
There was a clear path still for him to reach his ceiling, however. In Gallen’s 2021 review, Michael said Gallen still could be a 4-5 WAR pitcher as long as he avoided major injuries and managed to throw 30 plus starts a year. This year, exactly that happened.
Gallen didn’t waste much time in starting the season off on the right foot. Other than a few of his early starts being a bit short, following the lockout and compressed Spring Training, he rattled off seven straight starts with two ER’s or less. In those first seven starts, he only gave up more than two hits in two of them, and only more than two walks in a different two, setting the stage early on for his NL leading WHIP. At this point, his ERA was a miniscule 1.14, his WHIP was 0.71, and opposining hitters were only getting on base at a .220 clip.
As much as we would have liked that to continue, he was never going to be able to keep that up for an entire season. On May 24th, he gave up six runs in 5.1 IP to the Kansas City Royals, and for the next few months, he started to look more like a normal human, rather than Prime Years Nolan Ryan. He had great starts, such as his six inning, one ER, 11 K game against the Padres on June 21st. He had bad games, like his 1.2 inning, six run (four earned) blow out against the Phillies on June 10th. By the start of August, his ERA was a little better than league average, but nothing spectacular. Merrill Kelly actually had him beat by that metric at the time. But he was solid and healthy.
On August 8th, he pitched seven innings of shutout baseball. In Jim’s recap of the game, even before we knew what happened next, he specifically called out Gallen’s efficency, noting it was his second most efficient game of his career, only behind the one hitter he through in the 2020 season. That efficiency would be on display in spades in the coming games. Beyond that, it just seemed like a good start for a good pitcher. In the comments only one post from Hacks even mentioned Gallen, and that was more in reference to Brian Anderson previously holding the Diamondbacks record for most undefeated home starts in a season.
The next start, we learned that Zac Gallen had the second best ERA of any pitcher with more than 25 IP at Coors Field after his shutout on the 13th. The third shutout, Steve Burt made a point of his very high WPA of 25.6% in route to a win against the Giants. It wasn’t until his start on August 24th that the scoreless streak was mentioned in a preview or a recap of one of his starts. By then, it was already 27 1⁄3 innings. After the sixth start, Gallen went into Coors Field with a shot at passing Zach Greinke’s scoreless streak for fourth longest all time. Going into the game, everyone knew that keeping the streak intact for a second start at Coors Field was going to be challenging at best. Even as the Rockies continue to struggle, everyone is a threat to hit a home run at pretty much any given time in that park. The fears were correct, but ultimately, the streak came to an end via a thousand paper cuts rather than a home run. Three singles later, the Rockies were on the board, the first time a team had managed that against Zac Gallen in 42 1⁄3 innings.
A few more quality starts later, and the season came to an end.
The streak firmly cemented him in Dbacks and MLB history, as well as the conversation for the Cy Young award. It was always going to be an uphill battle for Gallen to pass Sandy Alcantara to win the award, though, and ultimately he finished fifth, which I personally find to be BS. Jack, however, took a more measured approach and determined that it wasn’t unreasonable. No one is perfect :-)
The final flourish on Gallen’s season? In the new CBA, a bonus pool for high performing pre-arb players was established. There are two parts. One is based off award votes and the other a performance based bonus from a hybrid WAR that MLB created just for the purpose. Gallen recieved an additional million dollars for his fifth place finish in the Cy Young award, and then an additional six hundred thousand and change for his performance. It was the fourth highest bonus in the sport, and the highest in National League. It was double his entire salary for the 2022 season.
Like Michael said in 2021, the pathway for Gallen is clear. If he continues to be efficient, injury-free, and pitch in 30-35 starts per year, he will have several more chances to bring home that hardware. Having a Gallen on the team who is living up to his potential will have many benefits for the Diamondbacks. It’s obviously always a good thing to have an ace pitcher, but especially so for a team with as questionable a bullpen and such a young rotation. Gallen will take pressure off the bullpen once every five days, and give most, if not occasionally all, of the pitchers there a day off. He’ll also take pressure off of the young rookies, giving them someone they can learn from, lean on, and will help pick up the slack from any growing pains that they may encounter. In baseball, there’s no such thing as an automatic win, but Gallen’s starts going forward should be as close as a team can get.
2022 saw Zac Gallen take the step forward we had all been hoping for since July 31st, 2019. It was a welcome sight, and just as good, if not better, than we had been hoping for. I would not be surprised at all if next season, Gallen once again is the #1 Diamondback in our offseason reviews.
And with that, our 2022 reviews are concluded. But don’t worry! There are only 41 days until pitchers and catchers report!