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2022 Diamondbacks Most Valuable Player: Zac Gallen

What, I have to write MORE good things about him? :)

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I thought this was going to be closer than it was, based on the similar amount of “recs” Zac Gallen and Christian Walker got in the nominations thread. However, in the end, it wasn’t that close, although Gallen did fall well short of achieving an overall majority. He did get almost twice as many votes as the second-placed Walker, but almost 37% of people went for Daulton Varsho, Merrill Kelly or Jake McCarthy (Josh Rojas was left on the outside, pressing his nose against the glass like a sad puppy). Gallen becomes a two-time MVP, following on the heels of Brandon Webb and five-time champion, Paul Goldschmidt.

The problem for me writing this, is much the same I faced two years ago, when Gallen had similarly won Pitcher of the Year and was also the #1 Diamondback in our player rankings, before completing the trifecta with an MVP victory. There really isn’t much more left to be said about his performance! But let me start by dropping this in here:

Yes, Gallen’s performance for Arizona through his current age 26 season, is almost the same in terms of ERA+ as the team’s best homegrown pitcher, Brandon Webb. Obviously, there’s a discrepancy in terms of innings, in favor of Webb, though it’s partly a result of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, where Gallen could throw only 72 frames. This translates into a bWAR edge for Webb of just over three wins: he was worth 14.2 wins through age 26 for the D-backs, while Gallen has been worth 11.1. But in terms of the quality of the innings the two men have thrown for Arizona, there’s a case to be made Gallen has the edge, with a slightly-better fielding-independent ERA (FIP).

I’m certainly hoping the parallels between the two pitchers continue going forward, because it was the age 27 season where Webb took things to the next level. He won the Cy Young award and began a three-year spell during which time he was the best pitcher in the National League. I think we’d all take that from Gallen during his arbitration eligible seasons, before he is scheduled to become a free agent in 2026. Of course, the story of Webb after that epic run was a tragic four innings of work, one of the biggest what-ifs in team history. I fervently pray that Gallen can begin diverging from the path of Brandon then, even if Zac chooses to leave Arizona for a potentially huge pay-day elsewhere.

Based purely on the 2022 season, Gallen’s 5.1 bWAR was the second-best by a young pitcher (age 26 or below) in the National League, trailing only Sandy Alcantara’s 8.0 bWAR for the Marlins. A factor there though was, again, innings pitched: Alcantara’s 228.2 innings pitched was the most by any young pitcher for almost a decade, since Clayton Kershaw tossed 236 innings in 2013. The closest approach to that had, ironically, been Madison Bumgarner 226.2 IP in 2016 for the Giants. Arms are treated a good deal more cautiously these days, so we’ll see whether this workload has a negative impact on Alcantara going forward. I’m fine with Gallen’s 184 innings of work this year, and hope for many more.

Previous winners

The 2022 SnakePit awards