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D-backs Post-season Notes #7: Pfenomenal

Arizona are not going quietly into the night

Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I’ve typically been doing these on the frequent post-season off-days. But after yesterday’s thrilling victory, there’s just so much to talk about, that I figured a special bonus edition was in order. Besides, if Steven isn’t going to use TheGoldenSombrero’s title, I’m going to sweep in and steal it...

Rookie of the (playoff) year?

Corbin Carroll will win the BBWAA award. But in some ways, Brandon Pfaadt's success is almost more impressive, because it feels he had to overcome greater adversity. In the regular season, he had a 5.72 ERA over 18 starts and one relief appearance - that's the highest ERA with as many starts, by any pitcher to start a postseason game. He was below replacement level (-0.4 bWAR) coming into the playoffs. But, slowly and surely, with spells in the minors, he figured stuff out. At the All-Star break, he had a 9.82 ERA. For the second half, it came down to 4.22. And this postseason, against baseball's best and in the most pressing of circumstances, he has three starts with a 2.13 ERA and a K:BB ratio of 15:1.

Youth movement

Since 1981, the only rookie with 3+ starts in a single postseason and a better ERA, is the Braves' Ian Anderson (one of only three men to get Rookie of the Year votes in two seasons!). It's lower than Fernando Valenzuela managed in his rookie campaign. Pfaadt became the first Diamondback ever to throw consecutive scoreless playoff starts. Randy Johnson never managed it. Brandon Webb never managed it. He became the first pitcher EVER to have consecutive postseason starts with no runs and no walks. Including his final two games of the regular season, Brandon has a K:BB ratio over his last five games of 31:1. Pfaadt just turned 25 last weekend.

Pulling Pfaadt

The Chase Field crowd were not happy to see Torey Lovullo come out and pull Brandon in the sixth inning, boos raining down at the decision. Their concerns seem justified when a wild pitch the following frame broke the deadlock and gave Philadelphia the lead. But it worked out okay in the end, and the numbers emphatically back up Lovullo. Seeing Pfaadt as a starter for the third time, opponents hit .397/.413/.779 for an OPS of 1.193. Basically, they become Barry Bonds. Now, maybe Brandon has figured that out as well. Maybe not. I'd rather find out the answer against the Rockies, in Game #3 of the 2024 regular season, than take the chance in a scoreless Championship Series contest.

Win Probability Added.

At +34.5%, Pfaadt's WP was the best by any D-back pitcher since the 2001 run. Remarkably (though partly due to the different times), in that season, SIX Arizonans had higher WP. Curt Schilling + Johnson had two each in complete games, plus Miguel Batista for Game 5 in the World Series and Byung-Hyun Kim for a six-out save in the NLCS clincher. But Pfaadt wasn’t even the highest WP yesterday. Perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t Ketel Marte, despite his three hits, including a walk-off. Lourdes Gurriell gets it, at +41.0%, mostly due to +25% for his game-tying RBI. It’s third-best by a D-backs position player, behind Tony Womack’s 42.4%, game five of the 2001 NLDS, and Jay Ball’s +46.2% in the last game of the 1999 NLDS.

Win Probability Not Added

That would be Emmanuel Rivera, who’s -48.1% was the worst ever by a position player in AZ post-season history. And it’s not even close, being more than twenty percent worse than the next lowest: Reggie Sanders -26.6% in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. Rivera was charged with the two most negative plays yesterday: his double-play in the seventh, and the fielder’s choice which saw Gurriel out at home in the ninth, were both worth -22%. Indeed, there have only been five worse game totals in the wild-card era. The worst, oddly, also belongs to Sanders, albeit as a Red. In Game 1 of the 1995 NLCS against Atlanta, he racked up an almost impressive -54.3%.

Second most exciting post-season win ever?

Leverage Index measures how important a plate appearance is, depending on the game situation of the score, outs, inning, etc. [more info], with 1.00 being normal. The average figure across a game can thus be used as an objective measurement of how “exciting” it was, Our hitters’ average LI yesterday was 1.70, the second-highest for a D-backs’ win in the post-season. The only higher was, unsurprisingly, Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, which came in at 1.84. There have been higher figures in losses, such as the Game 2 2007 NLCS loss in 11 innings to the Rockies, which scored a 1.99. Our least exciting playoff contest? Game 1 vs. LA this year, as we blew out Clayton Kershaw. The average LI was just 0.22.

Hopes and expectations

  1. Don’t get swept
  2. Force the series back to Philadelphia
  3. Complete the come-back

Step One is in the bag, and we have two chances to add Step Two. Today is a bullpen game, no unfamiliar concept for Arizona. There were six for the D-backs this year, all coming from July on: the team went 3-3 there, so they worked reasonably well. Three were started by Joe Mantiply, as today’s will be, and the D-backs were 2-1, so it’s by no means a lost cause. It’d be nice for the offense to do some of the lifting. Even after exploding for nine hits yesterday, Arizona are still hitting a collecting .179/.233/.263 for a .496 OPS in the series. Given that, they’re probably lucky to be only 2-1 down. But what’s past is past. What matters is the yet to come, and two more games before an enthusiastic crowd at Chase Field.