We should have seen this coming
In the most unpredictable of seasons, the D-backs went into Philadelphia, and didn't just beat the Phillies, they got the crowd to start leaving early. So, today, it comes down to Game 7. The winner will take the National League pennant, and advance on to the World Series. The loser will be a mere footnote. Though considering the Diamondbacks were simply delighted to become one of the last 12 teams standing, hanging around to outlast nine of those will be no small feat. Yeah, that's me partly getting my copium in early, preparing for the possible disappointment of Game 7 defeat. But, I'd love a win. We have some social media receipts to cash in...
Merrill Kelly learned from his experience
There wasn't all that much difference in Kelly's Game Score between the second and fifth contests in the series. He posted a 50 in Game #2 and a 62 in Game #5. Part of the reason is that he actually went deeper in defeat than victory. Kelly pitched 5.2 innings his first time out, but was lifted - albeit unhappily - after five yesterday. But he seemed to get stronger as he went along. Most obviously, in the first inning, he walked both of the Phillies’ most-feared hitters, in Kyle Schwarber in Bryce Harper. In the fifth inning, he struck both of them out. But interesting that, despite only throwing 90 pitches, that was still the third-longest of the eleven starts by a D-back this post-season.
Starting pitching win probability added
If you look at Win Probability, the +18.8% from Kelly’s outing yesterday is second of eleven starts. It trails just Brandon Pfaadt’s +34.5% in a pivotal Game 3, which arguably turned the series around. Pfaadt still has a convincing lead in post-season WP for Arizona, at +32.6%. Before yesterday, Kelly’s outings had basically canceled each other out, so he is at +18.7%, while Zac Gallen’s disappointing campaign (5.24 ERA) results in -14.6%. Pfaadt’s number is currently the highest by a D-back since - no surprise - 2001. That year, three surpassed him: Miguel Batista (+48.3%), Randy Johnson (+150.6%) and Curt Schilling (+211.5%). The latter pair rank third and first all-time in single season baseball playoff history WP.
Owning the big moments
As the series has unfolded, the D-backs have won the big points. As well as Win Probability, there’s also Championship Win Probability. This measures an impact on a team’s World Series chances, taking into account where about a play takes place in the playoffs, the series situation, etc. In the Championship Series, the top three plays by cWP have all gone in favor of the D-backs. Third was Lourdes Gurriel’s RBI double, which tied Game 3 in the seventh inning; that added 3.16% to Arizona’s World Series chances. Second is Gabriel Moreno’s go-ahead single in Game 4 (+5.85%). Alek Thomas’s two-run homer the same game is top, at +6.69%. But I’d not be surprised to see play/s from today surpass those.
Ketel Marte’s string of hits
Marte has now appeared in fifteen post-season games, and hit in all fifteen of them. That’s tied with Marquis Grissom for the best streak in National League history, and two off the major-league record of 17, owned by Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter and Hank Bauer. To give you some idea of how good that is, the next-longest active streak in the majors is barely half that: the Phillies’ Brandon Marsh is currently on eight games. Even more impressive, it has taken place over his first 15 post-season games, not the case for Ramirez, Jeter or Bauer. The next-best active streak to start a post-season career? A mere four games, by the Rays’ Isaac Paredes. Marte is thriving on baseball’s biggest stage, which augurs well for Game 7.
Christian Walker, speed demon
Yeah, as we go into potentially our final game, the Diamondbacks’ post-season leader in stolen bases is now... Christian Walker. That he leads the team in walks during the play-offs is not surprising. That he has as many stolen bases as Alek Thomas, Lourdes Gurriell and Geraldo Perdomo combined? Yeah, that’s unexpected. But it takes his career stolen base numbers to 26 in 30 attempts. That’s an 86.7% success rate; for comparison, Corbin Carroll sits at 89.2%. Walker is also tied for the all-time franchise lead in post-season stolen bases, with Chris Young, Reggie Sanders and... um, Willie Bloomquist. Surprisingly, Tony Womack only ever stole one over his 23 playoff appearances, in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series.
Relief pitching win probability added
The tip of the D-backs relief spear has been lights-out this post-season. Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald have combined for 14.1 scoreless innings, with a K:BB ratio of 21:3 and a total Win Probability of +103.4%. Sewald is responsible for +59.2% and Ginkel for +44.2%. Ryan Thompson is not far behind, at +37.3%. Sewald leads the majors in playoff saves with five, but sits third among relievers for WP, behind the Phillies’ Jose Alvarado (+62.7%) and the Astros’ Ryan Pressly (+61.4%). Be nice if Sewald could close Game 7 out tonight and pass both of them! If we do get to the World Series, he would have a shot at the all-time single post-season mark of 7 saves, most recently by Greg Holland of the 2014 Royals.
Into Game 7
Brandon Pfaadt has already done something rare: consecutive starts with no runs allowed in the post-season. Only six pitchers in baseball history have thrown three consecutive starts with no runs allowed, most recently Cristian Javier of Houston, between last season and this. The three National Leaguers to have done it are Ian Anderson (ATL, 2020), old friend Wade Miley (MIL, 2018) and Christy Mathewson (NYG, 1905). Of course, Mathewson threw three complete games, and did it in a six-day span. The other two NL starters mentioned, tossed only 15.2 and 10.1 innings in total across their three starts. Pfaadt is already at ten innings, so we’ll see if he can keep it going tonight.