|Corbin Carroll - RF||Christian Yelich - LF|
|Ketel Marte - 2B||William Contreras - C|
|Tommy Pham - DH||Carlos Santana - 1B|
|Christian Walker - 1B||Mark Canha - DH|
|Gabriel Moreno - C||Sal Frelick - CF|
|Lourdes Gurriel - LF||Willy Adames - SS|
|Alek Thomas - CF||Josh Donaldson - 3B|
|Evan Longoria - 3B||Brice Turang - 2B|
|Geraldo Perdomo - SS||Tyrone Taylor - RF|
|Brandon Pfaadt - RHP||Corbin Burnes - RHP|
Well, if you’d said at the start of the year - or even considerably later - that Brandon Pfaadt would be starting Game 1 in the post-season for the D-backs, I’d have requested a drug test. But here we are, with the team’s top-ranked pitching prospect completing his rookie season by getting Arizona’s playoff campaign under way in Milwaukee tonight. At age 24, he’ll be the second youngest starting pitcher ever for the Diamondbacks. Brandon loses out by about five months to Daniel Hudson, who was also 24 when he started Game 2 of the 2011 Division Series - by coincidence, also in Milwaukee against the Brewers. But playoff wins for young Arizona starting pitchers have been hard to come by.
Indeed, over the nine times the D-backs have used someone shy of their 28th birthday in the post-season, they are 1-8, including Hudson’s L. The sole exception was the game after that in 2011. Josh Collmenter, then aged 25, spun a gem with seven innings of two-hit ball, and Arizona rolled to an 8-1 victory. Otherwise, Micah Owings, Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, Ian Kennedy (twice) and Brian Anderson have all failed to see their team victorious. At the other end, Arizona are 10-5 in the post-season when their starting pitcher is 34 or older, mostly courtesy of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, obviously. Between them, they are responsible for all but one of those 15 starts, the exception being Todd Stottlemyre in 1999.
It’s obvious what the key will be to Pfaadt’s success, or lack thereof, tonight. Can he keep the ball in the damn park? Over 96 innings of work this season, Brandon has allowed almost as many home-runs (22) as walks (26). Unsurprisingly, there’s a pretty stark correlation between how many home-runs Pfaadt allows, and both his own ERA and the team’s success in those contests. Who’d have thought it? Here’s how things have broken down this season, over Brandon’s 19 appearances (I’m including his one relief outings, since he worked six innings in it).
- 0 home-runs: 2-2, 2.89 ERA, 4-3 team record
- 1 home-run: 1-3, 5.65 ERA, 3-3 team record
- 2+ home-runs: 0-4, 9.00 ERA, 1-5 team record
It has helped that of his 22 home-runs, a clear majority (14) have been solo shots, which have limited the damage. Six have been with one man on, and only two have been three-run shots. If you want to see how that can help, back in 2001, Schilling led the league in home-runs allowed with 37, but 31 of them were with nobody aboard. He went almost three months and 19 HR between multi-run homers (Vlad Guerrero on May 1, until a Barry Bonds grand-slam on July 26). So a home-run from Pfaadt might not be the END of the world. All told though, best not, and even if this is a game of limited expectations, I’m sure Torey Lovullo will have a quick hook.