I was surprised by how NOT sad I was last night, as the Texas Rangers completed a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2023 World Series. Of course, I wanted the D-backs to win at least one more game, and give the home crowd something they had waited 22 years to see. But it's hard to be disappointed, angry or any other negative emotion. The team had surpassed all expectations, confounded the doubters and doomers at every turn and gone deeper into the post-season than any roster in SnakePit history. What's not to love? We'll be looking in more detail at the play-off run in the coming days from a number of angles. But let's start with a look at how the World Series went down.
Losing the big moments
The D-backs got to the World Series by winning the big moments in games, and that allowed them to prevail in those contests. That came to a grinding halt against Texas. Of the six biggest plays by Win Probability, Texas had five of them, with the biggest obviously being the Corey Seager two-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 1, worth -47.2%. Even the one which favored the D-backs, came with a Ranger at the plate. That also came in Game 1, when Kyle Nelson dialed up a double-play, with a man on first and no outs in the bottom of the tenth. That was worth +18.0%. But it was quickly negated by the second-biggest play of the series, the walk-off home-run off Miguel Castro (-41.6%).
The bullpen runs out of pixie dust
After doing yeoman’s work down the stretch and through the first three rounds, Arizona’s relievers were not able to hold on. Over 21.1 innings of work, they allowed 12 earned runs, but it’s probably unfair to lump everyone together. Kevin Ginkel, Luis Frias and Andrew Saalfrank combined for eight innings of 0.00 ERA. Miguel Castro and Paul Sewald... not so much - ten earned runs in just three innings. Between them, that pair combined for -120% of Win Probability . Considering that took just nine outs, it’s borderline impressive. Both men seem almost certain to be back in the Arizona bullpen next year, but it was a nasty last impression for them to leave.
The D-backs hit over fifty points better than the Rangers, batting .270 compared to their opponent’s .218. But the difference was the long-ball: 21% of Texas’s hits left the ballpark, compared to 6% for Arizona. Still. the Diamondbacks actually had a higher OPS in the series than the Rangers, .719 to .711. They just weren’t able to capitalize when they had the chance. Over Games 3-5, Arizona batted .192 (5-for-26) with RISP; most of the hits came in garbage time at the end of Game 4. Last night was 0-for-9, unable to take advantage of Nathan Eovaldi walking five. Only two World Series starters have gone 6+ scoreless with 5+ BB in the 21st century: Yordana Ventura on the 2014 Royals, and Miguel Batista in Game 5 of 2001.
Spending smarter, as well harder
Many teams spent more than the D-backs this year. But much was wasted, with the likes of the Padres, Mets, Yankees and Angels all having Opening Day payrolls in excess of $200 million, and failing to reach the playoffs. But the Rangers’ spending paid off, with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien proving good value, even for their large salaries. But here’s an idea of the gulf between the teams. The entire playoff roster for Arizona earned less than $73m this year. That’s assuming full salary for mid-season arrivals like Tommy Pham and Sewald, and that pre-arb players got a full year’s minimum salary, regardless of roster time, so $73m is a high-ball total. Seager, Semien and Jon Gray alone earned $76.5m.
The resurrection of Zac Gallen
After a post-season where Gallen’s performances have been up and down, in the final game he delivered absolutely everything we could have wanted. Zac no-hit the Rangers into the seventh inning, and definitely deserved better than a loss. Indeed, it’s the first time in World Series history a team has won after being no-hit and shutout through six. Hopefully, this will augur well for him next year, when we’ll need him and Merrill Kelly to be the tip of the D-backs spear, probably alongside Brandon Pfaadt, who came of age during this run. Will there be reinforcements coming? That is one of the questions we will be asking in the coming weeks...
The end of The Gub’nuh
The D-backs may not be losing any major players at the end of the season, but there will be a huge loss in the broadcast booth. Greg Schulte, who has been the voice of the team since their inaugural season in 1998, will be hanging up his microphone after 26 seasons of being the stalwart play-by-play man on the radio. Even as that medium has faded in importance since then, Schulte’s voice remains inextricably linked with the team, and in particular his call of the winning hit in the 2001 World Series. Next year literally will not sound the same in Arizona. Below, you’ll find his sign-off from last night’s contest, the final one in an amazing career: I’m not tearing up. Not at all.
I caught this final sign off from Greg Schulte @DbacksRadio tonight and put the audio over it. It’s been a pleasure to hear you on the radio call all these years and you surely will be missed!! pic.twitter.com/HKtmKXhnwG— Ryan Thies (@ryanthies) November 2, 2023
There ends the 2023 season, a remarkable one which saw the highest highs in SnakePit history. I’ve been delighted to receive plaudits in the comments from neutrals, complimenting the site on its quality and tone of discussions. That’s a wonderful testament to all who take part, where regulars or occasionals: many thanks to each and every one of you. But I also want to thank the staff here, who have done sterling work over this extended campaign, covering recaps, Snake Bytes and articles with dedication, care, and no small amount of wit and wisdom. We may not be the biggest site in SB Nation, but I genuinely believe our community makes us one of the best.
Don’t go anywhere! With barely a pause, we’ll be getting on with the usual off-season stuff, including the player ratings and reviews, end-of-season awards, and naturally, feverish speculation about the moves to come this winter. But, outside of the Confidence Poll which will go up tomorrow, I think I might take a day or two off to decompress, unwind, and decide what to do with this T-shirt... :)