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2023 SnakePit Awards: Performances of the Year

Well, the regular season poll at least unfolded pretty much as expected. For the third time in four years, it’s the Milkman

Arizona Diamondbacks v. Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Regular season: Zac Gallen complete game versus Cubs, September 8

Zac Gallen’s complete-game shutout of the Cubs on September 8th ran away with it, polling 91% of the votes, with nobody else getting anything significant to speak of. It was a great performance in a number of ways. Let’s start off by simply being a complete-game shutout, the first by a D-backs in over two years, since the no-hitter thrown by future ex-Dback Tyler Gilbert. Before that, you have to go back more than a further three seasons to find the previous nine-inning zero. That was posted by Patrick Corbin in April 2018. That’s means the last three CGSO’s by a D-back have all won this award. The last not to do so was Robbie Ray in 2017. But he lost to J.D. Martinez’s four-HR night, so no complaints there.

It was also key because the Arizona offense could only muster one run on the night - and that on an umpire review. A 1-0 CGSO has happened eight times in franchise history. But, in an era of ever increasing bullpen usage, Corbin’s is the only other over the last decade. It was also in a crucial situation. Going into this contest, the D-backs were engaged in a dogfight for a wild-card spot, holding on to the last one by just half a game over the Marlins and Reds. They also trailed the Cubs by three, so the victory to which Gallen propelled the team ate into that deficit significantly. The Cubs went into a tail-spin: including this one, they went 7-14 the rest of the way, and ended up missing out entirely on the playoffs.

Below, Gallen discusses the outing, and what was working for him that day at Wrigley.

Previous winners

Post-season: Merrill Kelly’s dominant World Series Game 2 start

In contrast, this was considerably closer. Indeed, in the end there was just a single vote separating the top two. Kelly’s outing got 42% of the picks, and edged out the unexpected brilliance of rookie Brandon Pfaadt in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the Phillies. But it’s really hard to separate them: indeed both had a the same 9:0 K:BB ratio. Pfaadt’s lack of experience and the hostile environment are significant points in his favor. On the other hand, Kelly became the first Arizona pitcher in 22 years to win a World Series game. and did so after a disastrous and deflating loss the previous night. There’s no wrong answer here, but there can only be one, and by the narrowest of margins, it’s Merrill.

After the late-inning meltdown, it was crucial of Kelly to quiet the powerful Rangers line-up early. He did just that, retiring the first 11 Texas hitters he faced. It allowed Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to break through in the fourth, and Merrill cantered thereafter. A solo home-run to Mitch Garver, leading off the fifth, was the only damage he allowed. Otherwise, no Ranger got past first base against Kelly. He almost seemed to get stronger as he went on, striking out five of the final six batters he faced. The 9:0 K:BB tied for the best in AZ post-season history, with Pfaadt, and Curt Schilling in 2001’s Game 7. Kelly’s 76 Game Score is the highest from an Arizona starter in the playoffs since that 2001 campaign.

Below, Merrill talks about the performance after the game in Texas.