All told, the Diamondbacks went 10-7 in the post-season this year. That’s the equivalent of a 95-win pace over the course of a full season. It is a particularly impressive record considering a) the opponents were the best teams in the majors this year, and b) Arizona had no home advantage in any of the four series. They ended up playing ten of their seventeen playoff games on the road. There was only one MVP officially handed out to a D-backs, with Ketel Marte taking home the honor in the Championship Series. No such award exists in the Wild-Card or Division Series, and of course, it went to Corey Seager in the World Series.
But if we were to award an overall play-off MVP and Cy Young for the D-backs during the 2023 post-season, who would be the nominees? Let’s look at the numbers across all four series and see what we find.
What stands out is how even most of the Diamondbacks offense was spread. Collectively, the team had a .734 OPS, which is actually extremely close to the .730 figure posted during the regular season. I imagine the benefit of only using the “best” players was basically negated by only facing the “best” pitchers. But of the nine men who received more than 94% of the available post-season plate appearances (612 out of 649), seven had an overall OPS between .710 and .773. With a relatively small sample size - nobody reached even 80 PA - I’d have expected a bigger range of outcomes. But the only two outside of it were Ketel Marte’s .914 OPS and Evan Longoria’s .456.
Longoria appeared in all but one of the post-season games, and you wonder if he simply wore out. This was always a concern coming in: from 2020-22, he averaged only 74 games per season, and that matched exactly his appearances this year, with a month spent on the IL due to a back issue. He didn’t play more than six in a row during the regular season, but then, including its final two games, appeared in 18 of the team’s last 19 contests. Even given the additional off-days in the post-season, and Longoria being lifted early in each of his final six appearances, it feels like his 38-year-old body might just have been unable to make it down the stretch.
Marte’s performances hardly need any additional commentary, setting an all-time record for the longest post-season hitting streak, before going 0-for-2, albeit with three walks, in the final game of the World Series. Interestingly, those three BB’s matched his tally over the previous sixteen games combined. But who had our franchise leader in post-season SB now being... Christian Walker? He ranked 14th out of 18 in sprint speed this year, but much like Paul Goldschmidt before him, with the help of Dave McKay was able to pick his spots, and went 6-0 in SB during the playoffs. This matters, because the team went 7-2 in games where they stole a base, compared to 3-5 when they didn’t.
Finally, there’s Win Probability. Who had the biggest impact when it mattered most, across all 17 playoff contests? This becomes interesting, because only three men were significantly in positive territory, being worth better than +5%: Marte, Corbin Carroll and Gabriel Moreno. At the other end, three men were worth worse than -40%. Longoria, obviously, was one of them, but was joined by Emmanuel Rivera and, perhaps surprisingly, Tommy Pham. That was despite Pham’s OPS of .772, which was well above team average. He saved his worst for last, being in negative territory for each of the final three World Series games, and almost pipped Longoria overall, falling half a percent short.
The chart below shows you where everyone ended up. It does appear to confirm that Marte was indeed the Diamondbacks’ MVP of the 2023 playoffs.
Much as I would like to drum up some kind of suspense as to the winner of our post-season Cy Young, it really is not much more of a mystery than the position player side. Kevin Ginkel was Arizona’s best pitcher in the playoffs this year. What it may lack in surprise value, it more than makes up for in terms of a story. For let’s not forget, Ginkel was designated for assignment on November 19th, 2021, and his major-league career seemed on thin ice. After a great rookie campaign in 2019, he fell apart over the following two seasons, with a 6.50 ERA over 51 appearances. Understandably, he went unclaimed, and remained in Arizona, albeit off the 40-man roster.
He came back in August, and initial results were little if any better, with an 8.00 ERA after his first nine games. But something clicked, and Ginkel was a different pitcher down the stretch, posting a 1.33 ERA the rest of the way. That form carried over to 2023, where he had a 2.48 ERA, locking down the set-up role in the second half. Then, in the post-season, he threw 11.2 scoreless innings. Only four pitchers have appeared in more playoff games without allowing a run. His +97.3% of Win Probability was not just the best on the D-backs, it was the highest figure of any pitcher in this year’s post-season. In less than two years, Kevin went from being DFA’d to throwing 2.2 scoreless innings in the World Series.
Looking at the rest, Ryan Thompson had a 2.31 ERA over his 11.2 innings, and his WP was second only to Ginkel’s. Merrill Kelly obviously deserves recognition, with a 2.25 ERA across four starts. And at a time, when the D-backs’ rotation largely consisted of vague hand-waving after Kelly and Zac Gallen, Brandon Pfaadt was invaluable and effective, with a 3.27 ERA across his five starts. At the other end... Well, Paul Sewald will get some flak for his World Series performance, but still ends up net positive in WP, due to strong outings in the earlier rounds. Our Cy Yuk has to go to Miguel Castro, with his 10.50 ERA and more walks (5) than strikeouts (4) across eight appearances and six innings.
As for the position players, here is the Win Probability across the whole post-season for Arizona’s pitchers.