Photo by Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images
One competition ends, and another begins!
The 1999 Diamondbacks, owners of the best regular season record in franchise history (100-62) will take on the underachieving 2018 team (82-80) in the Championship Game of this Simulated Tournament.
Randy Johnson pitched in the semi-final game for 1999 and is not available to start. Buck Showalter will put the ball in the capable hands of Omar Daal once again. I don’t think this sim will allow Randy to be used out of the bullpen, so no game 7 like heroics likely for the big unit.
For my last little stat dive for this series, let’s take a look at where the team ranks in some basic areas over the past 21 seasons:
The team ranks right in the middle of the pack of MLB in terms of Win %, and Runs/Run Differential. This is the average. Years ago I took a 6 Sigma course. To demonstrate the limitations of “Average” the instructor showed a cartoon of a guy hanging off a cliff by a rope tied to the base of a tree at the top of the cliff. The rope was thick at top and thick where he was holding on to at the bottom, but frayed and unraveling in center. A guy at top of cliff leans over and says “Don’t worry, the rope is 2” thick on avg”. I just wanted to share that little anecdote. It’s a good reminder to me to dig deeper. While we can always average things out, it’s important to look beneath those averages to get a clearer picture.
In this case, the thing that stands out is that the D-backs have usually had much better pitching than they’ve had hitting. They rank near the top in pitching and near the bottom in hitting. This has often been obscured by the fact that up until the introduction of the humidor, Chase field was usually a very hitter friendly ballpark. So raw, unadjusted measures of run scoring and run prevention tended to make the hitters look better than they were, and the pitchers look worse (in terms of things like ERA). This didn’t impact how we viewed Randy Johnson. But overall once you adjust by using park adjusted metrics like OPS+, ERA+, (or wRC+ and ERA- from Fangraphs) the true nature of the team reveals itself. Hitters have been overrated and pitchers have been underrated.
I’d like to thank Jim for letting me work on this series with him. It’s been fun and interesting to look back at these seasons, celebrating the outstanding performances and trying to glean some further insights along the way into the nuances that helped shape the history of the franchise.
We’ve seen the team rise to the pinnacle of the sport in 2001, and make 6 playoff appearances in all, including 5 division titles and one Wild Card appearance. Those playoff appearances have not come quite as frequently as they did in early years, (3 Div. Titles in first 5 seasons). But they still come around every so often, and we’ll be here ready when it happens again.
We’ve also weathered some very tough years too, when it was clear before the All Star break the team would not be competing for the playoffs, making the long hot summers in the desert all that much more unbearable. But as we sit here on the eve of the 2020 season finally about to start we have learned not to take the game, and this team for granted.
Through it all we were entertained as the team provided a central point for baseball fans on this site to coalesce, cheer, root, agonize, and sometimes even argue over. For most of us here this is the team, or at least the sport, we have chosen to follow, to invest our time, money, and most importantly our love for. Play Ball!
#10 2018 Arizona Diamondbacks 5, #1 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks 1
A Steven Souza grand-slam in the third inning was the deciding factor, as the 2018 D-backs gained a third surprise victory to win the first ever World Series of Arizona Diamondbacks. The tenth seeds did it the hard way, beating both of the top two seeded years to claim the crown. Zack Greinke got the win, and deservedly so, holding the powerful 1999 offense to just three base-runners over eight innings, all coming with two outs. He walked none and struck out five. Ketel Marte drove in 2018’s other run, while Jay Bell stopped 1999 from being shut-out, with a solo home-run in the sixth. Omar Daal took the loss, being charged with five runs over seven innings. He’d like to have that pitch to Souza back, I imagine.
In the end, it was 2018’s pitching which proved decisive. Over their four games, they conceded a total of just 11 runs, with the 1-2 punch of Patrick Corbin and Greinke proving unstoppable. Zack, in particular, was excellent. Over his two starts, he went sixteen innings, allowing three runs on ten hits, for a 1.69 ERA to go with his 2-0 record. He struck out eleven and did not walk a single batter in the tournament, earning the Most Valuable Player award for the competition.
2018 had the best of the early going, but weren’t able to convert their chances. They had a man on second with one out, in both the first and second innings, but went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position there, as Daal was able to work out of the jam. However, in the third inning, Omar’s wildness proved painful, and effectively decided the outcome of the game. He walked A.J. Pollock to lead off the inning, then after getting Ketel Marte to fly out, Paul Goldschmidt and David Peralta also drew a base on balls. That brought up Souza with the bases loaded, and Daal needing to throw strikes. Steven didn’t miss, crushing a ball onto the walkway left of the batter’s eye for a grand-slam which broke the scoreless tie.
2018 padded their lead with another run in the top of the fourth. Jeff Mathis led off the inning with a double, and two outs later, Marte brought him home with a single to left center, making it 5-0. To this point, Greinke had been perfect, going through the 1999 order without trouble the first time. He ended up retiring the first 11 batters faced, until Luis Gonzalez singled to right with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, breaking up the perfecto. Damian Miller added a two-out single in the fifth, and Bell got the 1999 team on the board with the final hit off Greinke. Jay’s shot in the sixth inning went just deep enough to clear the wall in left-field, for a 5-1 tally.
Greinke was unfazed by losing the shutout, retiring the last seven he faced, before leaving at the end of the eighth. Daal also settled down, retiring 11 of the final 12 men he saw, the only exception a one-out walk to Goldschmidt. Greg Swindell went six up, six down over the final two innings for 1999, but their offense’s struggles proved more important. Yoshihisa Hirano came in to record the final three outs for the 2018 roster, leaving 1999 to rue what might have been, perhaps if they had flipped Daal and Randy Johnson in their pitching rotation for the semi-final and final. For 2018, Marte had two hits, and Goldschmidt reached base four times on a hit and three walks. But it was Souza’s blast which will be remembered.
There ends our tournament of Diamondbacks. The 2018 team are definitively proclaimed the greatest team of all-time, amIrite? There can be no more arguments in regard to this matter. 🙂 Actually, I think this proved on any given day, any result is possible in baseball. Which is probably our best hope for continuing the Dodgers’ World Series drought! Many thanks to Jack, for his always insightful previews, which were a great look at a historical perspective. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these as much as I’ve enjoyed putting them together. But there is no longer any need for “fake” baseball, as we stand on the eve of the 2020 Arizona Diamondbacks season. Time to turn our gaze forward, and not back…