The Arizona Diamondbacks were, understandably, major underdogs entering this postseason. They struggled to a 32-39 record in the second half of the regular season with a slumping offense and pitching staff. However, if you used your imagination with just a little of that postseason magic…The Diamondbacks beat some of the best teams in baseball as they fashioned a mesmerizing and convincing run to the World Series. Here are five key performers that led the way through October.
Five Players Who Led the Diamondbacks to the World Series
Much of the unexpected success for Arizona can be attributed to Marte’s consistent production at the top of the lineup. In 55 plate appearances, he is slashing .358/.382/.604 with a record-breaking 16-game hit streak this postseason. He was a tone-setter through the entirety of the first few rounds but saved his best performance for the Championship Series.
In the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies, Marte hit .387 and helped spark the Diamondbacks’ turnaround after falling behind 2-0 in the series. In Games 3 and 4, Marte went a combined 5-for-9 with two doubles. Arizona managed a meager eight hits across Games 1 and 2. This sudden jolt to the offense was the catalyst that set Arizona on the path to a Game 7 upset.
Who would have guessed Pfaadt would be the most talked-about starter for the Diamondbacks this postseason? His regular season stats were not flattering (5.72 ERA). However, he clearly had the talent to be a promising player for the future. He found the next step in his development much earlier than expected.
His tantalizing stuff dominated some of the best lineups in baseball. His initial postseason start was a rocky three-run outing against the Milwaukee Brewers but otherwise looked exceptional. Across 16 2/3 innings, Pfaadt now boasts a 2.70 postseason ERA. He struck out 22 batters over that body of work, as well. Once again, his best moments came in the NLCS.
The Phillies’ overpowering lineup simply couldn’t get a good grasp on Pfaadt’s various offerings. According to Stuff+ on FanGraphs, Pfaadt had the best slider across both Championship Series among eleven qualified pitchers with his sweeper. Across both of his starts in the NLCS, Pfaadt forced 33 whiffs on 69 swings (47.8%!). For a team that struggled to put together a pitching plan that convinced fans it would succeed in the playoffs, Pfaadt has quickly turned into a legitimate threat to opposing lineups.
The presumptive Rookie of the Year continued his ascent to stardom with a wonderful postseason run. He was one of the primary offensive forces for the Diamondbacks in the early rounds.
vs Brewers: 4-for-7 with two walks and two RBIs
vs Dodgers: 3-for-10 with four walks, two RBIs, and two stolen bases
Things got a bit messy in the NLCS as he started 1-for-15 through four games. However, he bounced back with a hit in each of the final three games, including his instantly iconic Game 7 performance where he went 3-for-4 and caused havoc with all his baserunning prowess.
The way teams play in the postseason is always a notable factor. Carroll saw around 41% of pitches in the zone during the regular season. In the playoffs, that number rose to 50%. Pitchers seemed less afraid to challenge Carroll as he went through that small downtick in production. Carroll was making slightly less consistent hard contact with a dip in average exit velocity, but his barrel rate was actually up about three percent, which is an encouraging sign. He is a star-level talent that came through in the biggest moment of the season. He was the face of the D-Backs in the regular season and continued that production in October.
Perhaps one of the less heralded players on the roster, Thomas came through in several big moments. While he was mostly used as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement by the end of the NLCS, he wrote his chapter in Diamondbacks’ history. His game-tying home run in Game 4 was one of the most memorable moments of the postseason.
Thomas actually leads the Diamondbacks in home runs this far into the playoffs with four. Sometimes it takes an unexpected hero to make a run like this. Thomas only had nine homers all season long. Even if his overall production was lackluster this year, there are plenty of signs he is more than just a defensive option. Let’s be honest, though. It might not be likely that Thomas goes on another power surge in the World Series. Don’t let that take away from your appreciation when he patrols centerfield.
Kevin Ginkel (and company)
The entire bullpen, not just Ginkel, deserves credit for this chance at a world championship. The bullpen was one of the most scrutinized aspects of the Diamondbacks roster, but they came through with some of their best pitching of the year. Here are the stats for the key Diamondbacks relievers.
For a team that appeared to be at an immediate disadvantage with their pitching staff and bullpen, the Diamondbacks utilized these players to earn a spot in the World Series. They won’t have much easier time against the Texas Rangers, but they have already proven they have what it takes to shut down a power-happy lineup.