Brandon Pfaadt’s rookie campaign with the Diamondbacks: A timeline
Oct 24, 2023, 11:51 AM | Updated: 2:57 pm
Diamondbacks rookie Brandon Pfaadt put together quite the rookie campaign.
Upon his first promotion in May, Pfaadt was seen as a future ace of the team’s rotation. The former fifth-round pick was the organization’s top pitching prospect with a 3.00 ERA, 104 strikeouts and 20 walks across 15 total Triple-A Reno starts.
His strikeout stuff was unreal. In 2022, he posted 218 strikeouts over 167 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, the most in a single season since 2001.
Amid all the hype, Pfaadt was called up to replace Drey Jameson in the rotation, who at the time was demoted after a horrid one-inning start against the Padres.
It took a while for Pfaadt to adjust to the majors. He allowed five or more runs in three of his first five starts.
Fast forward to now, a couple of Triple-A stints later, and Pfaadt is starting not only the most important game of his young career but one of the most important in Diamondbacks history: Game 7 of the 2023 NLCS against the Philidelphia Phillies.
Let’s go back in time and break down Pfaadt’s one-of-a-kind rookie season:
Brandon Pfaadt’s MLB Debut – May 3
Brandon Pfaadt made his major league debut on May 3, and it didn’t go according to plan.
Pfaadt allowed seven runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings, including four home runs.
For a player who struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced (104-of-347) with Triple-A Reno over the past two years, it was expected that the strikeout stuff would transition along with him to the big leagues.
He only recorded three strikeouts in his first career start.
Pfaadt’s first demotion – May 26
Through his first five starts, Pfaadt donned an 8.37 ERA, ultimately leading to a demotion back to Triple-A.
It certainly wasn’t how Pfaadt or the organization envisioned the rookie’s career to begin, but they remained optimistic.
Pitching coach Brent Strom reassured Pfaadt, pointing him to hall of famers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. In his first five major league starts, Glavine had a 7.00 ERA. In his first six, Smoltz had a 6.44 ERA.
“It was a learning experience for him,” Strom said.
The Diamondbacks were worried about Pfaadt’s heavy fastball usage. Hitters were able to wait until he threw a fastball over the middle of the plate to do damage.
“I don’t know of anybody that lives at 65% fastball rate and is a starting pitcher and gets away with it for six or seven innings. You’ve got to be able to spin the baseball consistently,” Lovullo said.
Pfaadt’s second chance – June 29
Pfaadt made five starts in Triple-A Reno after his first MLB stint, pitching to a 3.16 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 25.2 innings.
The Diamondbacks felt he was ready for a second chance, and after Merrill Kelly went on the 15-day injured list with a blood clot in his right calf, Pfaadt was given the opportunity.
Nonetheless, the opportunity presented did not go well.
On June 29 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Pfaadt was tacked on for six runs across two innings.
He was cruising through two innings, but a disastrous third inning sealed the deal on his second major league opportunity.
Pfaadt had a 9.82 ERA and he was sent back down to Triple-A.
The third time’s the charm – July 22
After an ugly first six starts to open the rookie’s career, Pfaadt was tasked with a new approach in his return to Triple-A.
Strom had Pfaadt move from the far third-base side of the pitching rubber to the far first-base side in order for his pitches would start as strikes out of his hand and maybe go out of the zone.
Needless to say, it worked.
Pfaadt was called up on July 22 to face the Cincinnati Reds, allowing only three runs across six innings of work.
It was enough to become a mainstay in the rotation. Pfaadt recorded a 4.22 ERA across his final 13 starts and ultimately lowering his ERA to 5.72.
His final start of the regular season, where he allowed no runs and eight strikeouts across 5.2 innings against the Chicago White Six, was only a preview what was to come.
Wild Card Game 1 – October 3
The Diamondbacks had only three real starters upon entry to the postseason: Zac Gallen, Kelly and Pfaadt.
Gallen and Kelly had pitched in the final series of the season in order to secure a wild card spot, leaving Pfaadt to start Game 1 of the wild card series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s a tall task for a rookie.
Pfaadt allowed three runs across only 2.2 innings of work, but the D-backs’ bats came through in efforts to sweep the Brewers.
NLDS Game 3 – October 9
After winning the first two games in Chavez Ravine against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pfaadt was tasked with completing the sweep against the division rival.
He shut down the 100-win Dodgers, allowing only two hits in 4.1 innings of work.
“His outing? It was fantastic,” Lovullo said. “And I went over and I told him. I said, ‘I understand this was a mistreatment. I promise I won’t always do this to you. But we’re going to win this game because of your effort, and I want you to understand that.’”
With the help of his performance, the Diamondbacks advanced to the NLCS for the first time since 2007.
NLCS Game 3 – October 11
Down 2-0 in the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies, Pfaadt needed to put on the performance of a lifetime.
The team couldn’t afford to go down 3-0, it would’ve nearly sealed their fate. To the delight of Diamondbacks fans, Pfaadt pitched the best game of his career.
The Phillies couldn’t hit him, he recorded nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings of shutout baseball. He allowed only two hits once again before Lovullo pulled him from the game.
Up to this point in the postseason, Pfaadt has pitched to a 2.13 ERA across 12.2 innings, completely flipping the script from the regular season.
“Win or go home” Game 7 – October 24
Pfaadt might’ve thought that Game 3 was the biggest game of his career, but he’s been tasked with something even bigger.
The rookie is being handed the ball in one of the most important games in franchise history.
The Diamondbacks are 1-0 in their Game 7 history and they’ll look to make it 2-0 on Tuesday.
Game 7 may be daunting for any pitcher. Pfaadt’s approach ahead of the game: keeping his cool.
“I think my confidence is pretty high,” Pfaadt said. “I try to keep it pretty steady. I think that’s kind of where people struggle is when their confidence dips too low or too high. I’ve always been taught to keep it even-keel, and that’s kind of the way I try to keep it.”
First pitch of D-backs/Phillies will be at 5:07 p.m. as Arizona looks to appear in the World Series for the second time in franchise history.