Series Preview #37: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Ed. note: following a two week hiatus, we now return you to your regularly scheduled series previews featuring weird analogies and stupid puns on players' names.  Thanks to Jim, Jinnah and 'Charmer for filling in in my absence.

Here's a comprehensive list of things that have gone well for the Dodgers this season:

1. Matt Kemp becoming one of the very best players in baseball

2. Clayton Kershaw evolving into one of the game's true aces at the age of 23

3. Andre Ethier continuing to be one of the better Right Fielders in the NL

4. Rookie reliever Javy Guerra solidifying the bullpen, and seizing the closer role as a 25-year-old

6. Umm...well...I guess they aren't owned by Frank McCourt anymore, so that's a positive

Really, that's the list, and I don't think I'm forgetting anything.  Jamey Carroll's had a good season, but who gets excited about Jamey Carroll?  Hiroki Kuroda has an ERA under 3, but he'll be a free agent after this year, so it isn't anything to build on. 

And to make matters worse, there aren't even any young players to watch and picture as building blocks for the future.  Dodger fans used to at least be able to look forward to watching Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands, but now De La Rosa is out for the season with Tommy John surgery, and Sands was sent back to Triple-A after producing an OPS+ of 76 in 144 Plate Appearances.  Right now, the only player in the lineup who is likely to get better in the future is 23-year-old utility infielder Dee Gordon, who has an OPS of .540.  Woo?

As you would expect, this level of futility has led to a lost season for the Dodgers in 2011.  They're 50-60, 11.5 games behind the Giants in the West, and they have the appearance of a team that is just playing out the string.  They don't even have their typical ownage of the D-Backs to fall back on, as they've gone just 3-6 against the Snakes this year, losing all three series in the process.  Next year, they will have new ownership, likely a new general manager, and possibly wholesale changes up and down the roster. 

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):

 

Arizona
(57-48)
Los Angeles
(47-57)
Edge
Hitting (wRC+): 96 89
Arizona
Pitching (FIP-):
101 99
Los Angeles
Fielding (UZR):
44.6 2.3 Arizona

 

Ed. note: Someone--Shoewizard, I believe--asked why Series Previews use wRC+, which is wOBA scaled for park and league effects, but not FIP-, which does the same thing for FIP.  I didn't have a good answer for him then, so we're going to try FIP- this time around.  I may hate it, and then you'll never see it again.  But just in case I don't, it's important to remember that unlike ERA+ and wRC+, with FIP-, lower score = better playerFor more info, check out the above link.

We played the Dodgers three games ago, so not all that much has changed since then, especially the wRC+ values, which literally haven't changed at all since Jinnah's preview.  The Dodgers still have a mediocre-to-poor offense, coupled with pretty average overall pitching in both their rotation and their bullpen.  Nothing particularly new or groundbreaking here. 

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

  1. Willie Bloomquist, SS
  2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
  3. Justin Upton, RF
  4. Chris Young, CF
  5. Miguel Montero, C
  6. Ryan Roberts, 3B
  7. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  8. Gerardo Parra, LF

Los Angeles Dodgers

  1. Dee Gordon, SS
  2. Casey Blake, 3B
  3. Andre Ethier, RF
  4. Matt Kemp, CF
  5. Juan Rivera, LF
  6. James Loney, 1B
  7. Dioner Navarro, C
  8. Jamey Carroll, 2B

Look, guys: we will have played the Dodgers nine times in the past three weeks, and at this point there's not really too much I can say about them that you don't already know.  I can make jokes about how terrible this lineup is outside of Either and Kemp, but I've already done that, and it's frustrating trying to come up with new jokes about the same material.  So in lieu of actual baseball talk, here are anagrams of the names of every hitter in the Dodger lineup.

1. "Dodger One:" This seems appropriate, given that Gordon is the lead-off hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Apparently, it was the role he was always destined to play.

2. "Balk Ace? Yes!:" Esmerling Vasquez can vouch for this one.

3. "Trained Here:" You guys might not have heard this, but Andre Ethier went to ASU.

4. "No Results Found:" Thanks for nothing, Matt Kemp.  You may be incredibly talented, but you're an anagram anti-muse, and I resent you for that.

5. "Via Jar Rune:" This anagram is almost as nonsensical as giving regular at-bats to a 32-year-old left fielder with an OPS of 87 in a lost season while a star prospect toils in the minors, but not quite. 

6. "Enjoys Lame:" This would have to be the slogan of the James Loney Fan Club, if such a thing existed. 

7. "Ravine or Radon?:" Some people blame Chavez Ravine for Navarro's struggles this season, while others blame a radioactive noble gas.  The debate is ongoing.

8. "Carry Ma' Jelly!:" Completely nonsensical, but I imagine Jamey Carroll shouting this to the opposing pitcher whenever he gets a hit, and it makes me chuckle.

So, yeah, don't give Either and Kemp good pitches to hit.  That's all the analysis you get today.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Josh Collmenter (6-6, 3.10) vs. Chad Billingsley (9-9, 4.15)

Insightful Commentary: Josh Collmenter has pitched almost 100 innings on the season.  His ERA is 3.10, supported by a 3.51 FIP and driven by a BB/9 of 1.69.  This is all to say, he hasn't fallen out of the rotation yet despite insistence from the idiot who writes all of those series previews that he eventually will.  Well, I'm officially out of reasons to doubt this kid.  I'm cautiously sipping the Collmenter Kool-Aid, bracing myself to spit it out if he struggles against a weak Dodger team. 

Chad Billingsley is typically a lock to provide an ERA around 3.5 or so, but he's currently more than a half run above that on the season.  Most of his peripherals look pretty normal, so it is likely just a BABIP fluke, as his .312 figure is a little high.  It is worth noting that his LD% is up a bit as well in 2011, so it might not be all luck.  The Diamondbacks provided him with his most recent beating, as he started against them last Saturday, and surrendered 6 runs in 5.2 innings. I wouldn't mind seeing a bit more of that on Friday, personally.

Saturday: Joe Saunders (8-8, 3.56) vs. TBA

Insightful Commentary: Ordinarily this would be Rubby De La Rosa's spot in the rotation, but his injury leaves the team scrambling for a solution.  In all likelihood, the team will call a guy up from Triple-A to make a few spot starts, with De La Rosa and Jon Garland both out for the season with injuries.

Guys like Joe Saunders are the reason that fWAR annoys me for pitchers.  Saunders, who despite poor peripherals has helped the team immensely by simply not giving up very many runs in the last three months, has an fWAR of 0.6.  Yeah, according to Fangraphs, he's been about half a game better than a random call-up from Triple-A over the course of the season.  Those of you who read this feature know that I'm all for advanced stats, and I understand the desire to isolate pitcher performance from luck and other variables, but over his last 14 starts, Joe Saunders has an ERA of 2.63.  It's possible that a replacement-level player could do that for 14 games, but it's not terribly likely, and a stat that claims to be evaluative should reflect that, future regression be damned. 

/end rant

Sunday: Ian Kennedy (13-3, 3.17) vs. Clayton Kershaw (13-4, 2.68)

Insightful Commentary: This should be fun.  Two aces: one a flamethrower with all the talent in the world who finally mastered the subtle art of control, the other a control artist in the middle of a breakout season who dazzles with off-speed pitches and precision.  As a Diamondback fan, I hate facing Clayton Kershaw under any circumstances, but as a baseball fan, I'm looking forward to this one. 

 

Final Verdict: The Diamondbacks are at home, they have two very favorable pitching match-ups in the first two games, and they're better than the Dodgers, which always helps.  I'd love a sweep here, but I'm learning to never bet against Clayton Kershaw, so I say Diamondbacks two games to one.

All batting data courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise mentioned, all pitching data courtesy of Fangraphs.

For the Dodger side of the story, head over to the always entertaining, though understandably bitter True Blue LA.

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