Series Preview #4: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

You may have heard that the Dodgers have come into a bit of money lately, now that they're owned by someone who doesn't have to take out a loan to pay for Juan Uribe. Here's how that affects you all:

1. Chase Field is likely going to be more overrun than usual by awful bandwagon fans who "love LA" despite having clearly never been west of Lake Havesu. And less importantly...

2. ...The Dodgers are going to be in the playoff conversation every year for the foreseeable future. So there's that.

Think I'm overreacting? I've said this before, but it bears repeating: none of the individual moves the Dodgers have made scare me, but what those moves represent terrifies me.

Maybe guys like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will work out, and maybe they won't. Odds are that not all of the guys who the Dodgers spent money on will play up to their contract, but odds are that they won't all be 2012-Marlins-level terrible either.

And what if they are? Then the Dodgers just go out and spend money on different players, because they can now. And if that doesn't work, than the money that they've sunk into their farm system, starting with the $42 million that they threw down for Cuban super-prospect Yasiel Puig, just might.

The Dodgers new ownership has spent money like every generic newspaper website commentator wishes their team would. Think the team needs a bigger bat and that they should open the bank and sign [overpaid aging RBI guy]?

The Dodgers are way ahead of you, and it's easy to make fun of, unless it works. And it's not going to stop any time soon.

But at the same time...

What the Stats Say:


Arizona
(6-3)
Los Angeles
(6-3)
Edge
Hitting (wRC+): 96 91
Arizona
Pitching (FIP-):
91 97
Arizona
Fielding (UZR):
-5.5 12.5

Los Angeles

All numbers represent 2012 and 2013 combined stats (h/t shoewizard). Except the records, obviously.

Here's an interesting fact for you: since July 26, 2012, when the Dodgers began their spending spree by trading for Hanley Ramirez, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have almost identical winning percentages: .521 for the Diamondbacks, .527 for the Dodgers. The only difference is about $138 million.

Luckily the changes the Dodgers made midseason had a major impact on the offense. Before the Ramirez deal, the Dodgers had a team OPS of .704. Whereas after the deal, the offense kicked into gear, blowing past their previous figure with an OPS of .705.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Gerardo Parra, RF
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Aaron Hill, 2B
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. A.J. Pollock, CF
8. Cliff Pennington, SS

Los Angeles Dodgers

1. Carl Crawford, LF
2. Mark Ellis, 2B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Andre Ethier, RF
6. Luis Cruz, 3B
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Justin Sellers, SS

If your first question was, "why is Justin Sellers starting for a team with a team that has a payroll that's more than the nominal GDP of a small island country," it's because Hanley Ramirez is on the DL with a shoulder injury.

Once you plug Ramirez in though, the top half of this lineup resembles what would happen if you told 2007 me to pick the 2013 NL All-Star Team. Which I guess is a compliment?

Over the past two seasons, Matt Kemp has a slash line of .315/.387/.567. He hasn't had a good start to the season at all so far, but I think we all know that that probably isn't likely to last much longer. Hopefully the D-Backs get the exact opposite of the mojo they had for the Pirates series.

Adrian Gonzalez was the NL West's own private terror for his time in San Diego. When he signed a huge contract to move to the heart of the baseball world in Boston and put up an OPS of .957 in his first season there, everyone just sort of assumed that he'd cement himself as a dominant first baseman for the next few years there. Instead, he got traded midseason and put up a slash line of .299/.344/.463 between LA and Boston. Not bad, even for a first baseman, but probably not something you want to pay top dollar for.

He'll be 31 in May, so he shouldn't be declining this quickly, but he's past the top of the aging curve. This season is going to go a long way in determining whether he's viewed as an albatross or a star. He can certainly help his cause by hitting .393, like he's doing so far.

Andre Ethier looks like a star. He often hits like a star, particularly when he plays the Diamondbacks, and now he's getting paid like a star. But his woeful defense and his ugly righty/lefty splits mean that he's never had a season of more than 3.2 fWAR. For perspective, 54 players were better than that in 2012 alone. So Andre Ethier probably isn't a star.

I never quite understood what happened to Carl Crawford in Boston, where he went from being one of the most dynamic players in baseball to an expensive fourth outfielder overnight, but the important thing is it's (probably) over.

A.J. Ellis is the sort of feel-good story that happens to be completely wasted because of the color of his uniform. Mark Ellis and Luis Cruz are the sort of gritty veterans that every team needs...at least until the Dodgers render one or both obsolete by trading for Chase Utley in two months.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: Patrick Corbin (1-0, 3.00) vs. Clayton Kershaw (2-0, 0.00)

Insightful Commentary: Corbin had his shaky moments in his first start against the Brewers, scattering nine baserunners over six innings. There were a couple moments where I found myself expecting it to turn into a full-fledged bad start, but he pitched well through jams and finished with only two earned runs. And yeah, the fact that the team scored nine runs in support of him probably helped as well.

If you were going to grow the perfect young pitcher in a lab somewhere, you would be an unethical monster. But assuming that didn't bother you, the guy you came up with would probably look a lot like Clayton Kershaw. He strikes out a batter per inning, doesn't walk anyone, doesn't give up many home runs, and throws in the mid-90s with awesome secondary pitches to boot. Also, he's started two games and scored more runs (1) than he's given up.

Saturday: Ian Kennedy (1-0, 4.15) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (1-1, 2.13)

Insightful Commentary: Not Kennedy's best start against Milwaukee, as he gave up four runs and plenty more hard-hit balls in the eventual win over the Brewers. Still though, it's encouraging to notice that he's only walked two batters total in his first two games. He's always been a control pitcher, and that suggests that the control that waxed and waned throughout 2012 might be here more permanently.

While Zack Grienke was the Dodgers pitcher who got the most attention this offseason, the Dodgers giving a six-year contract to a guy who had never pitched a professional game in America before certainly warrants some press. It's hard to draw much of anything from two major league starts, but any concerns that Ryu would be a complete flop seem unfounded. Ryu has flashed pretty good stuff, with a nasty slider and a fastball that he controls very well. Bryan Smith of Fangraphs pointed out that most of his success so far has come against lefties, and hopefully Gibby can adjust to this.

Sunday: Trevor Cahill (0-2, 5.91) vs. Josh Beckett (0-1, 4.91)

Insightful Commentary: Two starts in, it looks like the problems that Cahill had last year (namely, struggling in the first innings of games, and hitting a wall the third time through the order) have returned for another round. Sinkers tend to be heavily predicated on finding a proper release point, which might explain some of Cahill's problems early in games, given that sinkers that sink too much end up with walks, and sinkers that don't sink enough tend to end up in the seats.

Beckett's two starts this season have come in Petco Park and Dodger Stadium, so the fact that he's already allowed four home runs is even more impressive than it looks at first blush. While his ERA has fluctuated, Beckett's FIP has slowly crept up over the past four years or so. He'll be 33 in a month, and while he might squeeze out a couple more good years as a mid-rotation starter pitching in Dodger Stadium, it sure seems like his best days are behind him.

Five Pressing (?) Questions:

HEY WHERE DID ANDRE ETHIER GO TO SCH--He went to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, actually. Admittedly, he only went there for a semester before re-enrolling at a different school, but I refuse to give you the satisfaction you so desperately crave.

What else could I buy with the Dodgers' $223 million payroll? 55,750,000 beers, 31,857 boob jobs, and 558,897 iPhones, just for starters. But evidently not a single bench player who's better than Juan Uribe.

Tell me something about Dodgers star prospect Yasiel Puig. That's not really a question, but sure. He hits home runs that look like this, he has absurd speed, and he hit .521 in Spring Training (I know, I know, Spring Training stats). He also got himself called the Cuban Bo Jackson. This becomes more impressive when you consider who else has come out of Cuba recently, namely the astonishing Yoenis Cespedes and the hardest-throwing pitcher of his generation, Aroldis Chapman. Puig is the equivalent to Bo Jackson compared to these people.

Why are you quitting the "Five Pressing Questions" section after just four questions? I'm making like a Dodger fan and leaving this preview early to beat traffic.

Dodger Blog of Record: True Blue LA

(Stats via Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs)

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