Series Preview #9: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants

USA TODAY Sports

One of these days the Diamondbacks will play someone other than the Rockies and Giants. One of these days.

I assume you remember last Monday's game? You know the one, where the Diamondbacks entered the bottom of the eighth with 4-2 lead, before Brandon Belt happened and paved the way for a walk-off loss. Yeah, that sure was annoying. Well, that was the last time the Giants won a baseball game, so that probably changes your perception of the game a bit.

I'll let Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles sum up what's been happening since then. From his Sunday recap:

To recap the last five losses:

1. Ninth-inning home run wasted by sloppy defense in extra innings (2-for-9 with runners in scoring position)
2. Ninth-inning home run wasted in extra innings (0-for-10 with RISP)
3. One-run loss (0-for-5 with RISP)
4. Five-run lead blown, one run loss in extra innings
5. Double plays, runners left on base, hard-hit outs, and an opposing pitcher who looked pretty bad.

We saw the first two games up close and personal. I remember them being hilariously frustrating, and I root for the team that won them, so I'm guessing Giants fans weren't thrilled. And then they followed that up by getting swept by the Padres in San Diego.

I speak from experience when I say that getting swept by the Padres is one of the most frustrating end results to a series imaginable. It's almost guaranteed to feature at least one of the following elements:

1. An RBI double from Chris Denorfia at the worst possible time.

2. Seven scoreless innings from Clayton Richard or someone who is indistinguishable from Clayton Richard in every way.

3. Chase Headley coming to the plate as the go-ahead run in the ninth. Doesn't matter what the score is, it will find a way to happen.

4. 25,000 fly outs to moderately deep left-center.

So yeah, the Giants have had better weeks.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):


Arizona
(15-10)
San Francisco
(13-12)
Edge
Hitting (wRC+): 90 96
San Francisco
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
85/87 102/97
Arizona
Fielding (UZR):
5.0 14.4

San Francisco

The 2011 Giants were easy. They had an absolutely terrible offense, and when that offense was unlucky in addition to terrible, they tended to lose games in a row pretty much regardless of what the pitching did. This version isn't quite so simple.

Their offense has been generally middle of the pack so far, but the pitching--particularly the starting pitching--has been maddeningly inconsistent. They have two starters with ERAs over 5.5, and they aren't the two starters you might expect.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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

San Francisco Giants

1. Angel Pagan, CF
2. Marco Scutaro, SS
3. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Hunter Pence, RF
6. Brandon Belt, 1B
7. Gregor Blanco, LF
8. Brandon Crawford, SS

In the last preview, I wrote:

Buster Posey hasn't gotten off to the best of starts, with an OPS of just .674 so far.

Since then, he's hit .471/.526/.765, so I'm sort of sorry I said anything. Not that anyone other than the occasional KNBR caller was actually concerned, but this lineup is noticeably scarier with a red-hot Posey in the middle of it than without one.

Speaking of concerns, the Giants are in the same "He's gonna be okay, right?" mode with Marco Scutaro that we're in with Prado. The difference is that Scutaro is 37 and this may actually be the end for him.

Also, Brandon Crawford is leading the lineup in OPS. The BABIP jokes aren't as funny anymore now that he's hitting well within a reasonable range for a speedy middle infielder (.317). I'm not convinced that this is for real, but how annoying would it be if he magically gained 150 points in ISO overnight?

Pitching Matchups

Monday: Ian Kennedy (1-2, 4.70) vs. Matt Cain (0-2, 6.59)

Insightful Commentary: You presumably already know that Paul Goldschmidt owns the Giants to a hilarious degree, but you might not know that Kennedy has been doing the same thing. In 14 career starts against San Francisco, IPK has a 2.33 ERA with a WHIP of 1.02. He's their Yovani Gallardo, except the D-Backs only see Gallardo twice a year at most. I expect this will be brought up during arbitration hearings this winter.

Matt Cain has given up six home runs in his last three games, which is a stat that should give you pause. Matt Cain goes months without allowing six home runs. He did manage a Quality Start in his last start, but pretty much everyone other than Jon Garland has been managing Quality Starts against the Diamondbacks' offense lately, so we'll see. I think Cain will be fine, at least partially because he's Matt Cain and my mind cannot even process what a struggling Matt Cain would look like.

Tuesday: Trevor Cahill (1-3, 3.00) vs. Madison Bumgarner (3-0, 1.87)

Insightful Commentary: Just three earned runs over the last 12 innings for Cahill. Naturally, his peripherals have been far worse over these last two games than the first three, as they've featured a K:BB ratio of 9:7. That seems to be a theme for the Diamondbacks this year: their best results seems to come when process is just blown all to hell. Quick, someone tell Brandon McCarthy this secret before it's too late!

I have a sneaking suspicion that Madison Bumgarner would be just another talented but inconsistent young starting pitcher on a different team. He'd still have strikeout stuff if he pitched for the Orioles or the Indians, but his control wouldn't be perfect like it is in San Francisco, or he'd struggle to keep the ball in the ballpark, or he'd give up a billion runs in a start and be rattled for the next month. You know, stuff that happens to pretty much every young pitcher everywhere other than Madison Bumgarner. I believe this because I believe that Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti is a space wizard who practices space magic, and no amount of logic will convince me otherwise.

Wednesday: Brandon McCarthy (0-3, 7.48) vs. Tim Lincecum (2-1, 3.64)

Insightful Commentary: This is starting to feel less like reassurance and more like grasping at straws, but McCarthy had his best game from a peripherals standpoint, with no walks and seven strikeouts, which lifted his K% out of dangeously low territory. In watching the tape, he really only made two or three really bad pitches. Still, there's no getting around the fact that McCarthy hasn't had a Quality Start yet this year, nor has he had a game with fewer than eight hits. BABIP or not, he isn't long for the rotation if this continues

Lincecum's Walk Rate, which was one of the most noticeable symptoms of his struggles last year, has actually risen quite a bit more in 2013. He's walking more than 13% of batters faced, up from 11% last year. The only thing keeping this from being more of a problem is his .260 BABIP so far. And that BABIP is coming in spite of Line Drive Rate of almost 29%. And for perspective, is pretty much what Paul Goldschmidt is doing to the league so far this year.

Three Pressing (?) Questions:

I noticed last series that the Giants have three catchers on their 25-man roster. Why? Well, Buster Posey's a no-brainer. Hector Sanchez isn't really good at catching, or at walking, or at hitting for power, but the Giants think he belongs. Also, he's only 23 and should improve. Guillermo Quiroz...well...Guillermo Quiroz is a 31-year-old catcher who has never played more than 56 games in a season in the majors. But he's taking at-bats away from someone who might better than replacement level, or at least replacement level at a more useful position, because of reasons.

Are there outfielders that have frightening eyes than Cody Ross? Yes, and we'll be seeing one this series.

Should I feel bad about rooting for a Bay Area team during the NBA Playoffs? Nah, the Warriors are cool. And besides, they aren't good frequently enough to get annoying. This is from the last time they were good, and everything about it is just hilariously dated.

Opposing Blog: McCovey Chronicles.

(All stats from Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)

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