Series Preview #32, @ San Francisco Giants

Ralph Freso

The All-Star break has just about arrived! While Arizona's nightmare first half may not be over yet, they'll get a chance to finish things off strong against the San Francisco Giants.

What's New?

Arizona fared well in their brief return to the desert, taking two of three games in their last series against the Miami Marlins. The Diamondbacks exploded for five runs in the second inning on Monday night, riding their outburst and a strong start from Chase Anderson to a 9-1 win. Arizona appeared to be headed towards a 1-0 shutout following a surprising pitchers duel Tuesday night, but were unable to hold onto the lead in the ninth as they lost 2-1. Arizona battled late (twice) on Wednesday afternoon, coming back to tie the game at one in the eighth inning, and then coming back again after giving up two runs in the tenth with three of their own for the 4-3 Diamondbacks series win. The Diamondbacks are 4-6 in their last ten games, and head back on the road, where they are 22-23. Arizona is 39-54 overall this season, 12 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West. The 'Snakes' are half a game back of Colorado for fourth place, and two games behind San Diego for third place.

Arizona's offense remains one of the league's worst, as they rank 25th in wRC+ (89) and 19th in offensive WAR (8.8). They bat .254/.308/.390 as a unit, and their on-base percentage (.308) adjusts to .307 with their wOBA. They get a decent amount of power when they do get base hits, as their isolated power (ISO) ranks 16th in the majors (.135). They don't take a lot of walks despite their average OBP, as their walk rate is second-lowest (6.4%) in the major leagues. The Diamondbacks' pitching staff has continued its struggles, as they are 26th in the majors in team ERA (4.28), which when adjusted for FIP is still just 22nd in baseball (3.93). A majority of their troubles comes from their second-highest HR/FB ratio in the bigs (12.7%), along with their .312 BABIP to opposing hitters.

The Giants have been powered by an offensive resurgence this season, as their wRC+ ranks 13th in baseball (96), and they have the 17th offensive WAR in the majors (10.6). They, however, have batted just .243/.303/.387 this season, and have their wOBA adjust to just .303. They, like Arizona, rely on their high isolated power, which ranks 10th in baseball (.143). Despite their offensive improvements, San Francisco's success has always been dependent on its strong pitching staff, which ranks eighth in team ERA (3.43) and sixth in FIP (3.48). The pitching staff's success isn't dependent on striking batters out (their 7.42 K/9 ranks 22nd in baseball). Instead, they depend on the fourth lowest home run rate in baseball (0.74 HR/9), and holding teams to the fifth-lowest BABIP in the league (.284).

The Giants are in the midst of a four-game home and home series with their Bay Area rivals, the Oakland Athletics. They have slipped a bit of late, and dropped the first two games in Oakland before the series shifted to San Francisco. The Giants have won just three of their last ten games, and return home, where they are 25-23 this season (through Tuesday night's game). They are 49-41 overall, just a half game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West. The Giants are currently tied with St. Louis for the two wild card spots in the National League.

On The Mend

Diamondbacks right hander Bronson Arroyo will undergo Tommy John surgery for a torn ulnar collateral ligament, Arroyo said to the press on Monday. He will miss the remainder of the 2014 season and his recovery is expected to take 10-12 months.

Roster Moves

On Monday, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded third baseman Cesar Carrasco to the Houston Astros for left hander Alex Sogard. Sogard is 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 26 appearances for Double-A Corpus Cristi this season.

NL MIdseason Awards

MVP: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Okay, Diamondbacks fans, crucify me if you will. But there simply has not been a more valuable player, in either league, to his team's success than Kershaw. He has gotten the Dodgers back atop the NL West,  posting a 10-2 record with a no-hitter and a 1.85 ERA to go with 115 strikeouts and just 12 walks(!). Without his early back injury, he would be THE story in baseball, and should be the odds-on favorite to win his second MVP trophy.

Cy Young: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

While Kershaw may be more "valuable" to his team, it's fair to argue that Wainwright has been the better pitcher this season. Wainwright is tied for the major league lead in wins (11), leads the league in ERA (1.79) and FIP (2.50), and has struck out 111 batters in 131 innings this season. His pitching has the Cardinals in the second wild card spot in the National League, battling it out in the competitive NL Central.

Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers

Speaking of the NL Central, they are host to one of the most surprising stories in baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers. Following a disappointing 74-88 season filled with the Ryan Braun Biogenesis scandal and a fourth place finish, Roenicke has the Brewers in first place and a 52-40 record already. Braun is back, a star has emerged in Carlos Gomez, and the arms are finally coming around as the Brew Crew have surprised all of baseball.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1, Friday 7:15 PT: RHP Mike Bolsinger (1-5, 5.13 ERA, 3.90 FIP) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (8-5, 3.91 ERA, 3.92 FIP)

Bolsinger regressed in his last outing, giving up five runs on ten hits in 3.2 innings against the Braves to pick up a loss in his third consecutive start. His struggles have mainly come on the road, as he is 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA in his five starts outside of Chase Field. Lincecum has pitched well in his last three outings, throwing a no-hitter against the Padres, eight shutout innings against St. Louis, and giving up just a run on three hits in 6.1 innings against San Diego. However, there remains the Goldschmidt factor with Lincecum: Goldschmidt is 15 for 27 lifetime (.577) against Lincecum, with seven home runs and 17 RBIs to go with three walks.

Game 2, Saturday 1:05 PT: LHP Wade Miley (4-6, 4.43 ERA, 3.98 FIP) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (5-6, 3.92 ERA, 3.39 FIP)

Miley had his second strong start in a row in his last time out, and was rewarded with his first win since May 10th, giving up just a run on five hits in 6.2 innings against the Braves. He gave up just two runs on four hits over eight innings, striking out ten batters in his previous start against the Pirates. Vogelsong has pitched well at home this season (2-4, 3.06 ERA), but the Giants have won just four of those ten starts. He was solid in picking up the loss in his last start, giving up three runs over 5.1 innings against Oakland.

Game 3, Sunday 1:05 PT: RHP Chase Anderson (6-4, 3.64 ERA, 4.70 FIP) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (9-7, 3.36 ERA, 2.92 FIP)

Anderson broke his four-game losing streak in his last start, giving up a run on seven hits over six innings in a win against the Marlins. Anderson has gone at least five innings in all but one of his ten starts this season. Bumgarner has struggled of late, giving up 15 earned runs over his last 18 innings pitched. He's also struggled at home this season, going 3-5 with a 5.16 ERA. This strays from his career stats, which show him being 26-21 with a 3.18 ERA lifetime at AT&T Park. He gave up no runs on two hits over eight innings in his last start against Arizona.

Series Pick'em

I think Arizona finally closes out their dreaded first half by taking just one of three games here. This is a vital series for San Francisco in the NL West hunt, and the matchups are simply in their favor. Even with the 'Goldschmidt' factor, Lincecum has hit his stride of late, and while Miley presents Arizona with their best chance to win in the second game, Anderson should be no match for Bumgarner in the rubber match.

BONUS POLL QUESTION: What grade would you give Arizona's first half of 2014? Comment below!

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