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Series Preview #6: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Cincinnati Reds

CINCINNATI - MAY 08:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds is pictured during the game against the Chicago Cubs  at Great American Ball Park on May 8, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 14-2.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI - MAY 08: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds is pictured during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on May 8, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 14-2. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Ah, how time flies.  It seems like only a week ago that the Reds came into Chase Field and got kicked around by the home team, giving the Diamondbacks their first and only series win thus far in 2011.  How simple we all were back then, filled with rosy optimism about the Diamondbacks upcoming series against the Cardinals and Giants.  The last time the D-Backs faced the Reds, they were at .500, Josh Collmenter was still wasting away in AAA, the price of gas was a mere $3.73, and everyone was angry about Joe Saunders ruining a string of quality starts from our rotation (wait, that last one actually DOES seem like a long time ago).  Since then, the D-Backs have gone 2-4, giving up 46 runs in the process to two lackluster offenses. 

The good news is that the Reds haven't fared much better, going 3-4 over that same time frame.  Their last series saw them drop 3 of 4 games to the Pirates at home, which is never a good sign for a team with playoff aspirations.  While they're still at the top of the NL Central, some chinks in their armor have appeared since they rolled into Chase with a record of 5-1.  Like the D-Backs, the Reds' main problem has been their rotation, which features three starters (Volquez, Wood, and Leake) with ERAs over 5.  Actually, maybe we can get them to cancel the series and have a "I Know It's Early in the Season But Our Young Starters Are Sucking" pity party where Ian Kennedy and Edison Volquez sit down and talk about their feelings.  I think that would be cathartic for everyone involved.

After the jump, we'll talk about which team has the better chance to win this series (hint: it's the team with red uniforms.)

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

                             Arizona (6-8)                                 Cincinnati (9-7)                                    Edge

Hitting (wOBA):   .344                                                 .365                                              Cincinnati

Pitching (FIP):     4.55                                                  4.11                                             Cincinnati

Fielding* (UZR):   -2.8                                                   9.7                                              Cincinnati

*Just a quick note, while all of these stats come with the small sample size caveat, it is especially true for the UZR, since people smarter than me have decided that two years of fielding data is approximately equal to one year of hitting data in terms of reliability.  So even though all of these stats are statistically insignificant, UZR is even more statistically insignificant than the rest. 

Based on these stats, it would appear that the Reds fit the same basic profile as the D-Backs: good hitting, meh pitching.  However, Cincinnati has been able to do both slightly better than Arizona through 16 games.  I was surprised that the Reds' FIP wasn't worse, given their struggles preventing runs recently, but their bullpen has been pretty decent (3.84 FIP) and Fangraphs hasn't updated to include Monday's game, where Travis Wood got shellacked to the tune of 6 runs through 3.1 innings.  And their offense, despite having regressed somewhat since the last time we saw it, still leads the league in both wOBA and OPS.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Willie Bloomquist, LF
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Justin Upton, RF
Stephen Drew, SS
Chris Young, CF
Russell Branyan, 1B
Miguel Montero, C
Melvin Mora, 3B

Cincinnati Reds

Drew Stubbs, CF
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Joey Votto, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Jay Bruce, RF
Jonny Gomes, LF
Ramon Hernandez, C
Paul Janish, SS

Brandon Philips is listed as day-to-day with a pulled groin, so if he can't go, we'll see a lot of Miguel Cairo, which I imagine would be preferable to seeing a lot of Brandon Philips.  Otherwise, this lineup is pretty similar to what it was a week ago.  This forces me to come up with new jokes and insight based on the same material, which is a completely unreasonable request.  Stupid schedule makers.  Umm, Joey Votto is still pretty good, and he has decided to reinforce that point by OPSing 1.157 since we saw him last. Janish and Rolen have both slumped since the last time we faced them, but the rest of the lineup has more than picked up the slack.  One hitter in particular to watch is Johnny Jonny Gomes, who has hit .300/.391/.800 over the past week.

Tuesday: Armando Galarraga (2-0, 6.75) vs. Sam LeCure (0-0, 2.25)

Insightful Commentary: Armando Galarraga is living, breathing proof that win/loss record is not a good barometer of a pitcher's performance.  He has not pitched well, with an ERA of 6.75 despite only having a BABIP of .243.  And yet, he has two wins.  While this is probably due to random chance, I hope that it's because the entire Diamondbacks lineup watched Galarraga's (almost) perfect game last year and, after being moved to tears, made a blood pact to give him a ton of run support if he ever played for the D-Backs.  Meanwhile, Sam LeCure has been "Le Cure" (sorry) for the Reds' pitching woes so far this season, filing in nicely following injuries to Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto.  He has made two starts this season and given up a mere 3 runs in 12 innings.  However, that's based off of an unsustainable BABIP of .140 and, given that he doesn't have great stuff or a track record of success at the major league level, I suspect that he's due for a bit of regression.

Wednesday: Ian Kennedy (1-1, 6.88) vs. Bronson Arroyo (2-1, 4.24)

Insightful Commentary: Last time Kennedy started against the Reds, we saw a clinic in off-speed pitching that doubled as a blueprint for how Kennedy can be successful: throw (quality) strikes to get ahead of hitters, and generate enough swings and misses with off-speed pitches to finish them off.  And this worked so well for Kennedy that he decided to do the exact opposite against the Cardinals, struggling with command (two HBPs) and leaving his fastballs up and out over.  The result: 3 innings, 9 runs, the worst start in a season that has already been full of bad pitching.  On the other side, Bronson Arroyo also got knocked around a little in his last outing, giving up 5 runs in 4 innings. 

Thursday: Daniel Hudson (0-3, 4.26) vs. Mike Leake (2-0, 5.40)

Insightful Commentary: More fun with win/loss records!  After the Diamondbacks finished crying over Galarraga's perfect game, they changed the channel and must've watched Daniel Hudson spit on an umpire and murder a drifter with his left cleat.  And this was when the team agreed that Daniel Hudson was a douche and that they wouldn't score any runs for him if he ever joined the D-Backs.  Mike Leake rebounded nicely after getting roughed up by the D-Backs, going 6 innings and giving up just two runs against the Pirates.  Also, this happened.

Final Verdict: It doesn't seem all that likely that two pitchers (Kennedy and Hudson) who the Reds just saw a week before will be able to hold such a good lineup in check for a second time.  Add in the fact that the Reds are at home and Great American Ballpark is a hitter's park, and this series has the potential for a sweep.  But there's a larger issue at stake here.  The Diamondbacks are 5 games behind the Rockies at the beginning of the day on Tuesday, and while there's still almost an entire season for the D-Backs to make up that gap, they have the potential to fall into a huge hole early in the season if they have a bad road-trip.  I pegged the D-Backs for 74 wins at the beginning of the season, and they've done nothing thus far to alter that prediction.  And that's fine, I don't think too many fans went into this season with the expectation that this would be a playoff team.  But for all intents and purposes, the last two incarnations of the Diamondbacks were out of the playoff picture by mid-May, and that level of hopelessness permeates every level of the organization, from the paying fans to the players on the field. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, while I'm perfectly willing to accept a bad team this season if it means seeing good Diamondbacks teams in the future, I'm not quite ready to go into "Losing-Team Fan Mode," where the only thing worth getting excited about are the draft (new prospects!) and the trading deadline (new prospects that other teams didn't want!).  I want to scoreboard watch and get excited about winning streaks and curse whenever the Dodgers win because it means they picked up half a game.  The team needs this, and what's left of the fanbase needs this.  And the only way that they are going to stay competitive for longer than they did in 2009 and 2010 is to have at least a mediocre road trip.  As the old proverb goes, "you can't win the pennant in April, but you can lose it."  Don't lose it yet, Diamondbacks, don't lose it yet. 

Head over to Red Reporter for the best in Reds coverage.


Current Series

3 game series vs Reds @ Great American Ball Park

Arizona Diamondbacks
@ Cincinnati Reds

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011, 7:10 PM EDT
Great American Ball Park

Armando Galarraga vs Sam LeCure

Mostly cloudy,rain. Winds blowing in from center field at 5-15 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 70.

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