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Series Preview #47: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

So, yeah...last night I went to bed absolutely convinced that the Diamondbacks had an off-day on Thursday. I remained steadfast in this conviction until about 1:30 when I was absent-mindedly checking scores in my phone in class, and I realized that a Diamondbacks game started in less than 5 hours. So, for that reason, this will be something of an abridged series preview. It's too bad, since we never play the Padres and I'm sure everyone here is just burning with curiosity about them.

The Padres are not a particularly good baseball team, as evidenced by their 62-81 record and last-place position in the NL West. With that in mind, however, their run differential is almost identical to the Giants, they've actually gotten unlucky in regards to their Pythagorean W/L record. The Padres are only 15-19 since the beginning of August, but they've outscored their opposition over that period.

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):

San Diego
Hitting (wRC+): 95 90
Pitching (FIP-):
100 105
Fielding (UZR):
52.6 13.4

Since the last time I did one of these for the Padres, they've gone 2-10, dropping eight games in the standings in the process. Hence, they're more or less the same team they were twelve games ago, but the offense isn't hitting quite as well, and the pitching has dropped off a bit.

Starting Lineups

1. Ryan Roberts, 3B
2. Gerardo Parra, LF
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Chris Young, CF
6. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
7. Aaron Hill, 2B
8. John McDonald, SS

San Diego Padres

1. Will Venable, RF
2. Jason Bartlett, SS
3. Cameron Maybin, CF
4. Jesus Guzman, 1B
5. Orlando Hudson, 2B
6. Kyle Blanks, LF
7. Nick Hundley, C
8. Logan Forsythe, 3B

There are some interesting pieces here, most of whom I touched upon last time. Cameron Maybin, Jesus Guzman, Kyle Blanks, Nick Hundley and Logan Forsythe are all 27 or younger, and they all happen to have an OPS+ of over 100. They also all happen to be cheap for now and for the immediate future. Add in Anthony Rizzo, the first base prospect the Padres netted in the Adrian Gonzalez trade who was a September call-up, and the Padres have something that resembles a offensive core. Are there a number of players on that list with high flame-out potential? Absolutely, but for the first time in a while, the Padres have some bats to dream on.

Pitching Matchups:

Thursday: Ian Kennedy (18-4, 2.96) vs. Cory Luebke (5-8, 3.29)

Insightful Commentary: As Jim mentioned earlier, Kennedy has absolutely been on fire since the All Star Break. Here are some numbers in those 10 starts: 9-1, 2.05 ERA, .613 OPS against, and, perhaps most surprisingly for Kennedy, a Ground Ball rate of 56%. He has transformed from an All-Star game snub to a CY candidate in ten starts, and it's not just due to the Diamondbacks' success.

I bet you didn't know that Cory Luebke has struck out more than a batter per inning this year. Or at least, I didn't know that, and am trying to cover up for that by passing the blame off to you. He also only walks 2.58 batters per 9 innings. That's a better K/BB ratio than Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett and, yes, Ian Kennedy. Luebke is only 26, and he has plenty of potential.

Friday: Daniel Hudson (15-9, 3.53) vs. Mat Latos (7-13, 3.77)

Insightful Commentary: Don't look now, but Daniel Hudson has almost regressed to where his FIP indicates he should be. His BABIP currently sits at .303, almost exactly in line with the MLB average, and as a result, his ERA is now only .3 above his FIP, which is presently 3.23. While Hudson still has plenty of room to grow, these are more or less the results he "should" have been getting this season.

It's been kind of a rough season for Mat Latos. The surprising ace of the 2010 Padres has seen his walks rise, his strikeouts fall, and his slider desert him like a worthless lab partner. He's gotten a bit unlucky as well, as his LOB%, which averages around 72%, currently sits at 68.9%. The fact that he's made it through the season with a 3.77 ERA and a 3.29 FIP is a testament to how good of a pitcher Latos is--and how good he's going to be.

Saturday: Wade Miley (3-1, 3.52) vs. Tim Stauffer (8-12, 3.83)

Insightful Commentary: I know Miley's gotten good results in the past three games, but stop and think about this for a second: there is a nonzero chance that Wade Miley could start a playoff game this year. How does that make you feel?

Tim Stauffer is a Padres Pitcher (TM), and not simply because he happens to pitch for the Padres. It seems like the Padres always have a pitcher or five who posts a sub-4 ERA out of nowhere and gets by on "meh" stuff and the Petco Effect. A Padres Pitcher (TM) is always young enough to give you pause, but only pitches for a year or two before disappearing forever. I believe that Tim Stauffer is actually just Chad Gaudin or Josh Geer pretending to be someone else, and no amount of factual evidence will convince me otherwise.

Sunday: Josh Collmenter (9-8, 3.10) vs. Wade LeBlanc (2-5, 5.33)

Insightful Commentary: Related to the Miley note, if you had told me in March that Miley and Collmenter would be starters on a probable playoff team, I probably would have shrugged and said, "Good for the Mobile Bay Bears, I guess."

Wade LeBlanc always dreamed of being a Padres Pitcher (TM) when he was younger, but he rather than being kinda good for a little while before disappearing forever, LeBlanc has been pretty bad and has stuck around annoying Padre fans. He's not a Padres Pitcher (TM), but he's the valedictorian of Padres Remedial School, so that's something.

Final Verdict: It's way too early to start predicting 2012, but I'm claiming the Padres as my preemptive sleeper pick for next season. They have intriguing position players, and plenty of live arms in the minors that are on the way. This isn't 2012, however, so for this series I'll say Diamondbacks three games to one.

Visit Gaslamp Ball if you like unicorns, otherwise it's probably best if you keep a safe distance.

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