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Series Preview #16: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

No, we're not going for ice cream. What do you take me for, Clefo?

That's some damn fine pitch face.
That's some damn fine pitch face.
Denis Poroy

I started doing these Series Previews midway through my sophomore year of college. I was a 20-year-old with an opinion and a vague idea of how to work Baseball-Reference, and for some reason I thought that would be enough of a background to write for the largest Arizona Diamondback fan website on the Internet. Even weirder, Jim agreed with this assessment.

I used some stats because people here like stats and I made some puns because people everywhere like puns. I wrote "insightful commentary" next to sections because I thought it was hilarious that anyone was looking to a college kid trying to figure out how to work Fangraphs for anything resembling baseball insight.

I bring this up because I graduated from college last Sunday. Which isn't a thing that you people are expected to care about, but apparently it's a time for reflection. And one of my favorite things that I've done during these last four years was start contributing to this site, first as a commenter, and then as an actual writer.

I'll keep this brief, because most of you have already skipped down to the part where there's Padre jokes, but thanks to all of you: to Jim for giving me a shot, and for the rest of y'all for actually reading and giving me feedback. For some reason, enough of you have stuck around for long enough to turn this into one of AZ Snake Pit's longest-running features, and for that I'm very grateful.

This is also a roundabout way of announcing that I don't bring tons of new information about the San Diego Padres. Sorry. I've spent the last week of my life either stuffing everything I own into the back of a Mazda, or driving across the country in said Mazda. I've had limited time to think about baseball during that time, and when I have thought about baseball, it sure as hell hasn't been in relation to the Padres.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

San Diego
Hitting (wRC+): 90 100
San Diego
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
84/86 121/129
Fielding (UZR):
19.2 -3.2


Thus far, the Padres have been about average offensively, once you factor in park effects. Which is to say that they've hit about ten percent better than the Diamondbacks on the whole. Actually, what it actually says is that Petco Park is about ten percent harder to hit in than Chase Field, since all their unadjusted numbers are fairly similar.

The difference is the pitching, which has been just wretched for the Padres' entire season. The starters have a collective ERA of nearly five, which is difficult to do in Petco without actively trying. All told, the Padres' pitching staff has been worth -2.4 fWAR. If you believe the metric, the Padres would be above .500 and right in the division race with even a replacement level pitching staff, to say nothing of an average one.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Gerardo Parra, RF
2. Didi Gregorius, SS
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Eric Chavez, 3B
5. Cody Ross, LF
6. A.J. Pollock, CF
7. Martin Prado, 2B
8. Miguel Montero, C

San Diego Padres

1. Everth Cabrera, SS
2. Will Venable, CF
3. Chase Headley, 3B
4. Carlos Quentin, LF
5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
6. Jedd Gyorko, 2B
7. Chris Denorfia, RF
8. Nick Hundley, C

The best OPS on the team belongs to Headley, which you probably already guessed, since we're all fans of an NL West team and we've all known about Headley since before he was popular. What you might not have known is that the second-highest OPS belongs to Jedd Gyorko.

Gyorko, a rookie, has put up a line of .284/.350/.451 in 180 PAs so far. He was a generally solid prospect, but certainly not a can't-miss guy coming through the minors. He's exceeded expectations so far, and he's done so while playing a position that he didn't play much in the minors. If the Padres had a higher profile and "Gyorko" didn't sound like something one might try to order at a Greek restaurant, he'd be getting Rookie of the Year consideration.

Carlos Quentin has struggled so far, hitting just .178 on the year while dealing with injuries. Somehow, I doubt Zack Greinke thinks this is fair punishment.

But other than Quentin, who figures to improve, this is a fairly solid offense. The only other guys with OPS+ below 100 are Hundley, who will be replaced by Yasmani Grandal after he returns from his suspension, and Cabrera, who is a shortstop with an OPS+ of 99, which makes him above average for his position. The Padres went and put together a pretty solid offense while everyone was preoccupied with laughing at their rotation.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Brandon McCarthy (1-3, 4.74) vs. Eric Stults (4-3, 4.05)

Insightful Commentary: And just like that, McCarthy's ERA is back into the realm of acceptability. All it took was 17 straight scoreless innings over his last two starts. His secret during this mini-streak, other than playing the Marlins and Phillies, has been his ability to avoid walking guys. Actually, that's been a strength of him all year, as his K/9 is a tiny 1.26.

Eric Stults is 32, and he's never made more than 15 starts in a season or produced more than 1.1 fWAR. He came up with the Dodgers and the team was involved in an on-again, off-again relationship with Stults in the majors, keeping him on the hook without ever really committing. But now he's with the Padres, and he's found a second life for himself as a guy who pitches to contact in Petco Park. Like most Padre pitchers, I'm pretty sure he's just Wade LeBlanc in disguise.

Saturday: Wade Miley (3-3, 3.67) vs. Andrew Cashner (3-2, 3.02)

Insightful Commentary: Miley pitched well his last time out, at least until you look at the box score and realize that it came against Miami. Two runs against the Marlins is basically a shellacking. And of course, the Diamondbacks' offense did that thing they do about twice a week and just put together no offensive effort at all.

Even in the realm of promising young pitchers, Andrew Cashner is exciting. PitchFX said he threw a 102 MPH fastball last year, and averaged (averaged!) 98. Add that to a slider that does this (first and third .gifs), and he's unbelievably talented. Unfortunately, he's been tantalizing for so long and has done so little that the excitement is starting to wear off. So far, so good since joining the rotation in San Diego, though. His BB% has been the main thing holding him back, and he's on pace for a career low walk rate.

Sunday: Patrick Corbin (7-0, 1.44) vs. Jason Marquis (6-2, 3.27)

Insightful Commentary: I'm out of good things to say about Corbin, so I'll defer to his teammate:

"If you’ve got an uptick in velocity like that, you can get away with a few more things. The way he’s throwing now, he doesn’t even need to get away with stuff. He’s locating, with plus velocity, with a plus slider, and executing game plans. It’s a pretty unbeatable combination."

-Brandon McCarthy, via SnakeBytes

Jason Marquis has probably been the Padres' most consistent starting pitcher this year. If I had a time machine, the first place I would go would be back to March 2013, just so I could say that last sentence to a Padre fan and watch the color drain from his or her face. Then I'd go see dinosaurs.

Three Pressing Questions:

Hey, all those dudes have actually pitched pretty well! I thought the Padres' pitching was terrible? Edinson Volquez started Opening Day for them, and his ERA is 5.76. Clayton Richard has an ERA near 9. Hell, the Padres have given three starts to a guy with an ERA of 18.41. It's not my fault the D-Backs happened to find the part of the rotation that's actually doing okay.

I noticed Kyle Blanks is still on the roster. I thought he was off playing Parcheesi with Brandon Allen and Josh Whitesell in the Hall of Forgettable First Basemen? One of the nice things about not being expected to compete for a division title is that you can keep giving chances to young players who don't really deserve them. Blanks has never hit consistently in the majors, but he's giant and he hit dingerz in the minors, so he's still around.

Clefo got us ice cream last time, why won't you? You know, I really thought we had something, Series Preview readers. But then you go and desert (dessert?) me in favor of some Johnny-come-lately with a twinkle in his eye and an ice cream cone in his hand. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed.

Padre Blog: Gaslamp Ball

(Stats via Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)