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Series Preview #11: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers


One of AZ Snake Pit's favorite jokes is the "KT needs moar [position X]" meme. You know how it goes: Kevin Towers will go out of his way to acquire several players seemingly redundant players at the same position in an offseason, and we won't understand/like it, so we mock it, as we are wont to do.

It's funny because it's consistently accurate, and has been for Kevin Towers' entire regime in Phoenix. In 2011 it was fifth starters and corner infielders, in 2012 it was corner outfielders, and in 2013 it has been shortstops. And it's really annoying at times, because the team has a limited budget, and it seems like they would use that budget better on non-redundant players. That is, until the season starts and players start getting injured or not being as good as they were supposed to be. Then the depth is nice.

I bring this up because this is not how the Dodgers constructed their team. The Dodgers, for better or worse, have constructed their team around a cluster of stars, and seem to be hoping that those stars carry the rest of the team to great heights. Unfortunately, baseball has happened, and they've dealt with a rough stretch of injuries, and they don't have the depth to deal with these problems, generally because they haven't built their team that way.

It might still work out for them. I'm really not doing this to laugh at the Dodgers, because I guarantee I can find a way to laugh at the Dodgers without wasting 200 words. But the Dodgers just let Matt Magill start two different games. On purpose, even. With a payroll like the Dodgers have, that's like spending $200 grand on a car and taping the decorative fin back on with duct tape.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

Los Angeles
Hitting (wRC+): 90 98
Los Angeles
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
89/87 112/100
Fielding (UZR):
11.8 -0.3


Your perception of the Dodgers' offense so far probably has a lot to do with what you think of park effects. If you're a big believer in them, the Dodgers' offense looks about average. But if you tend not to treat them as gospel, the fact that the Dodgers are only ahead of the lowly Marlins in Slugging Percentage is probably a bit concerning. Most of the Dodgers' other relevant factors are fine, but they have done a terrible job of finding power so far.

Along similar lines, the Dodgers have one of the biggest gaps between ERA and FIP of any team in baseball at the moment. Given that they have a lot of high strikeout guys on the team, this may a pitching staff that's going to underperform relative to their FIP. But you'd have to think once the team replaces Matt Magill with Zack Greinke, both ERA and FIP are going to drop.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

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

Los Angeles Dodgers

1. Carl Crawford, LF
2. Mark Ellis, 2B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Andre Ethier, RF
6. Luis Cruz, 3B
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Justin Sellers, SS

The weird part of this lineup is that all of the guys who were supposed to be "risks" have done well so far. Crawford and Gonzalez have been the Dodgers' best hitters over the first month, with OPSes of .901 and .888, respectively. People were dubious about whether AJ Ellis could play as well as he did last year, but at the moment, his OPS is identical to last year's number (.786).

But Gonzalez has been hobbled by a neck injury of late, and we might not see much of him this series. And if that's the case, suddenly the Dodgers, the team that has revolutionized spending in baseball, will throw out a infield lineup of: Jerry Hairston, Mark Ellis, Luis Cruz, Justin Sellers. Mark Ellis has played well so far, but wow, that's underwhelming. The other three on that list have produced almost 200 PAs of sub-.500 OPS.

Matt Kemp has been playing better lately, but his line of .266/.311/.333 still reads more like a preseason projection for A.J. Pollock than the first month for an MVP candidate.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Trevor Cahill (1-3. 2.84) vs. Chris Capuano (0-1, 9.64)

Insightful Commentary: The Diamondbacks' bullpen has been responsible for some baseball atrocities so far, but wasting Cahill's last start might have been their coup de grace of sadness. Even considering the result though, there was plenty to be encouraged about from Cahill's eight inning shutout (until an inherited runner scored). Cahill is currently on pace for the highest strikeout rate of his career, and his lowest walk rate since 2010.

Chris Capuano has pitched in three different games so far, for a total of 4.2 innings. Also, they've all been against the Padres for some reason. He's been injured since mid-April, but he figures to be in the rotation at least for the foreseeable future if he's healthy. Capuano's one major flaw is that he struggles with home runs, even in the comfortable confines of Dodger Stadium.

Tuesday: Brandon McCarthy (0-3, 7.22) vs. Josh Beckett (0-4, 5.24)

Insightful Commentary: The good news first: McCarthy's K:BB has been much better of late. In fact, if the season ended today, this would be the lowest BB% of his career. He's been throwing a lot of strikes. The bad news is that those strikes are getting hit incredibly consistently, to the point that it's been more than a month, and McCarthy still does not have a game where he's allowed fewer than eight hits.

Remember earlier in the article when I told you how well the pieces from the Red Sox trade were doing? Well, two out of three ain't bad. Josh Beckett has been a mess so far, and it's generally due to the long ball. He's allowing more home runs than ever, including at least two in four of his six starts. Someone should really tell him that this is the opposite of what is supposed to happen to pitchers who move from Fenway Park to Dodger Stadium.

Wednesday: Wade Miley (2-1, 4.06) vs. Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.66)

Insightful Commentary: That makes two not-great starts in a row for Miley, who gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings in a loss to the Padres his last time out. I'm guessing he'll be fine, even if FIP likes him significantly less than it did ten days ago.

Clayton Kershaw is getting paid $4 million less than Beckett this year. I wonder if that's awkward in the clubhouse. Like, that has to be awkward, right?

Three Pressing (?) Questions:

Didn't the Dodgers have eight proven starting pitchers to begin this year? Something like that:

1. Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
4. Chad Billingsley
5. Ted Lilly
6. Capuano
7. Beckett
8. Aaron Harang

We can bicker about whether some of those should be starting for a division title contender, but you get the idea.

Where did they all go? Well...

1. Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke (pissed off the wrong Padre, out for two months.)
3. Ryu
4 Chad Billingsley (shoulder surgery; out for season)
5. Ted Lilly (Tore his labrum, then got better, then pitched eight innings, then hurt his ribcage. Put on 15-day DL on April 30.)
6. Capuano
7. Beckett
8. Aaron Harang (Traded to Colorado for a backup catcher, then sent to the Mariners apparently.)
9., Stephen Fife or someone? (Right shoulder bursitis.)
10. Okay, fine, Matt Magill

This is why depth is important.

Whoa, how can you get through an entire Dodgers article, including mentioning the Red Sox trade by name without mentioning Nick Punto? Good catch, hypothetical Snake Pitter. The one true lynch pin of the Red Sox trade is actually outhitting everyone else in the deal, with a line of .391/.481/.435 that just screams "I've only 46 at-bats this year."

Dodgers Blog: True Blue LA.

(All stats from Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference)