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Series Preview #33: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

Tonight, on a very special episode of Series Previews...

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

On June 17th, just a day after that deeply depressing sweep of the Diamondbacks in San Diego, the Padres beat the Giants to pull within a game of first place in the NL West. They had gotten off to a rough start, but had quietly been playing a lot better for about a month and had assembled a pretty good little lineup. But even if you could see how it had happened, it still felt a little off. The Padres? Our Padres? Really?

Well, not really, as it turns out. Since then, the Padres have lost 23 of 32. They've won consecutive games just once since June 21st. It says quite a bit that they've managed to lose 6.5 games in the standings to the D-Backs during what has probably been the D-Backs' toughest stretch of the season. They aren't quite far enough to bury completely, but we can probably start laughing at ourselves for worrying about a team that has Eric Stults as its rotation ace.

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):

San Diego
Hitting (wRC+): 89 94 San Diego
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
95/100 116/114 Arizona
Fielding (UZR):
35.2 -1.8


As for why the Padres have faded, they made their run with an above-average offense that helped disguise some rickety-as-all-getout pitching. To keep things going, the pitching probably had to take a noticeable step forward while the offense continued to perform at generally the same rate. The Padres, to their discredit, responded by doing neither thing.

Since June 17th, the Padres have hit just .234/.295/.365, which is fairly similar to what Miguel Montero has hit this year. Last year that comparison would be a compliment, but it is decidedly not in 2013. And the rotation headed by Edinson Volquez continued to look like a rotation headed by Edinson Volquez, and here we are.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Jason Kubel, LF
5. Martin Prado, 3B
6. Gerardo Parra, RF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Didi Gregorius, SS

San Diego Padres

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

It's an amazingly balanced lineup, in that no one I just listed has an OPS below .700, and only Quentin is above .750. Everyone else is average to a couple notches above average so far, which I think is what the Diamondbacks were expecting/hoping for from their own lineup but haven't gotten at all.

Though average is a disappointment for some. Headley is on pace for his worst offensive season since 2010, with a line of just .236/.335/.367. Some of that's BABIP, as his 2013 mark of .300 looks pretty pedestrian compared to the .340 figure he had averaged for six seasons. And he probably was never going to repeat his ISO% of .212 from last year, either.

For a while, it looked like Everth Cabrera was going to be a limited, if irritating, backup middle infielder. But he's essentially solidified himself as the starting Shortstop with a strong season so far. He's sixth in fWAR among ML Shortstops right now, thanks in part to his wRC+, which is fourth among qualified Shortstops.

The charmed start to Gyorko's career has stalled a bit, after he went on the DL in early June and has hit just .114/.139/.114 in nine games since coming back.

The Carlos Quentin experience has been one giant grieving process for Diamondback fans, as the joy from his 2006 debut begat frustration in 2007, which begat a trade in 2008 that engendered immediate backlash that would make the Upton trade blush. But the subsequent seasons in Chicago were so mediocre that we (most of us at least) finally reached the reconciliation that we so craved, and we let Quentin go.

And as a result, not many of us noticed that he has an OPS+ of 143 since moving to San Diego. That's noticeably better than CarGo's OPS+ in Colorado, as long as we're talking about D-Backs who got away. Of course, he fields his position like he's stoned and wandering around his apartment looking for that package of Skittles he set down a couple of minutes ago, so he hasn't been worth much during that stretch. But still.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: Randall Delgado (2-3, 3.43) vs. Eric Stults (8-8, 3.45)

Insightful Commentary: With McCarthy making his second rehab start in Reno on Friday, we're going to see a change in the rotation pretty soon. And barring a DL stint for Miley or the team finally figuring out how to quit Kennedy, that means that one of Delgado or Skaggs is going to go away for a while. And for now at least, I think Delgado has the slight advantage. He's been more consistent from start to start than Skaggs, and he's kept his walk rate down better, which is the one consistent factor that Gibson seems to want from his pitchers. Barring a meltdown in this start, I think Delgado makes it through to the next round.

I can't remember being more infuriated with a non-Diamondback pitcher this season than I was with Stults in his last start against the Diamondbacks. You may remember that as the start where he made pretty much every D-Back ground weakly to second base en route to a complete game that ruined Trevor Cahill's last good start and ensured the sweep for San Diego. It's one thing when Clayton Kershaw or someone makes your team looks bad, but when Stults does it while only getting a Swinging Strike rate of 3.2% it just makes you want to punch something. Probably Jason Kubel.

Saturday: Tyler Skaggs (2-2, 4.11) vs. Andrew Cashner (6-5, 3.84)

Insightful Commentary: Let's all take a moment to give Skaggs a very tepid hand for having his first mediocre start of the season. Six innings, three runs is the traditional "just good enough" start for teams with better offenses than the Diamondbacks. The good news was the 6:0 K:BB ratio, but the bad news was that all three runs came on two home runs on very center-cut fastballs. He'll learn, but a pennant race isn't where the team wants that learning to happen. I have a feeling that Skaggs is going to Reno for a bit once McCarthy returns.

This is one of the more disturbing velo charts I've seen in a while. At least it is until you realize that the Y-axis begins at 90 MPH. Still, when you consider that the drop in velocity accompanied an arm injury, and that his strikeouts have dropped rather noticeably as well, it's worth keeping an eye on. Luckily, the drop in strikeouts has been accompanied by a drop in walks, so despite the velo scare, Cashner is on his way to his best season so far.

Sunday: Patrick Corbin (12-1, 2.31) vs. Tyson Ross (1-4, 3.35)

Insightful Commentary: You probably don't need to look at Corbin's plate discipline numbers to figure out that he's moved from below-average to elite, but they provide an interesting peek into what he's done to hitters. Essentially, hitters are swinging at the same percentage of Corbin's pitches as they did in 2012, but they're swinging at far more pitches out of the zone and far fewer pitches inside the zone. As you'd guess, swinging at worse pitches leads to far more swinging strikes and weak contact. While that's true of all of Corbin's pitches, it's particularly true of his slider, which has evolved into his most valuable offering.

Ross was an insurance policy that the Padres hoped they wouldn't really need this offseason, but the slew of young pitcher injuries they've dealt with has meant that they're happy to have him. He's only made four starts due to injuries of his own, but he's performed reasonably well in those starts, though his walk rate is rather higher than San Diego is comfortable with. Still, he isn't Clayton Richard, and that should be good enough for a while.

Three Pressing Questions:

So, what are the Padres doing at the Deadline? Well, they shouldn't be buying. Huston Street and Luke Gregerson are pretty solid bullpen arms that should make a contender happy. But otherwise, they don't have a ton of movable pieces unless they decide to do something wild like trade Carlos Quentin. It could happen, but I'm skeptical.

All I read from that last answer was "trade Carlos Quentin." QUENTIN FOR KUBEL AND OWINGS WHO SAYS NO??? The Padres wouldn't do this if the Diamondbacks played in Japan. There's no chance he's getting traded within the division for anything less than a king's ransom. Stop coming up with terrible trade rumors.

That Mark Reynolds play isn't getting it done anymore. Can you give me a new reason to hate Everth Cabrera? Well, he was linked to the whole Biogenesis fun, for one thing. Add that to Yasmani Grandal's suspension, and the Padres (allegedly) have something of a PED culture brewing. I'm trying really hard to be outraged, but all I can manage is mild amusement at how little it's helped the Padres.

Padre Blog: Gaslamp Ball.

(All numbers from Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs unless otherwise indicated)