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Series Preview #4: Diamondbacks vs Padres

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Keep Pedaling!

Tyson Ross - Starting Pitcher for Padres
Tyson Ross - Starting Pitcher for Padres
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Arizona Diamondbacks

@ San Diego Padres

I have a bad habit. When I rode in the Honolulu Century, I left my mouth open. In the first mile, I swallowed a fly. I made a yucky face. I kept pedaling and the ride was delightful, including a free shave-ice at the halfway point. As a Diamondbacks fan, the April schedule feels like swallowing a fly. Remarkably, I have a feeling that the rest of the season will be delightful. The players have discipline, perseverance, and talent which will soon sparkle! I steadfastly stand by my prediction that the Diamondbacks will win the Division. The Padres series will help me digest the fly.

Position Players

Last season, the Diamondbacks had a losing record (9-10) against the Padres. I am confident this season will be different. Let’s look at how the Diamondbacks compare to the Padres on six measures.

Diamondbacks Padres
HomeRuns 11 7
RBIs 39 37
Hits 83
75
Stolen Bases 6
5
Double Plays Turned 13 14
Errors 7 9

Even with the Diamondbacks playing below expectations, they are well matched against the Padres offensively and defensively.

Pitching

In General, the starting pitchers for the Padres and Diamondbacks have high ERAs this season. Exceptions are Robbie Erlin and Drew Pomeranz for the Padres, and Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin for the Diamondbacks. The last game of the series between Robbie Erlin and Patrick Corbin may be a pitching duel.

Lets look at the leading Diamondback starting pitchers.

Starting Pitcher ERA Innings Pitched/GS Run Support/GS
Robbie Ray 2.92 6.0 2.5
Patrick Corbin 3.46 6.5 3.5
Shelby Miller 8.18 5.5 7.0
Zack Greinke 9.90 5.0 3.5
Rubby De La Rosa 8.99 4.5 3.5

The value of a relief pitcher can be measured by comparing expected runs, when he enters the game, to the actual plus expected runs when he leaves the game. Lets look at the run expectancy based on the 24 base-out states (RE24) leaders for the Diamondbacks' relief pitchers.

Relief Pitcher RE24 IP
Andrew Chafin 1.24 4.0
Tyler Clippard 1.88 4.0
Daniel Hudson 1.45 3.0
Brad Ziegler 0.96 4.0

Let’s look at the pitching matchups.

Friday. James Shields (4.85 ERA,5.73 FIP, 6.5 IP/GS, 1.5 run support/GS) vs Zack Greinke (9.90 ERA,6.36 FIP, 5.0 IP/GS, 3.5 run support/GS).

James Shields wants to win back "opening day starter" from Tyson Ross, who is on the 15-day DL due to shoulder inflammation. So far, he is doing better than Ross. And yet with a FIP of 5.73 he is doing worse than last year. He faces Zack Greinke, with a FIP of 6.36, who also has something to prove. Although the small-sample-size FIPs show a slight edge to Shields, Greinke is 2 years younger giving him a big edge in chances to break-out and dazzle the fans.

Saturday. Andrew Cashner (8.00 ERA,3.49 FIP, 4.5 IP/GS, 2.0 run support/GS) vs Shelby Miller (8.18 ERA,8.54 FIP,5.5 IP/GS, 7.0 run support/GS).

Andrew Cashner has low run support. In contrast, Shelby Miller has great run support from the Diamondbacks. His support in two games averages 7 runs per game. That support will give him confidence to pitch aggressively and win this game!

Sunday. Robbie Erlin (1.5 ERA,2.02 FIP, 6.0 IP/GS, 0.0 run support/GS) vs Patrick Corbin (3.46 ERA,5.42 FIP,6.5 IP/GS, 3.5 run support/GS).

Robbie Erlin (a lefty) was recalled from AAA on 8 April due to Matt Thornton going on the DL. Erlin pitched one game in relief without allowing an earned run. On 12 April, he started against the Phillies and allowed one earned run in 6 innings. That is exactly the same result as Patrick Corbin, also a lefty, had in his latest start. However, Patrick Corbin has a 95 mph fastball, a plus plus slider, and recently developed a new changeup. He has the talent to be the best number three pitcher in baseball. He has a huge edge in experience and talent over Erlin!!

2016 Post-Season Status: RED

I track the status of the run at the post season by watching three targets: 1) 50% wins against Giants and Dodgers, 2) 57% wins against all other teams, and 3) Pythagorean projection of at least 89 wins. Green status means that all at least two targets are met. Yellow status means that one target is met. Red status means that no targets are met.

  • After winning the first game against the Dodgers, the D-backs lost the next two, including a dispiriting late blow-up last night, which means this target is not met.

  • Through 12 April, the Diamondbacks have won 29% against all teams except Giants & Dodgers. Currently, the 57% target is not met.

  • My Pythagorean projection is 61 wins this season. Currently, the 89 projected wins target is not met.

Because of the small sample size, a get-well plan is not yet needed. Diamondbacks' pitching could be better. An insight on pitching: Diamondbacks rank 27th in strike-outs per 9 innings (as of 12 April). This rank compares to 19th in 2015, 12th in 2013, and 23rd in 2013. Maybe that measure will lead the way as pitching improves. Your comments and ideas are welcome.

In two weeks I will relook at this projection. Meanwhile, the upcoming series against the Padres will be well worth watching, and I predict our Diamondbacks will sweep the Padres.

Player in the Spotlight

Tyson Ross is a rising star, a leader on the field, and has interests beyond baseball.

Andy Green, Padres manager, announced Tyson Ross will be the opening day starter instead of James Shields. He said, "Tyson can be great." James Shields’ reaction was, "I told Tyson I’m gonna go ahead and take his job back next year."

Austin Hedges, Padres catcher, said, "I think he has the best stuff in baseball." He pitches low in the zone, and has a very high ground-ball percentage. His fastball ranges from 93-97 mph and yet he is a soft-contact pitcher. His slider is awesome. In 2015, Tyson Ross had an ERA of 3.26 and a FIP of 2.98.

Brandon Morrow, Padres pitcher, said, "He is constantly doing little things to make himself better." This spring he worked on two secondary pitches: his changeup and two-seam fastball.

In 2015, before GM Preller closed the door at the trade-deadline, the Cubs wanted to trade Javier Baez for Tyson Ross. Tyson Ross said, "As I stand here right now, I’m looking forward to being a Padre and leading this team." Tyson Ross is under team control (arbitration) for two more years.

Next, I tip my hat to Nina Garin, San Diego Union Tribune, who talked with Tyson Ross last year and allowed us to know him better. He reads sports psychology books and comedy. He likes to travel, and so far he has seen three of the seven wonders of the world (Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Great Wall of China). He said, "I had a teacher in grade school that preached for us to believe in ourselves. She said we could be anything we wanted to be, and that was great advice that always stuck with me."