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Series Preview #12: Arizona Diamondbacks vs San Francisco Giants

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Starting pitching has turned amazing for the Diamondbacks. Will they sweep the Giants, for the second time this season?

Johnny Cueto, Giants, has just struck out Adam Rosales on 26 April.
Johnny Cueto, Giants, has just struck out Adam Rosales on 26 April.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Arizona Diamondbacks(17-19)

vs San Francisco Giants(18-18)

Cheer loudly for the Diamondbacks! Be extra loud and boisterous when they play the sweep-able Giants!

How is this season different than last year? Four teams could reasonably win the Division, being within 1 game. The Diamondbacks are in it! Let’s compare teams in the National League West.

Team runs scored per game runs allowed per game
Diamondbacks 4.67 5.00
Giants 4.64 4.75
Dodgers 4.15 3.79
Rockies 5.18 5.38
Padres 3.82 4.56

  • Diamondbacks Offense. Diamondbacks offense has scored 4.67 runs per game, which is better than last season's 4.4 runs per game. I am thrilled that six Diamondbacks have OPS+ over 120, plus Chris Herrmann has an OPS+ of 109. Although offense is outstanding, relative to other teams it does not look as exceptional because other teams have improved since last year. National League average runs-per-game has increased from 4.11 last season to 4.45 this season.

  • Giants Offense. In the last five games, the Giants offense has been much worse than the season average. They scored 8 runs, for an average of 1.6 runs per game. And two of those games went 13 innings.

  • Diamondbacks Defense. Last series with the Diamondbacks, the Giants were limited to 2.5 runs per game. Will defense repeat that performance? They can! In the last six games, Diamondbacks starting pitching has been awesome! With half the games at Coors, they have averaged only 2 earned runs per game. That should be enough to sweep the Giants!

Day Starting Pitcher Result
May 6 Zack Greinke 6 innings with 2 earned runs
May 7 Shelby Miller 6 innings with 2 earned runs
May 8 Patrick Corbin 7 innings with no earned runs
May 9 Archie Bradley 6 innings with 4 earned runs at Coors
May 10 Rubby De La Rosa 7.1 innings with 1 earned run at Coors
May 11 Robbie Ray 4.2 innings with 3 earned runs at Coors

Pitching Matchups

Thursday. Johnny Cueto (3.02 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 7.2 IP/GS, 3.0 run support/GS) vs Zack Greinke (5.15 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 6.2 IP/GS, 3.6 run support/GS).

Johnny Cueto is an ace! This season is unusual because he has alternated between ace and so-so. Last game, he was an ace. Therefore, this game will likely be so-so. Goldschmidt, Lamb, and Tomas have hit well against Cueto.

The 2015 Greinke is back! His legendary intensity is best when challenged. The last two games he pitched 13 innings with 4 earned runs. Like eggs benedict with bacon, I will savor this win.

Friday. Jeff Samardzija (3.17 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 6.9 IP/GS, 4.8 run support/GS) vs Shelby Miller (7.36 ERA, 7.08 FIP, 4.2 IP/GS, 2.0 run support/GS).

In Samardzija's last two games, he has pitched 15.2 innings with 3 earned runs. However, his pitch count was unsustainable (115 pitches and 123 pitches). His pitch count for the first 7 games is 753 pitches. This is much higher than last season's 690 pitches. Can he continue? We will see in this game.

Shelby Miller has finally figured it out. In his last game, he pitched 6 innings with 2 earned runs. Like pancakes with golden syrup, this win will be sweet.

Saturday. Jake Peavy (8.47 ERA, 5.18 FIP, 4.9 IP/GS, 3.3 run support/GS) vs Patrick Corbin (4.12 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 6.2 IP/GS, 3.3 run support/GS).

Jake Peavy is not pitching well. His ERA is 8.47. Except for one game he won, he has averaged 5 earned runs per game, lasting between 2 and 6 innings. Castillo, Goldschmidt, Owings, Peralta, and Weeks have hit well against Peavy.

In his last game, Patrick Corbin pitched a seven inning shutout. Patrick Corbin is pitching well, which contrasts sharply with Jake Peavy. Like a plate of deviled eggs, this win will be delightful.

Sunday. Matt Cain (6.69 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 5.6 IP/GS, 1.3 run support/GS) vs Rubby De La Rosa (3.93 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 6.0 IP/GS, 3.7 run support/GS).

This season, in every game Matt Cain has started, he has left the game with his team down by two or three runs. Lamb and Owings have hit well against Cain.

Rubby De La Rosa has shown steady improvement. His last game was at Coors field, a hitters park. Yet he gave up only one earned run! His sinker dropped "off the table" and his fastball was blazing. Like corned beef hash, this win will be delicious.

2016 Post-Season Status: YELLOW

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) Based on the ten latest games, Pythagorean projection of at least 89 wins by the end of the season. Green status means that at least two targets are met. Yellow status means that one target is met. Red status means that no targets are met.

  • The Diamondbacks have 5 wins and 2 losses against the Dodgers & Giants. This target is well exceeded!

  • Through 11 May, the Diamondbacks have won 41% against all teams except Giants & Dodgers. Currently, the 57% target is not met.

  • Based on the last ten games (through 11 May), my Pythagorean projection is 87.7 wins this season. This is a very slight drop from 88.1 wins two weeks ago. Currently, the target of 89 projected wins is not met.

In the last two weeks the Diamondbacks post-season status stayed at yellow. Nevertheless, I see the Diamondbacks are on a rocky path to reach the post season. Only one game back, they are within striking range of first place in the Division. In the movie A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks said, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The 'hard' is what makes it good."

In two weeks I will relook at this projection. Meanwhile, the upcoming series against the Giants really excites me. Can you imagine the possibility of another sweep?

Player in the Spotlight

As every fan knows, each baseball game includes many battles, each of which can spark an emotional high or low. Many baseball players suppress and hide their emotions. Few players use their emotions to win games as well as our player in the spotlight.

At the Major League level, emotional intensity is essential to motivate each player toward total emersion in the game. Total emersion allows a player to master self-awareness, talent-development, attitude, and optimism. That is the upside of emotion.

What happens when an error happens, the umpire makes a bad call, or the opponent plays exceptionally well? It can cause negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, despair, and lack of confidence. Negative emotions can reduce a player’s focus and concentration in the present. Emotional control is important.

A study showed that when pitchers demonstrate emotions, it can impact the batter’s expectations. Several hypotheses were examined. The most important was that when a pitcher shows the batter he is happy, the batter expects a strike and swings more often. One explanation is batters look for clues. Another explanation is batters’ emotions are impacted by the pitcher’s emotions. In either case, the pitcher can use emotions to impact the game.

Prior to 2012, our player in the spotlight would let emotions go – and it affected his body language and concentration. Being in the All-Star game was something he "really wanted." He said, "I didn’t make it, and I had bad thoughts." He also said, "If I start thinking about the Cy Young, I’ll get distracted and stop working."

Sometime around 2012, he mastered his emotions. He said, "My concentration is higher. I concentrate a lot. I worked harder than ever before…." His mastery was rewarded. In 2014, he played in the All-Star game and finished second in the Cy Young voting. This year, his ERA is 3.02 and FIP is 2.40. On April 21, he pitched 7 innings against the Diamondbacks, allowed 3 earned runs, and was charged with the loss. He bounced back the next game.

As you may know, the player in the spotlight is Johnny Cueto. What makes him most remarkable is that he uses his emotions so well and he enjoys the game as much as any player. On 26 April, after striking out Adam Rosales to end his half of the seventh inning against the Padres, he took off his cap and a camera caught him saying to himself, "Damn, I’m good." He may be right. That game, he pitched a complete game shutout!