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Series Preview # 20: Diamondbacks vs Marlins

RBIs with RISP will win Respect!

Chris Hermmann does well with RISP
Chris Hermmann does well with RISP
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona Diamondbacks(26-36)

vs Miami Marlins(31-29)

On most measures of offensive, such as home-runs, RBIs, and hits, the Diamondbacks are the better team. Yet, nothing is simple. Offensive performance with runners in scoring position can have a huge impact. In the first eight days of June, with runners in scoring position, the Marlins have out-executed the Diamondbacks (25% vs 16%). Let's look at that situation.

At-Bats With RISP for Marlins

Miami’s split stats show that the team bats 32 points lower (.249 versus .281) with runners on base than they do with the bags empty. The same rule holds generally true for their RISP stats, which show a stat line of .255/.333/.352/.686. This sort of production has resulted in kind of an average season, with hot streaks and cold streaks adding up to a generally .500 club.

One guy who performs especially well with RISP is Ichiro Suzuki. This season, he is batting .312/.338/.377/.714 with bases empty. This slash line improves drastically with runners on second-and-or-third base, to .400/.591/.400/.991. He’s 10-for-23 in the last five games that he started, and he seems to be possessed in his drive for 3,000 hits. It’s incredible to consider that he did not join the North American Majors until after his 27th birthday. He currently has 2,971 hits.

At-Bats With RISP for Diamondbacks

Last week, I heard Tony La Russa say the team needs two things: 1) a better strategy to prevent a big inning, and 2) better at-bats with runners in scoring position (RISP). The key to winning this series could be better at-bats with RISP.

Looking at the top-level, Diamondbacks’ execution with RISP fell from 23% in April/May to 16% in the first eight days of June. Execution needs to improve. How?

Maybe more detail will add insights. I looked at 17 non-pitchers who accounted for 92% of RISP situations in 2016 through 1 June. For each baserunner situation with RISP, I looked at RBIs, walks, and strikeouts. Caveat: Putting this data together was complex and problematic. It should only be used for discussion purposes.

seventeen Diamondbacks Runners on... 1 2 _ Runners on... 1 _ 3 Runners on... _ _ 3 Runners on... 1 2 3 Runners on... _ 2 _ Runners on... _ 2 3
Opportunities 117 54 62 39 159 62
RBIs 30 19 28 23 31 24
Walks 6 6 14 2 20 10
Strikeouts 27 13 10 12 28 13
RBIs/Opp .256 .352 .452 .590 .195 .387
Walk Value/Opp .020 .029 .013 .051 .005 .027
Total/Opp .276 .381 .465 .641 .200 .414
RE-24 with 2 out .343 .471 .413 .736 .305 .570


1. The strikeout rate with RISP is not significantly different than that for all PAs, except when bases are loaded. With bases loaded, Diamondbacks had 12 strikeouts when 8 would be average.

2. This chart shows that despite ranking second in the National league in hits, the Diamondbacks are underperforming RE-24 with RISP. The team hit best with a man on third, and hit worst with a man on second. Interesting is a man on third: if the batter walks the team’s RBIs go down when RE-24 goes up.

3. Goldschmidt had the most RBIs with RISP. And Chris Herrmann had the highest RBIs per opportunity.

4. What strategy would be effective with RISP? Many factors are relevant: 1) Who bats next, 2) how many outs, 3) what are pitcher tendencies (strike on first pitch, pitch arounds or strike-outs, what is his out-pitch), and 4) Have the fielders shifted, or are they playing shallow or deep?

Possible actions.

1. The Diamondbacks are a relatively young team, so these complexities may be daunting when strategizing an at-bat with RISP. Can this be taught by an experienced player?

2. With less than two outs, the RE-24 from hitting is always preferable to walking. With two outs walking is acceptable, especially with men on first and second. Nevertheless, I would give Segura and Lamb green lights because they have hit well with men on first and second.

3. How do Diamondbacks develop the ability to hit the ball where it will score runs with RISP? Is it possible to practice that skill?

Pitching Matchups

Friday, King Kamehameha day. Justin Nicolino (4.37 ERA, 4.47 FIP,5.7 IP/GS, 2.3 run support/GS) vs Patrick Corbin(4.73 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 6.0 IP/GS, 3.0 run support/GS).

Justin Nicolino was called up from AAA on 26 April. This is his second year in the Majors. In the last series against the Diamondbacks, Justin Nicolino pitched 6 innings and allowed 4 earned runs. The Diamondbacks lost that game. Four Diamondbacks have hit well against Nicolino: Castillo, Goldschmidt, Segura, and Tomas.

Recently, Patrick Corbin pitched excellently against the Cubs - 7 innings with 2 earned runs, 5 strikeouts, and zero walks. Of the three games in this series against the Marlins, this is a must win! This is the most favorable matchup and a win would be great on King Kamehameha day!

Saturday. Jose Fernandez (2.29 ERA, 1.96 FIP, 6.2 IP/GS, 3.3 run support/GS) vs TBD

Jose Fernandez is well on his way to being spoken of in the same sentence as Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta. His key to improving is better control. After coming through the rehabilitation following his “Tommy John” surgery, he seemed to have lost three to four MPH on his best heat. This is still true, but he is far far better at spotting his pitches. He doesn’t hit 98 anymore. Thing is, I’d rather paint the corners at 95 than throw a 98 MPH meatball down the center of the plate. His strikeout rate is currently a historically good 13.3 per nine innings, which is more than two strikeouts per nine better than his already all-star level. He’s won his last eight starts. Recently against the Mets, he pitched 7 innings with zero earned runs and 14 strike-outs. Will he repeat that performance? Five Diamondbacks have hit well against him: Ahmed, Drury, Herrmann, Lamb, and Peralta.

Escobar was moved to the bullpen, so it is uncertain who will start for the Diamondbacks. Based on what Tony La Russa said on the Doug and Wolf show, the team knows who will pitch on Saturday and the team is waiting to make the announcement. Will waiting prevent the Marlins from preparing? Is a call-up from the minors about to be announced? Is a trade about to be announced?

Sunday. Adam Conley (3.72 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 5.3 IP/GS, 2.3 run support/GS) vs Robbie Ray (5.14 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 5.1 IP/GS, 1.8 run support/GS).

After his first game of the season, Adam Conley had an ERA of 27.00. He bounced back well. Last series against the Diamondbacks, Adam Conley pitched 5.1 innings and allowed zero earned runs. Nevertheless, two Diamondbacks have hit well against him: Castillo, and Segura.

In his last four games, Robbie Ray’s pitch efficiency was 20 pitches per inning. Earlier in the season, Ray had better efficiency. However, Robbie ray is constantly adjusting and improving his game. Keeping the score low is key to winning this game. Robbie Ray will combat that challenge.

Player In the Spotlight

Yoga Instructor leading class in Miami
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Mental fitness is important in baseball. Are there some basic ways to achieve mental fitness? I tip my hat to Clifford Lazarus, who wrote Three Keys to Optimum Mental Fitness (internet article).

First key: Affirmations. Affirmations are self-talk that activates specific left-brain neural pathways that strengthen self-esteem and wellness. Two examples are 1) I am a good-enough baseball player even if I make mistakes, and 2) I am damn good and bounce back quickly from disappointments.

Second key: Visualization. Visualization is imagining self in a way that activates right-brain pathways that strengthen skills. Two examples are 1) imagining self as having achieved a specific goal/outcome, and 2) imagining self as taking action steps to achieve a specific goal/outcome. Visualization needs to feel inspiring and compelling. Inspiring and compelling visualizations for a major league baseball player are amazing. Your humble writer’s visualizations are comparatively light and sparkly.

Third key: Relaxation exercises improve mental focus and control. Examples are meditation, self-hypnosis, bio-feedback, and yoga. Practicing yoga is unique because it strengthens self both mentally and physically.

Our player in the spotlight is a three-time all-star. In 2014, he was a silver slugger and finished second for MVP. He plays right field for the Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton is in the spotlight because he has two foundations of success.

The first foundation is nutrition. He said “Greatness demands hard work and top quality nutrition.” Although it is unclear what he meant by top quality nutrition, I found three clues. First, it was said he frequently went to Whole Foods to buy fresh fish for his pre-game meals. Second, after a baseball game, whey protein helps a faster recovery. Third, he was one of a group of players who requested that the Marlins’ team meals be high protein & low fat.

What is healthy for Stanton may not be healthy for you, the reader. Consult your doctor before changing what you eat.

The second foundation is yoga. Stanton does GAIAM Athletic Yoga for power and flexibility. He does yoga “heavily” during the off-season. It adds shoulder mobility with strength and elasticity. That could improve throwing and hitting. He said it stretches and strengthens all the important muscles in his legs. He has four yoga moves for baseball speed. He does light stretches during the game so he is ready for explosive motion without injury.

Yoga is best learned in a class for two reasons. First, proper form and movement can prevent injury. Second, there are seemingly little things that make a difference. One example for me is that how I hold my hands during poses impacts how I breath. Proper breathing is an important part of yoga.

Yoga has increased Giancarlo Stanton's physical flexibility. Stanton is built like an upside-down triangle. When Kevin Kraczkowski (writer for Fish Stripes, SB Nation) saw him running the bases four years ago, he often said that Stanton looked like “Godzilla on skates” due to a near-complete lack of pliability. Practicing yoga is addressing this shortcoming, albeit everything takes time.

Yoga has built Giancarlo Stanton’s mental strength. He said that he has achieved his best mental set ever by practice and yoga. He needs that mental strength because he is having a rough stretch over his last 23 games, batting 10-for-83 with two home runs and 39 strikeouts. The good part about it (for Marlins’ fans) is that there doesn’t seem to be any overriding change in talent, and his Hall-of-Fame career track will shortly resume. Stanton visualized it succinctly: "I want to be a hitter. I don't want to do the whole .230-with-45-homers thing. I didn't have year-round baseball growing up, so I didn't learn how to hit. I just knew how to hit the ball hard.”

With nutrition and yoga, Giancarlo Stanton has increased physical flexibility and built mental strength. He is our player in the spotlight.