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Arizona Diamondbacks Game Preview, #68: Too many blown leads?

The problem may not be in the bullpen...

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Clayton Kershaw
RHP, 9-1, 1.52
Patrick Corbin
LHP, 3-5, 4.81
Enrique Hernandez - LF Jean Segura - 2B
Justin Turner - 3B Brandon Drury - 3B
Corey Seager - SS Paul Goldschmidt - 1B
Trayce Thompson - CF Rickie Weeks - LF
Adrian Gonzalez - 1B Welington Castillo - C
Howie Kendrick - 2B Yasmany Tomas - RF
Scott Van Slyke - RF Nick Ahmed - SS
A.J. Ellis - C Patrick Corbin - LHP
Clayton Kershaw - LHP Michael Bourn - CF

Would have been nice for the Diamondbacks to have held on to the lead yesterday, and take the series. That would have made this afternoon's contest, going up against Kershaw, a bit like playing at a casino with "house money". The series would already have been in the bag, regardless of today's outcome, and we would have had a potential shot at a sweep. Instead, the deciding game sees us going up against a very tough opponent. But, on the other hand, we've beaten our share of those lately. In the last couple of weeks, the Diamondbacks have been both 2015 Cy Young winners (Arrieta + Keuchel), as well another ace, in Fernandez.

However, one thing we may need to do better at, is protecting a mid-inning lead. We have been ahead at some point in every game this month bar one, the 6-0 loss to the Cubs on June 3. Yet, the team has a losing record, being 6-7 coming into today's game. This means there are an awful games which the team led at some point, but weren't able to build or protect that lead: Beyond the shutout, here are the other six games we've dropped, with details of where we had a lead in the middle innings:

  • June 17 vs. LAD: led 2-0 after four, lost 7-4
  • June 10 vs MIA: led 5-1 after six, lost 8-6
  • June 8 vs TBR: led 3-2 after five, lost 6-3
  • June 6 vs TBR: led 2-0 after three, lost 6-4
  • June 4 vs CHS: led 2-1 after three, lost 5-3
  • June 1 vs HOU: led 1-0 after four, lost 5-4

Looking at the overall stats this year for NL teams, they have a 68.8% chance of winning when leading at the start of the third inning. The rest of the way, that chance increases by slightly less than five percent (4.7%) for each inning they keep the lead, until they win 97% of games when entering the ninth inning with a lead (of any size). But for the D-backs, that''s not what we see. We've stellar at protecting late leads, indeed a perfect 25-0 when leading at the end of the seventh. But we actually have a losing record (13-14) when ahead at the start of the fourth, far below NL average (72,6% wins), and are also worse in the fifth and sixth.

These are the innings when your starter is going through the opposing batting order for the second and third time, and that seems to be a big problem for the team. First time through, our starters have held the opposition to a .699 OPS. Next time through, they hit .291 with an OPS of .818. The third time, it's the SLG that jumps, to .513, with an OPS of .854. It looks like our batteries are not doing a very good job of mixing it up, once the other team has had a chance to see them. I hope this is something of which Mike Butcher is aware, and is working on with our starters and catchers.

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