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Series Preview #31: Diamondbacks @ Reds

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After beating the Dodgers, D'Backs face the rebuilding Reds. Will they win the series?

Great baseball!
Great baseball!
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks (40-55)

@ Cincinnati Reds (36-59)

After winning the series with the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks are likely feeling in high spirits. Shrugging off two games against the American League Blue Jays, will their momentum carry them to win this series?

Let's compare early season results to recent results for D'backs relief pitchers who have pitched in about 40 games. The following table looks at games with zero earned runs allowed (probably mission accomplished), and games with 2 or more earned runs allowed(probably not good).

Pitcher games 1-20 games 21+
Barrett 0 ER=80%, 2+ER=5% 0 ER=79%, 2+ER=5%
Chafin 0 ER=80%, 2+ER=15% 0 ER=75%, 2+ER=25%
Clippard 0 ER=80%, 2+ER=5% 0 ER=72%, 2+ER=11%
Delgado 0 ER=60%, 2+ER=20% 0 ER=73%, 2+ER=5%
Hudson 0 ER=90%, 2+ER=5% 0 ER=55%, 2+ER=30%

Delgado improved and Barrett stayed about the same. Chafin(on DL), Clippard, and especially Hudson have slipped. Just to keep that change in perspective, Clippard's RE-24 of 4.44 is very much the highest in the group. The other RE-24s are Chafin at 1.66, Barrett at -0.23, Delgado at -2.31, and Hudson at -7.16.

After injuries and disappointments, Diamondbacks continue to rebuild before going all-in in 2017. This contrasts with the Reds who continue to rebuild towards 2018 as their all-in year.

Now, let’s look at the Reds. Their five starting pitchers all make near league minimum. The best is Anthony DeSclafani with an ERA+ of 165. The rest are not to be feared by the Diamondbacks. Their relievers are above average. They have four good hitters: Votto, Bruce, Duvall, and Cozart.

Reds' players to watch are Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart. Jay Bruce is "almost certain" to be traded by 1 August. Zack Cozart could match with many teams, although a trade may not happen until off-season.

As the teams rebuild, I will watch players develop and enjoy great baseball. On a hunch, I predict a Diamondback sweep.

Pitching Matchups

Friday. Dan Straily (4.07 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 5.9 IP/GS, 2.6 run support/GS) vs Archie Bradley(4.37 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 5.8 IP/GS, 2.8 run support/GS).

Based on the last 30 days, Dan Straily was ranked as 23rd worst in giving up hard contact (35.9%). Bradley is 11th worst with 38% hard contact. With this combination of pitchers, this game may have a record number of hard hit balls. Outfielders will need to keep on their toes.

Saturday. Keyvius Sampson(5.51 ERA,7.92 FIP, 4.0 IP/GS in 2015, 2.1 run support/GS in 2015) vs Robbie Ray (4.49 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 5.5 IP/GS, 2.6 run support/GS).

Keyvius Sampson pitched 7 games in relief in 2016, averaging 2.1 innings per game. When he started in 2015, he averaged 4 innings per game. Jake Lamb and Jean Segura have hit very well against Sampson.

Against the Dodgers, Robbie Ray pitched 7 innings with zero earned runs. Phillips and Suarez have hit well against Ray. Because of better ERA and FIP, Robbie Ray provides advantage to Diamondbacks.

Sunday. Brandon Finnegan(4.66 ERA, 5.64 FIP, 5.6 IP/GS, 2.8 run support/GS) vs Zack Godley(5.31 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 5.3 IP/GS, 3.3 run support/GS).

Over the last 30 days, Brandon Finnegan is ranked second worst in giving up hard contact at 42.9%. Bourn has hit well against Finnegan.

I am excited to see Zack Godley pitch this game! He has started three times this season and he earned a win twice. In his last game, he was instructed to use more finesse. It worked well until a three run homer by Edwin Encarnacion. Although bullpens will likely decide the game, this matchup is advantage to Diamondbacks.

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
Zack Cozart hit home run on July 5.
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Player in the Spotlight.

"Life will always throw you curves, just keep fowling them off...the right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases." Rick Maksian.

Patience improves baseball performance. Exactly how does a baseball player become patient? I tip my hat to Lindsay Holmes who wrote 5 Tricks to Becoming A More Patient Person (internet article for Huffington Post).

1. Be thankful for something/someone. This thinking reduces the need for instant gratification, thereby increasing patience.

2. Be aware of your thoughts. Paul Goldschmidt does this well! Over time, this allows awareness of your specific causes of impatience, such as A) feeling rushed by thoughts jumping from task-to-task or B) feeling rushed by distractions and interruptions. Awareness allows the possibility of increased patience.

3. Wait for small things. An example is wait ten minutes before eating a snack. Wait for many small things and you have made a habit of patience.

4. Embrace the uncomfortable. Experiencing something uncomfortable can cause impatience because of desire to end the discomfort. When circumstances require discomfort, such as breaking a bad habit, embracing the uncomfortable can increase patience.

5. Control your breathing and take a few deep breaths. This action calms the mind and body, thereby increases patience.

Patience. In 2011, his first year in the Majors, our player in the spotlight said he learned how to be more patient. Patience was the foundation of his success. Also, I’m certain that his increased patience meant that he was a better listener. Listening became very important four years later!

Our player in the spotlight is Zack Cozart. He plays shortstop. Measured by UZR/150, his fielding at shortstop was one of the best in the Majors. For three seasons (2012-2014), his hitting as measured by OPS+ stayed well below average. Despite the poor hitting, his fielding kept him in the Majors. After years in the Majors, and at age 29, many might expect that his story goes downhill from there. It does not.

Adjustment. In spring training of 2015, Zack Cozart listened to Barry Larkin, Hall-of-Fame shortstop. Barry said, "Hey, you ever thought about telling yourself to just crush the inside part of the ball?" Later, Zack said it was "eye opening." He made an adjustment to his frame-of-mind that improved his hitting to above average in the Majors! Much later, when he looked at video he saw that his frame-of-mind very slightly changed his grip and how he loaded his weight (almost beyond perception).

Overcame Knee Injury. In June 2015, he injured his knee when he tripped over first base. Again, his patience served him well in the recovery process. This season 1) he is #5 in the majors in putouts plus assists per game, 2) his OPS+ is 107, and 3) he has a career high for hard-hit balls of 31.7%. Clearly he overcame his knee injury.

Because Zack Cozart has patience, made an adjustment with huge impact, and overcame a knee injury, he is our player in the spotlight.