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Series Preview #28: Diamondbacks @ Giants

Starting pitching improved in 2016!

Showdown with Giants
Showdown with Giants
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Arizona Diamondbacks(38-49)

@ San Francisco Giants(54-33)

We are near the midpoint of the season. Let’s start by looking at the Diamondbacks. At each position, let's compare last year to the first half of this year.

Position WAR 2015 WAR 2016(midway)
Starting Pitcher -3.1 -0.2
Relief Pitcher -1.7 -0.4
Catcher -0.1 +1.3
First Base +6.4 +1.6
Second Base -2.3 +0.7
Third Base -0.9 +1.1
Short Stop +0.3 -0.2
Outfield +9.1 -2.8

So far in 2016, WAR increased 2.9 at starting pitching, WAR increased 3.0 at second, and WAR increased 2.0 at third. Improvements happened! These were overshadowed by big losses in the outfield (11.9 WAR decrease) and first base (4.8 WAR decrease).

Because of these numbers, I am enthusiastic about 2017! When Pollock returns, as Tomas develops, and with Peralta at 100%, the outfield will add about 14 wins over 2016! When the starting pitchers figure out how to pitch Chase, they will be awesome adding another 10 wins.

Now, let’s look at the Giants. They are leading the division. Their key pitchers include Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgardener. They have a great bullpen including closer Santiego Casilla. Injuries have hurt some key Giants – Span has a sore neck, Panik has a concussion, and Pence will have surgery for a torn hamstring. If the Diamondbacks win this series it would be a feather in their cap!

Pitching Matchups

Friday. Jeff Samardzija (3.97 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 6.5 IP/GS, 3.6 run support/GS) vs Patrick Corbin (4.90 ERA, 5.05 FIP, 5.9 IP/GS, 3.2 run support/GS).

In 2016, Jeff Samardzija started twice against Arizona, with a win and a no-decision. What is amazing is that in those 15.1 innings, he did not walk a batter! The last time he walked a Diamondbacks player was Miguel Montero in 2014, who was the only Diamondback he walked that year. His in-zone percent in 2016 is 52.7%. That is higher than any starting pitcher on either team in this series! Regardless of the game outcome, a Diamondback walk would feel like a small victory.

In contrast to Samardzija who has a high in-zone pitching percentage (52.7%), Patrick Corbin has a low in-zone pitching percentage (43.4%). A low percentage is not necessarily bad. For example Madison Bumgarner is very effective with that approach! I look forward to seeing which approach works best in this game!

Saturday. Jake Peavy (5.33 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 5.2 IP/GS, 2.7 run support/GS) vs Robbie Ray (4.78 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 5.4 IP/GS, 2.4 run support/GS).

This season, Jake Peavy has faced the Diamondbacks twice. He pitched 11 innings and allowed 5 earned runs. Diamondbacks who have hit very well against him include Bourn, Castillo, and Weeks. Jake Peavy has a tendency to get better results in the second half of the season, so this game may be a good chance for a Diamondbacks win.

This season, Robbie Ray has faced the Giants twice. He pitched 12 innings, and allowed 4 earned runs. Giants who have hit very well against him include Belt, Blanco, Duffy, Green, Panic, and Pence. These two pitchers are evenly matched.

Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (2.09 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 6.7 IP/GS, 3.6 run support/GS) vs Archie Bradley(4.81 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 5.8 IP/GS, 3.4 run support/GS).

The positive of the matchup is Archie Bradley did well the previous time they met on 16 April 2015. He pitched 6.2 innings and allowed 2 ERs. When he left the game, the Diamondbacks had the lead and eventually won the game. The negative of the matchup can be seen in the following table. It looks like the Giants win about 75% of the time with this matchup.

Pitching Skill Madison Bumgarner Archie Bradley
Ace Pitcher(2 or less ERs per game) 78% 30%
Good Pitcher(3 ERs per game) 11% 20%
Poor Pitcher(4 or more ERs per game) 11% 50%

San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves
Buster Posey after throwing out a runner.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Player in the Spotlight

Continuity is an overlooked characteristic of a team. Continuity means playing baseball with the same teammates. Over time, each player learns on-the-field capabilities of his teammates and develops relationships with his teammates. Continuity helps a team win.

I measured continuity of two teams, the Diamondbacks and the Giants. I looked at who played at each position. For each position, I counted how many players were needed to play 90% of the total innings (thereby ignoring spot starts, end-of-game situations, and unusual circumstances).

Diamondbacks. Midway through the 2016 season, the nine positions needed 36 players to play 90% of their innings. Of the 18 relief pitchers, only 10 counted in the 90%. It seemed unusual that I counted 11 outfielders in the 90%. Three players were counted in two outfield positions, and Pollock was not counted due to pre-season injury. Overall, I decided not to adjust the continuity score for dual-position players or pre-season injuries. I expected a low continuity score, and continuity of 36 is low.

Giants. The nine positions needed 27 players to play 90% of their innings. The Giants have greater continuity than the Diamondbacks. Based on player comments, continuity is strong on the Giants!

Buster Posey said, “I think the main thing is that when you get into a tight situation, you’ve been to battle with the same guys and you know what each guy can bring to the table. There’s a comfort level to that.” He seemed to say he plays well in clutch situations when he has continuity of experience with his teammates. Success in clutch situations is one benefit of continuity!

Buster Posey said baseball should be fun while avoiding being disrespectful to opponents. Perhaps celebrating with teammates and good-natured teasing of teammates allows fun without risk of being disrespectful to opponents. Making baseball fun is another benefit of continuity!

Buster Posey was rookie-of-the-year in 2010, National League Most Valuable Player in 2012, four-time All-Star, and three-time Silver Slugger. He has three World Series rings. In 2015, he won the Fielding Bible Award. Awesome! Although I am impressed, Buster Posey is our player in the spotlight because he did something amazing to become successful!

After he turned down being drafted in the 50th round by the Angels, Buster Posey played shortstop at Florida State University. His second year, he switched to catcher. What is amazing is he gave 100% of himself to be a catcher. Catchers get banged-up more than other positions and years later Buster Posey was famously injured by a home-plate collision. With great discernment, he saw opportunity in playing catcher where others might have seen pain. He watched TV crouched like a catcher to stretch his hips.

Buster Posey said, "There's some good and bad about starting as late as I did. The good being I didn't have any bad habits from little league. The bad is I did have to learn a lot to catch up." He quickly transformed himself into a great catcher. Buster Posey is our player in the spotlight.