After wrapping up a four game series with the Phillies this afternoon, the Diamondbacks are holding down second place in the NL West with a 49-28 record. This means that they could play roughly .500 ball the rest of the season, and they would finish with 90+ wins. I’m not saying that as a proclamation, but rather a testament to the level of success that they have experienced thus far. I mean they are 15-3 in their last 18 games for goodness sakes! Now they get to take on the Cardinals for a three game series in the middle of the week. Fortunately for the Dbacks, the Cardinals have struggled to start 2017, although we will be facing some tough pitchers. Let’s see what we can expect!
Game 1: Carlos Martinez vs. Taijuan Walker
Carlos Martinez is having a great year, and has taken another step towards becoming an ace for the St. Louis Cardinals. He currently has the best ERA, K/9, and WHIP of his young career and on pace to post 200+ innings while striking out more than 220 batters. However, his record stands at just 6-6 because his offense is not giving him much run support (let’s hope that continues). Taijuan Walker on the other hand has also pitched well this year, but took a one month hiatus because of a blister on his pitching hand. In his two starts since coming off of the disabled list though, he has picked up right where he left off. He has a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts, good enough for a 139 ERA+. With what Greinke, Ray, and Godley have been doing, Walker has been one hell of a luxury. Tough matchup, but should be a good game.
Game 2: Adam Wainwright vs. Zack Godley
It’s hard to believe that Wainwright is already in his age-35 season. He has been struggling off and on ever since returning from his ruptured Achilles injury that he had in the beginning of 2015. That injury has an expected time table for return of 12 months, but he managed to return after just 5 months. This season though, he hasn’t quite found a groove yet. He has a 5.35 ERA across 79 innings, and looks like he might be on pace to lead the league in hits allowed and earned runs like he did in 2016. Zack Godley has been an absolute revelation this year, after not being that impressive in his first two big league seasons. That may very well be indicative of how well this front office and management is harmonizing between analytics and player development, especially since this is happening to our pitchers across the board. In case you haven’t read it, here is a great article that likens Godley to Dallas Keuchel (even down to being late bloomers). He has a 2.53 ERA in 57 innings, with 52 K’s, and a 1.00 WHIP. He may very well be one of the biggest surprises of the year, and let’s hope that he can continue this type of success.
Game 3: Lance Lynn vs. Patrick Corbin
Lance Lynn has had a decent start to 2017, but one wonders how long that might last. He has an xFIP that is almost a full run higher than his ERA (4.64 vs. 3.86, respectively), and a FIP that is nearly two runs higher (5.54). Although that is mostly due to a very high home run rate, having allowed 18 already this year. In contrast, Patrick Corbin is pitching right at his FIP level … which is not great. He has a 4.89 ERA over 84.2 innings, and has swung back and forth from disastrous to successful all season long. He had a 2.29 ERA in April, but his ERA jumped all the way up to 5.14 after a rough May. He has been lowering his ERA in June, but that is likely because of starts against the Marlins, Padres, and two against the Phillies. St. Louis should present a little more of a test than he has had in a while; let’s see what he can do.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals typically have a great pitching staff and an offense that is above average and can score runs in a variety of ways. Yet, neither of these things have materialized in 2017. They are scoring 4.40 runs per game, which is good enough for fifth worst in the National League (Ahead of the aforementioned Padres and Phillies, as well as the Pirates and Giants). Other than not scoring a lot of runs, they are actually a pretty average offense, being right around league average in HR, RBI, Avg, OBP, and SLG.
After the Arizona offense was slumping throughout parts May and early June, they have certainly turned things around recently. They have upped their runs per game all the way back up to 5.27, which is good enough for second in the NL, and fourth best in all of baseball. What’s even more impressive, is that they have done this without the aid of A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas (although the latter’s abscense may be better for the club in the near term – sorry AzDbackfanInDc). Although, it is quite surprising that their OPS+ is below average at 96.
Leading the way for the Dbacks offense is their humble superstar, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy is having an amazing year, and is very deserving of what could be his fifth straight all-star appearance. He is currently on pace to have career highs in:
- Hits – 191
- Runs – 143!!!
- Home Runs – 38
- RBI – 137
- All 3 Triple Slash Categories - .332/.447/.606
- Total Bases – 350
A special start to a special year indeed. The list of contributors that have provided offensive support in addition to Goldschmidt is a long one, with most players having some of their best years. This young team is maturing right before our eyes, and many of them are entering the primes of their careers. It has been a treat to watch!
The Cardinals come into Phoenix struggling, and in stark contrast the Dbacks have been staying as hot as the desert sun (awful pun, right? … Hey, I’m no Clefo, but I’m trying here). I don’t think that you can expect a sweep from the Dbacks, but I think that two wins is a reasonable expectation. We will face their toughest pitcher in Carlos Martinez, but we fortunately will miss both Leake and Wacha so there’s some upside there too. I expect the Dbacks to head into the holiday weekend with a 51-29 record and still in second place in the NL West. Enjoy the series, and go Dbacks!