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Series Preview #20: D-backs vs Brewers

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Outstanding Offense is Back in Town

Shawn Green, former D-back
Shawn Green, former D-back
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

BREWERS

Weak Bullpen and Weak in Center Field.

Their starters, though not weak, are worse than the D-back starters, which will put pressure on their bullpen. Their bullpen is below average in the Majors. Even if the Brewers take a lead, the D-backs will have a good chance to comeback.

Keon Broxton is the primary center fielder for the Brewers. As I write this, he has the exact same OPS+ as Nick Ahmed (92). On 5 June, the Brewers called up a top prospect Brett Phillips, who played a game at center field. In his first three plate appearances, he got a single and two strikeouts. At center field, the Brewers rank 26th in the Majors at 1.1 wins below average. Three last-place teams are worse (Pirates, As, and Giants).

In May, the D-backs split the four game series in Milwaukee. This will be a three game series at Chase, and I predict the Brewers will struggle to win even one game.

DIAMONDBACKS

They’re back! After a rest day, the D-backs offense scored 32 runs in the last three games. That’s no typo: 32 runs in three games. High runs scored and superior pitching will win this series. D-backs’ spirits are high!

Diamondbacks pitching is in flux. The good news is: Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray are great, Randall Delgado has shown he can start, and Zack Godley is back! And I see three big questions.

  • When Walker’s blister problem is healed, who will he replace in the rotation - Delgado or Corbin?
  • Patrick Corbin’s pitching needs a tune-up. Will he remain a starter, move to the bullpen, or be optioned to the minors?
  • For the Reno Aces, Rubby De la Rosa has a 3.48 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 1 walk. When will he be ready to return?

Pitching Matchups

Friday. Randall Delgado (143 ERA+, 8.4 SO/9, 1.5 BB/9) vs Zach Davies (94 ERA+, 6.5 SO/9, 3.4 BB/9)

Randall Delgado has stepped into the starter role and shined brightly. Over the last three games, he has allowed 3 earned runs in 15 innings, which would be an outstanding ERA of 1.8.

On 4 June, Zack Davies pitched a gem against the Dodgers – zero earned runs, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, in 6 innings. Was that game a breakthrough or a one-time event? This game may provide the answer.

Saturday. Zack Godley (194 ERA+, 7.6 SO/9, 2.9 BB/9) vs Junior Guerra (244 ERA+, 6.9 SO/9, 4.1 BB/9).

Zack Godley is back!! I am thrilled to see him starting. Confidence that he would be back quickly did not reduce my joy! His pitching is just what the D-backs offense needs to win another game! And each win is a step towards playing in the post-season!

In his last start against the D-backs, Junior Guerra allowed 1 earned run in 5.2 innings. The D-backs offense will be much better this game because unlike that game, this is a home game for the D-backs.

Sunday. Robbie Ray(162 ERA+, 11.3 SO/9, 3.7 BB/9) vs Chase Anderson (150 ERA+, 8.1 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9)

Robbie Ray’s statistics shout loudly. In his last four games he pitched 30.1 innings with one earned run, 36 strikeouts, and 5 walks. The Brewers only have one pitcher who might possibly match that, Chase Anderson.

In the last series with the Brewers, I wrote that Chase Anderson will need more than self-confidence to win against the D-backs. He delivered with zero earned runs and 11 strikeouts in 7 innings. In the two games after that, he pitched another 14.2 innings with zero earned runs. This season is a breakout season for Chase Anderson. If he pitches like he has the last three starts, this game will be a pitchers’ duel.

State of the Season: Fantastic

I am extremely confident the D-backs will play in the post-season. They finished May with 33 wins and 22 losses. Sixty percent wins is impressive! The D-backs significantly broke through my threshold of 31 wins in May to be on-track for the post season. Based on GM Mike Hazen’s statements, he seems to agree with me that the D-backs are strong post-season contenders. I doubt he would do any rebuilding trades to damage those chances. And I suspect he may improve the team, but only if he gets an opportunity that improves the team this season without harming future seasons! Therefore, I remain extremely confident.

Mental Habit of the Series: Awareness

Eric Thames, Brewer first baseman, learned to find peace no matter the results. He gives some credit for achieving that perspective to a book authored by former D-back Shawn Green.

In 2005 as a D-back, Shawn Green hit 22 homers with an OPS+ of 114. During the 2006 season, he was traded to the Mets. His book, The Way of Baseball, is a fun read with many baseball stories. It opened my eyes to the impact of awareness on hitting.

One way to organize what I learned about awareness is by steps. I saw four steps.

Step 1. “Step out of time” to be less reactive. Two ways to do this are 1) give full attention to a task, for no other reason than to do the task well, and 2) give full attention to breathing to connect to the present moment.

Step 2. View my thoughts, emotions, and ego from a distance. The distance allows me to be aware of them. Without distance, they can take over and make me unaware of my present circumstance. Three examples are 1) thoughts that incessantly judge and analyze, and 2) emotions that cloud the mind with fear and illusion, and 3) ego-based agenda that causes focus on self instead of the present task.

Step 3. Move awareness from the mind to parts of the body involved in hitting. Shawn Green did this while batting off a tee. As he progressed, he did this in batting practice.

Step 4. Enlarge batting awareness to include the pitcher. The basic concept is that successful hitting is more “allowing” a hit with the pitcher and less “doing” a hit. Shawn Green, with his new awareness, noticed that about half the pitchers subtly tipped their pitches. He thinks Randy Johnson often tipped his pitches, but part of Randy Johnson’s greatness was that even knowing the pitch, he could not hit it.

In summary, I enjoyed the stories in Shawn Green’s book. One thing I learned is that increased awareness is part of achieving great hitting. Clearly, there is more to awareness than initially meets the eye. Awareness is about 70% pre-game preparation, 20% in-game focus, and 10% allowing success. Awareness is the mental habit of the series.