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Series Preview #2: D-backs vs Dodgers

Two teams that aspire for the playoffs - what will their first series reveal?

A Young Dodger Shows Emotion
A Young Dodger Shows Emotion
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Who are new Dodgers?

In December, the Dodgers traded away several players to the Braves to help insure they could avoid the luxury tax – and in that trade re-acquired former Dodger Matt Kemp. Depending on your view, he is a new Dodger and/or a veteran Dodger. He arrived at spring training 40 pounds lighter! He hit excellently in spring training. When I first looked, he was batting (.283/.320/.587/.903). Hitting 3 for 29 with no extra bases lowered his stats to (.255/.311/.509/.821). His hard work was rewarded with a spot on the 25 man roster.

Three new players in the bullpen are Tom Koehler, Scott Alexander, and JT Chargois. Will they make up for losses, such as Brandon Morrow (ERA+ of 204)? Time will tell.

Who Are Core Dodgers Players?

No need for too many words because a quick glance at the following table shows the Dodgers have a solid core for the next three seasons.

Dodger Core Players

Player Position Age FA Year Awards Stats
Player Position Age FA Year Awards Stats
Cody Bellinger 1B 22 2024 2017 ROY & All-Star 2017 NL ranked #2 with 39 HR
Corey Seager SS 23 2022 2016 ROY & 2X All-Star & 2X SS 2016 NL ranked #7 with BA of .308 &   2017 ranked #2 in defense with 20 Total Zone Runs as SS
Justin Turner 3B 33 2021 All-Star & NCLS MVP 2016 NL ranked #5 in defense with 19 Total Zone Runs &   2017 ranked #2 with OBP of .415
Clayton Kershaw SP 30 2021 MVP & 3X CY & 7X All-Star & more 2011/12/13/14/17 NL ranked #1 in ERA
Kenley Jansen Closer 30 2022 2X ALl-Star & 2X Hoffman Reliever of the Year 2017 NL ranked # 1 with 41 saves

What are Dodger Weaknesses?

The best hitter for the Dodgers, Justin Turner, is on the DL with a broken wrist. In addition to the negative impact on offense, it is likely that defense will be impacted by Logan Forsythe moving to third base and with other associated roster moves.

Although their rotation is strong, this season the Dodgers lack immediate depth in starting pitching. Like the D-backs, they have starting pitchers who are not immediately ready, but will be at some point during the season. They are one early-season injury away from a difficult-to-address opening in the rotation.

Similar to last season, their bullpen pitchers are very hit-able, except their closer. Nevertheless, two of their relievers are ranked in the top 100 by MLB power rankings (Josh Fields - 74 and Pedro Baez – 83). Although Baseball Reference stated Josh Fields experienced arm discomfort in March, he pitched one inning of relief in the season opener.

How do Diamondbacks Compare to Dodgers?

Last season, the D-backs had good results against the Dodgers. The D-backs won 11 of their 19 regular-season games against the Dodgers. The two consecutive sweeps against the Dodgers were amazing.

Let’s compare offense. This series will be played at Chase Field. Last season at Chase Field, the Dodgers scored 0.12 runs per plate appearance (41runs/343PAs) and the D-backs scored 0.15 runs per plate appearance (457runs/3104PAs). The D-backs had a 25% better pace of scoring runs at Chase! The Dodgers’ best hitter is on the DL - Justin Turner scored 15% of their runs at Chase. The D-backs lost JD Martinez, who scored 6% of their runs at Chase. The D-backs have a clear offensive advantage at Chase.

Let’s compare defense. The two teams have roughly equal defense. Last season, the teams ranked second and third in lowest runs allowed. The D-backs played more games at hitter friendly Chase, while the Dodgers allowed fewer runs (580 vs 659). This season the Diamondbacks will have better defense (I predicted 600 runs allowed) for three reasons.

  • Steven Souza and Jarrod Dyson were added to the outfield.
  • More games with Nick Ahmed (shortstop) and Ketel Marte (second).
  • The humidor will positively impact the Diamondback pitchers.

Further muddling the waters is the unpredictability of the bullpens of both teams. Either team could win the series. I predict the D-backs will win the series.

Who will pitch in this series?

For the Dodgers, probable pitchers are Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Alex Wood. Paul Goldschmidt has hit very well against all three with an average OPS of .948 and 20 RBIs over 85 ABs. AJ Pollock must smile when he faces Alex Wood because of his OPS of 1.375. Chris Owings has hit relatively well against Clayton Kershaw with an OPS of .736.

For the D-backs, probable pitchers are Taijuan Walker, Zack Godley, and Patrick Corbin. With the caveat that the humidor will have an impact, and with Justin Turner on the DL, five Dodgers could be offensive threats in this series.

  • Cody Bellinger. MLB power rank #30. Walker has pitched well against him.
  • Corey Seager. MLB power rank #56. He has hit well (OPS 1.262 over 7 PAs) against Walker. Godley and Corbin have pitched well against him.
  • Yasiel Puig. MLB power rank #59.
  • Chris Taylor. MLB power rank #69.
  • Logan Forsythe. MLB power rank #254. Despite his low ranking, he has hit well (OPS of 1.115 over 14 PAs) against Corbin.

State of the Season

Approximately once a month I will look beyond wins/losses and focus on another way to address the question, “How likely are the Diamondbacks to play in the post-season.” Let’s look at player payroll at the start of this season.

Expectations were low. Shoewizard’s comments always provide great insights. In January, shoewizard wrote, “It would surprise me greatly if they went to $125 or even $130 [Million]. But I wouldn’t make a $500 bet on it.” Good thing no bets were made because the Diamondbacks have busted through the top end of expectations.

Although COTS and Roster Resource have their differences in payroll (about $1.6 Million), and what they include in their payroll, I bravely place this season’s start-of-the-season payroll in perspective with the following estimates:

  • 25-man roster increased 41% ($131.4 Million vs $93.1 Million) compared to last season (I included costs for Tomas/Miller/Delgado/Souza).
  • Opening day payroll increased 30% ($133.7 Million vs $103 Million) compared to last season.
  • Opening day payroll increased 19% ($133.7 Million vs $112.3 Million) compared to 2014 (the previous record season).

Diamondback payroll is a record breaker. Record breaker! Salaries are the highest they have ever been.

Payroll alone does not make a playoff-bound team. Two reasons that record breaking payroll will help the Diamondbacks make the playoffs follow:

  • GM Mike Hazen has leveraged that increased salary by applying his remarkably great skill in acquiring players whose value exceeds their salary. He has added players in positions where they can make an impact.
  • GM Mike Hazen has acquired players will skills that align with the team’s priorities.

GM Hazen said “...We knew that the things we prioritize, with run prevention certainly being one of those things, given the pitching staff that we have, and being well-versed defensively and having versatility on the defensive side, was important….” And he said, “I think continuing to push our defense, continuing to push our baserunning, continuing to get more well-rounded in every phase of the offensive game.”

In summary, increased payroll is one reason that the Diamondbacks are likely to play in the post-season.