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Series Preview #5: D-backs @ Dodgers

D-backs prepare to win another series against the Dodgers.

Cody Bellinger runs to first base
Cody Bellinger runs to first base
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What happened in the first series between Dodgers & Diamondbacks?

The D-backs swept the Dodgers in the first series because truth in mom’s apple pie, frontier justice, and the D-backs are just dog-gone good. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, at Chase Field the D-backs offense is clearly better than the Dodgers. That was reflected in the first series as the D-backs outscored the Dodgers 17 runs to 8 runs.

After the series, Dave Rogers, the Dodgers’ manager, talked about making adjustments to his team’s hitting strategy. He seemed to be saying that instead of waiting for a specific type of pitch to swing at, he wants his players to wait for a pitch in the strike zone. In my opinion, he was saying the D-backs pitchers outclassed the Dodgers!

What about this series?

This season, D-backs have scored more earned runs against Dodger starters than all other teams combined (that changed on Wednesday when Dodger Alex Wood allowed 7 earned runs in 3.2 innings against the Athletics). The D-back hitters (especially Ahmed, Peralta, Pollock, and Owings) have hit well against all teams, as shown with a D-backs average of 4.83 runs per game. This shines brightly compared to Dodger hitters who have scored 3.55 runs per game.

An interesting contrast is the D-backs’ hitters have 53 walks (second highest in the Majors) while the Dodgers’ hitters have 84 strikeouts (sixth lowest in the Majors). Perhaps they are demonstrating different ways to excell in plate discipline.

D-back relievers are awesome! All have excellent stats, with no exception. Archie Bradley, Yoshihisa Hirano, and Brad Boxberger are like the three musketeers because they are excellent.

I was excited to see Christian Walker called up because last season he hit well at the Majors level.

This season, assuming the D-backs win Wednesday’s game (they did!), the D-backs have won four consecutive series! How positive is that?! Last season included one streak of 6 series wins and one streak of 5 series wins. A series win against the Dodgers would go a long way to making this season look like last season, when the Diamondbacks won the wild card game.

How well are the Dodgers playing?

The bright side:

  • Clayton Kershaw has pitched well in his first three starts (4 earned runs on 19 innings).
  • Yasmany Grandal and Chase Utley have hit excellently.
  • Last season at Dodgers Stadium, the Dodgers outscored the D-backs (.132 vs. .101 runs per PA). This series is played at Dodgers Stadium.
  • Kenta Meada will return to the rotation. He pitched 1 inning as a reliever on April 7th. He has been referred to as a “super reliever.”

The flip side:

  • Justin Turner (the best Dodger hitter) remains on the DL.
  • The Dodgers outscored the Giants 5-2 and yet lost the series.
  • The Dodgers scored 8 runs against the D-backs and were swept.
  • Third Base. Logan Forsythe and Kyle Farmer have 10 hits in 52 at-bats.
  • Kenley Jansen’s average cutter speed fell from 93.6 last season to 90.4 this season. On April 10, his ERA and FIP were 9.
  • This season, Clayton Kershaw may be good instead of great. David Peralta and Daniel Descalso became the first pair of lefties to ever hit homers off him in the same game.

How well are the Diamondbacks playing?

The bright side:

  • First place in the NL West - a great position! Diamondbacks are ahead of the Dodgers by a wide margin, which adds a smile to that position.
  • Hitting well. Four players with an OPS+ above 100 are Nick Ahmed, AJ Pollock, Chris Owings, and David Peralta. Patrick Corbin has hit well, too!
  • Extremely Excellent rotation. As Jim McLennan wrote on Wednesday, the rotations’ ERA of 3.18 is second in the league (though Dodgers are first). D-backs are first in strikeout rate per 9 innings (10.9) and SO/BB (4.65). Starters Zack Godley, Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, and Patrick Corbin are pitching well this year! Zack Godley has impressed me most - he leads the league in a few metrics that will be talked about in the pitching matchups.
  • The Bullpen pitching has been awesome! Every reliever has an ERA+ above 100, except for those who are waiting for a number because they have not yet allowed an earned run.

The flip side:

  • The D-backs home runs per game has dropped from 1.34 last season to an average of less than 1.
  • Robbie Ray’s first start was less than good. He allowed 3 homers in 5 innings. Part of it may have been bad luck. His second start was much improved (1 earned run in 6 innings).
  • Paul Goldschmidt’s BABIP has dropped from a career .352 to .231. Nevertheless, I am confident that regression will happen and he will soon be hitting like previous seasons.
  • Lamb, Souza, and Delgado are on the DL. Nevertheless, they are expected back soon.

Who will pitch in this series?

Friday. Kenta Maeda (0 ER in 6 IP, 18 SO/9, 1.5 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke (85 ERA+, 11.8 SO/9, 0 BB/9)

This season, Kenta Maeda started one game, was a reliever for one game, and this game will be his second start. Can he pitch at his best when he changes roles often?

This season, Zack Greinke has not yet walked a batter! He pitched well except for one 4-run inning against the Cardinals. Looking forward, I expect the same inconsistency as last season (44% games allowing 1 run or less, and 22% games allowing 4 runs or more). This season, I am confident Greinke will be well prepared and execute well.

Saturday. LHP Rich Hill (144 ERA+, 9.9 SO/9, 4.5 BB/9) vs LHP Taijuan Walker (132 ERA+, 5.7 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9)

Rich Hill will attempt to bounce back from his last start, when he allowed 3 earned runs in 4 innings against the Giants.

This season, Taijuan Walker has pitched to contact, and his approach has been effective. His last start he allowed only 1 earned run in 6 innings against the Cardinals.

Sunday. LHP Clayton Kershaw (201 ERA+, 9.0 SO/9, 1.4 BB/9) vs Zack Godley (667 ERA+, 7.7 SO/9, 0.6 BB/9)

This season, Clayton Kershaw is as good as he was last season. Ho hum.

Zack Godley is amazing! He added a killer curve to his signature sinker. He leads the NL with an adjusted earned run average of 667, strikeout to walk ratio of 12, and win probability added of 0.8.

Mental Habit of the Series: Wait for Amazing

For my series preview, I wanted photos at a specific outdoor location with mana that reaches far beyond the known universe. That mana would accrue to the Diamondbacks.

Preparations were made and everything was ready. On photo day it rained. I rescheduled photo day for the following week. Again, it rained, and flooded might be more accurate. That weather was an unexpected problem.

It was painful to consider whether to shoot photos indoors, where they would lack mana. It would not be a good memory. And I was about to leave on a two week trip, so my next photo opportunity would not be soon.

I thought of two questions, “Would readers be willing to wait for amazing?”, and, “Would I be willing to wait for amazing?“ The answer was a resounding, “Yes!” I decided to wait to shoot photos.

What did I learn? Similar to playing baseball, precisely controlling when amazing happens is not always possible. When amazing does not immediately happen, it takes confidence and strength to strive for amazing when it means waiting.

Zack Godley started spring training with a pitch that was less than amazing. He said, “The biggest thing for me was going into spring training knowing I could work on something, as opposed to having to go all-out the whole time from the get-go.”

Instead of being as great as possible in spring training, Zack Godley decided to wait, so he could work on a specific pitch, his curve. In choosing to wait, he demonstrated confidence and strength!

This season, Zack Godley leads the NL in ERA+, SO/BB, and WPA. He is on track for his best season! Zack Godley is amazing!

Amazing is worth the wait.