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Series Preview #7: D-backs vs Padres

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Will the D-backs sweep the Padres?

Hosmer’s intensity shows even in batting practice!
Hosmer’s intensity shows even in batting practice!
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Who are new Padres?

The Padres’ biggest move was acquiring Eric Hosmer on an 8 year contract with an opt-out after 5 years. He is a face-of-the-franchise type of player.

Two defensively talented position players were added – Freddy Galvis (career UZR/150 at SS of 6.0) and Chase Headley (GG and career UZR/150 at 3rd base of 7.0).

There will be new faces in the rotation. The rotation starters returning from last season are Clayton Richard, Perdomo, and Lamet (on DL). The Padres have acquired Bryan Mitchel (Yankees) and Tyson Ross (free agent). Lucchesi made his Majors debut on 30 March. In the minors, the Padres have prospects who could be added to the rotation, such as Walker Lockett (AAA), Eric Lauer (AA), and Cal Quantrill (AA).

In the bullpen, Robbie Erlin pitched for the first time since April 17, 2016. He is back from Tommy John surgery. Although he allowed 2 earned runs in 3.2 innings, his potential was shown in retiring 9 of his first 10 batters.

What’s the Padres Story?

They have focused on building a multi-season core of position players. In 2019 or 2020, the Padres will likely be competing to win the NL West.

While the Padres have some great pitching prospects, this season’s rotation is a problem. It would have been worse except for the promotion of Joey Lucchesi. He has pitched at the ace level except for his debut, when he allowed 3 ER in 4.2 innings.

The Padres began the season by losing four consecutive games. Currently, they are in last place in the NL West, about a game behind the fourth place Giants .

Who Are Core Padres Players?

The following table shows a view of four core players for the Padres. Hosmer is the brightest star in their core.

Future Core of Padres

Player Position Age Level Awards Top 100 Ranking of BP/BA/MLB
Player Position Age Level Awards Top 100 Ranking of BP/BA/MLB
Eric Hosmer 1B 28 Majors SS & 4GG & AS MVP & AS
Manuel Margot CF 23 Majors 6th in ROY & NL 5th with 5.2 UZR & NL 3rd with 8 DRS
Luis Urias 2B 20 AAA 74/32/36
Fernando Tatis Jr SS 19 AA 9/9/8

And the Padres have some excellent starting pitching prospects. See the following table.

Starting Pitching Prospects of the Padres

player age level Top 100 Rankings BP/BA/MLB
player age level Top 100 Rankings BP/BA/MLB
Joey Lucchesi 24 AA
Eric Lauer 22 AA
MacKenzie Gore 19 AA 29/26/19
Cal Quantrill 23 AA 48/52/40
Adrian Morejon 19 A 50/66/50
Michael Baez 22 A+ 52/28/42
Anderson Espinoza 20 A+ NA/NA/89

What are Three Padres Weaknesses?

Weak to below average offense. In 2017, the Padres ranked last in the Majors in runs scored (3.7 runs per game). This season, they are below average with 3.8 runs per game.

Weak Defense. In 2017, the Padres and Rangers tied for first in the Majors in unearned runs allowed (74). This season, the Padres are first with 20 unearned runs. The next worst are the Rangers with 12 unearned runs.

Core Players are not fully developed, with the exception of Hosmer. The first season with all their core players (Hosmer, Margot, Urias, and Tatis Jr.) and a solid rotation will be 2019 or 2020.

How do Diamondbacks Compare to Padres?

Let’s look at three areas.

Offense. This series will be played at Chase Field. Last season at Chase Field, the Padres scored 0.125 runs per plate appearance (48 runs/383 PAs) and the D-backs scored 0.147 runs per plate appearance (457runs/3104PAs). The D-backs had a 17.6% better pace of scoring runs at Chase!

Christian Villanueva has 6 homers and 13 RBIs, with an OPS+ of 244. He is the best hitter on the Padres. The other noteworthy Padres batter is Hosmer with 2 homers and 4 RBIs.

Paul Goldschmidt has broken out. In the last 10 days, his season average slugging percent increased from .133 (8 April) to .550 (18 April). Other noteworthy D-back hitters are Pollock (3 HRs and 13 RBIs), Ahmed (2 HRs and 9 RBIs), Peralta (2 HRs and 8 RBIs), Descalso (2 HRs and 6 RBIs), and Murphy (2 HRs and 4 RBIs).

Defense. Let’s look at unearned runs. This season, the Padres lead the Majors by allowing 20 unearned runs. Padres center fielder Margot was hit in the ribs with a pitch and was put on the DL and is not expected to return this series. Surprisingly, this season’s addition of Hosmer, Galvis, and Headley did not make a big impact on defense.

This season, the D-backs have allowed 3 unearned runs (the average in the Majors is 6). The D-backs rank fifth in the Majors in Total-Zone-Total-Fielding-Runs-Above-Average (8). And although the stat is less meaningful than Total Zone Fielding, the D-backs rank first in fielding percent (99.4%).

Starting rotation. The D-backs have an excellent rotation. Last season, starting pitching ranked #2 in the Majors with 13.7 wins above average. All five starters returned this season. The rotation took a hit with Taijuan Walker out for the season because a torn UCL. How well will Koch pitch in his place? Worst case, the rotation remains above average.

The Padres rotation is worse. Last season, their starting pitching ranked 27th in the Majors with negative 6.1 wins above average. This season, only two starters (Tyson Ross and Joey Lucchesi) have an ERA+ above 75. Their rotation can best be described as on the disabled list, amorphous, and problematic. One example of amorphous and problematic is Robbie Erlin. This season he is an excellent reliever (3 earned runs in 13.1 innings). He is a below average starter - on 16 April he allowed 4 earned runs in 3 innings.

In summary, the D-backs are better than the Padres in offense, defense, and have a better rotation. I predict the D-backs will sweep the series. Let’s look at the pitching match-ups.

Who will pitch in this series?

Friday. Tyson Ross (108 ERA+, 7.0 SO/9, 2.0 BB/9) vs Matt Koch (148 ERA+, 5.9 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9) (For Koch - stats are career instead of the current season)

Tyson Ross. He has played in the Majors since 2010. In the off-season, the Padres signed Ross to a minor league contract. He earned a spot in the rotation. He is a ground ball pitcher. Three of his pitches, especially his 4-seam fastball generate above average ground balls (Brooks Baseball). Nevertheless, Paul Goldschmidt has hit well against him (OPS of 1.151 in 31 PAs).

Matt Koch was promoted because of the injury to Taijuan Walker. Do the D-backs have a sixth starter and is Matt Koch that starter? Will today be a spot start or will Koch be in the rotation until Shelby Miller returns? For more depth, you are invited to read the discussions in the SnakePit Round Table: Pitching depth edition.

This match-up is advantage D-backs.

Saturday. Clayton Richard (66 ERA+, 6.5 SO/9, 4.1 BB/9) vs Zack Godley (144 ERA+, 8.0 SO/9, 3.5 BB/9)

Clayton Richard. In his last three starts (against Rockies and Giants) he has allowed 13 earned runs in 15 innings. Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock have hit well against him, but lately that is true for many batters.

Last season, I called Zack Godley the team’s second ace because only Greinke had a better FIP. This season, despite one tough start, he is on track (again!) to be the team’s second ace because only Patrick Corbin has a better FIP.

This match-up is advantage D-backs.

Sunday. Joey Lucchesi (226 ERA+, 10.4 SO/9, 1.7 BB/9) vs Patrick Corbin (260 ERA+, 12.2 SO/9, 1.6 BB/9)

Lucchesi. He ranks fifth in the league in FIP (1.95), and seventh in ERA+. This game will be his fifth start in the Majors. His most interesting pitch is the “churve.” It is a combination of curve and change-up. Can he continue to pitch well when hitters start to figure out how to hit the churve?

Corbin. His last start was a one-hit complete game shutout. It wasn’t luck. GM Mike Hazen said, “Look, he’s a fantastic pitcher...” Enough said.

This match-up is advantage D-backs.

Mental Habit of the Series: Skills open the door and characteristics keep you in the room.

During rehab, Steven Souza Jr. said, “It’s fun just watching the chemistry of this team and the culture. … I don’t want to screw anything up. I just want to play my role and help the team win.”

Steven Souza Jr. was focused beyond healing. He was focused on team chemistry! Let’s look at his comment from a broader view.

Playing in the Majors is like being in a room. In that room are challenges & success, rewards (monetary and non-monetary), talented teammates, and many-experiences that are bright & beautiful. Every player wants in that room. And after the door is opened, every player wants to stay in that room.

Innate-talent plus work-ethic plus time develop skills that open the door. What is it that separates players who stay in the room and players who leave and wait for the door to re-open?

Although a small determiner is luck, the biggest determiners are player characteristics. What are those characteristics? Steven Souza Jr. provided three characteristics.

  • Watch (and understand) the team chemistry and culture.
  • Play my role without “screwing it up.”
  • Help the team win.

In addition, perhaps the following characteristics are important.

  • Work ethic to continuously develop physically and mentally.
  • Humility to see reality and listen to voices of experience.
  • Choosing intense focus over delightful distractions (see photo of Eric Hosmer at the top of this article).
  • An attitude of optimism.

In summary, skills open the door to the Majors, and player characteristics separate those who stay and those who leave.