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Series Preview # 26: D-backs @ Marlins

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Reasons the D-backs may sweep the Marlins outnumber by 6 to 1 the reason they may not.

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Shelby Miller starts Monday
Shelby Miller starts Monday
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Will D-backs sweep?

Shelby Miller will pitch Monday! Keep your expectations realistic. Shelby Miller said, “Not assuming my first one back [in the Majors] is going to be perfect. Command was the last thing for me to come back, but I think that’s there right now. I feel good. Everything out of the stretch and out of the windup feels solid. I think I’m in a good place overall. …”

He started four games in the minors. He dominated:

  • His ERA was excellent, except for one start (8 ER in 3 IP) when he got behind in the count. Excluding that start, his ERA was an impressive 1.10 for 16.33 innings.
  • Including all four starts, his SO/9 was 13.0 (excellent!), his BB/9 was 2.8 (better than average!), and his HR/9 was 0.47 (excellent!). If he carried his stats for SO/9 and HR/9 into the Majors, he would rank #2 and #3 in the Majors.

Will Alex Avila’s hot streak continue? On 21 June, Alex Avila broke his 7 game hitless streak with a double and a homer. He scored 3 RBIs. It was amazing! I was happy to see his offensive success.

Ken Rosenthal’s opinion of Marlins: “Still, only four rebuilding clubs are truly awful — the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Marlins. A number of others actually are outperforming expectations. “ Ken Rosenthal, June 18, 2018.

In June, the D-backs swept the Marlins: This season, the Marlins have not yet swept a series, while the D-backs have swept three series, including the previous series with the Marlins. In that series, the D-backs outscored the Marlins 21 to 4. Peralta hit 3 homers, Marte hit 2 homers, and Descalso, Goldschmidt, Lamb, and Murphy hit one homer. I remember feeling great!

D-backs will score many runs: Marlin starters rank 29th in the Majors (-4.5 WAA) and the Marlin bullpen ranks 30th in the Majors (-5.3 WAA).

Run Differential Favors D-backs

Team Runs Scored Runs Allowed
Team Runs Scored Runs Allowed
Marlins 266 378
D-backs 332 279
Data Source: Baseball Reference 21 June

Wednesday’s game: Sadly, one fact lowers my hope – a game is played on Wednesday. It puzzles me that the D-backs have lost the last 9 games played on Wednesday. I did not find the root cause. Home and away games were evenly split (5:4). No D-back pitcher started more than 2 of the games. D-backs scored an average of 2.9 runs a game – so offense was not the cause. On the brighter side, the Marlins have lost all eight games they played on Thursday.

The New Marlin Culture.

The Marlins have many new players. The less obvious change is the Marlin’s culture. My preliminary view of the Marlin culture is subject to change as I learn more. The new culture has three main points:

1. Player Development:

The Good: Prospects will have playing time in the Majors. And “…we will invest in player development and scouting.” Gary Denbo

The Questionable: Develop players who immediately respond to requests from Marlin management, and ask, “how fast and how high should I jump?” Punish players who don’t.

2. Decision Making:

The Good: Decisions will be made by the persons held accountable instead of top management. The decision maker will presumably have the best information available to make the decisions.

The Questionable: Make decisions with fear for your survival as an employee. “He’s got a military mentality – the bad kind,” one Marlins employee says. “He manages out of fear.”

3. Best Organization:

The Good: “We’re hoping to develop a sense of urgency to become the best organization in baseball. That is the objective.” Gary Denbo

The Questionable: Instead of hiring different people top to bottom, we hope to create enough pain to make people urgently act differently to make our organization the best.

Be prepared for Lewis Brinson.

D-backs need to take what Brinson says on-the-field with a grain-of-salt. On 18 June, Brinson’s RBI single tied the game. He advanced to third, and when the Giants reliever Hunter Strickland was pulled from the game, the two players exchanged words as Strickland passed by third base. Strickland was so angry that he went into the dugout and broke his hand hitting a door. Better than hitting a door is to have a good comeback prepared:

  • “Who has the most strike-outs on your team? (answer: Brinson)
  • “My team is in first place, how does your team stand?“ (answer: last place)
  • “My salary is bigger than your salary,” (fact: Brinson makes league minimum)

Correction: JT Realmuto is good at pitch framing.

Although my opinion is unchanged that John Ryan Murphy is better at framing pitches than JT Realmuto, I was surprised that JT Realmuto may be better than average. To read the reason, and how he works on his framing skills, read Ken Rosenthal’s around the horn written on 18 June in the Athletic.

Who will pitch in this series?

The match-ups show FanGraphs’ ERA- instead of Baseball References ERA+. ERA- is a better pitcher comparison because it assumes Chase to be a hitter-neutral park instead of hitter’s park as it had been before the humidor. For ERA-, smaller than 100 is better than average (unlike ERA+ for which larger than 100 is better than average).

Monday. Dan Straily (126 ERA-, 7.6 SO/9, 4.9 BB/9) vs Shelby Miller (2018 debut)

After Lewis Brinson was hit by a pitch, manager Don Mattingly said to Buster Posey, “You’re next.” He was accurate. In his last start, Dan Straily was ejected after 1.1 innings when his pitch hit Buster Posey. Later, Dan Straily was suspended for 5 games - he continues to play while he appeals.

After Tommy John surgery, Shelby Miller is back in the Majors. How well will he pitch? Although his comments tried to keep expectations realistic, my expectations are high!

Tuesday. To Be Announced vs Zack Godley (116 ERA-, 9.0 SO/9, 4.4 BB/9)

On 23 June, Jose Urena was placed on the DL with a shoulder impingement. I do not know who will start for the Marlins on Tuesday.

Justin Schultz has a track record of identifying “dark-horse CY Young candidates,” two of which won the award. In 2018, his yearly article identified Zack Godley as the top candidate. He wrote about his excellent swinging strike rate (13.3% ranked highly in 2018, 10.9% in 2017). Until that happens, I am happy with his SO/9 of 9.0.

Wednesday. Wei-Yin Chen (173 ERA-, 6.5 SO/9, 4.4 BB/9) vs Patrick Corbin (81 ERA-, 11.6 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9)

In his last five starts, Wei-Yin Chen has pitched an average of 4 innings. This could be an edge for the D-backs because the Marlin bullpen ranks last in the Majors. However, I would be OK with Chen pitching longer because of his ERA- is significantly worse than average.

On Friday, the pitching duel was awesome. Patrick Corbin and Ivan Nova combined for 15 innings with 6 hits, 20 strikeouts, zero walks, and zero runs. The zero-zero tie was unbroken until the 11th, with each team scoring one run due to throwing errors. Then a hit by Ketel Marte in the 13th put the D-backs ahead - with Marte tagged out on a running error. With the fielding errors in the 11th, and because the only non-error run scored in the 13th, this pitching duel had much action and should rank high in history.

However, it is easy to debate whether it was the best duel ever. The competition is fierce. For a purist, in 1917 the Reds and Cubs played a game with neither team getting a hit in nine innings. In the tenth, Jim Thorpe drove in the only run of the game with an infield single.

Thursday. Trevor Richards (140 ERA-, 7.6 SO/9, 4.3 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke (98 ERA-, 9.5 SO/9, 1.9 BB/9)

Prior to 2017, Trevor Richards’ highest level played was A. Prior to 2018, his highest level played was AA. His first start in the Majors was on April 2nd. Considering the speed of his advancement, he has pitched remarkably well.

Against Zack Greinke, hitters are making contact less often (82.5% in 2018 vs 85.1% in 2017) for pitches in the zone, and more often (66.7% in 2018 vs 57.7% in 2017) for pitches outside the zone (Source: FanGraphs).

Nevertheless, Greinke’s home-run to fly-ball (HR/FB) ratio increased from 13.4 in 2017 to 17.0 in 2018. This increase is strange because only good home-run hitters average 15-20% HR/FB rates.

“Research shows that the HR/FB rate of individual pitchers can vary greatly from year to year. That means pitchers with high HR/FB rate have generally -- but not always -- experienced some bad luck.” (Source: MLB.com glossary ) So far this season, Greinke has been unlucky.

Warrior 2
Warrior 2

Yoga Pose of the Series: Warrior 2

The yoga pose of the series is warrior 2, as demonstrated by Min Soo Pata. My Yoga instructor is wearing Diamondbacks attire. She is a powerful woman who knows how to make an impact.

What is it like for me to practice the warrior 2 pose? My aura is that of a fierce warrior. I am one with my optimism. I imagine breaking the chains that restrain my power. As I fully stretch out my arms I feel strong. I focus my gaze over my outstretched hand, to see where I will soon go. Instead of passively observing at a distance, I perceive myself having power to make an impact.

The excellent defense and power hitting by the Diamondbacks will make an impact: the Diamondbacks will play in the postseason.