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Series Preview # 44 : D-backs @ Dodgers

Pay attention to this series, and you will glimpse the future of the Diamondbacks.

Photo by Joseph Johnson/Getty Images

A wizard spoke!

He blended with the scenery, until he became apparent. As wizards do best, he slowly walked his solitary path. This wizard was unforgettable.

Just ahead was a bench. I sat in deep yoga meditation. Would he pass me unnoticed? I sensed something amazing - I opened my eyes – and was in awe to see the wizard. Like a Godzilla Lizard emerging from the ocean, he stopped and looked at me.

My apprehension was allayed by a delightful greeting and baseball talk. The wizard looked down at his pouch. He opened his pouch and we stopped talking. It was full of yellow sheets, each with words of inspiration.

… silence for a whole minute … birds chirped … a stream of water gurgled … He said, “Pay attention to this series, and you will glimpse the future of the Diamondbacks.

… bird wings fluttered softly and their sound shattered the silence … He said, “A writer must look away from nothing, and leave nothing unexamined. Your writing must give people an eye-opening experience!” I blinked and he was on his way. I remembered his every word as if etched in stone.

This series is not nothing! It is a rare glimpse of the future.

Let’s pay attention to this series!

The roster expansion happens on Saturday – which players will be the first callups? They will be important contributors this season and next season. Christian Walker was called up before the roster expansion - he will make a difference! Jack Sommers wrote about the possibilities and Torey Lovullo’s comments.

The Diamondbacks played hard all season – their bumps and disappointments prove it as much as their first place standing. The journey’s finish line is a month away. The first of two potentially earth-rocking series with the Dodgers is front and center. Winning a four game series is never easy; although a split would be ambiguous, a series win would be a clear glimpse into the future. At the end of the season, perceptive people will look back and say, “This series decided who won the NL West.”

Looking back on this season – the D-backs and Dodgers.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • The D-backs and Dodgers have played 12 games. The D-backs won 8. The D-backs scored 62 runs (5.2 runs per game!), while the Dodgers scored 49 (4.1 runs per game).
  • This season, the D-backs have been in first place for 122 calendar days, while the Dodgers have been in first place for 27 calendar days.

Recently, the Dodgers’ offense is inconsistent.

Let’s look at 20 games between 1 August and 24 August. Inconsistent offense overshadowed everything.

In 6 games, the Dodgers averaged 11.5 runs per game. In the other 14 games, the Dodgers averaged 2.4 runs per game. Which Dodger offense will show up to this series?

Kenley Jansen is key.

Jansen went on the DL for a-fib. Without Jansen, the Dodgers bullpen had slipped to 25th in the Majors, with negative 3.4 wins above average.

Maybe his best pitch, his cutter “explodes” on batters. After his return from the DL, it has been his worst pitch. He allowed 2 earned runs in each of his first four games back (1 inning each), except in his third game when he allowed one earned run.

Without Jansen at 100%, the Dodgers are unlikely to win their low-scoring games in this series. This is important because their offense is inconsistent.

Who will pitch in this series?

Thursday. Rich Hill (3.50 ERA, 9.8 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9) vs Robbie Ray (4.73 ERA, 11.7 SO/9, 5.0 BB/9)

This season, both Rich Hill and Robbie Ray have overcome injuries.

  • Rich Hill had a cracked fingernail, a finger infection, and blister problems. These problems could be chronic.
  • Robbie Ray had an oblique strain. Ray’s injury has healed.

Although this season Robbie Ray improved (his August ERA was 3.66), he is not yet back to last season’s level of performance (ERA was 2.89).

  • Compared to last season, Ray has less “control of the zone”, meaning that his ratio of strikeouts to walks has decreased from 3.07 to 2.36.
  • When most games have three times as many strikeouts as walks, I will know Ray is back on the path to being an ace. In August, one game in four reached that many strikeouts.

Robbie Ray said, “I just need to get back to what I do best and that’s pound the zone. I’ve got too good of stuff to be pitching around the zone. I’ve just got to attack guys and then my off-speed stuff gets better.”

Advantage Dodgers.

Friday. Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.18 ERA, 10.7 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke (3.06 ERA, 9.2 SO/9, 1.8 BB/9)

Ryu missed three months due to a groin tear. In three games back, his strikeout to walk ratio is outstanding (18:2), while his fastball is not yet 100% (BA=.450, slugging percent=.900). Can D-backs hit his fastball, or will they strikeout?

This season, Greinke’s velocities are down (fastball from 91.00 to 89.96 and sinker from 90.71 to 90.51). However, his game preparation is second to none, and he is in contention for the Cy Young.

Advantage D-backs!

Saturday. Clayton Kershaw (2.39 ERA, 9.0 SO/9, 1.4 BB/9) vs Patrick Corbin (3.15 ERA, 11.0 SO/9, 2.1 BB/9)

Kershaw has recovered from left bicep tendonitis and a back problem. Similar to Greinke, this season his average fastball velocity is down (93.21 to 91.51) and sinker velocity is down (94.78 to 91.12).

“Many are saying that he [Kershaw] is now older/smarter and is becoming more of a location pitcher who no longer relies on the heat.” -- Robb Anderson

In this week’s roundtable, several AZ SnakePit writers (except me) ranked Patrick Corbin as #1 in the rotation. I wrote that Greinke edged ahead of him because a better ratio of strikeouts to walks (5.1 vs 5.0) and a better ERA (3.06 vs 3.17). On Monday, Corbin struck out 9 and walked 1; his strikeout/walk ratio passed Greinke’s by increasing to 5.2. In any case, Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke are aces.

Patrick Corbin’s win-loss record does not reflect his excellent pitching because he has worst run support per inning on the D-backs. Hat tip to Jack Sommers’ tweet:

Advantage D-backs!

Sunday. Walker Buehler (2.96 ERA, 9.7 SO/9, 2.2 BB/9) vs Clay Buchholz (2.25 ERA, 7.7 SO/9, 1.8 BB/9)

On 17 & 22 August, Walker Buehler struck out 17 while walking 4, allowing a total of 1 earned run in 13 innings. His performance in those games was great. In his last start he regressed - 2 earned runs in 4 innings, 84 pitches.

On 16 & 22 August, Clay Buchholz struck out 16 while walking none, allowing a total of 1 earned run in 16 innings. Those games were spectacular! In his last start he pitched 7 shutout innings! He is red hot.

Advantage D-backs!

Godzilla cheers for the D-backs!
Godzilla cheers for the D-backs!
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images