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Series Preview #37: Phillies @ DBacks

Similar but different

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

[Editor’s note: due to some confusion, we ended up with TWO previews today. Loathe to waste the effort of our contributors, I’ve combined them into one article, at no additional cost to you, the reader! The first one is Jack’s, the second Xipooo’s]

In the jumbled standings that makeup the current National League playoff picture, every contending team from every division is potentially in the way of the Diamondbacks making the post season. This week brings in the Philadelphia Phillies, who are not only 1.5 games up on the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, but also 2 games up on the DBacks and Dodgers in the overall standings. Should the Braves overtake the Phillies then, this series could also have direct Wild Card implications.

3rd year G.M. Matt Klentak has taken a somewhat similar approach to Mike Hazen at the trade deadline, refusing to gut their farm system to make a Machado deal or bring in a starting pitcher. But he made moves to bolster the team such as bringing in Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos, (Out till Mid August with hamstring injury) and lefty Aaron Loup.

With first year manager Gabe Kapler leading his troups to a 63-48 record thus far, the Phillies have outperformed their pythagorean won loss by 4 games. (59-52, 491 RS-454 RA). They are 20-10 in one run games, and 38-18 at home, but just 20-25 on the road.

After chasing the Braves for the entire first half, the Phillies have been either tied or in first every day since July 6th. They are 6-4 in their last 10, and 19-11 in their last 30, and arrive in Phoenix having just swept a 4 game series from the lowly Miami Marlins.

The table below shows pretty clearly why the Phillies are where they are. Their pitching has carried them into contention

Phillies Team Rankings

Metric YTD Rank
Metric YTD Rank
Runs Scored/G 4.42 10th
OPS+ 92 9th
Baserunning 5 4th
Def Runs Saved -72 14th
Fldg % 0.98 14th
Non P WAR 4.3 14th
Metric YTD Rank
Runs Allowed/G 4.09 5th
FIP 3.71 2nd
ERA 3.77 4th
ERA+ 110 6th
Starting P WAR 14.3 1st
Relief P WAR 6.7 1st
Total P WAR 21.1 1st

In case anyone is wondering why the Phillies rank 1st in WAR when they are several spots lower in RA/G, ERA+, etc, it’s because they have faced tougher lineups, on average, and because their pitchers have labored in front of the 2nd worst defense in the league. So in WAR their pitchers are getting a lot of credit for that. See RA9opp and RA9def HERE

Because of the above point, Cabrera might not have been the best fit for this team, as he is a notoriously poor defender. He’d also gotten off to a slow start at the plate for them, but was the hero yesterday, crushing a game winning, upper deck, 2 run homer in the bottom of the 8th.

Perusing their Team Page we can see that Rhys Hopkins has continued to be their best hitter, with a .375 OBP, .518 SLG, and 137 OPS+. But -15 fielding runs has dragged his WAR ttl down to 1.2 . Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Nick Williams are all having solid seasons at the plate, all around 110-112 OPS+ .

Their bullpen has been terrific, especially since demoting Hector Neris, and promoting and installing Seranthony Dominguez to the closers role. As a group, they have been lights out the last 14 days


Monday, August 6, 9:40 PM ET , Chase Field

Jake Arrieta RHP 9-6, 3.32 ERA 3.96 FIP, 2.0 bWAR

Zack Godley RHP 12-6, 4.46 ERA 3.92 FIP, -0.1 bWAR

Arrieta is having a solid season for the Phillies. Despite a K rate that has dropped to just 6.6/per 9 . He is coming off a 6 start July in which he went 4-0 with a 2.80 ERA as the Phillies won all 6 starts. While his velo is off a tick or two from his Cy Young season, he still throws a hard sinker, averaging 93 and topping out at 95, and he’s still getting over 52% groundballs. The last time the D Backs faced him he beat Zack Greinke, going 7, giving up 3 runs, 1 earned, in a 5-3 Phils victory. The table of Dbacks hitters vs. Jake doesn’t look great, as the only one with much success against him is gone for the year.

Godley is coming off the best game of his season vs. the Rangers, when he threw 7 shutout innings, striking out 10, and putting up a game score of 82. He will need to continue to stay hot in what shapes up as a pitchers duel.

Tuesday, August 7, 9:40 PM ET , Chase Field

Nick Pavetta RHP 6-9, 4.75 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 1.3 bWAR

Zack Greinke RHP 12-6, 2.96 ERA, 3.43 FIP 3.6 bWAR

Flame Thrower Pivetta (avg 96/Max 99 four seamer) started the season well, as through his first 11 starts, 58 IP he had a 3.26 ERA and the Phils went 8-3 in his starts. But Since June 1, 11 GS, 55 IP has a 6.31 ERA and the team is 5-7 in those starts. He may be having some tough luck though, as FIP over a run lower than ERA. His most recent start against the Marlins was pretty good though, going 6 IP, 4 hits, and 2 runs, 7 K’s. He’s only faced the DBacks once, June 26th of last year, and it did not go well for him, as he got knocked out in the 3rd, giving up 6 runs. Notable that he has struggled against lefties (.848 OPS against) and on the road (.827 OPS against).

Greinke is coming off a loss to the Giants in the opener of the last series, despite allowing just 2 runs through 6. Hopefully he will receive better run support in this contest.

Wednesday, August 8, 3:40 PM ET , Chase Field

Vince Velasquez RHP 8-8, 3.80 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 2.5 bWAR

Patrick Corbin LHP 8-4, 3.31 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 3.1 bWAR

Yet another hard throwing righty, Velasquez has a avg 95/max 99 four seam Fastball. He’s had an up and down season, and the DBacks beat him back in April. But he’s been extremely hot lately.

April: 1-4, 5.70 ERA

May: 3-1, 2.30 ERA

June: 1-3, 5.81 ERA

Jul-Aug 3-0, 0.71 ERA

Corbin toughed out his last start, going 6 while giving up 3 runs in a victory vs. the Giants. He’ll need to do at least as well in this start vs. the red hot Velasquez.

Series Prediction:

While the D Backs get to avoid All star and Cy Young contender Aaron Nola, they will have their hands full with these 3 fire balling righties. The team was really struggling against RHP up through June, (ranked 28th w/ 79 wRC+ vs. RHP) but since July 1 they’ve hit .277/.352/.433 111 wRC+ vs. RHP to rank 9th best in MLB. They will need to continue that trend to win this series.

Look for a low scoring series, with the Phils taking game 1, the D Backs game 2, and finally the good guys winning a home series by winning the rubber match on Wednesday

New Additions Making an Impact

So the Phillies picked up Asdrubal Cabrera before the trade deadline and he has already made his mark known to the Philly fan base. To cap off a sweep of the Marlins Asdrubal hit a monster 2 run homer in the 8th to put the Phillies on top.

Another addition for the Phillies was former Toronto Blue-Jay Aaron Loup. His debut was more impactful on the Marlins as he came in and promptly hit the batter on the second pitch. But he does add some depth to an already pretty good Phillies bullpen. In fact, they’ve been the best bullpen in the game since July 1st.

For the Diamondbacks the acquisition of Brad “The Builder” Ziegler (that’s a reference to GOT) and Jake Diekman resulted in Silvino Bracho being optioned back to Reno, and both Randall Delgado and Jorge De La Rosa being released. You can make up your own mind as to which caused which.

Possibly the biggest loss for the Diamondbacks is the loss of Jake Lamb who will be having season ending surgery on his shoulder. Luckily the Diamondbacks had already acquired Eduardo Escobar who can play 3rd and has a higher slugging rate of .505. Oh yeah, he can hit lefties too.

Tale Of The Metrics

Both teams narrowly lead their division. The Phillies (62-48) are only 1.5 games up on the Braves while the D-Backs (62-50) are 1 game up over those who must not be named (I’m mixing movie references, get over it). When these two teams faced off back in April the DBacks took 2 of 3 from the Phillies who were playing at home.

Both teams stack up pretty even offensively with an OPS+ of 86 for the DBack and 92 for the Phillies. Their team batting averages are equal at .238. Strikeouts are slightly higher for the Phillies by about 50. The Phillies BABip is only 4 points higher than the DBacks at .295. The team oWAR for the Phillies is 11.6, while the DBacks is 9.4 according to BBRef.

The relief staffs also compare fairly well. The Phillies edge out the DBacks in terms of xFIP with a 3.97 to the DBacks 4.07. There isn’t much daylight here except that the Phillies have been better since the month of June according to the Athletic article I’d have to pay to read.

Overall pitching does give the edge to the DBacks with a 122 ERA+ over the Phillies 110, but the Phillies do tend to strike more batters out at 9.1 per nine to the D-Backs 8.8. Overall team ERA’s stack up in the DBacks favor 3.67 to 3.77, but really there isn’t much daylight between the two.

The biggest difference seems to be on defense. The Phllies dWAR is a -7.4 while the DBacks is a nice 4.7. This is backed by a .980 fielding for the Phillies and a .990 for the DBacks and 89 defensive runs saved by the DBacks compared to the -96 of the Phillies.

The Matchups

Game 1

RHP Jake Arrieta (9-6, 3.32 ERA) vs RHP Zack Godley (12-6, 4.46 ERA)

Jake is holding a solid 3.32 ERA this year but that’s only good enough to be 2nd best on the team rotation. Aaron Nola holds that distinction. Jake’s strikeouts are down this year to just 6.6 per 9 innings and he’s walking about 3 batters per 9. It looks like the Cubs let him go just at the right time. He’s still good, but he’s not All-Star good. His WHIP is also up to 1.24 so he’s letting runners get on base.

Zack has really started to come around since the end of June. His ERA went from 5.06 in June to 4.15 in July. His strikeouts also rose from 9.5 per 9 in June to 11.2 in July. His tOPS+ for July is 73 which means he was a whole 27 points better than his average. This despite having a .355 BAbip also in July. The WHIP also came down in July to 1.356 which indicates his control has seen a marked improvement. More strikeouts, less walks, and less runners overall. Lets hope this trend continues right into the playoffs (uh oh, I said the P word).

Game 2

RHP Nick Pivetta (6-9, 4.75 ERA) vs RHP Zack Greinke (12-6, 2.96 ERA)

Nick is still pretty young (25) and is only in his Sophomore year with the Phillies. There’s considerable room for improvement, but he has shown flashes of good quality pitching (for a Canadian). He’s worse away than he is at home. A 4.14 ERA at home is markedly better than his 5.63 on the road. His WHIP is also a whopping 1.489 on the road. In 3 fewer games this year he’s walks 3 more batters than at home, and all 4 of his hit by pitches have come on the road. To add to that, when he gets runners in scoring position his tOPS+ is at a giant 161. He is easily the Phillies worst starting pitcher, nearly a full point ERA higher than the next highest ERA of 3.80.

Zack is Zack. Do I really need to go through the stats? 1.044 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9, 5.92 SO/W, 149 ERA+, and a 2.96 ERA overall. He’s not 2015 Greinke, but he is pitching like 2013-2014 Greinke. Which front office regime decided to go after him again?

Game 3

RHP Vince Velasquez (8-8, 3.80 ERA) vs LHP Patrick Corbin (8-4, 3.31 ERA)

Don’t let the 3.80 ERA fool you. Velasquez is on fire right now. His tOPS+ in July was 45. His ERA was .95, and his WHIP was a straight out 1.000. In his one start so far in August, he went 6.1 IP, 7 SO, and gave up only 2 hits with no runs. He’s only 26 and already in his 4th year (3rd with Philadelphia). Even worse news to Diamondback fans, he’s a whole 2.24 ERA points better on the road than at home. His 4.78 home ERA drops to 2.54 on the road.

Patrick had a bit of a rougher outing in his last game than is usual for him this year. He gave up 3 runs on 7 hits over 6 innings. Some might consider that a quality start, but for Patrick that was a bit rockier than he wants. Nothing really jumps out at me with Patrick as far as things to be concerned with, but the opponent batting average has been steadily creeping up from .165 in April to .257 in July. Despite that, his SO/9 is still pretty high at 11.1.


I have tried to remain as unbiased as I can in my predictions, even going so far as to predict (accurately) the loss of a couple of series. However in this series I’m going to predict a sweep for the D-Backs. I think the home park factor combined with terrible defense will overcome the slight edge I’d give to the Phillies starters. Game 2 will be a blow out while games 1 and 3 will remain close. But I think the new bullpen recruits to the DBacks will hold out on an early lead gained by the offense in both games. The bullpens will be the crucial deciding factor in both.