This series is like an oasis.
As is well known, April’s schedule is stacked with superior teams that would challenge any team, including the D-backs. This series will be like reaching a refreshing oasis because it is where winning waters are found - a refreshing contrast. In such a short series, the possibility of a thirst-quenching sweep is very real. The D-back players and fans could enjoy a sweep, with benefits that would extend beyond two wins!
Visiting the D-backs’ oasis, swimming in the winning waters will be Elvis Andrus (1 home run) , whose walk-up music is a quick paced “Baby-shark, do-doo-do-do-da-doo.” Other baby sharks (baby power-hitters) are: Joey Gallo (4 homers), Asdrubal Cabrera (3 homers), Nomar Mazara (2 homers) who recently experienced Quad muscle tightness, and Ronald Guzman (2 homers) who injured his hamstring on 6 April. Just fishy are Rougned Odor, Hunter Pence, and Shin-Soo Choo without any homers.
Nevertheless, the waters are generally safe. The D-backs scored at least 5 runs more often (8 of 10 games vs 4 of 10 games).
However, overconfidence is a pitfall to avoid because the teams have similarities:
- In September 2018, the teams’ win-loss records were nearly identical (8-19 and 9-18).
- In this season’s opener, the Rangers and the Diamondbacks lost blowout games, with the opposing teams scoring 12 runs each.
- In this season’s first series, team ERA’s were nearly the same (Ranger 9.33 and D-backs 9.24; ranking 29th and 30th in the Majors at the end of March).
What have the Rangers given up on?
Their 26 year old stadium. They are building a new stadium adjacent to their old stadium. On 3 April the final piece of a roof truss was installed. That truss spans 630 feet and weighs 2.4 million pounds. Next season, they will start the season in their new stadium.
The D-back stadium is four years newer than the Rangers’ old stadium – it will be interesting to see how long the D-backs play in their current stadium.
High payrolls. This season’s $118 Million payroll (including pro-rated signing bonuses) for the opening-day 25-man-roster is the lowest of their latest eight seasons (source: Baseball Prospectus, Cot’s baseball contracts). The 2019 payroll appears to be lower than the D-backs if you include Tomas.
Starting Pitchers without Major Surgery. Let’s look at their rotation:
2019 Rangers Rotation
|Player||Surgery Date||Surgery Type||Missed in Majors||Latest ERA|
|Player||Surgery Date||Surgery Type||Missed in Majors||Latest ERA|
|Mike Minor||May 2015||shoulder||2015 & 2016||4.18 in 157 innings|
|Lance Lynn||November 2015||Tommy John||2016||4.77 in 156.2 innings|
|Shelby Miller||May 2017||Tommy John||early 2018||5.19 in 8.2 innings (ST)|
|Drew Smyly||July 2017||Tommy John||2017 & 2018||4.85 in 13 innings (ST)|
|Edinson Volquez||August 2009 and August 2017||Tommy John||early 2010 & all 2018||6.75 in 13.1 innings (ST)|
Long Relievers Without Major Surgery. This season, Adrian Sampson showed his value as a long reliever. On 1 April, he entered the game to start the fourth inning. He pitched 6 innings with 1 earned run allowed. He had Tommy John surgery in high school.
Three years ago, Adrian Sampson was injured as he warmed up to start a game on June 23, 2016. His injury was a grade 3 strain and required surgery. More than two years later, on 7 September 2018, he returned to pitch in the Majors.
Last season in September, Adrian Sampson pitched well enough (2 runs or less in three of four games), but the Rangers lost all four games. This season, with that level of performance, he could be the staff ace. With the injury to Volquez, opportunity knocks!
A few former D-backs are now Rangers.
Starting pitcher Shelby Miller, Majors. After his Tommy John surgery in 2017, it appears he is fully recovered and he is in the rotation for the Rangers. He has a 1-year $2 Million contract.
Catcher Jeff Mathis, Majors. “Jeff Mathis can, uh, frame the hell out of a pitch.” – Grant Brisbee. He has a 2 year, $6.25 Million contract.
Relief pitcher Wei-Chieh Huang, minors, 40 man roster. Prior to this season, the highest level he had played was AA. In spring training, his ERA was 14.73 in 3.2 innings.
Relief pitcher Zac Curtis, AAA. In 2016, he pitched for the D-backs (6.75 ERA in 13.1 innings). In 2019 spring training, his ERA was 18.00 in 3 innings. After three seasons with playing time in the Majors, this season he started in AAA.
Rangers. Don’t ignore the rebuilding Rangers. In 2014, their 67 wins put them in last place. The next season they reached the playoffs. In 2018, their 67 wins again put them in last place. This season, will they repeat that pattern and reach the playoffs? Unlikely, but it is possible.
D-backs. Will the D-backs contend for the playoffs?
- GM Mike Hazen, who hates losing, likely thinks ‘yes’ based on the Goldschmidt trade return, and the absence of any tear-down trade.
- In January 2019, Torey Lovullo said, “We have capable players who are able to execute and take us where we want to go.” Likely, that destination is the playoffs!
- At least one Snakepitter (that would include myself), thinks the D-backs will contend for the playoffs. I predicted 89 wins before the season started. Through 7 April, my in-season tracking projection is 89 wins for the D-backs. Runs scored was better than predicted, which was offset by worse runs allowed.
Nerd note: My tracking projection used the Baseball Reference Pythagorean formula, with an adjustment to the formula to reduce the impact of blowout games, and with 8 wins added (only during April/May) to compensate for the extraordinary and difficult schedule at the start of the season.
Who will pitch in this series?
Tuesday. Mike Minor (87 ERA+, 7.7 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke (49 ERA+, 12.1 SO/9, 1.9 BB/9)
Mike Minor’s latest start was a 7 inning shutout against the Astros. One sign that he may have pitched well - the Astro’s manager and hitting coach were ejected for debating balls and strikes.
Zack Greinke’s latest start was 6 innings with 3 earned runs. One clear sign he pitched well was 10 strikeouts and zero walks! Although he allowed two homers, he hit two homers. How awesome would it be if Zack Greinke hits another homer in this series! Extremely awesome!
Edinson Volquez (62 ERA+, 7.0 SO/9, 9.4 BB/9)
Lance Lynn (69 ERA, 7.1 SO/9, 0.7 BB/9) vs Robbie Ray (104 ERA+, 10.5 SO/9, 8.7 BB/9)
Lance Lynn will start this game. In 2017, he pitched 2 games against the D-backs with an ERA of 3.75. However, his ERA has worsened; it increased from 3.43 to 6.39 between 2017 and 2019.
Robbie Ray’s second start was 5.1 innings with 2 earned runs. One clear sign he pitched well was through four innings, he allowed only 1 hit, and faced only 13 batters. In the fifth inning, after two deep flyball outs, he walked the next two batters and a run was scored.