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Series Preview # 16 : D-backs @ Padres

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The D-back starters will need to rise to the occasion.

Eduardo Escobar at Chase Field
Eduardo Escobar at Chase Field
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Reading this series preview will give you bragging rights for speed reading, if tweets with gifs are worth a thousand words. But you must correctly answer the test question: What are Luke Weaver’s tips for success?

Let’s look at tweets to compare how D-back pitchers follow through in their deliveries. While watching each pitcher’s delivery, I picked a song from billboard’s greatest hot 100 singles. Feel free to suggest different songs in the comments.

Lets look at D-back starting pitchers that 538.com says are better than NL West average (Greinke, Ray, and Weaver).

Greinke jumps into fielding position – no wonder he’s a Gold Glover! The song I picked for him: Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees.

Robbie Ray falls the right way. The song I picked for him: I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas

Luke Weaver almost scrapes his knee on the mound. The song I picked for him: Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor

Luke Weaver Tips for Success on Motivation Monday:

  • Adjust in the moment.
  • Effort is huge.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out and grab that dream.
  • It’s all about overcoming adversity.
  • Don’t hold back.
  • Woooooooooh!!!

Let’s look at more D-back pitchers.

Merrill Kelly would be great at ice skating! The song I picked for him: One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men

Zack Godley falls to the left. The song I picked for him: Uptown Funk! by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

Clarke tips his cap. The song I picked for him: Every Breath You Take by The Police

Clarke's First AAA Strikeout

Check out Diamondbacks Top Prospect, Taylor Clarke, record his first Triple-A strikeout in today's #CountdownToSpringTraining!

Posted by Reno Aces on Friday, January 26, 2018

Holland keeps his legs as straight as possible. The song I picked for him: Another One Bites The Dust by Queen

Duplantier almost turns his back to the hitter. The song I picked for him: Tossin’ And Turnin’ by Bobby Lewis.

Let’s look at Padres starting pitchers that 538.com says are better than NL West average.

Paddack has stops his follow through quickly. The song I picked for him: Flashdance...What A Feeling by Irene Cara

Matt Strahm stays low. The song I picked for him: Foolish games by Jewel

Let’s look at one more Padres pitcher.

Reyes – his delivery is unique. The song I picked for him: The Twist by Chubby Checker

A perspective on Padres’ great expectations.

As expected, Machado is great (OPS+ 122), but Tatis Jr. is better (OPS+ 146). The injury to Tatis Jr. will have a huge impact this season. He is not expected to return this series.

Last season Eric Hosmer fell short of great expectations. So far this season, he is near replacement level (0.2 WAR in 44 games, 113 OPS+), but Ian Kinsler’s season (acquired in December) is worse (-0.6 WAR in 38 games, 55 OPS+). Speaking about Kinsler’s behavior, manager Andy Green said, “That look is not what we want on the field…”

Padres have lowest starting pitch count per start in the Majors. Lucchesi and Paddack have averaged 81/82 pitches per start. Through 11 May, the Padres averaged 84 pitches per start. Is this what the Padres expected?

While the Padres’ starting pitching ranks 15th in the Majors, it falls short of great expectations. “The Padres remain concerned about their starting pitching, knowing three of their soft-throwing lefties — Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer and Nick Margevicius — are likely no more than fourth or fifth starters. A fourth lefty, converted reliever Matt Strahm, also does not throw particularly hard, and like righty Chris Paddack, will be on an innings limit.” — Ken Rosenthal

Who will pitch in this series?

Even before the Greinke non-injury and MRI, these rotations were amorphous. The following match-ups could change. Even a bullpen game would not be too surprising.

Monday. Chris Paddock (204 ERA+, 87 pitches per start) vs Luke Weaver (140 ERA+, 96 pitches per start)

On 14 May, Chris Paddock started against Kershaw of the Dodgers. He pitched 4.2 innings. Dodgers scored 6 runs (3 earned). His reactions:

  • “It was the first time I’ve seen hitters crowd the plate that much. That kind of threw me off a little bit.” Chris Paddack
  • “It will be fun to watch my next start [against the D-backs!]. That’s all I have to say. I have some homework to do.” Chris Paddack

In Chris Paddack’s last start against the D-backs, he allowed 3 hits and 1 run in 5.2 innings. Look for D-back hitters to do their homework and maybe crowd the plate, too!

In Luke Weaver’s last start against the Padres, he allowed 5 hits and 2 runs in 6,1 innings. He struck out 8 batters and allowed no walks - impressive!

His cutter is awesome. Sean Testerman wrote that Luke Weaver’s cutter was the 11th best in the Majors. Through the first half of May, he improved to eighth best. Brooks Baseball showed that in the first half of May he increased his cutter usage and his whiffs per swing went up. See table for details.

Cutters by Luke Weaver

Month % pitch use % whiffs per swing
Month % pitch use % whiffs per swing
April 2019 12.20% 16.67%
May 1-15, 2019 18.77% 27.59%
Brooks Baseball

Tuesday. Matt Strahm (133 ERA+, 84 pitches per start) vs Zack Greinke (159 ERA+, 97 pitches per start)

Although last season Matt Strahm was a reliever and opened a game 5 times (average 2.2 innings), this season he is in the rotation. His innings count is 59% of last season’s (counting Majors and minors). I doubt he will continue in the rotation for the full season, albeit that Rosenthal wrote that he does not throw particularly hard.

In Matt Strahm’s last start, he hit two batters in 5 innings. Maybe it’s good he does not throw hard!

Zack Greinke’s MRI was clean. Saturday’s bullpen session went well. What a great feeling it will be to see him pitch this game. I anticipate he will be pulled before he nears his usual 97+ pitches.

Wednesday. Eric Lauer(78 ERA+, 84 pitches per start) vs Merrill Kelly (106 ERA+, 95 pitches per start)

Eric Lauer is a soft throwing lefty with inconsistent results. This season against Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, he pitched well: zero earned runs in 6 innings, game score of 66. On the other hand against German Marquez of the Rockies, he allowed 8 earned runs in 3 innings, game score of 10.

Merrill Kelly pitched very well Friday. He allowed zero earned runs in 5.1 inning pitched. In mid-April, Sean Testerman wrote that he might be an average pitcher. The following table includes updated calculations of predictive stats (xK%, xBB%, and xHR/FB%) and compares them to actual stats.

Merrill Kelly Statistics 2019

Statistic April 16 (19 innings) May 18 (51.1 innings)
Statistic April 16 (19 innings) May 18 (51.1 innings)
K% (actual) 22.7 17.9
xK%(predictive) 21.1 18.4
BB%(actual)   4.0   8.1
xBB%(predictive)   4.5   8.5
K%/BB%(actual)   5.7   2.2
xK%/xBB%(predictive)   4.7   2.2
HR/FB%(actual) 15.0 13.6
xHR/FB(predictive) 13.4 14.7
Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Statcast

The ratio of strikeouts-to-walks fell from 5.7 to 2.2 (that change is not good). By far, the biggest cause was more walks, although lower strikeouts contributed. It’s not luck because the change is consistent with his latest predictive statistics. Nevertheless, Kelly remains near-average.

I predict the D-backs will win this game and this series.