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Series Preview # 51: D-backs vs Cardinals

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Will the Cardinals clinch the NL Central as the D-backs look towards next season?

Tin Men and Scarecrows need Wizards
Tin Men and Scarecrows need Wizards
Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

The wizard returned.

Like tears, raindrops fell lightly on the grass around my comfortable bench. Their sounds made quiet ripples in my silence. My team reached for the playoffs, then fell. Like a stone, I sat meditating about next season. My thoughts were pretty pebbles skipping across a calm pond…RBIs, consistency, winning games, and especially contentious SnakePit debates about who is MVP. After a moment, I let them leave, preferring to enter next season with a clear head.

My eyes opened to see he was back! With his dapper hat, the wizard was slowly approaching my bench!

Just a moment later, the wizard warmly greeted me. Then he said, “Diamondbacks?” I replied, “An exciting team!” He said, “Average to good players they are, none great except one.” Not ready to accept average to good, I asked, “What about winning streaks?” He said, “That’s the bright side and the dark side of average to good.”

I asked the wizard, “What about next season? Will our luck break for the better?” He replied, “We will see players break-out to achieve greatness, albeit one at a time.” As MVP thoughts returned to my mind, I indulged them. I blinked and saw raindrops. The wizard was gone. His wisdom remained.

The adventures continue next season.

As always, I am grateful for the opportunity that Jim McLennan has provided me. It is my honor to be part of this group of extremely talented fans and writers. As a writer, my life is better in unexpected ways – and I’m glad!

Cardinal starters rely on grounders while Cardinal relievers rely on strikeouts.

Cardinal starters have very high ground ball rates (stats from 17 September, ranks are for “qualified starters”):

  • Dakota Hudson, 57.2%, ranked 1st in Majors,
  • Adam Wainwright, 49.3%, ranked 14th in Majors
  • Michael Wacha, 47.6%.
  • Miles Mikolas, 47.3%, ranked 21st in Majors
  • Daniel Ponce de Leon, 46.9%.
  • Jack Flaherty, 38.1%, his 10.635 SO9 ranks 6th in the NL

Cardinal relievers are not generally ranked more than slightly above average. Remarkably they have a 76% save percentage, which ranks first in the NL. Their 28% inherited runners scored is the 3rd lowest in the NL. How did they do it?

It’s not ground ball percentages except for Carlos Martinez (59.6%) and John Gant (46.8%).

They did it with impressive strikeout rates. Let’s look at SO/9 for 5 of their 7 relievers with the most innings:

  • 11.93 Giovanny Gallegos
  • 11.60 Andrew Miller
  • 10.83 John Brebbia
  • 10.31 Dominic Leone
  • 9.76 Carlos Martinez

Who will pitch in this series?

Monday. Adam Wainwright (111 ERA+, 8.0 SO/9, 3.4 BB/9) vs Alex Young (137 ERA+, 7.9 SO/9, 3.0 BB/9)

Monday’s game is the Snake Pit Fest. Look for familiar faces on the 1st base side in the Baseline Box (sections 112-114). These all-star fans will likely add at least three FCARs (fan cheers above replacement level).

In his 14th year in the Majors, Adam Wainwright is pitching better than his three previous seasons. In September, his ERA is 0.45 in 20 innings. This game will be a challenge for the D-backs!

“I think every year there’s going to be certain surprises and [rookie] Alex Young has definitely fit that criteria right now [20 July].” — Torey Lovullo

Alex Young has improved from surprisingly good in July to impressive with an ERA of 1.80 in September.

Alex Young is at his best the first two plate appearances that he faces each batter (OPS .573 and .657). In the third plate appearance, OPS rose to 1.088.

Tuesday. Jack Flaherty (143 ERA+, 10.6 SO/9, 2.6 BB/9) vs Mike Leake (96 ERA+, 4.0 SO/9, 1.0 BB/9)

Jack Flaherty is the Cardinal’s ace. This season, except for Genesis Gabrera who pitched 8.1 innings in two starts, Jack Flaherty is the youngest Cardinal starter. Two seasons ago, he was the tenth youngest pitcher in the NL.

In his last start, which was against the Cubs, Flaherty demonstrated why he is their ace. Five of his 8 innings were 1-2-3 innings. He allowed 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 earned run.

In an interview with Ken Rosenthal, Matt Carpenter talked about Jack Flaherty. “…He is as competitive as any guy I’ve ever played with, for starters. And then, ah, you combine his physical gifts, what he’s able to do from a physical standpoint, and then the fact that he is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever played with. So you combine all those things, it’s pretty much a recipe for success….” — Matt Carpenter

In September, Mike Leake’s ERA is 1.93 in 18.2 innings. Comparing September to August, two good things happened; His SO9 improved from 3.45 to 4.34, and his BABIP improved from .320 to .270. If September is a preview of next season, good things will happen for the D-backs. On the other hand, his improvement may not be enough to win this game.

Wednesday. Michael Wacha (91 ERA+, 7.3 SO/9, 3.8 BB/9) vs Merrill Kelly (104 ERA+, 7.7 SO/9, 2.8 BB/9)

In September, Michael Wacha’s ERA improved to a season best of 1.64. A big factor was he only allowed 1 homer in September. August 2016 was his last month with less than 2 homers allowed.

In Michael Wacha’s last start, which was against the Cubs, he allowed 1 earned run in 4 innings. It was an earned run, although play that scored the Cubs’ only run was a fielding error by the second baseman.

Merrill Kelly’s September stats look great (OBP .250, OPS .494, and SO/BB 3.11). This game is at Chase. That’s great because Merrill Kelly pitches better at home than on-the-road.

Four times this season, Kelly’s Bill-James-game-score was 78 or 79. Kelly’s rookie season can be compared to Greinke’s 16th season, as kilnborn noted in the game thread.


Kelly’s game score of 79 matches Greinke’s best game score as a DBack in 2019.

Posted by kilnborn on Sep 20, 2019 | 9:26 PM reply unrec (1)