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Series Preview # 46 : D-backs @ Reds

D-backs will play the Reds at the Great American Ballpark.

The D-backs are in the wild card race!
The D-backs are in the wild card race!
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Four inspiring quotes:

“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.” — Rocky Balboa

“I’d rather be 2 strokes ahead going into the last day than 2 strokes behind. Having said that, it’s probably easier to win coming from behind. There is no fear in chasing. There is fear in being chased.” — Jack Nicklaus

“Surmounting difficulty is the crucible that forms character.” — Tony Robbins

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” — Maya Angelou

The D-backs are not fully in control of whether they become a NL wild-card team, but they decided to continue playing winning baseball as a contender.

Do the D-backs play better on-the-road or at Chase?

This season, the win-loss results are about the same. They are 37-34 on-the-road and 36-33 at home. Maybe there is no difference.

In each of the prior three seasons, the D-backs played the Reds in two series with each team winning one series. There were no sweeps.

In this series, the D-backs play the Reds on-the-road. A week later, they play the Reds at Chase. These two series are a rare opportunity to compare on-the-road and Chase.

The win-loss outcome between the Reds and the D-backs may, or may not, answer the question, “Where do the D-backs play better?” If either series is a sweep, it would be a stronger indicator than a series win. Let’s look at the possibilities:

  • D-backs win both series – maybe there is no difference. More importantly, the D-backs are strongly contending for the wild-card!
  • D-backs win on-the-road and lose at Chase – Strong confirmation that the D-backs play better on-the-road. The strength of the conclusion would be bolstered because the D-backs won on-the-road despite the Reds having a much higher winning percentage on their home field.
  • D-backs win at Chase and lose on-the-road. Maybe there is no difference.
  • D-backs lose both series. What? This is simply inconceivable.

Who will pitch in this series?

The three projected Reds starters are better against right handed batters (RHBs).

Friday. Tyler Mahle (97 ERA+, 9.2 SO/9, 2.2 BB/9) vs Robbie Ray (113 ERA+, 11.8 SO/9, 4.1 BB/9)

Tyler Mahle missed August with a Hamstring injury. His first game back was against the Cardinals. He pitched 1-2-3 innings in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th innings. He allowed 1 earned run in 6.1 innings pitched. His earned the third highest Bill-James-Game-Score (68) of his career.

Tyler Mahle pitches better against RHB (OPS .632 vs .875). He pitches better at home (OPS .672 vs 787), and this game is a home game for him.

Robbie Ray’s strikeouts-per-9-innings of 11.783 ranked second in the NL. Likely, Ray will do well against the Reds. Two of their better hitters (against Ray) are Freddy Galvis (26 PAs, .333 BA, and .718 OPS) and Eugenio Suarez (9 PAs, .286 BA, and 1.302 OPS). This week Suarez was hit in the hand by Daniel Ponce de Leon’s 93 mph fastball. Suarez is back, but can he hit at 100%?

Saturday. Luis Castillo (141 ERA+, 10.7 SO/9, 3.6 BB/9) vs Alex Young (118 ERA+, 7.1 SO/9, 2.8 BB/9)

Connor Byrne, MLB Trade Rumors, wrote that Castillo’s 14 wins may make him a Cy Young candidate, although not everyone values win-loss records . He pitches better against RHB (OPS .629 vs .867).

Rookie Alex Young has pitched better on-the-road than at home (ERA 2.96 vs 4.60), and this game is on-the-road for him.

Sunday. Anthony DeSclafani (112 ERA+, 9.3 SO/9, 2.8 BB/9) vs Mike Leake (71 ERA+, 3.1 SO/9, 1.3 BB/9)

Anthony DeSclafani pitches better against RHB (OPS .582 vs .703). In 30% of his games, he allows 2 or more homers. This season, his 27-homers-allowed is two more than Robbie Ray allowed.

Mike Leake needs to strikeout more batters. For pitchers with at least 100 innings this season, Leake’s strikeouts-per-9-innings of 5.86 ranked 103 out of 107 pitchers. For the D-backs, his strikeouts-per-9-innings of 3.1 is significantly below every pitcher in this table.

Nevertheless, pitching for the D-backs, he adjusted his mix of pitches to good effect:

  • After he was traded to the D-backs, he increased the frequency of sliders from 14.8% to 19.8%. That increased his whiff rate because his sliders have the highest whiff percentage (this season 14.1% for Mariners and 22.6% for D-backs) of all his pitches. (Source: Brooks Baseball)
  • “By removing his dependency on the sinker [compared to prior seasons], Leake has made a more diverse profile of pitches that allow him to avoid being predictable.” Joshua Inman, 1 September 2019.

Mike Leake is remaking himself to stay at the top of his game.