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Series Preview # 7: Padres @ Diamondbacks

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Time to turn it around vs. the boys in brown

Houston Astros v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

STORY HAS BEEN EDITED TO REFLECT UPDATING PITCHING MATCHUPS BELOW

The Diamondbacks and Padres have already faced off 7 times in this short season, and the results have not been good. The D-backs are just 2-5 vs. San Diego this year and have been outscored 35-17. The Padres have clubbed the D-backs into submission, out homering them 15-6. Nobody has hurt them more than Fernando Tatis Jr. who’s hit 4 homers off them while going 11 for 27, batting .407 with a 1.467 OPS. Ouch!

All 7 of those games were in San Diego. This three game series at Chase Field is the last time the teams will face off against each until possibly the playoffs. Playoffs ? Playoffs ?!?!. More on that in a moment.

The Padres are coming off a rough couple of games in LA. They won the first two games of a four game set, but then lost 6-0 and 11-2 last night. (Mookie Betts homered three times, the 6th time in his career he’s done that). This dropped the Padres record to 11-9. and they are currently in 3rd place in the NL West, 2 games back of the Dodgers and Rockies, and 2.5 ahead of 8-11 Arizona. When not facing the D-backs their record has been 6-7, and they’ve been outscored 75 to 61. So as tough an opponent as San Diego has been so far, they are a team that can be beat if Arizona can pitch better and avoid giving up so many long balls.

It should be noted that Closer Kirby Yates has not pitched since August 7th, due to unspecified soreness and Drew Pomeranz has gotten the last two saves for them.

As of this writing the pitching matchups for Saturday and Sunday have not been completely set , so I’m going to guess, and come back and edit later today when they announce it.

Dinelson Lamet has yet to give up more than 1 earned run in any of his four starts. His last game was against the D-backs on August 9th, and he took a no hitter into the 7th inning before Kole Calhoun broke it up with a homerun. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 11. He features a four seam, sinker, slider combo. He throws the sinker just as hard as his four seam, (97 MPH), and he’s not actually getting a lot of sink on it, (average vertical drop just slightly more than four seamer) His hard slider come in at 87 MPH and has been virtually impossible to hit.

Merrill Kelly’s last start was also against the Padres on August 8th. He went 6 innings, allowing just one run in a 3-2 D-backs victory. Kelly has been pitching to contact, walking just one batter so far this year, while striking out just 15. But he has given up 4 homers already, and the contact and other peripherals (FIP) suggest he’s been a bit fortunate with run prevention so far. Nonetheless he’s been the team’s most consistent starter and the team will count on him to continue to give them innings as he’s been doing

Cal Quantrill will start for the Padres on Saturday. It will be his first start of the year after making 18 starts last year. So far this year he’s been working in long relief. His last outing was on Monday and he threw 3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers. Last year his results will mixed. He had a 5.16 ERA but his FIP was almost a run lower at 4.28, hinting at perhaps a little bad luck, although his BABIP wasn’t that high at .297. This year has been the opposite in a small sample size, with a FIP 2 runs higher than his ERA. He has a career 3.13 K/BB ratio. The son of former major league reliever Paul Quantrill, Cal throws a mid 90’s four seam, a hard 87 MPH slider, and occasional changeup.

In a bit of a surprise, Alex Young will get the start tomorrow. Original speculation was that Taylor Widener would get to go this weekend. This will also be Young’s first start of 2020, as he’s been working out of the bullpen up till now. His last outing was this past Tuesday in Colorado when he threw 21 pitches, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and a strikeout. Prior to that he threw 2 innings against the Padres on August 7th, allowing a solo homerun to Edward Olivares. Young had seen a 2 MPH uptick in velocity working out of the pen. It will be interesting to see if he maintains that as a starter.

Garrett Richards comeback has been fueled by his two starts against the Diamondbacks. In 11 innings vs. Arizona he’s only given up 1 run on 7 hits, 5 walks, and 9 K’s. In his other two starts against the Rockies (@ COL) and the Dodgers he’s given up 8 runs in 10.2 IP, on 13 hits, 2 homers, 2 walks, and 10 K’s. He’s still heavily slider dependent, and he throws a really good one that generates a lot of swing and miss.

Robbie Ray’s season has been an unmitigated disaster. He slimmed down and made multiple mechanics changes, and while his velocity is back up, his command and control is as bad as it’s ever been and when he does come into the zone he’s getting rocked to the tune of 7 homers and 22 hits in his 17 innings. His Barrell Percentage is 16%, and his hard hit rate is 48%. So far this year the average for MLB Starters is 7.4% and 36% respectively.

He doesn’t dodge questions in pre and post game interviews, and he’s clearly trying his best to do whatever he can to improve things. But the team isn’t going anywhere if he doesn’t turn it around, fast.

Which brings us to the playoffs. As bad and inconsistent as things have been for the D-backs, they are coming off a series victory in Colorado and are only 3 games under .500. They are tied with the Reds with the 8th best Win % in the league. A series victory this weekend could potentially propel them right into one of the playoff seedings.

While Fangraphs only gives them a 28% chance to make the playoffs, if you look at Season to date Stats mode, (as opposed to Fangraphs mode which is projections based) their odds improve to 35%. Over at Baseball Reference they give the D-backs 42.5% chance, and they rank 10th of 15 in playoff odds at the moment. As rough and uneven as the start to the season has been for the D-backs, if they can get their rotation act together, and plug a hole or two in the bullpen, they still have a reasonable shot at “Earning their sleeves”.

But it’s far from a given that simple regression to the mean will improve things for the D-backs pitching staff. The Starting Pitchers have allowed the hardest, loudest, most damaging contact in all of MLB. Per Statcast, the 15% Barrel 43% Hard Hit rates are the worst in MLB. See Fangraphs new Statcast Report Here.

It’s not that much better in the bullpen either, especially for the late inning guys trying to get the ball to Archie Bradley. Kevin Ginkel & Hector Rondon have been getting crushed, putting a big dent in Torey Lovullo’s ability to manage late inning situations. Dbacks Reliever Table Here

Still, a good weekend, and silencing the Padres power bats would go a long way towards giving the team, and us, confidence they can still make a run at this. I like the team’s chances for a series victory this weekend, but first they’ll need to find a way to break through against Lamet.