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Series Preview #5, Diamondbacks @ Padres

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D-backs flying high as they travel to San Diego

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

The Diamondbacks return to the scene of the crime that was the start to their season. They began the year dropping three of four to the Padres and were largely dominated by San Diego pitching, scoring just 9 runs in the four game set. In a sign of things to come until game two of the Houston series, the Diamondbacks offense went on to struggle for the next 7 games before finally breaking out with a 9 run 4th inning enroute to a 14-7 victor on Wednesday. They came from behind again the next night to walk off the Astros in the 9th, winning 5-4 and bringing their overall record up to 5-8, 4.5 games back of Colorado.

The Padres offense did a great job in that opening series working the counts, driving up pitch totals, and drawing 27 walks in the four games. When the Dbacks pitchers finally threw strikes, the Padres came up with timely hits. Since that series the Padres results have been mixed. They won two of three in San Francisco, but then lost two of three in Colorado, and two of three to the Dodgers at home. That 4-5 stretched has dropped their record to 7-6, and they’re currently in 3rd place in the NL West, 2.5 games back of the Rockies. They were off on Thursday.

Pitching Matchups:

Game 1, Friday August 7th, 6:10 P.M. Arizona Time @ Petco Park

We discussed Luke Weaver’s pitches, and especially the cutter at some length last week. I highlight here simply the gap between his career bWAR and fWAR, which is a function of the gap between his ERA and FIP. Simply put, the results have not matched the peripherals of walks and strikeouts. The hits and homers he allows come at the wrong times and he’s allowing more runs than his stuff would suggest. Perhaps the most troublesome gap is the one between the ears. Still youngish at 26, it’s time for him to start figuring out how to compete better. See Zac Gallen for contrast.

Zach Davies had been a solid pitcher for Milwaukee before being traded to the Padres this past off season. The Dbacks did not face him in the opening series. Somewhat of a rarer breed these days, he throws primarily a sinker and cutter, but also mixes in his curve and change up liberally. He won’t light up any radar guns but he keeps his team in the game. He was heavily supported by the Brewers excellent bullpens over the years. It remains to be seen if he’ll get the same support in San Diego. (See below)

Game 2, Saturday August 8th, 6:10 P.M. Arizona Time

Merrill Kelly didn’t fare quite as well in LA as he did in his opening start in Texas, giving up 3 runs on 9 hits including 2 homers in 6 innings. Still it was technically a quality start, and after a two run first inning, he only allowed the one more run through the next five. But the D-backs were shutout in that game. Hopefully he will get more run support this game

That won’t be easy Chris Paddack has followed up his impressive rookie season with a strong start to 2020. Featuring a mid 90’s fastball, a devastating changeup that generates a ton of swing and miss, and a curve he can land for strikes, this is one tough customer. He stymied the D-backs on opening day, throwing 6 scoreless innings and got the only win in the series vs. the Dodgers in his last start, allowing 3 runs in 6 innings in a 5-4 padres victory.

Game 3, Sunday August 9th, 1:10 P.M. Arizona Time

Madison Bumgarner has struggled with reduced velocity on his Fourseam Fastball and Cutter, losing 4 MPH seemingly overnight. He was throwing 92 in Spring Training and it’s a mystery where those 4 MPH went. While he and everyone else are hopeful he’ll regain at least some of that lost velo, in the meantime he is going to have to start improving his command in and around the strike zone and execute his pitches better if he’s to avoid getting knocked around like he has been recently. It’s early. This is an experienced, “proven” competitor. It would be foolish to write him off. But all eyes are upon him expecting and waiting for improvement.

Dinelson Lamet seems to be coming into his own. He has allowed just 1 earned run in each of his first 3 starts. He dominated the D-backs on July 25th, (5 IP, 5 hits, 1 walk, 8 K’s, 1 run) for his only victory on the year, having received no decisions in his other two starts. But he more than held his own against that tough Dodger lineup last time out. This is a case where a guy came back from Tommy John surgery throwing harder than ever, adding 2 MPH since the surgery and now averaging 97MPH on BOTH the 4 seam and sinker. He is a very heavy slider usage guy, and it’s a good one. Hitters can’t lay off it and swing and miss a lot.

BULLPENS:

We really need to pay ever more attention to bullpens as teams now have their starters go less than 5 IP per start, on average.

Lead by closer Kirby Yates the Padres had one of the most dynamic bullpens in baseball last year, actually leading the NL in fWAR . But so far this year Yates, and several others in their pen have stuggled, and they currently sit near the bottom early in 2020 fWAR rankings. Looking at the batting against numbers instead of ERA and other pitching stats probably gives a little clearer picture of where the troubles have been. Yates has probably been a little unlucky, (.556 BABIP) but he’s not helping himself either with the 4 walks. Emilio Pagan and Javy Guerra have been hit pretty hard too. On the flip side Drew Pomeranz has been lights out, an Luis Perdomo and Craig Stammen more than solid.

As for the Diamondbacks bullpen all of the dominant work has been done by guys getting the least amount of work in high leverage situations. Junior Guerra has 6 appearances, all of the in LOW LEVERAGE situations. Long men Taylor Clarke, Taylor Widener, and Alex Young have done very well also. But of course they are seeing their work when the starter has been knocked out early and the team is behind. As we saw last night, the team does not appear to have a true set up man they can use in the 8th to get the ball to closer Archie Bradley.

One thing to note is that the DBacks pen has allowed 6 of 7 base stealers to succeed, and over their last 6 games the Padres have been running a lot, and have been successful in 9 of 10 attempts.

LEVERAGE APPEARANCES:

BATTING: Who’s hot, Who’s not ?

Here are the Padres last 6 game batting numbers. Wil Myers and Fernando Tatis Jr have been crushing it. Jake Cronenworth has been raking, filling in for Eric Hosmer. Hosmer has been in the IL with gastritis and is eligible to return Saturday. Tommy Pham has cooled a bit, and Manny Machado and Jurickson Profar have been slumping.

The Diamondbacks last 6 games numbers look a lot prettier thanks to the last two games. Hopefully Eduardo Escobar will get going and the balanced attack Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo are counting on will gain some consistency.

The D-backs will look to carry the momentum from the series victory vs. the Astros into San Diego. They’ll have their work cut out for them as the much improved Padres have their best starters going in this series. Keeping Tatis in check, and keeping Machado slumping will be key. Hopefully the D-backs offense will continue with their improved approach and be able to get into the suddenly suspect San Diego Bullpen a bit early this time around.