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Series Preview # 18 : Diamondbacks vs Rangers

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The smallest details can be signposts toward a better season next year.

“Hidden away under the leaves, one flower still remains.”
“Hidden away under the leaves, one flower still remains.”
Photo by Valerio Banal/Ovoworks/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Beyond being out-of-contention because of win-loss records, let’s look at three ways these teams are similar.

These teams play better at home.

The numbers follow:

Home Road Splits

Location D-backs Rangers
Location D-backs Rangers
Home Games 11-13 13-13
Road Games 9-21 6-22
Data from Baseball Reference

What does it mean?

This game is played at Chase, which gives advantage to the Diamondbacks. Let’s look at the impact of hitting splits and pitching splits.

Hitting (OPS and SO/PA) Splits(through 17 September). The Diamondbacks hit much better at home, while the Rangers hit slightly better at home.

  • Diamondbacks: Home stats are much better than road stats. OPS was .722 vs .639. SO/PA was .178 vs .236.
  • Rangers: Home stats are slightly better than road stats. OPS was .651 vs .619. SO/PA was .241 vs .264.

Pitching (ERA and hits/inning) Splits(through 17 September). The Rangers pitched much better at home, while the Diamondbacks pitched slightly better at home.

  • Diamondbacks: Home stats are slightly better than road stats. ERA was 4.71 vs 5.55. Hits per inning was .913 vs 1.084.
  • Rangers: Home stats are much better than road stats. ERA was 4.5 vs 5.61. Hits per inning was .865 vs .937.

With much delight, I predict the Diamondbacks will score 9 runs because a combination of better Diamondback hitting and worse Ranger pitching.

These teams give playing time to young players.

Young Players

Position D-backs Rangers
Position D-backs Rangers
catcher Carson Kelly Sam Huff
CF/C/LF & CF Daulton Varsho Leody Taveras
2/SS & 1B/RF Pavin Smith Anderson Tejeda
3B/2B/1B & 3B Josh VanMeter Sherton Apostel
SP & SP/RP Zac Gallen Kolby Allard
RP Riley Smith Jonathan Hernandez
BP & SP/RP Jeremy Beasley Kyle Cody
Data from Baseball Reference

Youth is an emerging characteristic of these team’s rosters. Five of the seven young Rangers made their debut in the Majors this season. Three young Diamondbacks made their debut (Daulton Varsho, Riley Smith, and Jeremy Beasley).

Let’s look at Daulton Varsho. His rank as a prospect is in the top-100 in baseball. Next season, he has a real shot to start the season at center field.

  • Although he could be a catcher, the Diamondbacks have more than enough catchers. Their everyday lineup has Carson Kelly and Stephen Vogt. John Hicks, in the Diamondbacks’ player pool, had an OPS between .620 and .766 in 2017 to 2019.
  • This season he played 50 innings at catcher, 43 innings at left field, and 70 innings at center field. He defended very well in center field: 2 DRS in 70 innings played and 35.3 UZR/150.
  • “…his sprint speed of 28.2 ft/sec puts him second on the Diamondbacks this year, behind (obvs) Tim Locastro’s 30.1 ft/sec.” — Jim McLennan
  • His hitting improved in September (.635 in September compared to .490 in August). His OPS is in the same ballpark as Peralta (.752) and Locastro (.713), while better than Jay (.329).

Let’s look at Leody Taveras. Like Varsho, his rank as a prospect is in the top-100 in baseball. His defense and offense were roughly comparable to Varsho. (DRS of 6 in 205 innings played, UZR/150 of negative 2.3, OPS of .662). Next season, I’d like to see them as starting center fielders on opening day. When that happens, I predict Daulton Varsho will outshine Taveras.

These teams have excellent farm systems. These young players have the talent needed to contribute. Getting a look at young players is valuable, both to see their mental skills and game skills. More importantly, experience at this high level will speed their development.

“Younger guys, they’re more sponge-like. They’re kind of like clay that you can mold; they’re not hardened yet….” — Chris Woodward, Rangers Manager

Development of young players to their full potential can only be done in the Majors.

“Hazen fervently believes there is no way to duplicate what players gain by playing in games.” — Zach Buchanan

Although the following comment was made after the Diamondbacks had scored 9 runs in a game, it also applies to having young players who contribute to the team.

“That’s what’s most gratifying, when I see the dugout full of excitement and feeling good about themselves. They deserve it.” — Torey Lovullo

These teams have stats that are nearly worst in the Majors.

Although the Pirates may have locked up the worst team overall, these teams are in contention for the worst of two stats:

  • Hitters with lowest OPS: D-backs .678, Rangers .639, Pirates .622, ranked 28/29/30 through 20 September.
  • Pitchers with most walks allowed per 9 innings: Rangers 4.246, D-backs 4.247, Pirates 4.427 ranked 26/27/29 through 20 September

What’s up with Madison Bumgarner?

Let’s compare him to James Paxton, who had a similar velocity drop. They both had a drop in their vertical release point from September 2019. Another similarity is James Paxton had back surgery in February, while Bumgarner had a back injury without surgery. Mike Axisa wrote that James Paxton said he was having trouble getting “full extension” on his pitches. Perhaps Madison Bumgarner has the same problem. If that’s the problem, the Diamondback medical team likely knows ways to correct it by next season. It would be cool if they recommended yoga poses or dance moves. They probably won’t.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday. Caleb Smith vs Jordan Lyles.

Compared to last season, Caleb Smith allowed twice as many homers per 9 innings (3.6 vs 1.9) while pitching half as many innings per game (2.67 vs 5.48). He will have the offseason to make adjustments and get stretched out to start next season.

Compared to last season, Jordan Lyles’s ERA has worsened (4.15 to 7.80). At first glance everything got worse: hits per 9 innings increased 25%, homers per 9 innings increased 19%, walks per 9 innings increased 20%, and strikeouts per nine innings decreased 39%. The cause is unclear.

Wednesday. TBA, perhaps Zac Gallen vs Wes Benjamin.

Zac Gallen is on my list of young Diamondbacks. His last start against the Astros showed he is back to his high level of excellence. Next season, I predict he will be the Diamondbacks’ ace. It would be cool if Madison Bumgarner and Merrill Kelly pitch just as well as Zac Gallen.

This season is Wes Benjamin’s first in the Majors. In AAA, he was a starter. In the Majors he is a bullpen pitcher who thrice pitched at least 4 innings. This game will be his first start of the season.

Martial arts wisdom - small details make a difference .

When young players are on the team, they can closely observe veteran players. That is priceless.

“Anyone who trains to see even the smallest detail of the technique or art will progress quickly.” – Kensho Furuya

“The clever student watches his teacher and the technique as though it was the first time he has ever seen it.” – Kensho Furuya

This less-than-perfect season will help Diamondback team improve.

“But now I feel [Kensho Furuya] is saying that martial arts doesn’t make you a perfect person; it makes you observe and examine your idea of what is good.” – Mark Salzman

“Hidden away under the leaves, one flower still remains.” – Saigo, 12th century