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Series Preview #13: Diamondbacks @ Giants

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The D-backs stagger into San Francisco for a 4 game wrap around series

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

If it’s the weekend, the D-backs must be playing the Giants. This is the 3rd straight Friday these two teams will kick off a series. Like everything else in 2020, it’s gone badly against San Francisco. The Giants hold a 5-1 edge, having outscored the D-backs 30 to 14.

The reeling Diamondbacks were just swept in LA and have lost 13 of 14. On the heels of the trade deadline there has been obvious discord in the clubhouse coupled with unfocused play on the field. Yesterday starters Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar were benched and a trio of young players , Daulton Varsho, Andy Young and Josh Rojas were sent out to face Clayton Kershaw. All he did was take a no-hitter into the 6th on the way to a 5-1 Dodgers Victory.

The Giants had a strange trip to Colorado where strange things often happen. They were off Monday and Thursday, and played just two games this week. On Tuesday they outscored Colorado 23-5, on 27 hits including four homers. Then on Wednesday, they took a 6-1 lead into the 5th before allowing Colorado to score 8 unanswered runs, including 5 in the 7th, leading to a 9-6 Colorado victory.

The quick summary is the Giants have a very good offense but a pitching staff that has underperformed, and the bullpen has been especially poor. With 40% playoff odds at the deadline they opted not to do anything, their only move being picking up former Diamondback Anthony Banda from the Rays for cash.

The Diamondbacks have been below average or down right terrible at just about everything. They hope to salvage some semblance of value out of the season by giving younger players more looks and development opportunity. One can only hope they’ll start to show some improvement and provide a glimmer of hope for 2021.

Tale of the Tape (NL Ranks in brackets)

Starting Pitching Matchups

*Note, W-L record is the team’s WL record in games started by that pitcher, not the Pitcher W-L. I find that more relevant than pitcher W-L in today’s game.

Pitcher’s game logs are linked by clicking on pitchers name

Taylor Clarke has pitched really well in the two starts he’s been given since stepping into the rotation for Merrill Kelly. (Including his last start facing the Giants) He’s allowed just 2 earned runs in 9 innings as a starter, walking 3 and striking out 11. He’s given up a couple of homers, but doesn’t everybody ? One cool little nugget: Clarke has maintained almost all his velocity these two games despite moving from the bullpen to rotation.

The first time the D-backs faced Tyler Anderson this year he threw a complete game against them. The second time they jumped him for 7 runs and 9 hits in 4.2 innings. More of the latter would be great.

Madison Bumgarner returns from his “back” injury, making his first start since going on the IL August 10th. The Diamondbacks organization and their fans will be holding their collective breath from the owners box on down to the clubbies, hoping to see some increased velocity and effectiveness. Bumgarner is signed through 2024 and owed approximately $80M on his multi year contract just signed this past off season.

Trevor Cahill was not quite as sharp in his second start against the D-backs as was in the first one, getting knocked out of the box in the 4th inning having given up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks. Previous to that he pitched into the 6th inning allowing just 1 run. It’s presumed he’s fairly stretched out now and will be allowed to go deeper if he’s pitching well.

The good news is Alex Young continues to beat his FIP by over a run per 9 IP. The bad news is his FIP has gone up from 4.81 last year to 5.56 this year. For his career he has a 3.80 ERA vs. a 5.00 FIP. But he’s a tough, quiet young man and competes and gets the most out of his stuff. His stuff just may be just a little bit short however to have long term success in the rotation. He seems destined for a bullpen role in his career. Still, you could do a lot worse filling in your rotation with a guy like this in the meantime. He works fast and keeps the team in the game somehow.

Johnny Cueto threw his best game of the season last time out against the Diamondbacks going 6.2 IP and allowing just 1 run while posting a 67 game score. He’s such an interesting pitcher. Despite his injuries, his velocity and Horizontal and Vertical movement have seen only very slight dips since signing with the Giants. (click on highlighted text for data and graphs on those). I need to pause here and show a graph that is just stunning. Check out his Vertical Release point over his career. It’s EXACTLY the same, on EVERY pitch, EVERY YEAR !. And this guy spins like gyro out there and uses all sorts of herky jerky motions to throw off the hitters timing. But when it’s time for the ball to come out of his hand, it does so from the exact same spot EVERY time. It’s truly remarkable. You can compare the chart below to someone like Zack Greinke to get an idea of how strange this chart is. No wonder he’s had so much success

Zac Gallen starts are quickly becoming EVENTS. His starts are one of the few things we have to look forward to watching in this horror show of a season. Featuring a 5 pitch mix he is able to adapt and use whatever tools he has on the day to fluster opposing hitters when it matters the most. Sure, his FIP is higher than his ERA. But when your ERA is below two that’s almost always the case. His LOB%, or Strand Rate of 96.1% is the 3rd highest in the league this year. And over the 2019-2020 seasons combined, his LOB% of 87.5% is second highest only to Justin Verlander. LINK. Sure, sooner or later some bounces won’t go his way and his streak of allowing 3 runs or less will be broken and his ERA will regress some. But he’s getting better and better. He’s mature beyond his years. If he remains healthy the D-backs have a Cy Young contender to build their rotation around.

Kevin Gausman has not yet faced the D-backs this year. He’s faced the Dodgers three times and made two starts in Colorado. (He was the recipient of the 23 runs of support on Tuesday) So perhaps he’s pitched better than his ERA indicates, as you can see that in his FIP is significantly lower. For those unfamiliar, he throws a mid to upper 90’s four seamer, has a very good changeup that he uses to get swing and miss, and will mix in a split when he needs a groundball. He gets a lot of K’s and doesn’t walk too many batters. His problem has always been the gopher ball however. He has a career 1.3 HR/9 and 1.8 so far this year. He’s been around a long time, this being his 8th season. Formerly with Baltimore, Atlanta and Cincinnati, he signed a one year $9M deal with the Giants this past off season.

If you really need to see the recent splits for who’s hot and who’s not here are some links for you:

Giant’s hitters last 14 days

Giant’s pitchers last 14 days

D-backs hitters last 14 days (Enter at your own risk)

D-backs pitches last 14 days