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Series Preview # 14: Diamondbacks vs Dodgers

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Kenta Maeda Bobblehead
Kenta Maeda Bobblehead
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Let’s look at circumstances, as they were.

This season, the Dodgers are arguably the best team in baseball. Nevertheless, they lost about a third of their games played. In the previous series between these teams, the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks, scoring 14 runs while allowing 6 runs.

In the second game of that series, the score (2-3) was close. That game had four could-have moments that could have made a difference.

  • First moment was top of the second inning, runners on the corners with one out. On a fly ball the center, Peralta tagged and ran half-way to home. He could have ran home if he saw the bad throw.
  • Second moment was the blown save in the bottom of the ninth. Allowing a homer to Betts is a known danger that could have been avoided by an intentional walk in game deciding situations.
  • Third moment was Diamondbacks had bases loaded with one out in the top of the tenth. A base on balls scored a run. A run expectancy matrix showed 1.54 additional runs could have been scored. Instead a pop-out and a strikeout ended the inning.
  • Fourth moment was a fielding error in response to a bunt in the bottom of the tenth. A bad throw to third by the Diamondbacks’ pitcher could have not happened.

The Diamondbacks’ starting pitching was strong enough to beat the Dodgers. Alex Young allowed 2 earned runs in 5 innings; Zac Gallen allowed zero earned runs in 7 innings; Luke Weaver allowed 2 earned runs in 5.1 innings.

Let’s look at circumstances, as they could be.

What if the Diamondbacks had an average offense? That average offense would score 4 additional runs against the Dodgers (Dodgers’ pitchers have allowed an average of 3.29 runs per game). Very likely, they would win the second game of the series.

What if the Diamondbacks hit against Kershaw as well as they did in 2019? In 2019, they faced Kershaw twice: 4 earned runs in 6 innings, and 5 earned runs in 5 innings. In the third game of the hypothetical series, the Diamondbacks score at least 4 earned runs against Kershaw, which ties the game after 9 innings.

What if, in addition, the Diamondbacks bullpen was average? With that average bullpen In a hypothetical series, instead of 8 runs crossing the plate during 8.2 innings pitched, only about 4 to 5 runs would score. With better hitting having scored 5 runs in the third game of the series, its likely the Diamondbacks’ average bullpen would win the third game of the series.

Where are we now?

The Diamondbacks are in last place in the NL West. Winning one game would be worth crowing about. After trading away a few good players, after being swept by the best team in baseball, beating the Dodgers would show good character and mental strength. Beyond those traits, what are the keys to winning one game?

First key to winning: Score at least 4 runs. This season, the Dodgers scored 4 runs or less in ten of their twelve losses. Diamondbacks put themselves in a position to win when they score 4 runs.

Second key to winning: D-backs starting pitcher completes at least 6 innings. The Diamondbacks have strong starters and a weak bullpen. It is unrealistic to expect the bullpen to effectively pitch well for more than 3 innings in any game. This season, only two Diamondback starters completed 6 innings in at least one game : Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

Third key to winning: pitching match-up. Sometimes, a match-up of starting pitchers gives a boost to the chances of a win by the Diamondbacks. The following match-ups don’t seem especially favorable. When the sun shines warmly on Diamondback faces, Diamondbacks’ pitchers could surprise to the upside.

Game 1: Luke Weaver vs Walker Buehler. This season, Luke Weaver averaged 4.0 innings per game. This season, in his first four games he allowed 7 homers; in his last four games he allowed 1 homer. That improvement could keep the Diamondbacks in the game.

Game 2: Taylor Clarke vs Clayton Kershaw. This season, Taylor Clarke averaged 2.5 innings per relief appearance and 4.0 innings per starter appearance. As a starter, if he keeps his pitch count down and gets run support, then he will be credited with several wins this season.

Game 3: Madison Bumgarner vs Dustin May. Will Madison Bumgarner return at full strength? One reason to expect an affirmative yes; Torey Lovullo said his velocity drop was not due to injury.

Diamondbacks have better player bobbleheads.

Nearly all bobbleheads of Dodgers players are in uniform. Except for facial expressions, they are for the most part boring. Two exceptions are Hyun Solo (2019) and Kenley Calrissian (2018).

The Diamondbacks matched well with the Dodgers, having four Star-Wars themed bobbleheads (Goldschmidt twice, Pollock, and Collimenter). If this season had fans at Chase, they would have received a Christian ‘Sky’ Walker bobblehead.

Then, we arrive at an area where the Diamondbacks outshine the Dodgers: Diamondbacks’ player bobbleheads are fun and imaginative.

Awesome Diamondbacks’ bobbleheads include Zack Godley Game of Thrones (2019), Nick Ahmed on the Moon (2019), Archie Bradley Gnome (2019), Taijuan Walker Game of Thrones (2017), Robbie Ray strikeout counter (2017), and Jake Lamb with a white lamb (2017). My favorites are David Peralta Freight Train with audio (2019), and Ketel Marte Luchador (2018). Pictures of Diamondbacks’ bobbleheads can be found here.