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D-backs Preview #20: 4/23 @ Braves

The D-backs have largely walked their way to within reach Mt. .500

Spring Skiing in Full Swing at Mammoth Mountain Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

D-backs line-up

Today's Lineups

Pavin Smith - CF Ronald Acuna - RF
Kole Calhoun - RF Freddie Freeman - 1B
Wyatt Mathisen - 1B Marcell Ozuna - LF
David Peralta - LF Ozzie Albies - 2B
Asdrubal Cabrera - 3B Dansby Swanson - SS
Eduardo Escobar - 2B Guillermo Heredia - CF
Carson Kelly - C Austin Riley - 3B
Josh Rojas - SS Alex Jackson - C
Luke Weaver - RHP Huascar Ynoa - RHP

Roster move

After yesterday’s game, Riley Smith was optioned to the alternate training site. He had a rough outing in Cincinnati, allowing two runs on 11 pitches, but had been decent before that. This may mostly be about getting a fresher arm, capable of giving us some length. And that length will be Matt Peacock, who has been recalled to take Smith’s spot. He has yet to allow an earned run over 5.1 innings of work. That includes his memorable major-league debut in Colorado, where Peacock got the W.

Walk this way

Arizona rides a four-game winning streak into Atlanta, and it has been their outstanding discipline at the plate which has been notable. Over that time, they have taken 7 or more walks in every win, averaging 7.5. They were particularly patient against the Reds bullpen, walking 17 times in 13.1 innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that tied a 72-year-old Reds record for relief BBs in a three-game series. Overall this year, in their nine victories, Arizona has taken an average of 6.2 walks. But across the ten defeats, the equivalent figure has been barely half that, 3.4 BB per game. Put another way, the Diamondbacks are 5-1 if walking more than six times; but 1-6 when they take fewer than four.

Their overall walk rate of 11.5% is currently the best in the majors. It’s a sharp increase from the 8.1%, and 22nd ranking, the D-backs had in 2020. Unsurprisingly, Carson Kelly leads the way on the individual level at 24.1%, with his franchise record tying streak of 10 games with a walk. But the two Joshes, Rojas and VanMeter, as well as Asdrubal Cabrera, are all above a 15% walk-rate as well. Obviously, it’s still relatively early days, yet it’s encouraging. At the other end, Pavin Smith and Cole Calhoun are at 6.9% and 5.0% respectively, while poor Nick Ahmed brings up the rear. His discipline has fallen apart like the rest of his offense, with two walks in 42 PA, a 4.8% walk-rate compared to 6.9% in his career prior to this season.

And speaking of whom...

Nick Ahmed

Nick Ahmed spoke to the media on ZOOM today, candidly addressing his slow start. In fact his .194 OPS and -45 OPS+ rank last in MLB among all hitters (minimum 40 PA). He said that his knee “turned a corner” the first or second day in Cincinnati. He said it’s still not perfect but not affecting anything he’s doing right now. He stated it was “good enough to play but it wasn’t great” when he first came off the IL.

He’s had bad starts before, including last year. He was 2 for 25, .080 BA, .259 OPS in July of 2020. This is the worst April he’s had, by far. The injury’s biggest impact he felt was not being able to practice and work all spring. He noticed ”That I’ve developed compensations that I couldn’t necessarily feel and I have to go about undoing those compensations now and get back to the type of hitter that I know I can be.” He originally said he didn’t feel like it affected him in the box, in terms of pain or movement, but it definitely did affect his swing mechanics.

A big part of my swing is making a forward move....making sure I get my whole body and everything going forward. It puts a lot of my weight onto my back leg. (The leg with the affected knee) I’d widened out my stance throughout spring training when I was trying to come off the IL and wasn’t making that good move with my lower half.

During the broadcast yesterday Bob Brenly noticed him stepping back in the box and Nick acknowledged that move was part of helping him get back to a forward movement and feel the ground under him and help regain a proper sequence once he starts his swing. He said he’s always moved his feet but it might have become more exaggerated lately. He felt a breakthrough in the workouts today in the box and in the field. He owned his poor performance. ”It sucks that I haven’t played well. I’m glad the team is playing really well. Guys are picking me up like crazy, which is awesome.” He spoke at some length about his process and frustrations.

Nick did not feel that not being able to play in minor league games in Reno prior to reactivation was a factor as he got plenty of at bats at the alt site. He might have come back too early though. ”This is really the first time I’ve been on the IL and had to come back mid season. I think I probably came off too soon. But at the same time I came off to help our team and get back out there and stabilize defense and be there for the guys, so I don’t regret the decision, but I probably could have used a couple extra days.”

It should be noted that although the team was clearly struggling with SS defense in Nick’s absence, his play there has not been up to his usual standards as well. It’s looked that way visually. He’s only played 85 innings in the field, but his .946 fldg %, (2 errors) is very low for him. His Defensive Runs Saved , or rDRS sits at 0 and his UZR is at -0.3, notably all from RANGE RUNS negative. It’s a tiny sample size for fielding metrics but it seems to jive with what we’ve seen.

Hopefully the breakthroughs both physically with the knee and mechanically in box that he spoke about kick in this series vs. the Braves.

Nick Ahmed audio [or link]

Torey Lovullo notes

  • Matt Peacok was called up and Riley Smith was optioned out. This is to give coverage for the bullpen.
  • Smith will continue to be stretched out at the alt site so he can be starter depth or handle long relief when he’s called back
  • Stefan Crichton dodged a bullet and is doing fine. He played catch today, and as reported last night, x-rays were negative. Torey did not answer the specific question of whether they would need to stay away from him for a day or two.
  • He expressed confidence that Nick Ahmed will figure things out at the plate. But he’s getting a day off today to “work on a couple of things”
  • No specific injury updates. Asked if any of the 4 players currently on the IL might be available by the start of the next homestand on Tuesday, Torey said he felt that, yes, there could be a couple of them coming back by then.

Torey Lovullo audio [or link]