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Series Preview # 13 : Diamondbacks vs Nationals

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Despite Scherzer’s pitching, it’s likely the Diamondbacks will win the series.

Former Diamondback, Geraldo Parra.
Former Diamondback, Geraldo Parra.
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Let’s start this preview by comparing two statistics: wOBA and ERA.

The following graph shows a count of batters’ wOBA, grouped into 4 bins.

10 PA minimum, May 1 thru 8. Data from Baseball Savant.

In games played 1 through 8 May, the frequent batters of the Nationals had a higher average wOBA (.326 vs .303). And the Nationals had more batters with wOBA above .300 (7 vs 5). Normally, those two differences would results in the Nationals scoring more runs per game, and this is no exception (4.3 vs 3.4 runs per game). In summary, in the first week of May the Nationals’ batters were hotter than the Diamondbacks batters.

After that first week of May, the narrative changed. The Diamondbacks’ batters broke out with an average of 4.2 runs per game. To be fair, the average was higher before the latest two games. That compared well to the Nationals’ average of 2.75 runs per game. The Diamondbacks were 12 for 41 with RISP (an improvement).

In games played 1 through 8 May, the starters for the Nationals had a lower ERA (3.43 vs 4.58). The difference reflected two basic causes: Nationals pitchers allowed 0.3 ERs less per start and completed 1 inning more per start. Data from Baseball Reference. In summary, in the first week of May the Nationals’ starters were better than the Diamondbacks starters.

Recently, Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner pitched extremely well. Although it won’t happen this series, that matchup would be amazing.

Diamondback injuries are more impactful.

The most significant injury for the Nationals is Stephen Strausburg.

  • After a shoulder injury, Juan Soto is back at right field for the Nationals.
  • After surgery for a blood clot, Wil Harris is back in the bullpen for the Nationals.
  • After shoulder inflammation, this week Stephen Strausburg was scheduled to pitch in a simulated game. He could soon return to the Nationals’ rotation.

Despite the following six significant injuries, the Diamondbacks will fight to win the series.

  • In yesterday’s game, Asdrubal Cabrera strained his hamstring. He reached base in 15 of his last 17 games.
  • Although his MRI did not show a setback, Christian Walker is on the 10 day IL with a sore oblique muscle.
  • After a hamstring injury, Ketel Marte successfully executed running drills. Torey Lovullo said Marte is “very close” to beginning his rehab assignment. In this series, the first 5000 fans will think of him when they receive a Ketel Marte switch hitter bobblehead.
  • After a shoulder capsule strain, Tyler Clippard has begun a throwing program. He could return to the bullpen by the end of May.
  • After a hamstring tendon injury, Kole Calhoun could return to the Diamondbacks by the end of June.
  • After a very minor strain that hopefully does not require surgery, Zac Gallen will be on the IL for a while. “If he’s back in one month I’ll eat my hat.” — Jack Sommers, 12 May.

The Nationals’ triple-A team includes two former Diamondbacks: Geraldo Parra & Yasmany Tomas.

Some comments about Geraldo Parra from the AZ SnakePit archives:

“It was the season of the Parrazooka, although the term itself seems to date all the way back to September 2009. In its early days, the weapon was not as reliable as it would later become, ...” —Jim McLennan

“He gave us a lot of highlights with the glove, and always gave his best. That is what we will remember him for.” — shoewizard

“Never developed into the line drive , doubles hitting , batting avg machine we hoped. Too many ground balls, too weak vs. lefties.” — shoewizard

“I love Parra, and never really understood why Gibby waited to make him a full-time outfielder until this year. The reality is that he is around a .270 hitter (fits well at 1-2 hole or 6-8), with above-average speed (although he is a poor baserunner), power for 10-15 home runs/year, and is a Gold-Glove caliber outfielder (2x) with one of the best arms in the bigs. You’re telling me Kevin Towers couldn’t get a higher return for him?” — Fabian Ardaya

“Except that when Parra plays everyday he’s not a .270 hitter. He breaks down. His defense starts to lag and he starts to slump at the plate. He should have always been the platoon guy to begin with. The problem going into this year is that there wasn’t anyone to platoon him with.” — James Attwood

“I know he was never a kick ass player, I knew he had his flaws, but he improved and got recognized for his glove and became bad ass with his glove. The Parra haters didn’t like that one bit. Then things went downward and he had a chitty season and they traded him….” — AzDbackfanInDc

Who would debate that acquiring Yasmany Tomas was a disaster for the Diamondbacks? No one. In February 2017, I wrote about a bold idea to trade him. Instead, he stayed with the Diamondbacks until his contract expired. With the Nationals organization, it’s likely that Yasmany Tomas continues to improve his offense. In the unlikely happenstance that the Nationals read this paragraph, I’m including a link to Xipooo’s unique and amazing analysis of Tomas’ swing.

Pitching Matchups.

Friday. Max Scherzer (2.33 ERA) vs Riley Smith (4.85 ERA)

In 2013, 2016, and 2017, Max Scherzer won the Cy Young. In 2019, Max Scherzer pitched in the first and seventh games of the World Series; the Nationals won both games. Max Scherzer is likely to be voted into the Hall-of-Fame.

This season, his 2.33 ERA, 169 ERA+, and .777 WHIP are career bests. At age 36, he still has it.

Against Scherzer, the Diamondbacks who have hit best are Carson Kelly (1.133 OPS in 6 PAs), and David Peralta (1.018 in 21 PAs). Wild card batters who have not yet faced Scherzer are Christian Walker, Daulton Varsho, and Pavin Smith.

This season, Riley Smith pitched about average for a Major League pitcher. This game, he might allow 2 or 3 ERs in 4 to 5 innings. Perhaps his result will be slightly better because none of the current Nationals has faced him.

This matchup is advantage Nationals.

Saturday. Joe Ross (4.26 ERA) vs TBA: possibly Luke Weaver (5.00 ERA)

Joe Ross has allowed at least one homer in each of his last four starts. This season his fastball (FB) velocity is at the 58th percentile and his FB spin is at the 22nd percentile (Baseball Savant). This season, his 13.5% barrel rate is another indicator that the Diamondbacks will hit homers this game.

Luke Weaver’s last start was great (zero ERs in 6.1 IP). This season his FB velocity is average (47th percentile) and his FB spin is at the 89th percentile (Baseball Savant). Because of that spin, his FB is lively. It’s unlikely that the Nationals will hit as many homers as the Diamondbacks.

This matchup is advantage Diamondbacks.

Sunday. Erick Fedde (5.29 ERA) vs TBA: possibly Madison Bumgarner (4.12 ERA)

In the previous series between the Nationals and the Diamondbacks, these pitchers won their games while allowing 1 run in 5 innings.

Erick Fedde’s previous four starts have been average with an average game score near 50. This season, his MLB percentile rankings (Baseball Savant) are near average or below average. His best percentile was hard hits allowed (56th percentile).

Madison Bumgarner’s previous four starts have been world-class. His average game score (538.com version) was 74.8. Let’s compare that average to Jacob deGrom, who won the Cy Young in 2018 and 2019. In deGrom’s career, in any 4 consecutive starts, his best average game score (538.com version) was 79.9 per Neil Paine. In summary, Madison Bumgarner is pitching at the Cy Young award level.

This matchup is advantage Diamondbacks.