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Series Preview #14: Diamondbacks @ Dodgers

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The D-backs try to overcome injuries as they head into LA

MLB: Miami Marlins at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Not surprisingly, the 18-23 Diamondbacks stagger into Dodger Stadium 6.5 games out of 1st place in the NL West and 4.5 games out of the Wild Card behind 8 other teams. Perhaps somewhat surprising, it’s not the Dodgers but rather the Giants that are in first place in the division. With a 22-18 record, the Dodgers are currently 3rd in the division, and in the 2nd Wild Card slot behind the Padres. Detailed NL Standings Page HERE

After getting off to a scorching 13-2 start to the season, the Dodgers stumbled through a 4-14 stretch. They’ve righted their ship by winning 5 of their last 7 however. The primary reasons for their somewhat disappointing showing so far are their 4-11 record in one run games and their extensive injury list. (More on that later) 8 of their losses in that 4-14 stretch were by one run. Just improving their 1 run game record to 7-8 would put them in first place. As best as I can tell from perusing splits pages, since April 18th when their struggles started their offense ranks below average in high and medium leverage situations while running up their numbers in low leverage.

At the same time they lead the NL in blown saves with 13. This one is a little harder to understand as in High and Medium leverage situations their bullpen actually ranks pretty well, 2nd in wOBA against and 4th in FIP.

The Dodgers have suffered a slew of injuries especially to their pitching staff, and primarily to their relief pitching. You can see their entire injury list here. While I don’t expect any Diamondback fans to shed any tears over their misfortune, it’s still important to note the extent of their injuries. Besides losing starter Dustin May for the year with Tommy John, they also lost lefty Caleb Ferguson to the same. Tony Gonsolin has been out all year with a shoulder injury and Joe Kelly just came back May 6th after being out all year and he’s been ineffective since returning. David Price has been on the IL for over 3 weeks with a Hamstring injury, but he should be activated today. The list goes on.

On the position player side Cody Bellinger has only played in 4 games this year. A.J. Pollock recently went on IL with a Hamstring injury. He had a 120 OPS+ when he went down. Corey Seager has a bone fracture in his hand from a HBP suffered the other day and is out at least 4 weeks. Chris Taylor is day to day with a sore wrist.

So while the D-backs continue to suffer injury after injury, it’s not just us. Spotrac has an excellent injury report that allows you to slice and dice using their drop down files. You can view by league, by each individual team and player, by current, by cumulative, by position, pretty much however you want. Here is how I broke it out this morning for a look at just the NL West.

It would be hard to argue that any team in the division has suffered more impactful injuries to their position player group than the D-backs, especially relative to their roster depth. 5 of their 8 their starters are on the IL (Ketel Marte, Carson Kelly, Kole Calhoun, Christian Walker, & Asdrubal Cabrera) But the total number of players and days lost for the other teams in the division is closer than I would have thought. Marte’s return is imminent as he’s out on a rehab assignment in Reno. Kelly should not be out too long, nor should Walker. But Calhoun won’t be back before July 1, and as of this writing decisions are still pending on whether Cabrera will require surgery or not.

On the pitching side of the ledger it’s a completely different story. As bad as it may seem for Arizona, and not to minimize the injury to Zac Gallen, there is just no arguing that the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers have had it much worse. Arizona may close the “gap” so to speak if the results of Luke Weaver’s MRI are not good today.

One CAN argue that those teams have more resources and higher payroll to weather the storm perhaps. But so what ? As Torey Lovullo said last night, it takes an entire organization to win a baseball game. No matter the primary reasons for an organization’s strength, whether it be payroll resources, draft and develop acumen, health and training methods, it’s all a measure of how good an organization is. The 162 game season is the test of all of that.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

A resurgent Madison Bumgarner against the always tough Walker Buehler should be a good matchup. Over his last 5 starts Bumgarner has a 0.90 ERA , and walked just 2 while striking out 34 in 30 innings pitched. Zach Buchanan at the Athletic has a good article up explaining the turnaround.

Buehler is yet another example of why the pitcher W-L is a dead stat in the modern game. He’s gone at least 6 innings in every start, allowed 2 runs or less in 5 of them, but has just a 1-0 record.

As of this writing Peacock has not yet been named the starter for this game, but it seemed to leaning this way as of last night. However the team has still not announced so you might want to circle back if this gets edited. Peacock pitched well in his first start of the year against Miami last time out, allowing 3 runs, 2 earned in 5 IP. He didn’t walk a batter but did allow two homers.

The head to head matchups against the left handed Urias look to be very tough for the D-backs. When Urias is on, he’s almost un hittable. He has game scores of 85, 75, 74, & 72.

Despite some unsightly ERA numbers, Kelly has pitched better of late. Over his last 5 starts he has a 3.45 ERA and has allowed just two homers. He’ll be happy not to have to face Bellinger who has torched him in the past.

While no longer the best pitcher in baseball, future hall of famer Kershaw is still pretty great, as evidenced by his 9 walks vs. 57 K’s and just 4 homers allowed, leading to his 2.50 FIP

It’s actually pretty questionable whether Smith makes this start or not. He was crushed to the tune of 8 runs on 8 hard hit balls, including 2 homers in 3 innings against the Marlins last week. But without any information from the team yet he’s plugged in here as it would be his turn.

Trevor Bauer is delivering exactly what the Dodgers hoped for when they inked him to that strange deal that pays him $45 M in 2021 but gives him an opt out after the season. The guy is a horse, and leads the league in Innings Pitched. It’s interesting to note the ERA/FIP discrepancy, which is basically flipped with Kershaw. But either way he’s still pretty great.

This series presents an obvious mismatch from top to bottom but especially in the pitching matchups. Hopefully Bumgarner can continue his hot streak and the D-backs can take the first game of the series. Then who knows how the ball will bounce thereafter.