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Series Preview # 21 : Diamondbacks vs Angels

“You’re never as good as you think & you’re never as bad as you think.”  — Derrick Hall

Shohei Ohtani.
Shohei Ohtani.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Diamondbacks winning this series is a very real possibility.

These teams are closely matched. Three quick comparisons

  • Power Ranking (#24 vs #27 on 31 May)
  • RS/G (4.40 vs 4.45 in games through 3 June)
  • RA/G (5.36 vs 5.27 in games through 3 June)

In the last ten years, the Diamondbacks record against the Angels was 3-1 in games decided by one run. The record in the remaining games was 5-5 (Stathead).

Injuries have impacted both teams. For the Angels, Mike Trout is on the IL with a strained calf muscle, and starter Jose Quintana is on the IL. For the Diamondback Kole Calhoun is on the IL, as are starters Zac Gallen, Madison Bumgarner, Luke Weaver, Taylor Widener, and Seth Frankoff.

The latest series win was against the Rockies (29 April to 2 May). That was over a month ago; the Diamondbacks need a series win. The teams are evenly matched and historically the Diamondbacks have done better in close games.

In the last week, are the Diamondbacks getting worse or better?

Opinions differ. The Power Ranking changed on 7 June; the Angels went up the ladder from 24th to 20th while the Diamondbacks went down the ladder from 27th to 29th. Clearly the sports writers working for The Athletic think the Diamondbacks got worse while the Angels got better.

Derrick Hall has insider information. When Doug and Wolf interviewed him on 4 June, he said, “ know we are going to be better, the clouds are going to clear, it’s going to be brighter...”

My view is that as players return from the IL, as newly called up players learn from their experience in the Majors, the Diamondbacks are getting better.

“You’re never as good as you think & you’re never as bad as you think.” — Derrick Hall in his interview. Several versions of this thought have been said in the last 20 years. Joe Paterno’s version was, “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win; and you’re never as bad as you feel when you lose.” Perhaps the oldest version, although the meaning is less positive, was from the 2001 movie Blow. The character Fred Jung said, “... when you’re up, it’s never as good as it seems, and when you’re down, you never think you’ll be up again, but life goes on.”

Shohei Ohtani is having a great season.

Shohei Ohtani would be worthy of the AL MVP award because he is more than a 2-way player - he is extraordinary in 3 ways. More specifically, he excels at pitching (2.76 ERA, 3.59 FIP in 8 games started), batting (146 OPS+ in 218 PAs), and baserunning (7 stolen bases, 87.5% success rate). He is an exciting player.

Pitching Matchups.

Friday. Shohei Ohtani (2.76 ERA) vs Merrill Kelly (5.12 ERA).

Shohei Ohtani’s ERA is less than his FIP (2.76 vs 3.59). That may not be sustainable. On the other hand, he may end up as the AL MVP. In either case, it will be interesting to see him in action.

Merrill Kelly’s ERA was 6.33 in April. From 1 May forward, his ERA was 4.36. His season FIP of 4.08 is almost as good as Ohtani’s 3.59.

In May the Angels lost all four games that Ohtani started! This matchup gives the Diamondbacks a significant chance to win.

Saturday. Alex Cobb (4.24 ERA) vs TBA, possibly Caleb Smith (3.14 ERA).

Alex Cobb had a slow April (7.16 ERA). From 1 May forward, his ERA was 2.25. On 5 June, after he allowed 5 earned runs in 7 innings, manager Joe Maddon explained why Cobb’s performance was great. My view is that the Angels offense was the difference in that game (3 homers, 12 total runs).

“That line score of 5 ERs is so deceptive. He gave up one well struck ball, that was the homer. Otherwise nothing. Crickets. ... His fastball kept growing, Landing his knuckle curve and the split was there.” — Joe Maddon

It appears that Caleb Smith very effectively developed himself from a reliever into a starting pitcher. In June, his ERA was 2.70 in two starts. This matchup is very competitive, and either team could win the game.

Sunday. Patrick Sandoval (3.95 ERA) vs TBA, possibly Jon Duplantier (10.03 ERA).

In 2020 and 2021, Patrick Sandoval has started been a reliever. This season, his first start was on 17 May. His ERA as a starter is 3.15, which is better that his ERA as a reliever.

Jon Duplantier was called up on 27 May. Although his results were disappointing, they were not bad and he is still developing into the pitcher he will become. Everything could come together in this game. This matchup gives the Diamondbacks a significant chance to win.