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Series Preview # 20: Diamondbacks visit the Oakland A’s

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Is the 18th time a charm ?

New York Mets v Arizona Diamondbacks
Will Ketel Marte and the D-backs get to celebrate in Oakland ?
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

When we last saw the Oakland A’s they came into Chase Field having stumbled to a 3-7 start. But they swept the two game series with the Diamondbacks, also winning games 3 and 4 of what would be a 13 game win streak. Now they are 35-26 and in 1st place in the NL West, holding a one game lead on the Houston Astros. A couple of days ago Alex Hall of Athletic Nation wrote about their winding path this season.

“It hasn’t been a perfectly linear path to get here. There was a disastrous 1-7 start, followed by a thrilling 13-game win streak, and since then slightly over .500 ball (21-18) with a run differential around neutral during that span (164-161). But one-third of the way through the year, they’ve got themselves in a good position.”

He goes on to give a quick rundown of how the A’s rank in various offense, pitching and defense categories. He talks about upside in the offense, starters going deep, and relievers seldom blowing saves. Sounds like fun. Check out his article linked above.

While the A’s have not been able to break through in the post season to get to the World Series, they’ve won a lot more than they lost in the Bob Melvin era (since 2012) . With the exception of a 3 year rebuilding phase from 2015-2017 they’ve made the post season 6 of the previous 9 seasons. And of course they’ve done it with perennially low payrolls.

The Diamondbacks carry the weight of their franchise record 17 game road losing streak into Oakland, their last road victory being the Bumgarner 7 inning no hitter in Atlanta April 25th. Since then they’ve been completely dominated on the road, having been out homered 3 to 1, striking out 32% more than the opposition, and outscored by over 3 runs a game on average.

Of course it’s not just road games they’ve been losing. After getting to 15-13, they’ve now gone 5-28. Their MLB worst 20-41 record is a full 2 games back of the Orioles. They are on pace to go 53-109. We’re running out of words and numbers to describe how bad they’ve been. D-backs BB-REF PAGE HERE

For the first time in a while the D-backs will also be facing a team that can’t claim to have been just as injured as they have. Year to date Oakland has had just 11 players injured, compared to the D-backs 17, and have lost far fewer days than Arizona cumulatively. Injury Report Here One notable recent addition to their IL however is Ramon Laureano with a hip injury. He’d been hitting well, 138 OPS+, and has arguably the best outfield arm in the game.

Top hitters for the A’s this year include Matt Olsen, 167 OPS+ and Matt Canha 150 OPS+. Tony Kemp is having a good season off the bench, (146 OPS+). Matt Chapman is having a poor season at the plate, (87 OPS+). His defense numbers are still well above average but not quite other worldly as they’ve previously been.

The A’s bullpen has been solid, if unspectacular. Closer Lou Trivino has 8 saves and 2 blown to go with his 145 ERA+. He can get wild at times, (14 walks in 27 IP). Former Diamondback Jake Diekman has pitched well for Bob Melvin, 122 ERA+ while chipping in with 6 saves when Trivino has needed a blow. The A’s are 11-7 in one run games.

A’s BB REF PAGE

Ketel Marte continues to be the best player on the D-backs, as evidenced by his 176 OPS+ and .382/.417/.607 triple slash. Pavin Smith and Eduardo Escobar have been the next two hottest hitters the previous 6 games. David Peralta, Christian Walker, Carson Kelly and Josh Rojas have poor numbers over their last 6 games, although Rojas did have the two homer game Saturday.

Last 6 games batting splits here

The DBacks team 89 OPS+ ranks 11th in the NL, while their team ERA+ of 84 ranks dead last.

Starting Pitching Matchups: (Pitcher’s name links to baseball savant page)

Tuesday, 6:40 P.M. AZ Time @ Oakland

Jon Duplantier 2G, 8.2 IP, 46 ERA+, -0.3 bWAR, 8.3 K/9. Dup will get his 3rd start for the Diamondbacks so far this year. His fastball is averaging just 91.5 MPH so far in two starts, and one wonders what happened to 94 and is that ever coming back ? His sinker is getting crushed too as he keeps leaving it up. His slider has been effective however. I think at this point he should just double his slider usage and see if his elbow holds up. Heavy slider usage would probably help him gain more command of the pitch as well. It seems like his best path to success to me.

Chris Bassitt 12G, 74 IP, 110 ERA+, 1.8 bWAR, 9.7 K/9. Bassitt has a 6 pitch mix. You don’t see that often. Sinker (36%), 4-Seam (19%), Cutter (20%), make up 34 of his pitches, and he mixes evenly between Slider (9%), Change (9%), & Curve (7%). for his off speed and breaking pitches. No soft tosser he averages 93.7 MPH on the fastball. He beat the D-backs April 12th, giving up just 2 runs despite walking 5 in an eventual 9-5 A’s victory. Seattle got to him for 6 hits and 4 runs in 4 innings on June 1st, so maybe the D-backs are catching him at the right time?

Wednesday 12:37 P.M. (Day Game) AZ Time @ Oakland.

Matt Peacock 12G, 4 GS, 33 IP, 90 ERA+, 0.1 bWAR, 6.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 1.7 HR/9, 62% GB Rate

Peacock has a really good sinker and that ground ball rate is the highest in the National League, and 2nd only to Jonathan Loaisiga of the Yankees in all of MLB. Unfortunately when hitters are able to elevate his pitches, he’s given up 6 HR. 26% of his fly balls have gone for homers, that’s the 3rd highest rate in MLB. Overall, he gives up a lot of hard contact. In his last start he uncharacteristically struggled with his control, walking 4 in a loss to Milwaukee.

Sean Manaea 11G, 70 IP , 115 ERA+, 1.7 bWAR, 9.0 K/9 Manaea is having a solid season this year. In his last start he threw a rare complete game shutout against the Mariners, giving up just 4 hits and walking 2, while striking out 8. It was his second CG SHO of the year, which leads the majors. The first was of the 7 inning variety April 20th against the twins. The sinker baller, (56%) mixes in a solid changeup up (26%) and Curve (16%). He has just 43% groundball rate this year though. In any case, not walking guys and getting groundballs is the name of the game for Manaea, just a 2.3 BB/9 rate for his career and 2.1 this year. He’s been inducing groundball DP’s at a 16% rate the last 3 years as well, compared to 10% MLB avg.

So......facing off against the two best starters the A’s have, with a struggling Duplantier and a mystery guest for game two of the series ,.....stop me if you’ve heard this before......things won’t get any easier in the Diamondbacks quest to win a baseball game.