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Series Preview # 27 : Diamondbacks vs Giants

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Although the Giants are a formidable team, the Diamondbacks will likely win at least one game in the series.

Merrill Kelly on the mound against the Giants, June 16th.
Merrill Kelly on the mound against the Giants, June 16th.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks will play a 4 game series against the Giants. Let’s think about it.

The bad news: The Giants are a formidable team.

The Giants are in first place in the NL West. Their win-loss record is 50-29.

The odds of the Giants reaching the playoffs are 79% per 538.com.

The Giants have historically beaten the Diamondbacks. In the last two seasons (2020 and 2021), when these team met the Giants won 14 times while the Diamondbacks won twice. In those games the Giants outscored the Diamondbacks 97-51.

Their offense is better than the Diamondbacks. This season, they scored more runs per game (4.87 vs 4.17). Their Wins Above Average (WAA) are better than the Diamondbacks at every position on the field.

For the season, their rotation and bullpen are better. Their starting pitching’s WAA ranks higher (6th vs 26th). Their bullpen’s WAA ranks higher (16th vs 30th).

Their defense is better. This season the Giants have a positive 27 DRS while the Diamondbacks have a negative 16 DRS.

The Giants could improve this season. The first reason: it’s likely that the Giants will execute trades to improve their chances of winning the World Series. The second reason: surprisingly because of their excellent win-loss record, the current players could improve.

“I’m just seeing more candidates for improvement in the 2021 Giants lineup than candidates for regression.” — Grant Brisbee of The Athletic

The good news: Recently, Diamondbacks are above average.

Recently, hot hitters are Eduardo Escobar, Christian Walker and Josh Rojas. Ketel Marte was hot but he will not play in this series because of another hamstring injury. Let’s look at three statistics from June 23rd through June 29th.

  • HR/PA. Escobar .095, Walker .083, Rojas .038. They reached or exceeded my .038 demarcation for All-Star level.
  • wOBA. Escobar .464, Walker .479, and Rojas .471. They exceeded my .345 demarcation for All-Star level.
  • OBP. Escobar .381, Walker .417, and Rojas .500. They exceeded my .340 demarcation for all-star level.

Recently the rotation often pitched above average, with 6 of the last 10 game scores above 50. (Game scores in the last 10 games: 24.3, 68.6, 63.6, 61.5, 17.3, 68.5, 42.1, 56.8, 53.3 and 32.3.)

Expectations are low for the Diamondbacks, especially when playing such a great team. Even the possibility of winning, such as a tied game in the eighth or ninth inning would be worth cheering. Winning one game in 4 would be a cause for great joy. I’ll be bold and predict the Diamondbacks will win at least one game this series!

Pitching Matchups.

Thursday. Johnny Cuerto (3.63 ERA) vs Merrill Kelly (4.73 ERA)

Johnny Cueto pitches worse in road games (allowing an OPS of .904 vs .685). And the Diamondbacks strategy of driving up pitch counts could make a difference because against Cueto when batters do not swing at the first pitch their OPS is better (.830 vs .660). And all 8 homers against Cueto happened in PAs when the batters did not swing at the first pitch.

The Diamondbacks won Merrill Kelly’s latest two consecutive starts. Remarkable! Starting 1 May, the only other Diamondback starter with 2 consecutive starts that the Diamondbacks won was Taylor Widener (22 April and 23 May). In Merrill Kelly’s latest two games he pitched 13 innings while allowing 1 run.

All things considered, I’m cautiously optimistic that the Diamondbacks win this game.

Friday. Alex Wood (3.91 ERA) vs Zac Gallen (3.69 ERA)

Alex Wood pitched very well in last season’s World Series. He allowed zero runs in 4 IP. His cWPA was 7.3%, which is remarkable. This season is a different story. His 7 hit batters ranked 6th in the NL. His 5 wild pitches ranked 8th in the NL. The Diamondbacks need to wear their elbow pads and base-stealing gloves.

The latest five times Zac Gallen started, the Diamondbacks lost. Two reasons not to be concerned are:

  • In two of the five games, his game score was excellent (57.8 and 63.6). In other words, he put the Diamondbacks in a position to win, but it did not happen.
  • The Diamondbacks decided that he could make his rehab starts in the Majors instead of the minors. That speaks highly of their confidence in Zac Gallen! This game will be his first without a rehab limit on his pitch count.

Saturday. Sammy Long (4.95 ERA) vs Jake Faria (2.25 ERA as a starter)

This season is the first that Sammy Long pitched above A-level baseball. That perspective adds meaning to the following quote:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Sammy is going to get swings and misses on his pitches. But strikeouts are a different story altogether, and it was great to see all of his stuff play deep into counts, getting the chases below the zone, getting guys to swing just off the plate. Those are all good signs of what’s to come.” — Gabe Kapler, manager of Giants

More so than usual, the key to success for Diamondback batters will be plate discipline.

This season, Jake Faria made 3 appearances in relief for the Diamondbacks; He allowed 2 ERs in 4 IP.

On 28 June, he started against the Giants. He allowed 1 ER in 4 Innings. That excellent start was his first in the Majors since 2018. In 2019, he started 7 games in the minors with the Rays. In 2021 he started 7 games in the minors with the Angels. He worked years to make it back to the Majors as a starter. His success would be a story worth telling.

This game’s starters each have the potential to pitch extremely well or make the game look like batting practice. Either team could win this game.

Sunday. Anthony DeSclafani (2.91 ERA) vs Caleb Smith (3.08 ERA)

Anthony DeSclafani. In 8 of his last 10 starts, the Giants won the game. Impressive! The lost game was against the Dodgers; DeSclafani allowed 10 earned runs in 2.2 innings. Most of the runs were scored in the third inning with 2 walks, 4 singles, and a grand-slam homer. Perhaps the key to success for the Diamondbacks will be getting on base.

Caleb Smith’s first start of the season was disappointing and he was moved to the bullpen. While there, he remade himself into a starting pitcher. He returned to the rotation in June and his results were remarkable. In June Caleb Smith was the Ace of the Diamondbacks rotation, with only Merrill Kelly at his level. In June, Caleb Smith’s had five starts with an average game score of 56.1. That’s great!

The Diamondbacks know they are capable of winning. Caleb Smith captured that idea:

“I know what I’m capable of. I’ve seen it. I’m maybe pitching 75 percent of what I’ve seen.” — Caleb Smith