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Series Preview # 35 : Diamondbacks vs Giants

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Underdog or überdog?
Underdog or überdog?
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Most certainly, the Diamondbacks are underdogs playing a four game series against the Giants. To lift your optimism, here is my parody of the theme song for the cartoon Underdog.

Speed of Varsho, Roar of Young,

Fighting teams who shout much louder,

Under-Diamondbacks…über-Diamondbacks.

Daulton Varsho, 25 years old, has a sprint speed of 28.8 feet per second and a bolt speed of over 30 feet per second. Andrew Young, 27 years old, has a maximum exit velocity of 115.9 mph and 10.6% barrels per PA. Data from Baseball Savant.

Why might the Giants win this series?

Highlights of the reasons follow:

  • This season the Giants won 9 of their 10 games against the Diamondbacks.
  • The Giants won their last two series against the Dodgers, and are in first place in the NL West. The Diamondbacks are in last place in the NL West.
  • Excellent Diamondbacks’ players start the series on the IL. FanGraphs’ Roster Resource listed 11 players on the IL. Five of those were added on 30 July.
  • On 28 July, the Diamondbacks traded away their All-Star Eduardo Escobar.
  • On 29 July, Brandon Crawford was reinstated from the IL. His 145 OPS+ places him among the top four Giants’ batters.
  • On 30 July, the Giants acquired All-Star slugger Kris Bryant. He plays outfield, third base and first base. His 133 OPS+ places him among the best Giants batters.

On the other hand, why might the Diamondbacks win a game or two? On Friday the Diamondbacks won a game against the very talented Dodgers; why can’t they win a game against the Giants? Their win percentage was significantly higher in July compared to May and June. Ketel Marte, Carson Kelly, Kole Calhoun, and Asdrubal Cabrera are back from the IL. Josh Rojas is expected back soon.

Pitching Matchups.

Monday, Anthony DeSclafani (3.10 ERA) vs Taylor Widener(4.42 ERA)

This season, Anthony DeSclafani pitched two complete game shutouts (Rockies and Nationals). He was one out short of a third complete game against the Diamondbacks, but it would not have been a shutout.

Taylor Widener’s worst game scores were in his last two starts. In those two games, in his first three innings he held the Rangers and the Pirates scoreless. His season splits show that batters’ OPS was .671 the first time through the order, .710 the second time, and 1.387 the third time. Data from Baseball Reference.

Tuesday, Johnny Cueto (3.84 ERA) vs Madison Bumgarner (4.87 ERA)

Opportunity knocks for the Diamondbacks’ batters. This season, in 2 games against the Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto has an ERA of 8.10.

This season, Madison Bumgarner will normally pitch a great game (47% game scores above 60) or a poor game (40% game scores below 40), and only rarely an average game. Of the 15 games he started, looking at scoring for the entire game - both rotation and bullpen - opposing teams only scored more than 8 runs one time.

With this matchup, the Diamondbacks have good chances to win.

Wednesday, Kevin Gausman (2.35 ERA) vs Zac Gallen (4.61 ERA)

Perhaps opportunity knocks again for the Diamondbacks’ batters. On 24 July Kevin Gausman had difficulty pitching to the Pirates, whose 3.63 runs per game ranked last in the Majors. He allowed 6 ERs in 4.1 innings mostly attributed to one homer plus 12 batters reached base. Data from Baseball Reference.

On 30 July, Zac Gallen started against the Dodgers - and the Diamondbacks won the game. That ended a streak of eight losses when Zac Gallen started. This game could extend the winning streak because Zac Gallen is an excellent pitcher.

With this matchup, the Diamondbacks have good chances to win.

Thursday, Alex Wood (3.83 ERA) vs Merrill Kelly (4.38 ERA)

Looking at ERA and ERA+, Alex Wood is a bottom of rotation pitcher for the Giants. Nevertheless, he is sneaky good, with the Giants winning 11 of the 17 games he started.

Alex Wood’ slider is his best pitch. This season his slider has a 40.6 whiff %, 38.3 K%, .237 wOBA. Data from Baseball Savant. Although in the last month the Diamondbacks’ plate discipline improved, his slider could challenge Diamondback hitters.

The Diamondbacks have won 10 of the 22 games Merrill Kelly started. Because the Diamondbacks have 32 wins, that makes Merrill Kelly an ace. Two more reasons follow:

  • Each month of this season, Merrill Kelly improved his ERA: 6.33 in April, 4.10 in May, 4.00 in June, and 3.51 in July.
  • This season, of the 14 pitchers who started for the Diamondbacks, Merrill Kelly’s 51.5 average game score (average of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and 538.com methods) is the highest (2 start minimum).

This matchup could be a pitching duel. Either team could win this game.