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Series Preview #43: Padres @ Diamondbacks

Can Arizona continue to break San Diego hearts ?

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

San Diego Padres, 69-62 vs Arizona Diamondbacks 44-88

The Diamondbacks mini resurgence was short circuited as their road woes continued with a 3-7 record on their recent trip. That included losing 2 of 3 at both Colorado and Pittsburgh, and then dropping 3 of 4 in Philadelphia. On the Tankapalooza front the D-backs remain in position for the #2 pick in the 2022 draft, 2 12 games “back” of the Orioles for that honor and privilege.

The Padres are reeling. On August 10th they had a 4.5 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the 2nd wild card slot. Prior to a rare Sunday off day yesterday, they’ve lost 13 of their last 16 games to fall 1.5 games back of the Reds. Nothing has been going well for them during this stretch, as they’ve hit just .189 while averaging 3.1 Runs per game, and their pitching staff has allowed 5.6 R/G over the same stretch. They’re just playing bad baseball.

The D-backs helped kick start the Padres tailspin by taking 3 of 4 from San Diego August 12-15th, and will hope to resume their spoiler role at home.

WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT

With the team in “player development mode” the D-backs been increasing the playing time for younger players and rookies. However over the last week all of the young players on the roster have been slumping while the veterans have been carrying the offensive load. Jake McCarthy made his MLB debut over the weekend however getting a couple of hits yesterday and has looked good on defense.

Dbacks Last 7 days batting splits

Padres last 5 games batting splits

A Few Words About Defense

The Diamondbacks defense has been shaky all year. In the most recent series the Phillies they gave up 12 unearned runs. I was curious where that left them compared to the rest of the league, and in the process of looking this up I expanded my view a bit to examine whether their defense fails disproportionately in high leverage situations or when it matters most.

The D-backs have allowed the most unearned runs in MLB. The next closest is 67. However they allow the 2nd most runs and have the 2nd highest ERA in MLB to begin with. (only the Orioles worse). So we need a little more context.

Looking at Un Earned Runs as a percentage of all runs allowed, they are worse than average, but not quite at the bottom of the rankings, clocking in at 24th.

Google Sheet

I thought perhaps the timing of their errors may be an issue. They rank 20th in fielding percentage however, so the ranking between fielding percentage and UER% are similar, meaning they haven’t really been committed more errors in key defensive situations, they’ve just been below average overall.

Peeking at the advanced metrics, DRS rates the D-backs defense 24th, while UZR ranks them 18th. Interestingly, Stat Cast ranking of infield and outfield runs prevented is right about league average, 16th. That doesn’t include catcher defense, however all 3 D-backs catchers rank average in catcher framing.

Summary

Unfortunately we don’t have leverage stats for defensive plays and our memories tend to be highly selective. From a cursory examination there is some evidence that the team has simply been below average defensively and that’s been the case regardless of the leverage of the situation. We just notice it more when it happens at key moments.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Baseball Reference Preview

Chris Paddack is returning from the IL tonight after missing the last month with an Oblique strain. It’s been another down year for him, although his FIP is a lot lower than ERA, so maybe some bad luck in there. Dating back to August 8th of last year, the D-backs have had his number: 4 G, 17.1 IP, 16 runs on 23 hits, 7 walks and 3 HR

Tyler Gilbert threw a no-hitter against the Padres on August 14th in his first ever MLB start. He had a bumpy ride in Colorado in his next start but then had an effective outing against Pittsburgh last time out, going 5 IP and allowing just 2 runs. He ran up his pitch count in the 4th and 5th innings however and got pulled early, getting the no decision in an eventual 5-2 victory for the Snakes.

Baseball Reference Preview

While it’s been a disappointing season overall for Blake Snell, he was dominant in his last outing against the Dodgers, going 7 23 IP allowing just 3 hits and 1 run on a solo homer while striking out 10. In fact he’s been good the entire month of August, striking out 44 in 29 23 IP. While the D-backs have barely been able to touch him this year, they did deal him his only loss of the month on August 13th when they scratched out 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 IP

Zac Gallen got his first win since April 25th in his most recent start on August 26th against the Phillies. Command remains an issue for him as he labored, needing 103 pitches to complete 5 innings, giving up 2 runs. Still, despite multiple injuries and IL stints he’s clawed back to roughly league average run prevention. He needs a strong kick to finish the season and reestablish himself as the current and future ace of the staff.

Baseball Reference Preview

Yu Darvish has fallen off a cliff. On June 27th he held the Dbacks to 1 run in 6 innings in a ND, and ended the day with a 7-2 record and a 2.44 ERA. In his last 8 starts, he’s 0-6 with a 6.97 ERA, allowing 4 runs or more in 6 of those starts, including a loss to the Dodgers on August 26th. His velocity is roughly the same. His spin rates were down in July but have gone back up in August. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but hopefully it continues.

NOTE THE ERA+. Despite Darvish having an ERA half a run better than Widener, the ERA+ is the same. Ballpark run environment and context matter !

Taylor Widener continues to defy his peripherals. Despite giving up 13 HR and walking 32 batters in only 61 IP, he’s managed a 4.28 ERA. This is not a recipe for long term success. He’s gone 5 IP in each of his last 4 starts. With just a little more efficiency he could be going 6 innings, but he may be a bit contact shy due to all the homers allowed.