The 35-78 Arizona Diamondbacks travel to the Golden Gate City for a quick two game series against the first place San Francisco Giants who are 71-41. That’s the best record in MLB, and they hold a 4 game lead over the Dodgers. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the D-backs are keeping a firm grip on the 1st draft pick position for the 2022 draft. They are 3-7 in their last 10 since the July 30th trade deadline, losing 2 of 3 to the Dodgers and 3 of 4 to the Giants at Chase, and 2 of 3 to the Padres in San Diego over the weekend.
The D-backs recent futility has all but mathematically insured no worse than a #4 pick in the 2022 Draft. But any one of the other three teams they are “jockeying” for position with are capable of going on a double digit losing streak to take over the pole position.
The Dbacks pitching continues to be inconsistent and downright bad overall. In the 10 games since the trade deadline:
Starters: 52.1 IP, 4.82 ERA, 29 Runs allowed. It needs to be mentioned that Caleb Smith has allowed 10 of those 29 Starting Pitcher runs in just 3 innings of work during this span.
Starting Pitcher Report Link Last 10 G
RP: 38.2 IP, 7.45 ERA, 34 Runs allowed. I’m not even sure if that gaudy bullpen ERA even does justice to how much they’ve traumatized us all. However there are some guys that have been doing well actually. You can draw a line, as I have below, to see where the difficulties have come from.
RP Report Link last 10 G
On offense, they’ve averaged just 3.5 runs a game over the last 10, and are hitting just .213 with a .597 OPS. The Josh Rojas finger dislocation injury and then the Covid-19 situation complicated efforts to get more playing time for some of the younger players as Stuart Fairchild and Pavin Smith were both sidelined as well. Smith has been back for the last 4 games however.
The age 30+ players lead the team in PA’s since the deadline, including Nick Ahmed, (41), Kole Calhoun (36), Asdrubal Cabrera (34) & Christian Walker (34).
It will be very interesting to see how the playing time shakes out with Rojas returning to the team Tuesday night as expected. David Peralta has already seen significant playing time cuts recently, getting just 20 PA since the trade deadline. That said, taking a look at the last 10 games, it’s the veterans that have carried much of the load on offense, especially Cabrera and Calhoun. Younger players like Drew Ellis & Daulton Varsho are slumping. Smith has 1 good game out of 4 since returning. Josh VanMeter ranks higher on the chart below, but has cooled off the last 5 games. The younger players need to step up RIGHT NOW, and seize their opportunity to shine and prove they belong on the opening day roster next year.
Batters Report Link Last 10 G
A lot of people wrote off the Giants early season success a flukey and a team playing way over it’s head. But we are pretty deep into the season now and they’re still there. It’s notable that their 70-42 pythagorean W-L record is only 1 game behind their actual record thanks to their +130 run differential. They rank 4th in the NL in OPS+ (104), and 2nd in ERA+ (123).
One note of caution to their fans however. The “expected” statistics available at Baseball Savant indicate that on both sides of the ball they are getting better results than their peripherals of walks, strikeouts, and batted ball quality would indicate they should be getting.
Batting: 327 wOBA vs .321 xwOBA, .006 Difference
That is the 6th highest positive differential in MLB and might indicate a step backwards over the final 7 weeks of the regular season. Expected Batting Report Link, sorted by greatest difference
Pitching: .283 wOBA against vs. .295 xwOBA against, .012 Difference
Only the Cardinals have a bigger gap in all of MLB. Pitching Expected wOBA against Report link
This doesn’t mean they are “lucky”, but there could be some regression in their future, and they can’t let up at all with the Dodgers chasing them.
Zac Gallen, who is just 1-6 on the year made his last start against these same Giants on August 4th, pitching into the 6th but wasn’t able to complete the inning. He gave up 3 runs in 5 2⁄3 IP, and continued to struggle with free passes, handing out 3 of them. In two previous starts vs. the Giants he was hit hard. He’s 0-3 vs. the Giants this year and overall has a 6.04 ERA in his last 5 starts vs. them dating back to 2020. The two hitters that have the best track record against him are Donovan Solano and Mike Yastrzemski.
The D-backs faced lefty Alex Wood on August 5th and knocked him out of the game after 4 innings in which he surrendered 4 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks. Wood had gotten the win vs. Arizona in two previous starts this year. He’s having a solid season , going 9-3 so far.
Steve Berthiaume has taken to calling Kelly “Merrill the Mainstay”, and it’s hard to argue with that moniker. Kelly had perhaps his finest game this year going 8 scoreless on just 3 hits vs. the Giants on August 5th before being pulled somewhat controversially in a game the bullpen blew in the 9th. Kelly has failed to complete 5 innings just twice this year and pitched into or completed the 6th in 19 of his 23 starts. He just keeps firing strikes aggressively and pitches to contact.
Kevin Gausman was one of the leading Cy Young candidates before stumbling for a three start stretch between July 19th and July 30th. Some have speculated it was due to the inability to use sticky stuff. But all he needed was the Diamondbacks lineup on August 4th to help get him back on track, as he threw 6 innings and gave up just 1 run on 5 hits, 0 walks, and 8 K’s.
The Diamondbacks are 2-12 vs. the Giants this year and have been outscored 99-56. A split of the two game series is the best they can probably hope for. It will be up to Gallen to set the tone and pitch a good game, something he hasn’t been able to do vs. the Giants yet this year or last. Even with Kelly going in the 2nd game, good pitchers tend to really shut down the D-backs offense, so the second game against Gausman looks even tougher to win.