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D-backs Game Preview, #4: 4/10 vs. Padres

To say it has been a slow start for the offense, would be an understatement.

(Orange)–Dr. Leonard Sender opens a liquid nitrogen storage freezer, in his lab at Childrens Hospita Photo by Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Trent Grisham - CF Cooper Hummel - DH
Austin Nola - DH Ketel Marte - 2B
Manny Machado - 3B David Peralta - LF
Jake Cronenworth - 2B Christian Walker - 1B
Luke Voit - 1B Carson Kelly - C
Wil Myers - RF Daulton Varsho - CF
Jurickson Profar - LF Geraldo Perdomo - SS
Jorge Alfaro - C Jake McCarthy - RF
Ha-Seong Kim - SS Drew Ellis - 3B
Blake Snell - LHP Caleb Smith - LHP

Roster moves

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the following roster moves:

  • Recalled LHP Kyle Nelson (No. 50) from Triple-A Reno.
  • Placed RHP Luke Weaver on the 10-day injured list – retro to April 8 (right elbow inflammation).
  • Outrighted LHP Caleb Baragar and RHP Humberto Mejía to Reno.

Okay, who had “three games” in the “How long will our pitching staff remain intact?” sweepstakes... You’re the winner. And, moving rapidly on...

One of the main arguments for adding a designated hitter was that nobody wanted to watch pitchers hit. Unfortunately, through three games since the designated hitter became part of the National League landscape, the D-backs are collectively batting .116. Last year, pitchers in the NL hit .110. The team’s OPS after almost a hundred trips to the plate is .426 - the lowest in the majors and almost a hundred points below Madison Bumgarner’s career figure (.524). Yes, an entire team of MadBum’s would have been a distinct improvement over what we’ve seen out of the Arizona offense thus far. Their designated hitters are 2-for-12 with no walks and three strikeouts. It’s almost enough to make me miss the days of starting pitchers hitting. :)

Of course, this is me over-reacting violently to small sample sizes [partly as a warm-up for a piece I’ll be writing after this series is finished] But I think it’s safe to say that the last couple of games are good evidence for the myth of “momentum”. After the ninth inning of the opening game, where the team scored four runs without recording an our, walking off on Seth Beer’s dramatic home-run, any momentum, was firmly in the home dugout. But the next night, Arizona were no-hit into the eighth inning, and shutout on just a pair of singles. They have not had a single hit with runners in scoring position since the Beer homer. Mind you, they’ve only had five at-bats.

If there’s a positive over the first three games, it has been generally decent pitching, with the D-backs’ ERA of 3.00 being considerably better than MLB average (3.61). However, there is still reason for concern, with their fielding independent ERA of 3.56 actually being worse than MLB average (3.54). The main reasons for that are a high walk-rate (4.7 per nine IP) and low strikeout rate (6.3) - Arizona’s WHIP of 1.444 is 25th in the majors, it’s just that those runners have not yet turned into runs (in part because the D-backs have yet to allow an XBH with runners in scoring position). Naturally, both these things will regress. The team won’t hit .116 forever, but nor will they post a 3.00 ERA.

They do still have a chance to escape with a split of the opening series, if they can win this afternoon - I think we’d all have settled for that before Opening Day. But it’ll take Caleb Smith to pitch like he did in relief last year (2.70 ERA), rather than what he did as a starter, where he went 1-8 in 13 starts, with a 6.95 ERA. He had almost the same number of innings in both roles, but the peripherals were much better out of the bullpen: in particular he allowed more than twice as many home-runs as a starter (14 vs. 6). Was this the result of a change in mechanics, or simply being able to throw max effort? If the former, there’s hope it can carry back to a starting job. But if not... well, we’ll likely be on pace for 120 losses.