The picture shows AJ Pollock stretch to rob a homer from Jose Altuve. Similarly, as a team the Diamondbacks are stretching to reach 72 wins this season.
There is a road to 72 wins.
The team is capable of reaching 72 wins for several reasons. The team has talented players who are getting better with experience. One example is that the team defense (as measured by DRS in The Fielding Bible) has steadily increased; for the season the team’s defense (26 DRS) currently ranks a tie for 10th/11th best in the Majors.
Prior to the series with the White Sox, the Diamondbacks have 56 wins. There are 12 series left in the season. If the Diamondbacks with 1 game per series, that puts them at 68 wins. Four additional wins are needed to reach 72 wins. The four series with an additional win could be the White Sox series, the Rockies series, the Giants series, and the four-game series with the Brewers. The following shows what that scenario would look like.
Obviously, the actual wins/losses will vary. Maybe the Diamondbacks will win a series (a win surplus) and maybe get swept in a series (a win deficit). The impacts of those types of events will hopefully even out.
In summary there is a road to 72 wins for the Diamondbacks.
Former Diamondback AJ Pollock plays for the White Sox.
At the start of the season, the Dodgers traded AJ Pollock to the White Sox for Craig Kimbrel. It was called a blockbuster trade. Let’s look at Pollock’s performance.
Batting. Last season with the Dodgers, AJ Pollock hit .050 homers per PA with a career high OPS+ of 135. This season through 22 August, AJ Pollock hit .019 homers per PA with a career low OPS+ of 82 per Baseball Reference.
Baseball Savant provided some clues to what happened. His hard hits fell from 47.4% to 41.2%, while his barrels fell from 11.1% to 9.3%. While his run value when facing the 4-seam fastball was positive for every season 2017 to 2021, his run value when facing the 4-seam fastball fell to negative in 2022.
Some decline of his batting is to be expected because he is 34 years old. However, this season’s decline was so steep that I suspect injury could be a factor.
Defense: AJ Pollock greatly improved the White Sox defense in left field. Approximately 55% of the White Sox’s playing time in left field was AJ Pollock. Despite his great defense (6 DRS) in left field, as a team the White Sox have zero DRS in left field.
Right field defense is worse (negative 11 DRS). Recently, Andrew Vaughn has played right field; he has negative 6 DRS in right field. If they have a choice, the Diamondbacks would be well advised to hit the ball into right field.
White Sox injuries impacted who plays this series.
The White Sox signed shortstop Elvis Andrus (who had been released by the Athletics on 17 August) to replace (at least temporarily) shortstop Tim Anderson who tore ligaments in his hand.
Last season with the Athletics, statistics differed greatly about Elvis Andrus’ defense at shortstop (negative 10 DRS and positive 6 Outs Above Average). This season they continue to differ (negative 6 DRS and zero Outs Above Average). Data from The Fielding Bible and Baseball Savant.
Catcher Yasmany Grandal will miss this series due to inflammation in his knee due to hyperextension that happened on 20 August.
In this series, there are two possible catchers, Seby Zavala and Carlos Perez. On 22 August, Carlos Perez was called up from the AAA. This season in AAA, he hit 17 homers in 350 at-bats per MiLB.com.
The Pitching Matchups.
The White Sox have an excellent closer, Liam Hendricks, who has 28 saves in 31 opportunities. He will face then Diamondbacks closer by committee, where the matchups may give an advantage to the Diamondbacks.
Friday 5:10 PM Arizona time, Johnny Cueto (154 ERA+) vs Tommy Henry (116 ERA+).
For this series, Diamondbacks with at least 5 PAs against Johnny Cueto, Christian Walker has the best OBP (.308) and Josh Rojas has the best SLG (.375).
In July and August, Johnny Cueto has been an ace. Monthly ERAs were 2.41 in May, 3.82 in June, 2.12 in July, and 1.76 in August.
Tommy Henry will pitch his fifth game in the Majors. His above average ERA+ only tells part of the story. He allowed only 3 earned runs pitching at Coors and he allowed only 1 earned run pitching against the Cardinals, an excellent team. Please know that I am often optimistic in my viewpoint. Nevertheless, I have reason to write that all things considered, he will likely be in the rotation on opening day next season.
Saturday TBA vs Merrill Kelly (143 ERA+).
Although Michael Kopech was likely to start for the White Sox, he is now on the 15-day IL. At the time of writing, who will pitch this game was not yet announced. Davis Martin could be recalled from AAA. This season he started four games in the Majors. Although his ERA as a starter was 4.09, in his latest start he allowed 1 earned run in 5.2 innings.
Merrill Kelly is pitching very well this season. Some Diamondbacks fans contend he is the ace of the Diamondbacks rotation. His ERA in August was 2.88.
Sunday Dylan Cease (190 ERA+) vs Zach Davies (106 ERA+).
Sergio Alcantara has 4 PAs against Michael Cease, with a walk and 2 strikeouts. He has more PAs against Cease than any other Diamondback.
Dylan Cease is the ace of the White Sox rotation. He is a candidate for the AL Cy Young, largely because his 11.985 Strikeouts per 9 innings leads the Majors. His ERA in August was 2.65.
Zach Davies bounced back from last season’s career worst 73 ERA+ (with the Cubs) to an above average 103 ERA+ with the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks did well to sign him as a free agent. He may be with the team next year because of a mutual option.
My view is the Diamondbacks are on the road to 72 wins this season. To stay on a solid pace, they need two wins this series. Those wins will be a challenge because the Diamondbacks face excellent starting pitchers and an excellent closer.
Win or lose, it will be interesting to see former Diamondback AJ Pollock. This season his batting is near a career worst, while his defense in left field is great.