This season, it’s likely that either the Rockies or the Diamondbacks will be last in the NL West. There is no prize for last place in the NL West. Neither team wants to end the season in last place.
- The Dodgers are a very strong team that was 24 games ahead of the Diamondbacks and Rockies in games through 1 August.
- The Padres are a strong team that was 12 games ahead of the Diamondbacks and Rockies. The Padres just traded for Juan Soto, which added to their power.
- Pulling ahead of the Giants (5.5 games ahead) is perhaps possible with a generous amount of luck with the caveat that the Rockies and Diamondbacks face a very strong schedule in their remaining games.
- The Diamondbacks and Rockies currently are next-to-last and last-place in the NL West.
Let’s focus on the Rockies and Diamondbacks. The following are three views of their strength of schedule for their remaining games after 1 August.
Tankathon. Remaining Schedule Strength.
- 3rd toughest in Majors at .526, Diamondbacks.
- 4th toughest in Majors at .525, Rockies.
Power Rankings Guru. Strength of Schedule Remaining.
- 5th toughest in Majors at 13.20, Rockies.
- 10th toughest in Majors at 14.00, Diamondbacks.
FanGraphs. Strength of Schedule (text description said it is for remaining games).
- Tie for 2nd to 4th in the Majors at .520, Rockies.
- 6th toughest in Majors at .516, Diamondbacks.
Clearly, each of the websites has a different method. Despite the differences, my conclusion is that both teams look forward to tough schedules and the Rockies have a slightly tougher schedule than the Diamondbacks.
My view is that both teams are motivated to finish the season above last place in the NL West. It will be a hard-fought battle because the Rockies and Diamondbacks have very tough schedules in their remaining games.
This series could decide which team finishes the season with a better record. My expectation is that the mentally tougher team will win that battle.
The Pitching Matchups.
Let’s compare closers by asking the question, “What have you done for me lately?”
- Since 1 July, Daniel Bard, Rockies’ closer, had 7 saves, one loss, and zero blown save opportunities. Recently, the Rockies extended his contract.
- Since 1 July, Mark Melancon, Diamondbacks’ closer, had 3 saves, 3 losses, and one blown save opportunity.
Friday 6:40 PM Arizona time, German Marquez (Season: 88 ERA+, July: 3.69 ERA) vs Madison Bumgarner (Season: 106 ERA+, July: 4.35 ERA).
Looking at current Diamondbacks with at least 5 PAs against German Marquez, Josh Rojas has the best OBP (.500) and the best SLG (.600).
Six times this season, when Bumgarner’s game score dropped from above average to 44 or less, he improved his game score in the next game. After a game score of 74.8 on 23 July, his game score was 33.1 on 29 July. If the pattern continues, he will pitch better this game.
Saturday Antonio Senzatela (Season 95 ERA+, July: 5.93 ERA) vs Merrill Kelly (Season 142 ERA+, July: 1.31 ERA).
Looking at current Diamondbacks with at least 5 PAs against Anthony Senzatela, Daulton Varsho has the best OBP (.556) and Carson Kelly has the best SLG (1.000).
One bright spot for the Diamondbacks is how well Merrill Kelly has pitched. Per this AZ Snake Pit article, Merrill Kelly was NL pitcher of the week of July 25th. In addition, he was the NL pitcher of the month for July.
Sunday Jose Urena (Season 94 ERA+, July: 5.00 ERA) vs Zach Davies (Season 95 ERA+, July: no games started).
Jordan Luplow is the only current Diamondbacks with at least 5 PAs against Jose Urena. Luplows’ OBP was .400 and his SLG was .250.
Some Diamondbacks fans might be concerned because in Zach Davies latest start he only earned 6 outs. Please consider that this season 6 other Diamondbacks starters had one game in which they only earned 6 outs or less. Except for Caleb Smith who moved to the bullpen, they all continued to start games with better results. Dallas Keuchel is another possible exception because he got 7 outs in his last start before leaving the team. The complete list follows:
- 10 April, Caleb Smith
- 28 April, Humberto Castellanos
- 4 May, Madison Bumgarner
- 17 May Merrill Kelly
- 7 June, Tyler Gilbert
- 10 June, Zac Gallen
- 1 August Zach Davies
Both teams need to win the series to increase their odds of finishing the season better than last place in the NL West. Since July the Rockies’ closer (Daniel Bard) was better. Looking at the starting pitching matchups the series could be won by either team:
- In the first game it’s unclear which starter will pitch better.
- In the second game the Diamondbacks have the better starter (Merrill Kelly).
- In the last game there is a lot of uncertainty about how well the starters will fare.