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Preview, #136: 9/1 @ Dodgers

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What is it with this team and one-run games?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

DIAMONDBACKS DODGERS
Steven Souza - RF Brian Dozier - 2B
A.J. Pollock - CF Justin Turner - 3B
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Manny Machado - SS
David Peralta - LF Matt Kemp - LF
Eduardo Escobar - 3B David Freese - 1B
Nick Ahmed - SS Enrique Hernandez - CF
Ketel Marte - 2B Yasmani Grandal - C
Jeff Mathis - C Yasiel Puig - RF
Patrick Corbin - LHP Clayton Kershaw - LHP

Last night’s loss was the 23rd by one run for the Diamondbacks this season. They are 18-23 in one-run games, and 56-38 in games decided by more than one run. If they reproduced the latter performance in one-run contests, Arizona would have gone 24-17, be 80-55 overall, and possess a seven-game advantage in the division. If the team ends up missing out on a playoff spot, their record in these close games is arguably going to be the main reason why. It stands in sharp contrast to almost every other contending team. Of the ten sides with the current best winning percentages in MLB (which excludes the D-backs, who rank 11th), only the Astros are beloe .500 in one-run games.

Here’s the D-backs record by margin of game.

  • One run: 18-23
  • Two runs: 11-10
  • Three runs: 11-13
  • Four runs: 11-6
  • Five-plus runs: 23-9

Put another way, Arizona are 39-46 in games decided by three or fewer runs, and 34-15 in games decided by four or more. Quite why there is this division requires more specific research: are these close losses ones were we allowed opponents to score late, or failed to score ourselves? On a quick and dirty check of the splits this year, it seems to be be a bit of both. Let’s look at situations classified by B-R.com as “late and close”. Now, offensive numbers do tend to drop in those moments - likely because you’re facing the opposition’s best relievers - and across the NL as a whole, OPS is down by 40 points. For the D-backs though, our hitters drop by 49 points, while our pitchers improve by only 16 points.

This likely goes back to the question of whether there is such a thing as “clutch” - and that applies on both sides of the ball, for if there is clutch hitting, there almost by definition must also be clutch pitching, the ability to suppress clutch hitting. Arizona’s record could simply be a result of random clustering of runs scored and allowed, giving the illusion of a pattern. Or there could be some issue which causes our players to perform slightly less well in those situations. It could even be a mixture of both. But in a race so tight as the NL West in 2018, the D-backs probably need to start winning more of these close games down the stretch. A .439 winning percentage probably won’t cut it.