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Preview, #49: 5/21 @ Padres

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Are the 2019 D-backs clutch or not? And does it matter?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Today's Lineups

DIAMONDBACKS PADRES
Adam Jones - RF Ian Kinsler - 2B
Ketel Marte - 2B Franmil Reyes - RF
Eduardo Escobar - 3B Manny Machado - SS
David Peralta - LF Eric Hosmer - 1B
Christian Walker - 1B Hunter Renfroe - LF
Nick Ahmed - SS Ty France - 3B
Jarrod Dyson - CF Manuel Margot - CF
John Ryan Murphy - C Austin Hedges - C
Zack Greinke - RHP Matt Strahm - LHP

How the D-backs are doing, largely depends on how you slice the cake. On the one hand, they have lost seven of their last ten, dropping from two games back to six games behind the Dodgers. On the other hand, over that same time Arizona have outscored the opposition quite handily, by a margin of 45-36. That’s because five of the seven defeats have been by two runs or fewer, and none by more than four. Meanwhile, the victories have been by margins of six, seven and ten runs. Given that run differential, Pythag suggests the team should have gone 6-4, not 3-7. That’s been a feature of the season so far: Arizona are 11-4 in blowouts (games decided by 5+ runs), but 9-11 in one-run games.

Overall, their Pythagorean record - based on the overall number of runs scored and allowed - is two games better than their actual one, at 27-21. Of course, that doesn’t help those one-run defeats the team suffered on Sunday and Monday. But it is generally regarded as a better predictor of a team’s future record, going forward, than the actual mark. You can’t really do much to control when you score runs, but the more you score and the fewer you concede, generally the better you will do. That’s why I’m not particularly concerned about the whole “runners in scoring position” thing. I don’t tend to think there’s a particular skill there for most players, and it’ll even out over the course of the year.

Overall, you might be surprised to learn that the D-backs had been hitting better than expected in those situations. This year, their OPS with RISP has been .825, which is 53 points higher than across all plate appearances. That needn’t necessarily regress too much. Last year, the team sustained an RISP split which was 57 OPS points higher for the whole season, and in 2017, the D-backs were +42. This is normal, at least to a certain extent. Last season, the National League as a whole were 26 points better with runners in scoring position, and the gap was +28 the previous season. But over a small sample size - any given week - numbers are going to fluctuate dramatically. Which is all my way of saying don’t stress about a bad game or a bad series. It’ll all even out in the end.