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D-backs Preview #95: 7/18 vs. Cubs

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Not QUITE the start to the second half the D-backs wanted... Merrill Kelly tries to prevent the sweep.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

CUBS DIAMONDBACKS
Anthony Rizzo - 1B Josh Rojas - 2B
Kris Bryant - LF Kole Calhoun - RF
Javier Baez - SS Eduardo Escobar - 3B
Patrick Wisdom - 3B Christian Walker - 1B
Jason Heyward - RF David Peralta - LF
Jake Marisnick - CF Pavin Smith - CF
Nico Hoerner - 2B Nick Ahmed - SS
Robinson Chirinos - C Daulton Varsho - C
Zach Davies - RHP Merrill Kelly - RHP

At least the D-backs have their ace on the mound. Wait, what? It’s a Merrill Kelly start? But here’s the reality. No other Arizona starter has won a game since May. That’s a span of 30 consecutive non-Merrill starts since Matt Peacock pitched six innings of two-run ball on May 30, as the D-backs beat the Cardinals 9-2. Kelly has the only three wins by an Arizona starter in that time. From June 1 on, he is 3-1 in eight starts with a 3.63 ERA, mostly by avoiding walks. His BB rate this season of 2.2 per nine innings, is the lowest of our regular starters, and among all Arizona pitchers with 10+ innings, is better than everyone bar Riley Smith (2.1). It’s essential with Merrill not striking out a huge number (7.7/9 IP, vs NL average for starters of 8.9).

You won’t be surprised to hear Kelly also tops Arizona’s list of starters for strike percentage, basically throwing only one ball every three pitches. His 66.6 % rate is above league average of 63.6%. That three percent may not seem much, but in the NL, the difference between the best and worst team strike rate is only 4.1%. Kelly is better than any team in the league. The low K-rate is because of the low percentage of swinging strikes from Merrill: only 15.8% compared to a league average of 19.4%. That’s a problem affecting the whole team: the D-backs rate of 16.6% is worst in the majors by some distance (next worst are the Cardinals at 17.8%). That perhaps shines a light on why AZ’s pitchers have struggled so much this season.

Torey Lovullo notes

  • Ketel Marte has been out 23 days so far with left hamstring strain. Torey would still not offer a timeline for return. He had a follow up MRI which was clean and Torey said that his running has looked good . (Although one writer said he thought he saw him limping during pre game warmups today) Torey also would not say if a Reno rehab assignment is going to happen. Ketel will get live at bats in the AZL coming up and then they’ll decide
  • Carson Kelly, who’s been out 29 days is catching bullpens, took BP on the field, he’s throwing, basically all baseball activity. He just needs to keep increasing his workload. They will add in different things during the course of a week. The pain is manageable. But they need to make sure he’s asymptomatic and his timing is back.
  • Luke Weaver’s bullpen went well. He threw 16 pitches plus some flat ground.
  • Taylor Clarke also threw 19 pitches plus flat ground. All good
  • Taylor Widener has not yet been named for Tuesday’s start but he’s the presumptive starter. The team must make a corresponding move so they are playing that close to the chest for now.
  • Daulton Varsho’s defense at catcher: Continuing to improve. He says he’s done great at game calling and following the game plan, but he felt Daulton should have blocked the wild pitch from Ramirez yesterday. He said that other than yesterday he feels that Daulton has caught all his popups and yesterday was a tough chance.

Torey Lovullo audio [or link]