The rubber game, with Merrill Kelly starting for Arizona
|Luis Arraez – 2B||Jordan Luplow – RF|
|Byron Buxton – CF||Alek Thomas – CF|
|Carlos Correa – SS||Josh Rojas – 3B|
|Max Kepler – RF||Christian Walker – DH|
|Gio Urshela – 3B||David Peralta – LF|
|Alex Kirilloff – 1B||Buddy Kennedy – 2B|
|Gary Sanchez – C||Pavin Smith – 1B|
|Trevor Larnach – LF||Geraldo Perdomo – SS|
|Jose Miranda – DH||Jose Herrera – C|
|Chris Archer – RHP||Merrill Kelly – RHP|
It’s interesting how stable the Diamondbacks rotation has been – at least, outside of the revolving door which has been the fifth spot. They have four pitchers who have made 12 or more starts this year, which is tied for most in the majors – this afternoon’s opponents, the Twins, have just one such, today’s starter Chris Archer. But stability doesn’t necessarily equate to success. Sure, among the other eight teams who have four such starters, are division leaders like the Yankees and the Astros. But they also include cellar-dwellers like the Rockies and Nats. The latter, incidentally, now have the worst record in the NL, having been overtaken by the Reds. Considering Cincinnati started 3-22, that merits a “Well done!”, I guess.
But what IS interesting is if you look at how many above-average regular starters a team has. Filtering to only include pitchers with 12+ starts AND an ERA+ of 100 or better, the likes of the Nationals evaporate, with Josiah Gray their only such qualifier. There are. in fact, only two teams with four “ever present” starters that are also above-average. The Yankees, unsurprisingly, remain one. But the other are… yep, the Arizona Diamondbacks: Zac Gallen (142), Madison Bumgarner (119), Merrill Kelly (112) and Zach Davies (109). Now, that’s not as good as New York, where they are one Luis Severino start from having FIVE regular starters with an ERA of 113 or better.
But it’s a radical improvement on last year, when 156 of the 162 Diamondbacks’ games were started by pitchers who had a season ERA+ below 100 (the exception being six starts by Tyler Gilbert). This year to date, the same figure is 14 of 67. Basically, the entire fifth slot with the exception of Kyle Nelson’s game as “opener”. As mentioned last night, after Weaver’s flop, that fifth man has a collective ERA of 7.80, and is solely responsible for dragging Arizona’s starter ERA below league average. Is this improvement the Brent Strom effect? Because the other four starters have all improved their ERA+ from last year. Kelly (18 points), MadBum (30), Gallen (45) and Davies (35). That’s an average of 32 points improvement.
Overall, the D-backs staff – even including the gurgling vortex of suck at the back of the rotation – is fifteen ERA+ points better, improving from 82 to 97. That’s with largely the same staff: it’s not as if Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy, with their combined ERA of 4.79, have driven much improvement. If Strom can do the same to Keuchel – and the obvious key word there is that big “If” – then the pitcher would he would go from an ERA+ of 83 to 98, which is perfectly fine figure for a fifth starter, so problem solved. I would, I admit, be happier to see some of our longer-term solutions in the prospect camp come through. But despite last night, the pitching staff this season has been much less of a problem for Arizona.