Can the D-backs keep the momentum going ?
The Padres 13-11 are coming off a 3-1 series victory against the Dodgers in L.A. They’re currently in 3rd place, 2.5 games back of the surprising Giants and Dodgers who are tied for 1st at 15-8.
The 11-11 Diamondbacks are coming off a series win against the Atlanta Braves. That came courtesy of a double header sweep on Sunday following a rainout Saturday. Zac Gallen threw a one hit 7 inning shutout in the opener, and Madison Bumgarner did him one better allowing no hits in an official 7 inning game. MLB should take note how many words I had to use instead of just saying he threw a no-hitter !
Bumgarner took home Co- Player of the Week honors together with the Padres Fernando Tatis Jr, who hit 5 homers in that series against L.A. That shoulder injury was not too serious after all. That said, while we often speak of the D-backs injuries, it pales in comparison to what the Padres have had to face, especially with their pitching staff. They currently have 11 pitchers and 2 position players on the IL. Mike Clevinger is out for the year with Tommy John Surgery. Dinelson Lamet landed back on the IL with elbow soreness and may require TJ as well. Adrian Morejon just went down recently too, another TJ victim. Relievers Keona Kela and Taylor Williams have also hit the IL in the past week . A full view of their roster carnage can be seen here at Spotrac.
HOW SEASON METRICS MATCHUP SO FAR
The Padres offense rates middle of the pack, despite their star power. But thanks to phenomenal depth their pitching has been the best in the league so far. Both the starting pitching and relief pitching have been exceptionally strong. The team defense has been good.
The Diamondbacks have been getting great offense after a slow start. The starting pitching was getting crushed earlier in the year but clearly has turned a corner. Season numbers are still not good but trending in the right direction. The bullpen meanwhile has been up and down but may be be getting a boost before long with the return of Joakim Soria. He’s been on the IL recovering from a calf strain.
Tuesday, April 27th, 6:40 P.M. at Chase Field
Chris Paddack 4 G, 18 IP, 3.50 ERA, 3.95 xERA, 3.10 FIP
Paddack is basically a Fastball/Changeup guy, mixing in only a very occasional Curve. It looked like he was on the way to winning Rookie of the Year honors in early 2019. Through his first 9 starts that year he was 4-2 with a 1.92 ERA and a SO/W ratio over 5 to 1. But over his final 17 starts he was just OK, going 5-5, 4.17 ERA. The SO/W ratio was still around 5/1, but he gave up an eye watering 19 HR over his final 89 innings. Then last year in 12 starts he had a 4.73 ERA, giving up another 14 HR in just 59 IP. Most of those homers were coming off his fastball. It seemed like hitters were picking up the changeup and laying off and sitting on the fastball. But so far in 2021 he’s allowed just ONE homer and has a 3.50 ERA. If he was tipping, he might have corrected that.
He’s had success against the D-backs in preventing runs, sporting a 1.95 ERA in 6 starts against Arizona. He allowed 2 runs in 4 IP against the D-backs in the opening series of the season. In his most recent outing he was victimized by bad defense and luck, allowing 5 runs in 5 innings, but just 1 earned.
Merrill Kelly. 4 G, 21 IP, 7.71 ERA, 7.20 xERA, 3.10 FIP
From watching him pitch and studying Kelly’s Baseball Savant Page these are my takeaways:
His Velocity is down about 1MPH, and he’s losing a bit more after 2-3 innings. His spin rates are down slightly too, especially on his 4 Seam and Curve. But it’s not resulting in a great reduction in movement. He didn’t have a lot of margin for error of course but the “stuff” is only slightly behind where he was last year. It’s also notable he’s throwing less than half as many cutters as he did in 2020. The metrics on that pitch indicate to me he might want to consider throwing a few more of them.
Here is the key though. While his in Zone % is actually UP, he’s getting far fewer swings on pitches out of the zone. Last year he got chase swings out of Zone 27.8% of the time, so far this year that rate is just 22.4%, which is almost a 20% drop. This means he’s not throwing as many competitive balls, and hitters are just able to layoff those non-competitive pitches. They are sitting on his fastball, which hasn’t been on the black enough, and absolutely crushing it.
Wednesday April 28th, 6:40 P.M. at Chase Field
Ryan Weathers, 5 G, 15.1 IP, 0.59 ERA, 3.69 xERA, 3.03 FIP
Weathers was drafted in the 1st round, 7th overall in 2018. He’s the son of 19 year major leaguer reliever David Weathers. After three relief appearances he stepped into the rotation on April 16th , making his first career start against the Dodgers. He went 3 2⁄3 IP on 79 pitches, giving up just one hit and two walks but no runs. Just 6 days later he faced the Dodgers again, shutting them down for 5 2⁄3 scoreless innings giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out 6.
He throws a mid 90’s fastball and a slider, mixing in a few sinkers and changeups here and there. He gets good left to right movement on the Fastball, but the rest of his pitches don’t seem to move a lot, relative to the league.
Taylor Widener, 4 G, 22.1 IP, 2.82 ERA, 5.97 xERA, 4.75 FIP
Widener stepped into the rotation for Zac Gallen who began the year on the IL, and replaced Caleb Smith once Gallen returned. He has performed admirably. He’s giving up a lot hard contact on a lot of fly balls and line drives, but has just a .234 BABIP against. So the predictive metrics like xERA and FIP aren’t loving him right now. But he’s been throwing strikes and challenging hitters. In two of his starts that’s worked well, not giving up runs agains the Padres or Nationals, going 6 innings against each of them.
But in his two starts against the Reds he gave up 8 runs, 7 earned in 10.1 IP, surrendering 4 homers in the process. Game Log
Widener throws his fastball 63% of the time, and for some reason has flip flopped his Slider/Changeup mix. Last year it was 21% slider, 14% change. This year it’s 22% change, 15% slider. The Statcast metrics suggest he might be better off with heavier slider usage.
Mark Melancon has 8 saves and has only allowed 1 run in 11 innings of work. He’s given up just 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 11.
Stefan Crichton has been getting the 9th inning for the D-backs . It’s been a mixed bag. He wasn’t scored upon in 4 of his last 6 outings. But he gave up crooked numbers in the other two games and has not worked a clean 1-2-3 inning in any of those 6 games, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks and 5 runs in his last 5 IP. He did pick up a couple of saves during that stretch, and he’s been a victim of some bad luck. 6 of the 12 ground balls he’s induced up have gone for hits, and overall he has a .440 BABIP against. The team really needs his luck to improve so he can regain last year’s form and help stabilize the bullpen.