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Diamondbacks/Giants series preview

In which we discuss whether everything's changed in the NL West because of three weeks of data.

Twins fan?
Twins fan?
Ezra Shaw

It's week three, and there have been some developments. Zack Greinke was injured in some sort of Wild Kingdom-style mating ritual, and the Dodgers aren't hitting. When the Rockies don't play the Giants, they're 13-2, which is why they're in first place with the best record in baseball. The Padres weren't supposed to be an impressive team, and they sure haven't looked like one. The Giants have seen all those teams this year, and they're 8-1 in the division. We can act like we're super-informed about the state of the NL West.

Before the season started, I pegged the Diamondbacks as the Team to Beat. We have 18 games of information now, which is 18 more games than we used to have. Progress! And the Diamondbacks have been okay, playing coy with us when it comes to just how good they are. The bullpen looks good. The rotation has had ups and downs, sorta like the Giants. Miguel Montero is going through some weird Brandon Belt thing, which is funny when it happens to him.

And I have no idea how good they should be yet. Well, no one has any idea how good any of these teams should be yet, but the Diamondbacks are especially mysterious. Did you know that after having Adam Eaton, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Cody Ross, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, and A.J. Pollock on the roster at some point in the offseason, the outfielder who has started the most games in left is some dude named Alfredo Marte? That's like having a bag of illegal fireworks before you leave for a Fourth of July party, but then holding a sparkler an hour later and wondering what in the hell went wrong.

But if the Diamondbacks aren't exactly thriving like the Rockies just yet, they're doing well enough. They're 10-8, and they're scoring more runs than they're allowing. Which brings us back to that part about them being the team to beat, and turns this series preview into something of a comment starter:

Are the Diamondbacks the team to beat?

Sure. With pool cues if possible. But I mean in the NL West standings, too. If you chose the Dodgers before the season, does a month or two sans Greinke make a difference to you? Are you convinced by the Rockies' hot start? Are you sticking with the Padres because you're literally Tony Gwynn and/or wearing a butt-brown jumpsuit right now? Or if you were with the Diamondbacks before the season, are you still convinced they'll be the biggest obstacle for the Giants.

I guess it doesn't have to be one team. It's not a zero-sum deal, and the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies can all irritate the Giants equally over the next five months. But I'm still sticking by the Diamondbacks as the Team to Beat. Reasons:

  • They have Cody Ross
  • He'll tell them what to do
  • Yooo-hooo! Cody! Over here! Notice me, please!

Other, possibly more applicable reasons:

  • They have a pitching staff as deep as anyone in the league, even if they lack the sexy Clayton Kershaw-type ace
  • Eventually it won't be Alfredo Marte starting in left
  • I guess Aaron Hill really is this good now? Guess it's time to double-down on the Luann jokes
  • Didi Gregorius is a career .387 hitter in the majors, and statistics help us understand the game better

But mostly the pitching. I can't tell if I've been overrating the Diamondbacks for the last two years, or if they've been underperforming. Probably both. But the overall point stands: The Diamondbacks scare me as much, if not more, than the Dodgers. Certainly more than the Rockies at this point, though it's possible we'll all be convinced by July.

As such, this should be an important series, or at least as important as one can get in April. If I had to choose -- gun to my head -- I'd prefer that the Giants took this series, perhaps even sweeping it.

Hitter to watch
That would be Paul Goldschmidt. Specifically I'd like to watch him as he gets slumpy shoulders when he finds out that Tim Lincecum isn't pitching this series.

There's also Cody Ross, now that he's healthy. When Andres Torres left, I wrote a weepy post about why you should throw your panties on the field when he returned with the Mets. There was not a similar post about Juan Uribe when he returned with the Dodgers. Ross kind of splits the difference. Good enough for a standing ovation, but you can't give the panty-winging treatment to divisional rivals. You just can't.

Pitcher to watch
Ian Kennedy is like the Paul Goldschmidt of pitchers.

(Against) San Francisco Giants 6 2 2.38 13 90.2 66 24 5 27 81

Just kills the Giants. The weirdest thing about Kennedy: He's 28. Seems like that happened pretty quickly. I still think of him as a young pitcher, but he used to be Tim Lincecum's Friday-night matchup in Washington/USC games. Kennedy is two months younger than Matt Cain.

No point. Just that he's a Brett Pill All-Star: a guy who isn't nearly young as you think.

(Also, he's the same age as Brett Pill.)

Goldschmidt still hits a homer off Lincecum, who isn't pitching in this series.