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Series Preview: The Diamondbacks are on a five-game losing streak

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After the Giants took two out of three, the Diamondbacks were swept by the Padres.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

A week ago, the Diamondbacks beat the Giants 7-0 in a game that compelled Andrew Baggarly to write this:

I’ve covered the Giants for 16 seasons. And their 7-0 loss at Arizona on Friday night, if not the worst game I’ve seen them play, sure felt like one of the emptiest.

The win moved Arizona to 25-20 and 4.5 game back in the division while dropping the Giants to 18-25 and 10.5 games back. We know what happened after that: the Giants would win the next two thanks to Pablo Sandoval’s heroics (and Brandon Crawford’s game-saving dive in Sunday’s finale).

For Arizona, the rest of the week has been spent losing. Swept by the Padres, they’re now 25-25 and 7 games out of first place. The Giants’ week hasn’t been much better, losing three out of four to the Braves, dropping to 21-28 and still 10.5 games back. So, really, not much has changed for the Giants over the past week.

Arizona’s problem has been a lack of offense. They’ve scored just 12 runs over their past five games, and if you remove the five they scored last Saturday, just seven over their last four. I mean, look, the sample size of a single series is mostly meaningless, unless we’re talking about the Giants, in which case every series is a referendum on the franchise and microcosm on the state of the organization’s talent pool.

But does the Diamondbacks’ befuddlement in the face of Chris Paddack, Matt Strahm, and Eric Lauer — these are Padres pitchers, not names I just made up — tell us anything about their present state? Their slash line of .157/.234/.270 (.505 OPS) over the week is really rough, but again, just a small sample.

What I’m getting at is exploring the idea that Arizona’s regressing to the mean after trading Paul Goldschmidt and letting Patrick Corbin walk in the offseason. Christian Walker had a .901 OPS before the Giants rolled into town but now it’s down to .835 after going 3-for-21 (23 PA, 0 extra base hits) since.

Meanwhile, their pitching has been... pretty good. Just 21 runs allowed since last Friday, a 3.63 ERA overall, though slightly skewed in the small sample by their 7-0 win. Remove that, and the ERA rises to 4.40 over their last five games. Not as good. Still, for all that talk and for losing Patrick Corbin, Arizona is still a top-10 team in starting pitching fWAR, and 13th overall when their bullpen (which is not nearly as good) gets added in.

Zack Greinke, Luke Weaver, and Robbie Ray are some of the best starters in the league through the first two months of the season. Ray, in particular, is 8th in MLB with an 11.45 K/9. His 1.2 wins above replacement is good for just 40th (for comparison, Madison Bumgarner is 49th at exactly 1 win above replacement), but Greinke and Weaver are both in baseball’s top 25 — 13th and 20th, respectively — with their respective fWAR of 1.6 and 1.5.

Not much has changed since last week because not much was ever going to change in just a week. The Diamondbacks are still pretty good, the Giants are still pretty bad, and as noted in the last series preview:

Still, it’s important to note that Pablo Sandoval has a solid career line against the Diamondbacks

123 G | 492 PA | .323 / .378 / .503 (.881 OPS) | 143 H | 14 HR

Could this weekend be Pablo’s last gasp of greatness for the Giants or his last weekend as a Giant if a big sell-off is near?

We saw that Pablo’s weekend was great. His OPS against Arizona is up to .899 now, along with 16 home runs. Hope for some more of those. The Giants will take what they can get.

Hitter to watch

Kevin Cron, brother of the Twins’ CJ Cron, has hit .339/.437/.800 for the Triple-A Reno Aces this season and 21 home runs through 44 games. That’s not a typo — he’s slugging .800 on the season. His 21 home runs leads all of professional baseball (minors and majors).

Here is Exhibit ZZ999 that MLB’s balls are totally juiced. Triple-A is playing with them this year, and Triple-A home run rates have skyrocketed to historic highs. Cron hit 21 home runs in Triple-A last season... in 104 games. His career high is 27 home runs, which he hit after playing 127 games for A-ball Visalia back in 2015. Here’s some video:

My goodness. What a thicc meaty joystick. He’s going to set a new career high in home runs this season... unless his call up this weekend becomes a permanent thing, which is no sure thing when you consider that plenty of 26-year olds have had eye-popping Triple-A stats but wound up fizzling out when getting the call.

Kevin Cron is not even ranked in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 prospect list for the Diamondbacks’ system. He’s up this weekend to spell the slumping Christian Walker, who had a .922 OPS (and 18 home runs) in 84 games for the Reno Aces last year at 27. So, in one sense, the Diamondbacks are replacing Walker with a younger Walker; but, in another sense, the Giants haven’t seen this guy before, which gives him the advantage.

We could have another Austin Riley or Nick Senzel or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Fernando Tatis Jr. or Franmil Reyes situation on our hands here. On the other hand, maybe he’s so much like Christian Walker so that the same mode of attack against Walker will work here.

Pitcher to watch

Friday’s starter Robbie Ray is making his first start since the worst start of his season, which came on Sunday against... the Giants. He struck out six, but lasted just four innings. He opposed Drew Pomeranz then just as he will Friday night. So, it’s a rematch, and we have to assume he’s out for revenge.

In five career starts at Oracle Park, Ray has a 2.15 ERA in 29.1 IP and a 3:1 strikeouts to walk ratio (39 to 13). He’s also allowed just two home runs.

Prediction

The last time the Giants were seven games under .500, they took two out of three from the Diamondbacks. The last time the Diamondbacks were .500 (11-11), they went on a five-game winning streak, which began on the road. The Diamondbacks last swept the Giants at Oracle Park on April 18-21, 2016.

Given the state of both teams, a sweep seems unlikely. On the other hand, the Giants will be facing one of the toughest pitchers in the league right now (Ray), a pitcher they’ve never seen before (Saturday’s starter, Taylor Clarke), and another tough pitcher whom they’ve struggled against in previous encounters (Sunday’s starter, Luke Weaver). Add in the Cron factor and it all feels like a sweep. For the sake of aesthetics, though, I’m going to say the Giants don’t enjoy their Memorial Day holiday with a 21-31 record. 22-30 looks a little better.