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Giants-Diamondbacks Series Preview: The Ballad of Tim Locastro

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Some men hit the ball, most balls hit this man.

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The half life of the radioactive fallout from this week’s bludgeoning by the Dodgers is going to take exactly as long as the Giants have until their next series with the Dodgers. In the meantime, they’ll be coughing up blood, crushing up iodine pills, and staying away from schools and hospitals to limit exposure. It’s a good thing they’re playing in the mostly empty and self-contained Chase Field, then, even though this 2019 Diamondbacks team is very much alive and well.

They’re 38-38, so, the division is out of reach, but just 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card. They’re doing it in part with slightly above average starting pitching and average bullpen work, but mostly thanks to an offense that’s scored the 4th-most runs in the National League (393).

They’ve scored more runs than the Cubs (378), Brewers (370), Mets (353) and Phillies (352). 114 more than the Giants. But it’s not a dynamic offense like the Dodgers, Braves, Cubs, Mets, and Brewers — their 99 wRC+ means, technically, they’re league average.

But we don’t need to get into the minutiae of it: they’re better than the Giants in all facets of the game (even a +38.4 runs on defense, per FanGraphs). I want to talk about their weirdo fourth outfielder, Tim Locastro.

You might remember him from the Giants’ 18-2 loss on May 24th when he was hit by a pitch three times by three different pitchers — Drew Pomeranz, Nick Vincent, and Derek Holland. Locastro has been hit by a pitch 12 times already this year.

I had been working on an MLB Chronicles article about this one weird stat, but thankfully, Zach Buchanan of The Athletic (subscription required) finished it for me, and did a much better job than I ever could.

“There’s times I go through stretches where I get hit right between the numbers or the side of the leg, and that’s just like a magnet,” he said. “I don’t know how that happens.”

If he sounds like he’s searching for a solution to that riddle, he’s not. He doesn’t bemoan his lot in life. He’s not the sport’s Job, singled out by the baseball gods for special punishment. He feels blessed. Once every 7.6 plate appearances, he gets a free trip to first base.

There’s also a .gif in that link that montages all 12 of these HBPs. For my unfinished piece, I went to Baseball Savant for video. Here’s what I’ve determined: Tim Locastro totally knows how “that happens”. He’s doing it on purpose.

Now, he’s not doing it on purpose by, like, Justin Turnering home plate or wearing a Bondsesque elbow guard that blots out the sun. What he is doing is leaning into every inside pitch. That could just be because he has a naturally unbalanced swing or because he’s athletic enough to get move his motion into the path of an inside pitch and figures it will wind up in an HBP.

Just watch this montage of videos where all he does is turn his hip in towards home plate:

Google and Apple link

Google and Apple link.

Google and Apple link.

Google and Apple link.

Google and Apple link.

Pretty consistent. Borderline annoying. It’s tough to get too upset at a guy who’s willing to get beat up by baseballs just to get on base.

Convert his 12 HBPs to outs and his OBP drops from .396 OBP to .310. He’s slugging just .342 and that’s likely to be close to his true talent level — just a .412 slugging percentage in 7 minor league seasons. But so’s this HBP talent — he has 154 of them in the minors, giving him a career minor league HBP rate (6.04%) that’s greater than his walk rate (5.92%).

He also had 44 in 81 NCAA games.

Tim Locastro is taking it on the chin, knee, butt, back, and thigh just to make a living.

Hitter to watch

When you grow tired of watching Tim Locastro get hit by a baseball, consider checking out what Ketel Marte’s doing. He’s actually driving the ball all over the field. The switch hitter is slugging .569 (.646 against lefties) with 20 home runs in 326 plate appearances. He has a 3.5 fWAR already, tying him with Xander Bogaerts as the fourth-best player in baseball.

If you really want to break it down: he’s the third-best in the NL, behind Bellinger and Yelich. This means the Giants will have faced the top three players in baseball in their last three series. Cool!

The Diamondbacks got him a few years ago in the type of move we can only hope the Giants are able to make a few years from now. Arizona sent Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura, and Zac Curtis to Seattle in exchange for Marte and Taijuan Walker.

Walker was a top rated pitching prospect and Marte was Seattle’s #8 prospect after 2015 who played most of 2016 as a 22-year old at the major leagues. Arizona traded strong minor league talent and a solid, young major leaguer for two unproven players with upside. Walker’s fate is murky because of injury, but Marte’s ceiling keeps rising.

Pitcher to watch

Arizona has two TBDs for starters as I write this, and their bullpen is unremarkable, so that leaves tonight’s starter, Taylor Clarke. He was one major league win and that came on May 25th against the Giants.

That was first and only time he pitched into the seventh inning of a game. Since then, he’s been bad. An 8.40 ERA in four starts, but with 17 strikeouts in 15 IP. He has finished five innings just once in that span. Can he find his mojo against an angry Giants team?

Prediction

Low attendance in Arizona, Mike Yastrzemski will hit a home run.