Series #12: Deserted In The Desert

Series Quick Look
Thursday, May 11, 9:40PM 
Friday, May 12, 9:40PM

Saturday, May 13, 8:10PM
Sunday, May 14, 4:10PM

at Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ

The first part of Late Night BUCN did not go well as the Dodgers swept the Pirates. The second leg of their west coast trip continues in Phoenix as they face the Diamondbacks for the first of their two series, both being played this month.  The overall record is not good for the Pirates, but they have beat the snakes to a tune of a 14-5 record over the past three seasons. The Bucs were very good against the NL West division last year, going 22-11 including 5-1 versus the Diamondbacks. This time around, however, they are missing a lot of their core players. The Pirates are a shell of themselves from when spring training started and in need of major help from depth pieces nobody was counting on this season.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Diamondbacks lead 59-70
Last matchup…May 24-26, 2016. Pirates swept the D-Backs at Chase Field, outscoring them 25-8.

About the Diamondbacks:
The Diamondbacks are probably still the team known for having Kevin Towers and then Dave Stewart make some of the worst baseball moves in recent history. Included in that is the most notorious of all, and possibly the worst in baseball history – Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and Aaron Blair, for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier. This offseason the Diamondbacks relieved Dave Stewart of his duties and hired Mike Hazen which has seemingly made a bit of a difference. It started with signing Jeff Mathis who was regarded as an above average pitch framing catcher to assist in getting their rotation back on track. After signing Zack Greinke to a 6 year $206 million contract, he had one of the worst seasons of his recent career. Much was blamed on Welington Castillo‘s receiving skills hence the Mathis move. Hazen also traded away Jean Segura to Seattle for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. With AJ Pollock back in the mix this season, the Diamondbacks have set themselves up for success. They are currently third in the NL West with a 19-16 record and currently are tied for the second Wild Card spot.


5/11: RHP Gerrit Cole (3.14 ERA/3.82 FIP, 94 FIP-) vs.
RHP Zack Greinke (3.01 ERA/3.21 FIP, 77 FIP-)

It was a rough start for Gerrit Cole verse Boston, but since that 5th inning blowup he has pitched like an ace you might say. Over the last 38 innings, he holds a 2.37 ERA with 40 strikeouts, eight walks, and a BAA of .207. He also owns a 2.49 ERA verse the Diamondbacks in his career which is a total of 25.1 innings. Gerrit has definitely been prone to the long ball this year which can get exposed against this club. With the seven home runs he has given up he has only allowed just eight barrels. Zack Greinke is having a fantastic bounce back season. His ERA is down almost a full run and a half from last year and his strikeouts per nine are up two full K’s. Greinke has been every bit of an ace since his Royals days and is poised to carry this Diamondbacks team for a playoff berth this season.

5/12: RHP Tyler Glasnow (6.33 ERA/4.73 FIP, 116 FIP-) vs.
LHP Patrick Corbin (3.89 ERA/3.99 FIP, 95 FIP-)

Tyler Glasnow is possibly coming off of his best MLB start of his career. Though the final numbers weren’t so pretty due to a lot of incompetent defense behind him, he was pounding the strike zone and going after the hitters. With each start he has looked better, not that he has looked outstanding in any start. Still, there are many positive signs from this young rookie who was an overall top 10 prospect in baseball. He currently holds a 9.33 K/9 rate but also a 6.33 BB/9 rate. With all the doubts this season has thrown at Pirates fans, watching this kid’s progression might be one of the bright spots this year. On the other hand, Patrick Corbin has been batting his way back from injuries but is putting together a solid season. He is giving up less hard contact than he did last season while his fastball is up at a career high. On top of that, the Pirates have struggled against lefties as well this season with a .206 BAA.

5/13: RHP Trevor Williams (7.98 ERA/6.57 FIP, 161 FIP-) vs.
RHP Taijuan Walker (3.83 ERA/3.38 FIP, 81 FIP-)

Trevor Williams first start this year is certainly one to forget. He lasted just three innings while giving up eight runs (six earned). For a guy who has been a high ground ball pitcher for his entire career, he is only getting 33% of his hits on the ground. Trevor has been getting hit hard, but not at an alarming rate. His 82.8 MPH exit velocity on fly balls and line drives, puts him right in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, he’s not missing bats and people are slugging 1.000 verse his sinker. Taijuan Walker has made a very solid transition into Chase Field from Safeco Park. The 24 year old was a top prospect in the game of baseball who struggled in his first two full seasons in the majors. The talent is certainly still there and he seems to be putting it together for the D Backs. Walker hasn’t gone deep into the game this year as he has only pitched more than six innings once. With the Diamondbacks weakness being their bullpen, it will be vital for the Buccos to get his pitch count up early.

5/14: RHP Ivan Nova (2.23 ERA/2.88 FIP, 72 FIP-) vs.
RHP Robbie Ray (4.14 ERA/3.51 FIP, 84 FIP-)

Nova earned NL Pitcher of the month honors for his 1.50 ERA in 36 innings pitched while recording just one walk. He struggled in his first game of May but followed it with another solid performance verse the Dodgers. Nova has become a completely new pitcher with the Pirates who isn’t afraid to attack the zone and trust his pitches. As a matter of fact, he’s thrown his fastball 72.7% of the time this year which is 11% more than his career average. The Diamondbacks will be tossing the strikeout machine Robbie Ray. The 25 year old will be the complete counter to Nova in this matchup with his 12.41 K/9 rate and 5 BB/9 rate. This brings an interesting matchup because the Pirates have been K machines in this losing streak. They’ve recorded 40 strikeouts in the last four games (all losses).

TV (All games): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, Fox Sports Arizona
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7


Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.
Starling Marte (OF): Suspended 80 games (April 18)—Use of PED’s.
Adam Frazier (2B/OF): 10-Day DL (April 24)—Left hamstring strain.
Antonio Bastardo (P): 10-Day DL (April 25)—Left quad strain. 
David Freese (3B/1B): 10-Day DL (April 29)—Right hamstring strain.
Jameson Taillon (P): 10-Day DL (May 6)—Testicular cancer.  

Jake Barrett (P): 10-Day DL (May 10)—Right shoulder inflammation.
Socrates Brito (OF): 60-Day DL (May 10)—Dislocated finger.
Steve Hathaway (P): 60-Day DL (May 5)—Left shoulder bursitis.
TJ McFarland (P): 10-Day DL (May 10)—Left ankle contusion.
Shelby Miller (P): 60-Day DL (April 29)—Tommy John surgery

A lot is on the shoulders of Gerrit Cole and Ivan Nova now with the loss of Jameson Taillon. Those three formed a very formidable pitching rotation with Chad Kuhl and Glasnow rounding out the back end. Now with Taillon out for an unknown extended period of time, this staff can’t afford too many off days from these two guys. Whether it’s Trevor Williams or some other pitcher eventually making starts in the near future, the depth is pretty thin right now. Drew Hutchison still finds himself struggling in Indy and Nick Kingham made his very first start today since coming back from Tommy John surgery. With four games being played this series, it will be vital for Cole and Nova to pitch like aces and try to win or at least split this series.

Pittsburgh has looked completely inadequate at the plate lately and has no identity. We already mentioned that they have totaled 40 strikeouts in the last four games. Without mentioning all the replacements in the lineup due to injuries, suspensions, and DUI’s, Andrew McCutchen has gone from looking like a nice rebound story in mid April to a complete disaster in early May. He currently has a 85 wRC+ but has batted just .151/.250/.321/.571 since April 23. Gregory Polanco carries an 84 wRC+ this year and no home runs. Understanding the headline here is to stop striking out, these two bats have done nothing to help this lineup when they have been needed to be the two that help anchor this lineup. With the solid starting pitching the DBacks bring, there is going to have to be a spark from this offense.

Arizona has a solid rotation, but their bullpen is less to desire. Currently, they rank 17th in ERA and their closer Fernando Rodney has a season ERA of 10.80. They give up home runs at the 22nd worst rate in MLB and playing this series in Chase Field won’t help that cause. With the starters having the eighth best ERA (3.74) and best FIP (3.54) in the majors while also pitching the sixth most innings in the majors (202.1) this is a much tougher task than said.

The Diamondbacks offense is tricky. They hit for some decent power, but it seems to be pretty streaky. That is except for Mr. Wonderful himself, Paul Goldschmidt. The rattlesnakes first baseman has been one of the more undervalued players in baseball and is once again holding that title this year pretty well. With all the talks swirling around Bryce Harper, Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Trout, and Aaron Judge, Goldschmidt has once again turned in a quiet 20th best 160 wRC+ while having the 7th best fWAR in all of the majors. His nine stolen bases has him ranked first among first baseman and his three DRS rank second. This guy is one hell of a player and the Pirates will need to keep him quiet.

Well one thing that will be interesting this series is the fact that two of the worst defenses will be facing each other. Pittsburgh ranks dead last in defensive runs saved with -12 while Arizona is second to last with -10. With the great defensive play Nick Ahmed and Goldschmidt are providing, players like Yasmany Tomas, Brandon Drury, Jake Lamb, and Jeff Mathis have been pretty awful with the glove so far. Pittsburgh has been no pleasure in watching either as 14 of their players have negative DRS measures lead by John Jaso, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Osuna, and Gregory Polanco. This series may come down to who makes the least amount of errors.

The Pirates west coast trip ends this weekend and they will return to the east coast to take on the Washington Nationals at PNC Park on Tuesday.

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