After using almost every available resource in their arsenal on Wednesday evening against the Rockies, the Diamondbacks came out on top in a nailbiter which may have been one of the most thrilling Wild Card matchups in recent history. Having exhausted its two most valuable starting pitching weapons, though, Arizona hopes to maintain its offensive momentum upon heading to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday evening.
Despite having the early advantage in the starting pitching department, the Dodgers have every right to be concerned about a Diamondbacks squad which won the 19-game regular-season series 11 games to eight. During those 19 contests, the Snakes outscored the Dodgers 99-71, and collected 32 long balls and 36 doubles in the process. Besides the scoring differential, there are several other potential worries the Dodgers might have over the course of the NLDS, four of which are listed below.
J.D. Martinez—In what will certainly go down as the most memorable performance of his career, outfielder J.D. Martinez became the 19th player in MLB history to smash four long balls in a single contest on September 4 at Dodger Stadium. He also became the first player in the modern era to hit a HR in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings of the same game. His four home runs actually totaled more than the Dodgers’ hit tally for the night. Martinez slashed .294/.385/.824 in 39 AB against Los Angeles this season, but what’s even more concerning is the fact that he hit .376/.464/.892 this year against southpaw pitching, as the Dodgers are setting up to start two lefties in the first two games of the series.
The rest of the Arizona lineup can hit, too—At numerous points of the season, the offense of the Dodgers was known to be perhaps one of the most potent in either league, but at the end of the day, the Arizona lineup was just a little bit better in a handful of major categories. Overall, the DBacks finished fourth in the National League with a .254/.329/.445 slash line, while the Dodgers finished a few ticks below in all three of those areas with a .249/.334/.437 mark of their own. And lost in the shadows of Martinez this season is right-handed slugger Paul Goldschmidt, who has a career .310/.378/.571 mark with 28 home runs in 111 games against the Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks have a very underrated pitching staff—Even after seeing Arizona 19 times this season, many followers of the Dodgers fail to realize just how good the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff actually is. As far as team ERA goes, the Snakes finished third in all of baseball with an impressive 3.66 ERA, trailing only the Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians. And despite the myth of Chase Field being an extremely hitter’s friendly park, according to SB Nation‘s Matt Kok, the Diamondbacks pitching staff owns the National League’s second best home xFIP at 3.83, the NL’s second best home strikeout rate at 24.5%, the NL’s third best home WHIP at 1.24, and the NL’s second lowest home wOBA allowed at .303.
And the Arizona bullpen isn’t too shabby, either—Finishing fifth in the majors with a team ERA of 3.78, the Snakes ended up second on the senior circuit only to the Dodgers in a handful of other relief pitching categories. Los Angeles may have hammered chief closer Fernando Rodney over the course of the 2017 campaign, but the Diamondbacks’ secret weapon in the bullpen might be hard-throwing righty Archie Bradley, who has a 1.24 ERA in 12-2/3 innings against Los Angeles this year, while throwing an even seven scoreless innings at Dodger Stadium.
The home field advantage may indeed end up playing a critical role on the series once all the dust settles, yet based on the closeness of both clubs’ offensive and pitching categories shown above, the Dodgers do indeed have reason for concern, as the upcoming NLDS between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks could be much closer than many anticipate.
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