Throughout the playoffs, we’ll take a look at some of the smaller matchups that make baseball so much fun. Here is what we’re looking at today.
By this point in the postseason, each team is looking for even the most minute of advantages to exploit. Whatever two opponents are matched up, they’ve been scouted to death in anticipation of this matchup. Surprises are going to be minimal; no one is going to be suddenly throwing 5-6 miles per hour faster than the last time one saw them. So, armed with all the information they can possess, it becomes time to map out a plan to exploit those advantages. One thing the Phillies will need to be wary of is the aggressiveness of the Arizona hitters.
Arizona was one of the better baserunning teams in the game. According to Fangraphs, they had 8.9 BsR (baserunning runs) this season, good for sixth in the game. Stripping away stealing bases, Diamondbacks hitters were some of the most aggressive runners in the game when it comes to trying to get the extra base.
Not only were they aggressive in trying to get that extra base, a lot of the time, they were above average in actually making it. This is thanks to their having some terrific team speed, something Rob Thomson is acutely aware of. However, in the questions being asked of him, Thomson has really only talked about the base stealing of the Diamondbacks. Maybe there is something else the team should be concerned about.
All of this talk about speed and the biggest area of weakness Arizona might try to exploit are the outfield arms the Phillies will trot out each night. According to Statcast, this is what they are going to send out to the outfield:
- Nick Castellanos: 83.5 mph (2023 avg.), 40th out of 42
- Johan Rojas: 92.7 mph, t-5th out of 49
- Brandon Marsh: 88.7 mph (as CFer; didn’t have enough throws from LF to qualify)
While Rojas does look like a weapon, subjectively, the throws he makes are not the most accurate. The weak spot is clearly Castellanos. Should those speedy Diamondbacks runners make it to first, a ball hit to right field is going to be interesting to watch if Castellanos is going to have to come up throwing.
Now, the flip side is also true. While the Phillies don’t have the most aggressive of baserunners when it comes to trying to take the extra base, they did make a note of running more during the series against the Braves. If we want to take a look at what Arizona is going to bring to the outfield in terms of arm strength, well, this is an area the team can look to exploit.
- Corbin Carroll: 83.3 mph, 69th out of 71
- Alek Thomas: 85.3 mph, 60th out of 73
- Lourdes Gurriel, Jr.: 88.7 mph, 23rd out of 75
What I see there are arms the Phillies can take advantage of. We’ve known for a while about the team trying to be more aggressive on the basepaths, but this is something the team should be looking to exploit. It could be especially important as the Phillies face the Diamondbacks’ top two starters in games one and two. If the team can put some pressure on Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, coupled with what this type of baserunning can do to a crowd, it could be a big advantage to the Phillies to take these first two games.
Something to watch for.