Diamondbacks vs. Phillies NLCS prediction and MLB Playoffs preview

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Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies NLCS Preview

Sometimes all it takes to make a deep playoff run is getting hot at the right time. Ask the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have knocked off two division champions in the Brewers and Dodgers to make the NLCS for the first time since their memorable 2001 World Series win with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling on the roster. This season marks the first time that the D-Backs have won a postseason series since 2007 and that’s the only one they had since Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off single.

 

The Phillies, meanwhile, are four wins away from running back their NL championship crown, though they’d rather get eight more wins and right the wrong of last season when they lost to the Astros in six games in the Fall Classic. For the second straight postseason, the Phillies beat the Braves to get to this point and they also knocked off the Marlins in the Wild Card series.

By current form, the Phillies would seem to be a better team than the Dodgers, but the series price is not reflective of what the opening price was for Arizona against Los Angeles (-205). That is just one of the major talking points heading into the best-of-seven NLCS that starts in Philadelphia on Monday.

MLB Odds | MLB Betting Splits | MLB Matchups

MLB Playoffs NLCS Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Diamondbacks +145 / Phillies -170

Diamondbacks vs. Phillies schedule and how to watch

Game 1 (@ PHI): Monday October 16, 8:07 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 2 (@ PHI): Tuesday October 17, 8:07 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 3 (@ ARI): Thursday October 19, 5:07 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 4 (@ ARI): Friday October 20, 8:07 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 5 (@ ARI): Saturday October 21, 8:07 p.m. ET (TBS) (if necessary)
Game 6 (@ PHI): Monday October 23, 5:07 p.m. ET (TBS) (if necessary)
Game 7 (@ PHI): Tuesday October 24, 8:07 p.m. ET (TBS) (if necessary)

Note that October 16, 19, 20, 23 are the days where we could have both LCS series in action.  Also, note the 2-3-2 format for the best-of-seven series.

Pitching Matchups

(Note: based on my guesses)

Game 1: Zac Gallen vs. Zack Wheeler
Game 2: Merrill Kelly vs. Aaron Nola
Game 3: Ranger Suarez vs. Brandon Pfaadt
Game 4: Taijuan Walker vs. Ryne Nelson
Game 5: Zack Wheeler vs. Zac Gallen
Game 6: Merrill Kelly vs. Aaron Nola
Game 7: Brandon Pfaadt vs. Ranger Suarez

Neither team has needed to use a fourth starter yet in the postseason, as the Diamondbacks are 5-0 in the postseason and the Phillies had extra off days in the NLCS to be able to run Ranger Suarez back on regular rest. The Diamondbacks do appear to be at a disadvantage with the lack of depth in their rotation and I’m guessing Ryne Nelson would be the fourth option, potentially as a bulk reliever after an opener.

I would think that the Phillies would prefer Walker to Michael Lorenzen, but Cristopher Sanchez is also an option.

Of course, the way that the series is going, we could see somebody start on short rest as well.

Diamondbacks vs. Phillies series preview

I don’t think anybody is surprised by what the Phillies are doing. I think most everybody is surprised by what the Diamondbacks are doing. The only playoff team to hit fewer home runs during the regular season was Milwaukee. The Diamondbacks hit 166 home runs, 83 fewer than the Dodgers and now 54 fewer than the Phillies. 

Arizona ranked 28th in Barrel% at 6.2% during the regular season. The Diamondbacks have a 14.4% Barrel% in the playoffs. A “barrel” is a batted ball with characteristics (exit velo, launch angle, batted ball direction/type) leading to at least a .500 expected batting average (xBA) and a 1.500 expected slugging percentage (xSLG). In other words, think doubles and home runs. 

There were 5,868 home runs hit during the regular season. Of those, 5,033 of them were “barrels”. Barrels are the highest form of contact that you can make. The Diamondbacks made very little of it during the regular season, but they’ve suddenly become a power-hitting bunch, tied for the playoff lead in homers with 13. Arizona has played one fewer game.

The problem is that the team they are tied with is the Phillies, who had an 8.7% Barrel% in the regular season, which ranked eighth. Philadelphia’s offensive prowess does seem a lot more sustainable between the lineup personnel and the larger sample size of the season.

Hard Hit% is a metric that showcases the percentage of batted balls hit at least 95 mph, which is thought to be an important threshold for displaying contact quality. The Phillies were 10th with a 40.6% Hard Hit%. The Diamondbacks were 22nd at 38.1%. Everything about Arizona’s contact authority in the playoffs feels like it should be taken with a grain of salt, but they’ve been able to score a lot more runs than anybody expected and deserve credit for that.

Not only do those metrics matter for both offenses, but they matter for the pitchers as well. Take Gallen, for example. He’s pitched well in two playoff starts with four runs allowed on 10 hits in 11.1 innings with an 8/5 K/BB ratio. But, I’ve got great concerns about him because he allowed a 46% Hard Hit% during the season and a 49.4% Hard Hit% with a 10% Barrel% in the second half. The Dodgers and Brewers were unable to take advantage. If the Phillies do, Arizona’s margin for error gets much smaller in this series.

On the other hand, the Diamondbacks held down a very dangerous Dodgers lineup by shutting down Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts. Given Arizona’s pitching numbers for the season and a patchwork bullpen that has really gotten better since the Trade Deadline acquisition of Paul Sewald, they’re executing well and have the luxury of a top-tier defense in support. 

For Arizona to be here with a below average lineup and a below average pitching staff for the season is a testament to creating a plan and sticking to it, along with the power of power. Power hides a lot of other deficiencies and the Diamondbacks were able to play from in front against the Dodgers and come from behind against the Brewers because of their contact quality. Does it continue against a Phillies pitching staff that just shut down the best offense in baseball all season long?

I don’t think so. I’m picking against Arizona again with the Phillies -170. I don’t know how much the layoff affected the Dodgers, but that’s not a factor here. The shock value of what Arizona did to the Dodgers has this price in a position where I think it’s worth taking. The prospects of a longer series definitely favor Philadelphia from a depth standpoint and I just don’t see a lot of staying power to what the Diamondbacks are doing offensively.

Pick: Phillies -170

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