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ESPN’s pitching metrics give D-backs hope with over a month left in season

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke works against a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Orlando Ramirez)

The Arizona Diamondbacks enter Thursday’s action leading the NL West by just 1.5 games, and fans are biting their nails.

But because of a strong rotation, numbers are in their favor.

In a recent ESPN article, Jay Jaffe analyzed the AL and NL contenders’ chances to make the playoffs based on FanGraphs playoff odds and rest-of-season pitching projections.

Despite having the fourth-best odds to make the playoffs in the National League, pitching metrics seem to give the Diamondbacks a solid chance to make a run in the postseason.

According to the metrics, the D-backs have the third-best projected ERA (4.05), second-best projected FIP (3.93) and second-best projected WAR (3.1) of all NL teams in the playoff hunt.

Although the D-backs don’t have an ace the level of someone like L.A.’s Clayton Kershaw, Jaffe said the depth of the rotation will help them down the stretch.

Zack Greinke may no longer be on Kershaw’s level, but no NL rotation has a trio of starters who project as well over the rest of the year than Greinke (3.60 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 0.8 WAR), Robbie Ray (3.83 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 0.7 WAR) and Patrick Corbin (3.56 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 0.7 WAR).

Greinke and Corbin have both played well this year, posting ERAs below 3.20 thus far, and veteran Clay Buchholz has been surprisingly solid with an ERA of 2.25. It is fair to expect Buchholz to come back to Earth at some point, but if he keeps playing even half as well as he has this season, he could end up being one of the best midseason pickups in franchise history.

Although these numbers should stack up well the rest of the season, the metrics showed one major road block in the D-backs’ way — the Dodgers.

The Dodgers rotation, led by Clayton Kershaw, placed first in projected ERA (3.51), FIP (3.57) and WAR (3.5). Additionally, Kenta Maeda, Walker Buehler and Rich Hill have done their parts in the rotation, all posting ERAs under 4.00 so far.

As of Thursday afternoon, the D-backs are still a good 4.5 games ahead of the third-place Dodgers, but there are plenty of games remaining. There is only one series left between the division rivals, and it is from Sept. 24 to 26 at Chase Field.

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