Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

Christian Petersen

Hopefully the Mets won't pass over an opportunity to win some games in Phoenix.

What's going on with the Diamondbacks?

The snakes have struggled out of the gate, winning just four of 13 games during the first two weeks of the season. Add to that the two losses they accrued in Australia back in March, and you've got an ugly 4-11 record that the D-backs would like to turn around in short order.

The offense, paced by budding star Paul Goldschmidt and freshly acquired slugger Mark Trumbo, hasn't been the problem. Rather, Arizona has gotten very little production out of its starting pitching rotation so far. Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and Randall Delgado have allowed enough earned runs to equal more than half their innings pitched. Bronson Arroyo and Wade Miley haven't looked too great, either.

Manager Kirk Gibson hasn't wasted any time switching things up. Delgado has been demoted to the bullpen, while Josh Collmenter prepares to enter the rotation against the Mets. For the Diamondbacks to compete in the NL West this season, their pitching has got to improve, and you can bet they view this series as a great way to get back on track.

Who are these guys?

Chris Owings is considered the top position-player prospect in Arizona's system, and with good reason. The 22-year-old out of Charleston, South Carolina is a slick-fielding shortstop with a fair amount of pop in his bat. He may not be quite as incredible with the glove as that other young D-backs shortstop Didi Gregorius, but Owings's offensive upside is much higher. After scuffling at Double-A in 2012 with a strikeout rate of 22 percent, he improved his approach last season at Triple-A. Owings struck out just 17 percent of the time while hitting .330/.359/.482 to show he was ready for the big leagues. The rookie isn't the most patient hitter, but above-average BABIPs throughout his career show that when he hits the ball, he hits it hard.

Tony Campana is that speedster who came up with the Cubs three years ago and was a solid value pickup in fantasy leagues that counted steals as a category. He swiped 54 bags between 2011 and 2012 before being dealt to Arizona for a pair of extremely raw prospects. Campana's wheels and outfield defense are intriguing, but he strikes out far too much to be an attractive leadoff option on a good team. Still, he did manage a .370 on-base percentage in a small sample size last season, and his grittiness and versatility make him a nice bench asset for Kirk Gibson's D-backs.

Who's on the mound?

Monday: Zack Wheeler vs. Josh Collmenter

The shift for Collmenter from the bullpen to the rotation means that Monday's start will be the first for the right-handed pitcher since 2012. As a fly ball pitcher who saw a ground ball rate of just 33 percent last season, you'd think that Collmenter would be vulnerable to the long ball, but he's managed to keep that part of his game under control. In 2013, he let up just eight home runs in 92 innings while posting a 3.13 ERA and 4.06 xFIP. Instead, it's been a growing number of free passes that threaten Collmenter's longevity in the big leagues. His walk rate has increased every year since his rookie season of 2011. Speaking of walk rate, it's been nice to see Wheeler only allow a total of two in his first couple of starts, but his improved command has yet to show up in his ERA.

Tuesday: Jenrry Mejia vs. Bronson Arroyo

Arroyo is one pitcher whose real life personality doesn't quite match up with his pitching personality. He's always been a bit of a character during his big league career. In Boston he had those ridiculous cornrows. Then in Cincinnati he did this silly car commercial (language not safe for work). Arroyo has always had a funky leg kick on the mound that makes him look like a really interesting hurler, but in reality his game is kind of boring. 200 innings with a low strikeout rate and a low walk rate is still useful in baseball, but it's not going to light up a marquee. He'll probably have an ERA between 3.50 and 4.00 again in 2014 while solidifying the middle of the Reds' rotation. Yawn. The Mets would love for Mejia to be so predictable, as his 15 strikeouts and nine walks in his first two starts have made him an adventure so far.

Wednesday: Dillon Gee vs. Brandon McCarthy

From an ERA perspective, it looks like the head injury that McCarthy suffered when he was drilled by a line drive in September 2012 caused his performance to drop in 2013. After all, he did see his ERA rise from 3.24 to 4.53—that's a pretty big slide. In reality, the change in ERA probably had more to do with McCarthy switching teams than it did with any after effects of his injury. McCarthy's strikeout rate went down from 2012 to 2013, but so did his walk rate, and that caused his FIP to stay nearly identical between the two seasons. The problem was that moving into the hitter-friendly Chase Field meant more home runs and a higher BABIP for McCarthy than when he pitched in the pitcher's haven of Oakland. Now in his second season with the Snakes, McCarthy has been blasted during his first three starts to the tune of five home runs allowed and a 7.78 ERA.

Baseballs thrown by Dillon Gee are also under attack lately. The Mets' Opening Day starter has let up five home runs so far and needs to show that he can pitch a little deeper into games after three straight 100-pitch starts ended poorly for him.

Prediction: Mets go 1-2, winning only the middle game. These snakes are too desperate to lose to the Mets at home.

What about some GIFs?

Last season the Mets played a total of 10 extra innings against the D-backs. Those long games can be frustrating for both fans and players alike.

A cousin of the cream pie celebration is the bubblegum dump, and that's what Paul Goldschmidt got upon hitting a walk-off homer versus the Mets on August 9, 2013.

In a 9-5 win on August 11, Wilmer Flores got the silent treatment after hitting his first career home run.

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