Opposing Pitcher Preview: 5/21-5/23 Corbin, Cahill, Saunders

The first place Dodgers once again take on the third place Diamondbacks.Since the last time these two teams faced off, the Dodgers took 4 of 5 from the Padres and Cardinals, and the Diamondbacks dropped 3 of 5 from the Rockies and Royals. Trying to gain some ground as the season reaches its midpoint, the Diamondbacks will send Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill and Joe Saunders up against Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly. Interesting note: both Saunders and Corbin were part of the package (along with Rafael Rodriguez) that was sent by Anaheim for Dan Haren in 2010.

Monday, May 21: Patrick Corbin (L)

Drafted by the Angels in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, Corbin has had a dubious start to his major league career. After being named Southern League Pitcher of the Week three separate times last year, Corbin has yet to see that same success in the major leagues. In his four career starts (all this year), he's averaging 5.5 innings per start (22 total), and 7 walks to only 15 strikeouts. More importantly, he's allowed 25 hits over those 22 innings, a number he can't continue if he expects to be successful. Data is limited, but so far Corbin has been throwing a four- and two-seam 90mph fastball 73% of the time, with a 78mph slider (15%) and 80 mph changeup (11%) mixed in. The heat maps for Corbin are interesting. He loves to throw his four seam fastball inside to right-handed hitters, but he stays mostly away from lefties, preferring to keep his fastball on the third base side of the plate. However, when he throws it goes with the two-seam fastball, he has been leaving it in the dead center of the plate. His slider behaves much like his fastball in that he throws the same fastball no matter which side of the plate the hitter is on. What this means is he'll throw his slider under the hands of the righties (a very dangerous pitch if poorly executed) and down and away to the lefties. He totally abandons his changeup to lefties.

What to Watch For: Corbin has only had one good start so far, and his last one was his worst (6IP, 9H, 6ER, 3K 2BB). Watch for him to throw his fastball, slider and changeup inside to our right-handed hitters, but keep his fastball and slider away to the lefties. Also, watch to see if he gets his two-seam fastball over the heart of the plate for our hitters to drive. He doesn't have much velocity, so this could be an opportunity for some hitters to get hot and others to stay hot.

Tuesday, May 22: Trevor Cahill (R)

It feels like the 24 year old Cahill has been in the major leagues forever. Already in his fourth season, Cahill has a career record of 42-39 between playing in Oakland and Arizona. Acquired with Craig Breslow and cash by the Diamondbacks this past December in exchange for Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill and Jarrod Parker, Cahill also hasn't had the best start to his 2012 season. After 8 starts, Cahill has an ERA of 4.01, is walking far too many guys (3.8 per 9) and not striking anyone out (5.7 per 9) for a K:BB of 1.48. Remember, anything below 2:1 is a pretty good indicator of future and current struggles.

Part of Cahill's struggles can be attributed to his decline in fastball velocity over the last two years. In 2010, Cahill was throwing a 91mph sinker and a 91mph four-seam fastball. Now in 2012, Cahill is throwing both pitches at 88mph, giving hitters much longer to recognize the incoming pitch. He's now primarily a sinker/changeup pitcher, throwing his sinker 52% of the time and his 80mph changeup 25% of the time. He will also mix in a slider or curveball that range from 78 to 82mph.

What to Watch For: The Dodgers as a team are 7th in MLB in walks. If Cahill can't (or won't) attack the zone with any kind of velocity, he's going to have a long day against a patient Dodgers lineup. The only right-handed starting pitcher we'll face in this series, it could be a good opportunity for our left-handed heavy lineup to get healthy.

Wednesday, May 23: Joe Saunders (L)

Saunders started his 2012 out on a tear, but has since had three straight poor starts. He's still the same old Joe Saunders, no strikeouts but no walks, but too many hits keep his ERAs in the mid-4 range. At a 3.55 ERA so far in 2012, this upcoming start could be the one that pushes his numbers closer to their career averages.

Saunders has gone from throwing 92mph on average in 2007 to only 89mph in 2012, his age 30 season. Hard to believe Joe Saunders is only 30. He throws his fastballs 70% of the time, mixing in an 80mph change (18% of the time), and a 74mph curveball (10%). One key thing here is how similar in velocity his fastball and offspeed pitches are. Ideally, he should have up to 10mph more in speed differential for those pitches to be successful. A quick look at his heat maps shows an incredible lack of control for Saunders. He throws strikes, but they're frequently to the heart of the plate. He completely abandons his changeup to lefties, preferring the curveball. Think of Saunders as Patrick Corbin 2.0.

What to Watch For: Certainly keep an eye out for Dodgers hitters to be patient against Saunders. He's going to want to induce weak contact by changing speeds on batters, but if they can wait for a pitch they can drive (I'm looking at you, Sellers), the Dodgers should be in a god position to win this series on Wednesday.

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