Series Preview #49: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Andrew Brown #12 of the Colorado Rockies is congraturlated by teammates after Brown scored in the fourth innng against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on September 20, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

So, back when the Rockies were still committed to their four-man rotation, I came up with an idea for the next Rockies series preview that basically amounted to an elaborate parody of Chopped. It would have been awesome. But then the Rockies had to go and be boring, and now I have to write an real series preview. Thanks a lot, Rockies. I hope those three extra Jhoulys Chacin starts you're getting are worth it.

Although, to be honest, the problem was never that the Rockies don't have enough good starting pitchers, the problem was that they don't have any good starting pitchers. Fourteen people have started games for the Rockies this year, and Chacin is the only one with an ERA below five. Due to injury, he's made 11 starts all season. 11 starts out of 148 for the 2012 Rockies have been made by someone with an ERA that's even adequate. Even in Coors Field, that's simply mind-boggling.

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):


Arizona
(74-75)
Colorado
(58-91)
Edge
Hitting (wRC+): 92 92
Tied
Pitching (FIP-):
93 102
Arizona
Fielding (UZR):
17.8 -35.4

Arizona

That FIP- for the Rockies becomes that much more impressive when you consider that the back end of their bullpen has thrown a lot of fairly impressive innings. It really underscores just how miserable the starting pitching has been. And UZR isn't gospel, of course, but most of the metrics seem to agree that the Rockies defense has been wretched. And for a pitching staff that has no trouble being bad on their own, looking at their outfield and seeing Michael Cuddyer "field" behind them can not be a welcome sight.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, LF
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Chris Johnson, 3B
8. John McDonald, SS

Colorado Rockies

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Josh Rutledge, SS
3. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
4. Wilin Rosario, C
5. Tyler Colvin, 1B
6. Chris Nelson, 3B
7. Charlie Blackmon, LF
8. DJ LeMahieu, 2B

  • This happens with a lot of bad teams late in the year, but it's always amazing to see how different some lineups look in September from what they were supposed to look like March. I mean, the Rockies were supposed to have a middle of the order of CarGo-Tulowitzki-Helton. Michael Cuddyer was supposed to be lineup protection for those three. Marco Scutaro was supposed to hold down second base for the season while doing OBPy things in front of the heart of the order. Amazingly few of those things have actually happened.
  • John Sickels from Minor League Ball had Josh Rutledge as his 10th best Rockie prospect before the season started and he had DJ LeMahieu as his 16th best. Rutledge had a walk rate of 3.7% in Double-A, LeMahieu had a Slugging Percentage under .400 in the PCL. Imagine sleeping through the first five months of the season and finding out that Chris Owings and Jake Elmore had started most of the games in the middle infield for the Diamondbacks. That's been pretty much what's happened to the Rockies this year.
  • Although, to be fair, Rutledge has been a pleasant surprise so far. With an OPS+ of 107 as a rookie second baseman, the Rockies might have just found Tulo a consistent double-play partner for 2013 and beyond. The "let's see what the rookies can do!" mindset that bad teams adopt as the season winds down produces successful starters far less frequently than those teams would like to believe. Rutledge might just be one of the lucky few.
  • Carlos Gonzalez is hitting .265/.349/.410 since the all-star break, which isn't anything to write home about, particularly at Coors Field. So that's satisfying...at least until you realize that he's making less money than anyone in the Diamondbacks' starting outfield while still having a better 2012 OPS than anyone on the Diamondbacks. Sigh...

Probable Pitchers:

Friday: Wade Miley (15-10, 3.10) vs. Drew Pomeranz (1-9, 5.06)

Insightful Commentary: Miley certainly hasn't been awful recently, but he has an ERA of 4.85 over his last four starts, and this is his only four-game stretch of the season where he's allowed at least three runs in all of his starts. Of course, this is a teensy sample size, and it's not even a terribly interesting one, since it's not like he's been Vogelsong-level bad in September or anything. But it merits keeping an eye on, since it is the end of the season, and he is well above his previous max in innings. It's probably nothing, unless it is.

You already know the story of Drew Pomeranz's 2012. As the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, he was generally considered to be the best pitching prospect the Rockies had, and he was expected, probably unreasonably, to be a contributor right away. Instead, his strikeout rate has been surprisingly pedestrian (possibly due to problems with his secondary pitches), his walk rate has been concerning, and his HR/9 has been Coors Field-ian. He's looked better recently, and there's still plenty of potential, but he proved to be farther away from being major league ready than most pundits expected. You know this tale already, because somewhere, Bauer and Skaggs are nodding sadly.

Saturday: Patrick Corbin (6-7, 4.02) vs. Jeff Francis (5-6, 5.58)

Insightful Commentary: Honestly, the more I see of Corbin, the more I like him. He has a much healthier ground ball rate than Skaggs so far, and his K:BB has been noticeably better as well. I don't say any of this to disparage Skaggs, who I still like a lot going forward, but rather to point out that Corbin has been a perfectly servicable mid-rotation starter as a 23-year-old rookie. That's not too shabby.

So, I had a sinus infection a couple weekends ago, and I spent most of my time lying in bed coughing and watching Troll 2. But of course, I still had to eat, and obviously sick people just want their food to be as low-effort as possible. But being a poor college student, I had very little food in my house at all, and even less that's recommended for people who are sick. There was some beer, some frozen chicken wings, some moldy bread that my roommate bought and was too lazy to dispose of like a normal person, and there was Ramen, of course. I ate the Ramen, not because it was exciting, healthy or even tasty, but because I just wanted something simple and bland that wouldn't make the situation any more unpleasant than it already was. My pantry is the Rockies' pitching staff, their 2012 has been one long sinus infection, and Jeff Francis is their Ramen.

Sunday: Ian Kennedy (14-11, 4.08) vs. TBA

Insightful Commentary: As I alluded to a few weeks ago, Kennedy is a good start away from having 15 wins and an ERA below 4 on the year. Not that that tells the whole story or anything, but still, doesn't it feel like his season has been much more miserable than that?

The Rockies are just throwing things at the wall right now and seeing what sticks, so I don't know what they'll do with this start. If they stay with their current set up though, it should feature either Alex White or Jhoulys Chacin. Stay tuned!

Monday: Trevor Cahill (12-11, 3.89) vs.TBA

Insightful Commentary: In a weird quirk, Cahill hasn't allowed a GB% under 50% in a game since July 15. On the surface, that isn't all that surprising, considering that he's a sinkerballer, but that's an oversimplification. Even the most grounder-heavy pitchers in the game struggle to be that consistent, and when you consider that his struggles earlier in the season seemed to generally correspond with his inability to harness his sinker, this starts seeming like an interesting development. It all adds up to a season GB% of 61.6%, by far his career high. For context, Brandon Webb had a GB% of 61.8 in 2007, when he came within striking distance of the scoreless inning streak.

Sigh...c'mon Rockies. Give me something to work with here.

Final Verdict: The D-Backs actually lost a game in the wild card race over the weekend, and now find themselves 5.5 games back with 13 to play. It's obviously still technically possible, but just to be safe, they should probably plan on not losing any more games. Based on what I've seen this season, I suspect they'll have a hard time executing that plan. Diamondbacks and Rockies each take two.

Apparently, "Purple Row" isn't just a Rockies fan blog, but it's actually a literal landmark in Coors Field where the stadium reaches a mile above sea level. The more you know!

(Stats via Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs)

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