Series Preview #47: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies

Dustin Bradford

Tonight, on a very special episode of Series Previews...

At one point this season, the thought "man, the Rockies could end up being a real threat this year, if the pitching holds" crossed my mind. If I had to put a date on it, I'd assume this happened sometime in April, a month that the Rockies began 13-4. But man, did it seem semi-rational at the time.

The offense would be the best in the division, of course, with a stacked lineup playing its home games at Coors Field. And even if the nicest thing you could say about the rotation was how it couldn't possibly be as bad as last year's, that might have been enough, with a great offense and a hot start.

As it turns out, the Rockies have gone 54-76 since that hot start, which would stick them with about 95 losses over the course of a full season. Or if you prefer: the Rockies won almost 20% of their games so far this year by April 20th.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):


Arizona
(73-72)
Colorado
(67-80)
Edge
Hitting (wRC+): 91 89 Arizona
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
97/101 99/91 Ask a Friend
Fielding (UZR):
45.1 11.6

Arizona


Like I said, the combination of great offense and good-enough pitching was always going to be a tough one to maintain. But man, I really thought the pitching would be the tough half.

Since the second half of the season began, the Rockies have hit .271/.306/.417. And while that line would be pretty decent at Petco Park, it's borderline unacceptable at Coors Field, where approximately 1 out every 17 balls hit in the air leaves and never returns from the thin, nebulous wisps of vapor that Denver calls an "atmosphere."

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Adam Eaton, LF
2. A.J. Pollock, CF
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Aaron Hill, 2B
5. Martin Prado, 3B
6. Gerardo Parra, RF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Didi Gregorius, SS

Colorado Rockies

1. Corey Dickerson, LF
2. D.J. LaMahieu, 2B
3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Wilin Rosario, C
6. Todd Helton, 1B
7. Nolan Arenado, 3B
8. Charlie Blackmon, CF

Troy Tulowitzki has never had more than 500 Plate Appearances in a season and produced less than 5 fWAR. He breaks a lot, but when he's not broken, he averages a Win Above Replacement about every 100 PAs, which is pretty incredible to do in five different seasons.

And speaking of broken things, Tulo, Dexter Fowler, and Carlos Gonzalez have combined to miss 270 games since the start of 2012. Considering that that's pretty much the Rockies' offensive core at this point, that's probably cause for concern. But I'm sure Dan O'Dowd knows what he's doing. Actually, at this point, I'm more sure of the opposite of that.

But if Tulo's the devil that you know, Arenado is the one you might not. He's been the Rockies' top prospect for a while now, and while his offense has been pretty blah by Coors Field standards, he's accrued almost 3 fWAR primarily on the basis of his defense, which UZR thinks is second only to Manny Machado among Third Basemen. I haven't seen enough of Arenado's defense to make a claim one way or another, but Purple Row has been impressed.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Brandon McCarthy (4-9, 4.66) vs. Tyler Chatwood (7-4, 3.17)

Insightful Commentary: Screw it, I'm drinking the "Brandon McCarthy has fixed everything with a minor mechanical adjustment" Kool-Aid, because it looks effing delicious and it's just gonna go to waste if I don't. Since that awful start against Cincy, McCarthy has an ERA of 1.88 in three starts and a K:BB of 13. It's just so much more satisfying to attribute that to a sustainable change than random dumb luck.

Everything about Tyler Chatwood's breakout partial season sorta checks out until you get to his get to his HR/9 of 0.48. At Coors Field. I know he's upped his GB%, but he doesn't strike that many opponents out, and he doesn't have the pinpoint precision to get away with not striking that many guys out. It's always fun to laugh at the Angels' could-have-been young pitching staff, but I think we're going to regression in Chatwood's future.

Saturday: Wade Miley (9-10, 3.73) vs. Roy Oswalt (0-5, 8.73)

Insightful Commentary: Miley has an outside chance at 200 innings this year, which he just barely missed last year. As we've gained more insight to Miley's strengths and weaknesses this year, it seems like the 200 inning mark would be more of a boon for Miley than a concern. He's probably never going to strike out enough batters to be an ace, so seeing him transform into an innings-eating mid-rotation guy is probably the next best thing. You would have taken it after 2011, I promise you that.

I'll be honest, I thought I'd watched the last start of Roy Oswalt's career when he hurt his leg in his last start against Arizona. But here he is, scheduled to make his first start since then (he made a single relief appearance last week).

Sunday: Randall Delgado (4-6, 4.04) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (13-8, 3.09)

Insightful Commentary: You know how sometimes television comedies stay on the air for too long and all the characters become lazy over-the-top stereotypes of what they used to be? That's what Delgado's 2.2 inning, four-homer game against LA felt like. C'mon Randall, we get that you like homers, just give us a little bit of nuance to go with it.

That Jhoulys Chacin that I knew had electric stuff and got over a strikeout per inning in 2010. It's been a weird ride since then, and this Chacin is not that Chacin anymore. But while the strikeouts are a pale shadow of what he used to get, he doesn't walk guys anymore. Part of his success is due to the tiny HR/FB, but he's also locating better than he ever has in his career.

An Arbitrary Number of Questions:

Is Todd Helton going to retire? Probably, yeah. If this is it, Todd, thanks for being one of the greatest and least-appreciated hitters I've had the privilege of watching as a fan of the opposite team. Thanks for putting up a better career OPS than Mel Ott, Ty Cobb, and Alex Rodriguez. And the opposite of thanks for this.

What'cha doing there, Ryan Wheeler? Oh nothing much, just some beatboxin'. (H/T Purple Row)

Why is this a feature again? Because the Diamondbacks aren't going to the playoffs so the list of teams ahead of them is just going to be depressing. And I want to make sure you guys are getting your money's worth with your AZ Snake Pit subscription.

(All stats via Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs unless otherwise indicated.)

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