(This is the first installment of what will hopefully become a bi-weekly routine here on AZ Snakepit. If you guys have any suggestions or comments for what I should add/remove from my series previews, let me know in the comments. Also, I'm taking nominations for names that are more clever than "Series Preview #1." Remember, the more terrible the puns, the better the suggestion.)
So, remember at the end of 2007, when the Diamondbacks and Rockies battled in the NLCS and people were touting it as the beginning of a new rivalry in the NL West? Yeah.... Since then, the Diamondbacks have descended into the oblivion of rebuilding, while the Rockies have had two consecutive winning seasons and have put themselves in good position for a third. Both teams had a solid core of young position players in 2007, but while our young players have seemingly plateaued/been maddeningly inconsistent, Colorado's core has flourished and continues to play a huge role in their development as a team. The Rockies have also done a good job supplementing their stars with solid, cheap veterans (Joe Beimel, Rafael Betancourt, Melvin Mora), and low-risk, high-reward signings (Jose De La Rosa, Matt Belisle). Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks gave 3 years/$30 million to Eric Byrnes. So there you go. For these reasons, the Rockies are generally expect to contend for their first NL West crown, while the Diamondbacks are nearly unanimously expected to finish last. But hey, at least we don't have Dinger.
Join me for more i
n-depth coverage uninformed ramblings after the jump.
Starting Position Players (Via mlbdepthcharts):
Now, normally this feature would consist of me talking about which players on the opposing team are having good seasons or are on hot streaks, but since the 2011 season is purely hypothetical at this point, all we have to go on is vague, unsubstantiated guesses and stats from last season. And the stats from last season suggest that Troy Tulowtitzki is a beast. While he is not terribly popular on the 'Pit and he likes certain female pop singers a little too much, it is impossible to deny his skills. Over the past 4 years, he has accumulated 19.1 (Baseball-reference) WAR, second only to Hanley Ramirez among NL shortstops over that period. And since he's signed with Rockies through 2020, Diamondback fans will have up to 180 opportunities to call Tulo a douche while he's on the Rockies. Carlos Gonzalez enjoyed a breakout year last year, sporting a OPS+ of 143 and garnering some MVP consideration in the process. While a BABIP of .384 is almost certainly unsustainable, Gonzalez will probably be a force in the league, and in the NL West, for years to come.
Luckily, the rest of the Rockies lineup is rather mediocre. Jose Lopez, recently imported from Seattle, should benefit from a good dose of Coors Field. Todd Helton, though as grizzled and veteran-y as ever, sported a OPS+ of 87 last year and, at 36, his best days are clearly behind him. The Rockies are hoping for breakout years from C Chris Iannetta, 3B Ian Stewart, and CF Dexter Fowler, all of whom struggled last season despite showing plenty of promise in the past. If these three can get on track, look for Colorado to make a lot of noise in the NL West this season.
Pitching: The Pitching matchups are as follows:
Friday: Ian Kennedy vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
Insightful commentary: Ubaldo Jimenez finished third in the NL Cy Young. Ian Kennedy spent most of last season as the third-best pitcher on a team with a collective 4.81 ERA. The Rockies might have an ever-so-slight advantage here.
Saturday: Daniel Hudson vs. Jorge De La Rosa
Insightful commentary: George Of The Rose has had an interesting career. He bounced around the league for a few years, never quite living up to his enormous talent. He then wound up in Coors Field, and while normally sending a struggling pitcher to Coors Field would work about as well as sending your son to Arizona State to stop his incessant partying, he has become an important contributor for the Rockies. In the span of four years, going from a talented but underachieving starter who had almost played his way out of the league, to a low-profile signing with Colorado, to a steady, front-end starter. Basically, he is the exact inverse of Mike Hampton.
Sunday: Joe Saunders vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Insightful commentary: Jhoulys Chacin scares me, and not just because his name sounds like some sort of South American chili pepper. Chacin burst onto the scene last year by posting a 3.28 ERA in his first year as a starter. If he can keep his walk rate under control, he has the potential to be very good for a long time. Joe Saunders also scares me, but for entirely different reasons.
Final Verdict: Going on the road to begin the season against a (probably) superior team doesn't exactly scream "Series victory" to me. As it stands now, if it ends in anything other than a sweep, I will be content. And if that sounds overly pessimistic out of the gate, then consider this your welcome to 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks baseball.
To get the Rockies perspective on our beloved Diamondbacks, head over to Purple Row for the best Rockies coverage on the interwebz.