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Series Preview #33: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies

There's this movie company called The Asylum, who specialize in what are called 'mockbusters' -films designed to cause viewers confusion in the video store. For example, the same week Snakes on a Plane was released, The Asylum came out with Snakes on a Train. This is relevant, because tor the next couple of weeks, Zavada's Moustache is off in S.E. Europe. As a result, so you'll have to make do with my "mockbuster" approach to his series previews: in other words, you'll get roughly the same number of words, just don't expect the same wit.

We start with the Rockies, who come to Arizona this weekend, in a state of some disarray. Remember the 2009 Diamondbacks? Expected by many to compete, they struggled with injuries and under-performance, limping their way to 70 wins, while frustrating and disappointing their fanbase. Welcome to your 2011 Rockies.

The last time we saw Colorado was May 24-26, when we went to Denver and took three of four, part of the 13-1 run that took Arizona from the cellar to the penthouse of the NL West [albeit for a "weekend timeshare" kind of stay]. Since that series, we have gone 27-22, while the Rockies are 23-27, and sit six games behind the Diamondbacks. For a team that was expected to be right up there, competing with the Giants in 2011, to be sitting below .500 as July comes to an end can only be disappointing, and the tone of discussions over at Purple Row reflects this, with discussion as to whether or not Ubaldo Jimenez should be traded, an unthinkable proposition on Opening Day.
Hitting (wRC+): 95 94 Even
Pitching (FIP):
4.05 4.07 Even
Fielding (UZR):
27.7 2.3 Arizona

Both hitting and pitching are probably two close to call; Arizona is marginally better in both, but I wouldn't be comfortable enough with the advantage to call it an "edge". At the plate, Todd Helton has experienced a startling resurrection this year, and his current OPS+ of 134 is the Toddfather's best number since 2005. Not bad for a man who turns 38 next month. The alternative at first, Jason Giambi, has shown he still has his power, with ten home-runs in less than a hundred at-bats, and the two players locked up long-term, Troy Tuolwitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, have also been producing, though both are down on last year's numbers.

Second baseman Jonathan Herrera is an obvious weak spot offensively, and CF Dexter Fowler was so bad... [How bad was he...?] He was so bad, he was sent to the minors for a month, only rejoining the team after the All-Star break. So far so good, as he has gone 6-for-19 in the second-half., but it's still a long climb for him to get his numbers up to what were expected. The Colorado bench hasn't been up to much, outside of Giambi and Mark Ellis, acquired from the A's at the start of this month,

On the mound, it's probably significant that Jorge de la Rosa hasn't pitched since May, and still ranks third among Colorado pitchers by fWAR. The list is headed, of course, by Jimenez: early season concerns about his velocity seem largely to have been allayed, with a 2.70 ERA during his past six starts, over which time he has struck out more than a batter per inning. The problem is the rest of the rotation, and in particular, Aaron Cook, who is being paid $9.25 million this year, and has yet to win a game in seven attempts. However, they have some solid components in the bullpen, to get them to closer Huston Street: Matt Lindstrom has a 3.00 ERA in 44 games.

Typical Rockies line-up

  1. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
  2. Mark Ellis, 2B
  3. Todd Helton, 1B
  4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
  5. Seth Smith, RF
  6. Ian Stewart, 3B
  7. Chris Iannetta, C
  8. Dexter Fowler, CF

A major caveat on the above, is that CarGo's status is unclear at the time of writing. He had to leave yesterday's game against Atlanta after apparently re-injuring his wrist. He will be traveling with the team to Phoenix, but a DL stint has not been ruled out.

Pitching match-ups

Friday: Aaron Cook (0-5, 5.82) vs. Daniel Hudson (10-5, 3.56)
This is one the Diamondbacks should not just be taking to the bank and depositing, they should also be claiming it as a dependent on their tax returns. I'm not going to classify this contest as a "must win" - but, really, if the team manages to lose to Cook, with their ace on the mound, then they should be very, very embarrassed. Call it a "really, really should win":game.

Cook missed all of April and May, fracturing a finger during spring training, and has managed one quality start in seven games. The Rockies may be looking to move him, but given his recent performances, will not find many takers. As noted previously, Daniel Hudson's numbers for us have been strikingly close to those posted by Brandon Webb early in his career, and he has been even better at Chase than on the road: in Phoenix, his ERA has been 2.80 over ten starts.

Saturday Jason Hammel (5-9, 4.36) vs. Josh Collmenter (5-5, 2.65)
Tend to think this one favors the D-backs as well, though perhaps not as strongly. Part of the issue is that Collmenter will be making his second start against the Rockies - and the first one didn't go all that well. On May 24  at Coors Field, he didn't get through five innings, though the majority of the five runs he allowed were unearned. That was Josh's first-ever loss in the majors. However, his outing against Milwaukee proved that he could have success against a team who has seem him more than once.

Hammel will deliver a quality start, but get a no-decision. That's my fearless prediction, purely on the basis that he has been operating on a strict four-game cycle since the end of May: Quality ND, Loss, Win, Loss. That would also tie-in with what happened when he faced us at Chase on May 5. He blanked us for seven innings, but we got homers by Gerardo Parra and Chris Young in the ninth to tie it, then Upton blooped a ball down the line in the tenth for a walk-off win. I think we'd settle for more of that.

Sunday: Ubaldo Jimenez (6-8, 4.00) vs. TBA
Yahoo still says it's Barry Enright going for Arizona, but that seems pretty unlikely, unless Kevin Towers is playing some really convoluted game of misdirection. It will probably be Zach Duke or Micah Owings; I am leaning toward the former, though we'll see who gets used in the bullpen over the next couple of days. It'd be amusing if it is Duke; because it would leave his exile from and reinstatement to the rotation feeling more like a badly-considered pro wrestling angle than a logical movie. Cue Vince McMahon roaming the locker-room, yelling "You're fired!" at random occupants.

Does that make Ubaldo the equivalent of C.M. Punk? I'm probably stretching the metaphor perilously thin at that point. As noted above, this Jimenez is probably not going to be the one we crushed on Opening Day, tagging him for six runs in six innings. He has been particularly good away from Coors: over seven road starts since the beginning of May, he has allowed 11 ER in 50.1 innings, a 1.97 ERA. If Arizona has not won the series by Sunday afternoon, it could prove an uphill struggle.

Brave prediction.
Saturday looks to be the decisive contest, with Arizona likely to take the opener and Colorado the finale. I was definitely impressed by Collmenter's last start, as he broke the curse of repeat viewing by teams, shutting Milwaukee down in even more dominating fashion than he had the first time. However, the Rockies dealt well enough with him when they saw him previously, so he probably should be looking at adjustments. I feel a spark of optimism, and reckon Arizona will take two of three. Of course, check out Purple Row for the purple-tinged view, which may differ...

[Records through Thursday night, most individual stats through Wednesday, because Fangraphs haven't updated their numbers yet]