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Series Preview #13: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies


Going into the season, the Rockies best starting pitcher was probably Jeremy Guthrie. It wasn't necessarily Jeremy Guthrie; you probably could have convinced me that Jhoulys Chacin was ready to take the next step forward and become a front-line starter, or that Drew Pomeranz was going to be good right away and lead the rotation. But still, Jeremy Guthrie was as good a candidate as any for being the "ace" of the 2012 Colorado Rockies, a team that people thought could challenge for the NL West title.

This is not a post to disparage Jeremy Guthrie, who held his own in the AL East for five years. Still, Guthrie is a 33-year-old with a 4.23 ERA and a history of giving up fly balls. And he was one of the guys expected to lead a staff (in Coors Field no less) to a division championship. People periodically listed the Rockies as a dark horse headed into the season. As a counterpoint, I present Jeremy Guthrie: ace of Coors Field.

A month and a half into the season, the Rockies have the worst team ERA in the NL, at 5.06. This is a touch problematic, even by Coors Field standards. Of course, the pitching isn't being helped by the fact that crucial members of the offense, including Todd Helton, Marco Scutaro and Troy Tulowitzki, are all underperforming compared to their career averages.

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):

Hitting (wRC+): 87 96
Pitching (FIP-):
105 107
Fielding (UZR):
8.6 -13.6 Arizona

I haven't really mentioned defensive statistics in this space very often, but this one's too good to pass up. The starting Rockies outfield of Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, and Michael Cuddyer have a collective UZR/150 games of -80.9. Their regular UZR is -14.5. If you buy Fangraphs' assumption that 10 runs buys you one win, then the Rockies' outfield has contributed a loss and a half in 35 starts based on their defense alone. Sure, this is a tiny sample size for defense, and Gonzalez, at least, has rated as a good defensive OF in the past, but still, that is just horrifyingly awful.

Starting Lineups

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Willie Bloomquist, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Cody Ransom, 3B
8. Gerardo Parra, CF

Colorado Rockies

1. Marco Scutaro, 2B
2. Dexter Fowler, CF
3. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
5. Todd Helton, 1B
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
7. Ramon Hernandez, C
8. Chris Nelson, 3B

Fowler and Tulo are both currently listed as day-to-day, so we may not see either of them for the upcoming series. This might work out well for the Rockies, actually, since both players are hitting below their career averages. Fowler has had dismal BABIP luck that has resulted in a batting average of .219 this year. But his walk rate and his ISO are both solid, so he should be fine.

Tulo's a little weirder. His numbers are down across the board, but nowhere is more noticeable than his power. In 141 PAs this year, Tulowitzki has nine extra base hits, which is somewhat startling to see from him. Right now, Rockie fans are most likely in the same "he's gonna be okay...right?" mindset that we're all in with Justin Upton.

Luckily for the Rockies, Gonzalez has stepped in nicely, with a line of .301/.386/.553, which is much more similar to his numbers in '10 than in '11. This is a problem, because 2010 was the year when he finished third in the MVP voting. Helton and Cuddyer have both made fine careers out of hitting the baseball really well, but both have been more or less league average this year. And in a situation that we can all relate to, third base has been a huge hole, with incumbent Chris Nelson sporting an OPS+ of 56.

Pitching Matchups

Wednesday: Patrick Corbin (2-1, 4.50) vs. Jamie Moyer (1-3, 4.66)

Insightful Commentary: With the notable caveat that it came against the Giants, Corbin pitched well his last time out, going seven innings and allowing only one run. He's pitched well, considering that he was in Double-A less than a month ago, but one thing to keep an eye on with Corbin is his swinging-strike rate. Three games into his career, he hasn't gotten more than four swings and misses in a game, which suggests that his stuff is not of the swing and miss variety at the major league level. This doesn't mean that Corbin can't or won't be successful going forward, but it does mean that his location needs to be that much sharper.

Jamie Moyer is actually so old that making old jokes at his expense is, in and of itself, old hat, so I'll stick to one. When Patrick Corbin was born in 1989, Jamie Moyer was almost 27 and was finishing up an injury-plagued season for the Rangers in which he had a 4.86 ERA. There was probably some sportswriter, somewhere who wrote an article that year suggesting that Moyer might be done after that year. Jamie Moyer was "washed up" when Pat Corbin was an infant. Jamie Moyer is still pitching.

Thursday: Trevor Cahill (2-4, 3.65) vs. Juan Nicasio (2-1, 4.65)

Insightful Commentary: Cahill's last start against the Rockies was a triumph, where he went 7.1 innings and allowed one run, and that one run was due to bullpen malfunctions. But then again, that was also the game where it snowed, and then rained, and then snowed some more without umpire interference. The moral of the story: Denver is a weird place where dumb things happen.

Nicasio actually has the best ERA among the Rockies' starters, though it is quite literally one one-hundredth of a run better than Moyer's. Of course, it's not like he's setting the world on fire with his 4.65 ERA. But he's bounced back well from last year's injury, maintaining his solid BB/K rate. He should be solidly above-average once his BABIP, which is currently at .359, evens out a bit.

Final Verdict: Again, who can even tell with these two game series? Not that anyone can predict a three game series either, but still, that's no reason to make it even harder on me. Alright, fine, Rockies and Diamondbacks each win a game. Happy?

As always, if Rockies' news is what you want to know, Purple Row is the place to go. Rhymes!

(Stats from Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Brooks Baseball)