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Series Preview #19: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies

Because winning games matters.  Chase what matters.
Because winning games matters. Chase what matters.

One of the more perplexing mysteries so far for Diamondback fans is why their team has been so awful at home. At 10-15, the D-Backs have the worst home record in the National League, and improvement on that front would be a solid step toward returning to contention. The question of why this is happening has plagued many a Diamondback scholar in 2012, but after careful consultation with my statistical crystal ball, I have divined the truth like the magi of old. Look upon my numbers, ye Stat Nerds, and despair!

Series-by-series results:

1. vs. Giants (0-0 then, 30-24 now): win three games to none.

2. vs. Pirates (3-6 then, 27-26 now): loss two games to one.

3. vs. Braves (7-5 then, 29-25 now): loss three games to none.

4. vs. Phillies (7-9 then, 28-27 now): loss two games to one.

5. vs. Cardinals (17-11 then, 27-27 now): loss three games to none.

6. vs Giants (15-16 then, 30-24 now): loss two games to one.

7. vs. Dodgers (28-13 then, 33-21 now): loss two games to one.

8. vs. Brewers (18-26 then, 24-30 now): win two games to one.

Mediocre teams have the annoying tendency of losing to good teams. The Diamondbacks in 2012 have been a mediocre team through 54 games, and by and large, the teams that they have played at home have better records than the D-Backs and/or were playing better than the D-Backs at the time of the series. The only team for which that was not the case was the Brewers, and that resulted in a series victory. Of the other teams, is there anyone on that list who the Diamondbacks should be clearly better than? Okay fine, other than the Pirates, is there anyone on that list who the Diamondbacks should be clearly better than?

Clearly the solution to the Diamondbacks' home woes is to play worse teams. They should really just get on that already.

And that's where the Rockies come in. See, the Rockies enter this series 1.5 games behind the Diamondbacks. Their Run Differential is...err, let's ignore that for now. The point is, by the arbitrary pattern I pointed out in the last paragraph, the Diamondbacks should win this series. Or something.

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):

Hitting (wRC+): 88 101
Pitching (FIP-):
101 103
Fielding (UZR):
16.1 -17.5 Arizona

Don't look now, but the Rockies pitching, which was hysterically bad when we last checked in, is dangerously close to being tolerable now. Well, the process is there at least, though the results are lagging a bit. The Rockies still have a team ERA of 5.13, which is awful, but it is supported by a 4.30 FIP, which is less awful. The Rockies' bullpen has been responsible for much of the not-awful, with the fourth best FIP- in baseball. Just something to keep in mind when Daron or Grace inevitably mentions "well, at least the bullpen is coming into the game" after seven innings of getting shut down by Christian Friedrich or someone.

Starting Lineups

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Willie Bloomquist, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Jason Kubel, LF
5. Chris Young, CF
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
8. Ryan Roberts, 3B

Colorado Rockies

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Marco Scutaro, SS
3. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Todd Helton, 1B
6. Jordan Pacheco, 3B
7. Wllin Rosario, C
8. D.J LeMahieu, 2B

Another way to read the Rockies lineup is:

1. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
2-8. A bunch of other dudes who follow Carlos Gonzalez around while wearing matching clothing

In his last 32 PAs, Carlos Gonzalez has a line of .533/.563/1.233, with six home runs along the way. This has gotten most of the attention, and deservedly so, but CarGo has been great all season. He trails only David Wright among NL hitters in OPS on the season. Put in non-Coors Field-enhanced numbers, that evens out to a wRC+ of 174, fourth in the NL. Another former Diamondback farmhand, Carlos Quentin, earned himself the nickname "He Who Must Not Be Named" by being significantly worse than that when he almost won an MVP in 2008. Just sayin'.

The second important thing about the Rockies' lineup is that it currently has a large, douche-shaped hole in the middle, with Troy Tulowitzki on the DL. Tulowitzki's struggles were somewhat overstated this year, as he still had an OPS of .846 in 2012, and something tells me that Scutaro and 23-year-old DJ LeMahieu will struggle to replicate that production in his absence.

Also, here is your LOLCoors line of the day, courtesy of Dexter Fowler. Don't get me wrong, Fowler's had a very good year on the whole, but so far he's been vintage Barry Bonds as a hitter at home in 2012, and vintage Barry Enright as a hitter on the road. Among other hitters, Rosario has had a nice rookie year, seizing the starter catcher role with an OPS of .825. It's also terrifying how similar Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are. I'm not sure why the early-2000s Twins would clone stocky corner outfielders who hit .290 with power, but I wouldn't put it past them.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.61) vs. Christian Friedrich (3-1, 5.59)

Insightful Commentary: Saunders has a K/BB rate of 12:3 in his last two starts, which has pushed his FIP under 4 (3.99 to be precise). Saunders has never finished a season with an FIP under 4, including the year he won 17 games for the Angels. Maybe regression isn't around the corner for him, maybe he really is just pitching better than he ever has in his professional career.

Friedrich was a really, really good prospect until he wasn't. I'm not really sure how to explain him other than that. He cruised through the lower levels of the Rockies' farm system in 2008 and 2009. And then he hit Double-A Tulsa in 2010, his K-rate fell off a cliff and he blacked out and woke up one morning at the end of 2011 still in Double-A with an ERA of 5 and injury problems. He pieced it back together for 30 innings in Triple-A in 2012, and it got him a trip to the majors. The peripherals have been amazing in five starts so far, so we'll see if the production starts to follow.

Tuesday: Ian Kennedy (4-5, 4.26) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (3-3, 5.48)

Insightful Commentary: In the bottom of the sixth inning against the Giants, in a game the D-Backs needed to avoid a sweep, Kennedy walked two straight batters in front of the middle of the order with no one out. It was a very quintessential 2012 moment for Kennedy, and it brought the Dread flooding back for Diamondback fans. Kennedy got the lead runner on a Ryan Theriot bunt, struck out Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey, and locked down the next two innings for good measure. There's a fine and arbitrary distinction between a solid front-line starter and an "ace." The Giants game was the first time in a long time that Kennedy showed that he belonged in the latter category rather than the former.

Guthrie is a flyball pitcher with a history of allowing plenty of home runs. This year, Guthrie was traded to a team that plays in a home park notorious for turning flyballs into home runs. Of course this has happened. What were you expecting? What was anyone expecting?

Wednesday: Wade Miley (6-2, 2.72) vs. Josh Outman (0-1, 5.63)

Insightful Commentary: Miley has the highest fWAR on the team. Hell, he's tied for the lead with his pitching alone, plus his offensive contributions give him an extra 0.6 fWAR, which ties him with Paul Goldschmidt and Jason Kubel. Conclusion #1: this is hilarious and awesome. Conclusion #2: it's a shame that the All Star Game is being played in an AL park, because the only thing cooler than seeing Miley pitch in his first All Star Game would be seeing him knock in a couple runs.

It's probably a good thing that a guy named "Outman" is a pitcher rather than a hitter. Outman is a converted reliever who will be making his second start of the year. Considering that he started the year as a high-A reliever, just being in a major-league rotation has to feel like gravy at this point.

Final Verdict: Amazingly, the Diamondbacks are 6-4 over their last ten games. At no point during that stretch has the thought "yeah, these guys are playing really well right now" crossed my mind. It's the least comforting 6-4 stretch I can remember, but I guess it still counts as progress. I'll say the Diamondbacks keep it going and win a very ugly series two games to one.

Head over to Purple Row for the latest Rockies news.

(Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs)