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Series Preview #28: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies

As it stands now, the Rockies are in something of an odd predicament.

Dustin Bradford

I think we can state with a reasonable degree of certainty that the Rockies are not a great team. Through April 20th, they were 13-4 and sitting pretty in the NL West, but since then they're 29-40.

If recency bias is your thing, note that they've gone 5-11 over their past 16. If not, just note that the sample saying that this team is well below .500 is around three times the size of the sample that says they're contenders, even if we ignore that this team lost 98 games last year with most of the same pieces.

But at the same time, they're fortunate enough to play in the unsexy five-way pillow fight known as the NL West, which means that they're just two games out of first place. If they sweep this series, they could find themselves in first place by Sunday.

For a team that's been treading water while Troy Tulowitzki heals from a fractured rib, being this close to the division lead is just gravy. The Rockies wouldn't even be within five games of any other division lead, but they don't have to worry about that. They're in the NL West, and that means that winning the division is a roughly one in five shot.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

Hitting (wRC+): 89 98 Colorado
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
98/100 98/88
Fielding (UZR):
22.7 -6.5


Fully healthy, the Rockies probably have the best offense in the NL West. They aren't fully healthy though, having lost Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler in the same game, and the offense has suffered accordingly. As such, they've scored just barely over three runs per game over this recent 16 game skid.

Which means that a lot of the onus falls on the pitching, and that's a classic good news/bad news setup in Denver. The good news is that the numbers you see above are better than the team has any right to expect, considering how abysmal they were last year.

The bad news is that much of that impressive FIP- has been put up by the bullpen, and that the starters have been rather rickety of late. The starters have a 4.52 ERA, meaning that they've been roughly on par with the Diamondbacks' rotation once we adjust for park.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

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

Colorado Rockies

1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
2. Jordan Pacheco, 1B
3. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Wilin Rosario, C
6. Nolan Arenado, 3B
7. Tyler Colvin, CF
8. Josh Rutledge, SS

It's a patchwork lineup, and considering that it's missing 6.4 fWAR in the form of Fowler and Tulo, that's to be expected. Colvin is part of what appears to be a platoon with prospect Corey Dickerson in Center Field, although they're both left-handed and neither has hit much at all in limited time, so I'm not sure why they're bothering with it at all. Weird as it sounds they probably miss Eric Young Jr. right about now.

As far as I can tell, the plan was for Pacheco to gradually spell 39-year-old Todd Helton more and more as the season progresses, gently nudging him into a bench role and then gracefully into retirement. Unfortunately, Pacheco hasn't held up his end of the bargain, hitting just .210/.231/.305 since the end of April. Though it's not like Helton's been lighting things up either, as his OPS is under .700 for the season, a bad sign for a First Baseman at Coors Field.

But for all the holes in the lineup, the good part has been very, very good. Carlos Gonzalez has gotten All-Star consideration, as his 3.6 fWAR is third among NL outfielders. And that's 1.6 fWAR better than Yasiel Puig, for anyone scoring at home.

I just got through an entire paragraph on Carlos Gonzalez without pouting about him not being on the D-Backs.

You got the sense last year that no one bothered to tell Cuddyer that he was playing half his games in Coors Field. He put up an OPS of .806, which is decent enough, but for a slugging corner outfielder who gives up plenty of runs with his defense and moves to the best offensive park in baseball, you want a little more than that.

But this year, the intern who was supposed to send out the Coors Field e-vite finally got around to it, and now Cuddyer's hitting .339/.391/.578, which included a recently snapped 27-game hit streak.

The team expects big things from Nolan Arenado, and while his glove has been sublime, the OPS of .630 suggests that his bat still has a ways to go.

Wilin Rosario is what you could be forgiven for thinking young Miguel Montero would turn into: a robust offensive Catcher whose glove will remain a struggle.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Tyler Skaggs (1-1, 5.40) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (8-4, 3.09)

Insightful Commentary: Part three of the Tyler Skaggs Era should begin on Friday, to last until either Cahill comes around or McCarthy comes back. While we don't know what we'll get from Skaggs, we at least know the component pieces: solid enough fastballs from the left side, a spectacular if inconsistent curveball, and a work-in-progress changeup. If the curveball is under control and the change is decent, he'll be in the rotation to stay. If not, then we'll see what happens when the veterans get back.

It's a tale as old as time: young pitcher with good stuff but no idea how to use it costs himself opportunities with organization after organization before finally coming to Coors Field and finally learning how to pitch, molding himself into a crafty veteran even after the quality stuff fades. Wait, what? After parts of four very rough seasons with the Royals and Brewers, it was fair to assume that sending De La Rosa to Colorado would be a bloodbath. Instead, he's been one of the Rockies most consistent starters for six seasons. Just one of those things, I guess.

Saturday: Wade Miley (4-7, 4.29) vs. Drew Pomeranz (0-1, 8.31)

Insightful Commentary: Miley took another step down the road to regaining Zavada's Moustache's confidence in his last start, as he pitched 5.2 scoreless innings in New York. He recorded more strikeouts than he has since the end of May, and while he wasn't at his most efficient, it was the least rickety he's looked in a while.

Pomeranz, who's been the Rockies best pitching prospect for a couple years now, made his first major league start of the season after recovering from an injury. It, uh, didn't go great. 4.1 inefficient innings against the Giants, during which he gave up four runs on two home runs. His velocity seemed in line with what it had been last year though, so no worries on that front. In terms of repertoire, think a slightly more polished Skaggs, but with less upside on the cuveball.

Sunday: Patrick Corbin (9-1, 2.49) vs. Roy Oswalt (0-3, 7.88)

Insightful Commentary: I'm prepared to ignore everything about Corbin's start against the Mets. He probably doesn't allow five runs if not for the rain, and at the very least he gets a shot to redeem himself with the bases loaded. You know this and I know this, so we may as well just pretend it didn't happen. Corbin's coming off of a win against the Nationals, where he allowed two runs over seven innings. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The lazy temptation here is to look at the ERA, realize that Oswalt is 36, and assume that he's done. That may well be true, but he's only pitched 16 innings so far, so we really have no idea. He's struck out 21 in those 16 innings, so it's not that he's not fooling hitters. His BABIP is .490 and his Strand Rate is 20% lower than league average. Let's wait for those things to regress a bit before we shovel dirt onto one of the best pitchers of the last decade, shall we?

Three Pressing Questions:

What's Ryan Wheeler up to these days? You'll remember that everyone's second-favorite Third Baseman on the 2012 Diamondbacks got sent to Colorado for Matt Reynolds. It hasn't gone great. He's only made 9 Plate Appearances, but he's somehow managed to accrue -0.4 fWAR during that time, which seems hard to do. He's in Triple-A for now with Arenado playing well, and he's hitting well for Colorado Springs.

Is anyone else sad that we don't get to see Tyler Chatwood vs. Corbin or Skaggs, just so we could spend the game pointing and laughing at the Angels? Yes. Everyone should be sad about that.

Are the Rockies buying or selling? That's a darn good question, hypothetical Snakepitter, mostly for the reasons l outlined above. They aren't a team that necessarily expected to be good this year, and they really aren't. Yet, they're good enough to potentially win the NL West, since, again, they could finish this weekend in first with a sweep.

Like everyone else in the division seemingly, they've been linked to Ricky Nolasco. They certainly have some positions that could use patching, but it's going to depend what the Rockies front office thinks of his team's playoff chances.

Rockies Blog: Purple Row.

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