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Series Preview #8: Arizona Diamondbacks vs Colorado Rockies

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With Segura playing better than Le Mahieu at second base, will the Diamondbacks win the series with the Rockies?

Jean Segura hits a homerun against Cardinals on 25 April.
Jean Segura hits a homerun against Cardinals on 25 April.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona Diamondbacks (12-12)

vs Colorado Rockies(9-12)

We will see two dynamic teams with outstanding offense who are battling with the Giants for second place in the Division. The deciding factor may be the players in the middle of the field – second base and center field. Let’s take a quick look at those two positions.

Second Base. For the Rockies, D.J. Le Mahieu is an excellent defender. He earned a gold glove in 2014 and was a finalist in 2015. Offensively, he got a hit in each of his first 9 games this season. He said, "I feel good at the plate." Although I like that positive attitude, I counted 8 Rockies players who are hitting better than him.

For the Diamondbacks, Jean Segura has finally found success. Even more than Le Mahieu, he is playing with great joy and success. His offense and defense are excellent. As of 26 April, Baseball Reference leader boards show Segura has the 9th best batting average (.347) in the Majors, and 2nd best win probability added (1.4) in the Majors. This season he has not yet made an error, and has participated in 18 of the 25 double plays turned.

Comparing the two second basemen, the Diamondbacks have the advantage.

Center Field. For the Rockies, Brandon Barnes and Gerardo Parra are playing for Blackmon, who is on the disabled list. Blackmon said he feels good and wants to play in this series. Blackmon's OPS is low at .575, Barnes' OPS is low at .583, and Parra's OPS is good at .743. Blackmon and Barnes shift where they stand in center field based on the batter, the pitcher, and the game situation. Although small sample size applies, this season's Total Zone Fielding Runs shows Barnes is the better defender, followed by Parra, and then Blackmon.

For the Diamondbacks, Chris Owings is playing for Pollock who is on the disabled list. Chris Ownings has shown position flexibility by moving from the infield to play center field. He seems to be fielding with few-to-none whoops(think Trumbo), although it would be a surprise if he wins a gold glove, which Pollock has won. With an OPS of .642, he has room to improve, although he has bested Ahmed's OPS of .605, and bested Barnes' OPS of .583.

Comparing the center fielders, the Rockies can have the better hitter by playing Parra, or they can have the better defender by playing Barnes. If they play Blackmon, they likely will have neither.

Currently, the Diamondbacks are healthier than the Rockies. As of 26 April, the Diamondbacks had 2 players on the disabled list, while the Rockies had 9 players on the disabled list, plus one on administrative leave. Let’s look at how the Diamondbacks compare to the Rockies on six measures. Data through 26 April 2016.

Diamondbacks Rockies
HomeRuns 32 29
RBIs 105 99
Hits 214 181
Stolen Bases 16 13
Double Plays Turned 25 11
Errors 14 13

Two measures jump out at me. The Diamondbacks have 214 hits compared to 181 hits for Rockies. The Diamondbacks have turned 25 double plays compared to 11 double plays for Rockies.

Pitching Matchups

Friday. Tyler Chatwood (3.47 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 5.8 IP/GS, 1.75 run support/GS) vs Robbie Ray (3.8 ERA,3.15 FIP, 5.2 IP/GS, 2.5 run support/GS).

In 2014, Tyler Chatwood had his second Tommy John surgery. He has recovered and in his first four games this season he averaged 95 pitches per game. To my eye, he is similar to Rubby De La Rosa because this season he pitched two quality-start gems, and two clunkers.

Robbie Ray is pitching very well this season. Although Carlos Gonzalez has hit well (OPS=1.167)in 6 plate appearances against Ray, Ray is constantly adjusting and improving. I am confident Ray will quiet the Rockies' bats. I predict the Diamondbacks will win this game.

Saturday. Chris Rusin (2.45 ERA,2.64 FIP, relief pitcher with no games started this season) vs Zack Greinke (6.16 ERA,4.24 FIP,6.0 IP/GS, 3.8 run support/GS).

This will be the first game Rusin starts this season. He is likely stretched out, having gone 5 or 6 days between relief appearances. He pitched two complete games last season, and could pitch deep into this game. Nevertheless, I predict he will only go 3 innings before the Rockies bullpen is called. One reason is that Peralta has hit well (OPS=2.000) in 3 plate appearances against Rusin. Goldschmidt and Segura are two more reasons.

Batting against Greinke, the relatively unknown Story did extremely well. And Carlos Gonzalez has done well (OPS=1.293) in 30 plate appearances against Greinke. As maybe the best pitcher currently in the Majors, Greinke will battle these two hitters, and I predict the Diamondbacks will win this game.

Sunday.Chad Bettis (3.77 ERA,4.32 FIP, 6.2 IP/GS, 3.2 run support/GS) vs Shelby Miller (8.69 ERA,7.73 FIP,3.8 IP/GS, 2.0 run support/GS).

Chad Bettis has the much superior ERA and FIP. However, a bigger consideration is the pitcher-batter matchups. Batting against Bettis, the Diamondbacks have six(!) players with an OPS higher than 1.000 (Ahmed, Goldschmidt, Owings, Peralta, Segura, and Tomas). Given these matchups, the Diamondbacks will score more runs than indicated by Bettis' ERA/FIP! Unhappily, I doubt that will that be enough to win the game.

On 26 April, Miller pitched four scoreless innings before the fifth inning happened. It could be winning if he pitches five or six scoreless innings. My more realistic side predicts the Rockies will score a lot of runs. (I'd like to be proven wrong!) The pitcher-batter matchups show six Rockies players who have hit very well against Shelby Miller (Barnes, Gonzalez, Hundley, Le Mahieu, Reynolds, and Story). One last point is that the excellent Diamondback bullpen could tip the scales. I predict the Rockies will win this game.

2016 Post-Season Status: YELLOW

I track the status of the run at the post season by watching three targets: 1) 50% wins against Giants and Dodgers, 2) 57% wins against all other teams, and 3) Based on the ten latest games, Pythagorean projection of at least 89 wins by the end of the season. Green status means that at least two targets are met. Yellow status means that one target is met. Red status means that no targets are met.

  • The Diamondbacks have 5 wins and 2 losses against the Dodgers & Giants. Yahoo! This target is well exceeded!

  • Through 28 April, the Diamondbacks have won 41% against all teams except Giants & Dodgers. Currently, the 57% target is not met.

  • Based on the last ten games (through 28 April), my Pythagorean projection is 88.1 wins this season. This is a huge improvement from 61 wins two weeks ago. Currently, the target of 89 projected wins is not met (but close!).

In the last two weeks the Diamondbacks post-season status changed from red to yellow. This improvement was largely based on 1) sweeping a series with the Giants, 2) roughly 50% increase in runs scored per game, and 3) roughly 20% decrease in runs allowed per game. Compared to two weeks ago, the Diamondbacks pitchers improved their rank on strikeouts per 9 innings from 27th to 24th (28 April). The improvements are good news. Will the improvements continue?

In two weeks I will relook at this projection. Meanwhile, the upcoming series against the Rockies will be well worth watching, and I predict our Diamondbacks will win the series.

Player in the Spotlight

Let’s look at a player who appears to be struggling. I will tell you his name after you learn more about him. Although he trained with a major league player for ten days, the result was very little improvement. He started the season in AA. He was average. Mid-way through the season, due to an injury, he was promoted to AAA. His batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage all dropped. He remained about average. His stats were .277 BA, .504 SLG, and .828 OPS. Seasoned coaches described him as "level-headed" and "steely-eyed."

He said two remarkable things. First, the best advice he ever received was to "live life with no regrets." Second, the best book he ever read was "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," by Josh Hamilton. It is an inspiring book with life lessons that extend beyond baseball. Do you know the player's name yet?

I was describing a player from the viewpoint of last season, 2015. This season he won the Abby Greer Award for MVP in spring training. Then luck dealt him an opportunity. He was called up to the majors to replace a player who was placed on administrative leave. He was a star his first game, hitting 2 home runs against the Diamondbacks. In his first six games, he had 12 RBIs. Major League pitchers adjusted how they pitch to him. He had only 3 RBIs in his next 14 games. So he is struggling again. His name is Trevor Story. And now you know the rest of the story.