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Series Preview #20: Diamondbacks @ Rockies

Will D-Backs Embrace Strikeouts to Beat Rockies?

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies
Will Reynolds Strikeout This Series?
Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Diamondbacks(34-40) @ Rockies(34-37)

The Rockies’ pitching staff is all about fastballs and getting strikeouts.

Their starters’ four-seam fastball speeds have averaged 95.2 mph(Gray), 92.7 mph(Butler), 91.7 mph(Bettis), 91.6 mph(Chatwood), and 90.4 mph(De La Rosa) (this season through 17 June). Those five starters averaged 0.84 strikeouts per inning pitched.

Their relievers’ four-seam fastball speeds have averaged 96.8 mph (Estevez), 93.9 mph(Miller), 93.6 mph (McGee), 93.4 mph(German), 93.0 mph(Logan), 92.9 mph(Lyles), and 89.6 mph(Bergman)(with at least 18 innings pitched through 17 June). Those seven relievers averaged 0.94 strikeouts per inning pitched.

Could these pitchers be kryptonite to the Diamondbacks, who have averaged 11.2 strikeouts per game in June? Or could the Diamondbacks score many runs while famously striking out? There are players who succeed with a high rate of strikeouts. One example is the player in the spotlight, Mark Reynolds.

And the Diamondbacks are on a hot streak! Based on runs scored and runs allowed in the last ten games, my Pythagorean projection for the end of the season is 99.5 wins.

The Rockies rank first in the National League in slugging, and fourth in homeruns. The Diamondbacks rank third in slugging and sixth in homeruns. Playing at Coors should improve both teams’ slugging. I predict this series will be fun to watch!

Pitching Matchups

Thursday. Eddie Butler (6.26 ERA, 3.0 SO/BB, 2-4 Wins-Losses) vs Zack Greinke (3.54 ERA, 4.5 SO/BB, 10-3 Wins-Losses).

Eddie Butler has struggled in June allowing 17 earned runs in 13.1 innings pitched. This contrasts sharply with Zack Greinke, who is hot with 7 consecutive wins since mid-May. Due to Greinke’s better ERA, better strikeout- to-walk ratio, and better recent results, this game is huge advantage to Diamondbacks.

Friday. Tyler Anderson(2.25 ERA, 10.0 SO/BB, 0-1 Wins-Losses) vs Archie Bradley (4.83 ERA, 2.2 SO/BB, 3-3 Wins-Losses).

Tyler Anderson’s first two appearances in the Majors were in June. He pitched very well. He faces Archie Bradley, who has pitched very well in about 30% of his games. The other 70% of his games give an edge to the Rockies.

Saturday. Jorge De La Rosa (7.17 ERA, 2.3 SO/BB, 4-4 Wins-Losses) vs Shelby Miller (6.36 ERA, 1.2 SO/BB, 2-6 Wins-Losses).

Both pitchers are at their best of the season. In June, Jorge De La Rosa has three consecutive wins and lowered his ERA by 32%. He will face Shelby Miller, who now pitches in total harmony with the pitcher’s mound. In his last game, Miller gave up only one earned run in 6.2 innings pitched, albeit against the Phillies. This game could be won by either team.

Sunday. Chad Bettis (5.44 ERA, 3.2 SO/BB, 6-5 Wins-Losses) vs Patrick Corbin (4.63 ERA, 2.3 SO/BB, 4-6 Wins-Losses).

In the past five starts, Chad Bettis has only made it into the sixth inning once. On the other hand, Patrick Corbin made it into the sixth inning 13 out of 14 starts. In a third of those games, he allowed 15 earned runs during the sixth inning. The flip side is that in 67% of his games he allowed no earned runs in the sixth inning. That 67% gives the edge to the Diamondbacks. A win in this game will likely mean a series win!

St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers
Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Player in the Spotlight

A former Diamondback, who now plays for the Rockies, our player is in the spotlight for three reasons: He is fearless, he is underrated on defense, and he is an underrated batter - especially with runners in scoring position (RISP). His name is Mark Reynolds.

Fearless: "I am not afraid to dive into the stands, I am not afraid to take on a catcher at home plate. I definitely play the game 100 percent, full board all nine innings, and you'll never see me loafing out there. If I am loafing, it must mean that I am hurt. I am a hard-nosed player, and I'll go out there every day with all I've got."

Underrated Defense: Three-time Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado said the following: “I thought he would be good, because he played third back in the day. But he’s even better than I thought he’d be at first. He’s done a really good job over there. I’ve had some good first baseman to throw to, like Todd (Helton) and Justin (Morneau), but I’d be lying if I didn’t include Reynolds in there. He’s made some great plays.”

Underrated Batter: Low batting average: "It was borderline embarrassing, as far as my average goes. I know I am a much better hitter than that.“ High strikeout rate: “My strikeout rate is coming down a little bit [from 29.6% in 2012 to 26.4% so far this year]. Maybe it hasn’t been a big change, but a point or two here or there is huge.”

Let’s narrow our focus to his career numbers with RISP through 15 June 2016. With 1163 RISP opportunities, he has 444 RBIs, 196 walks, and 421 strike-outs. Let’s compare those numbers to Yasmany Tomas and Paul Goldschmidt.

As expected, strikeouts-per-opportunity for Reynolds is worse than both Tomas and Goldschmidt. It is in RBI’s and walks that he is better than expected. In RBIs per opportunity, Reynolds is 40% better than Tomas, and only 25% worse than Goldschmidt. In walks, he is hugely better than Tomas and only 40% worse than Goldschmidt. In summary, with RISP Reynolds is better than expected, despite his high strikeout rate.

His approach: “If there’s a guy on second, I’m going to try to move him over with two strikes. But if there are two out and nobody on, I’m going to try to go deep. That’s one reason I strike out. But one reason I’ve been hitting so well with runners on base is that I’m playing to the situation of the game. Driving in runs an important part of my job.”

He plays his game: “The teams I’ve played for have basically told me to play my game. Whether they’ve meant it or not, they’ve all told me they don’t want me to change my approach and aggressive nature.” That nature is to play without fear. Better than expected on defense and better than expected batting with RISP, Mark Reynolds is our player in the spotlight.