Yesterday, the Rockies fell a half game behind the first place Diamondbacks in the NL West. Will the Rockies battle back? Or will the Diamondbacks stay in first place?
Who is new? Four players on the 25-man roster joined the Rockies after the end of last season: closer Greg Holland, Relief pitcher Mike Dunn who is on the DL with Back Spasms, bench player Alexi Amarista, and Ian Desmond who is on the DL with a broken hand.
Which Rockies are stars? Nolan Arenado is a gold-glover hitting OPS+ of 151. Former Diamondbacks Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra are hitting well. Relief pitching is strong, especially Mike Dunn (1.17 ERA) and Adam Ottavino (1.93 ERA). And their closer Greg Holland (1.80 ERA) has 9 saves with no blown saves He is motivated because if he closes 30 games his player option vests for $15 million next year.
What are their weaknesses? They begin each season better than they end it - the same pattern appears this season.
Pitching. Starting pitching is a problem. Chad Bettis and Jon Gray are on the disabled list. Tyler Anderson has an ERA of 7.11. This series will not see their best starter, Antonio Senzatela.
Hitting. Through 20 April, they averaged 3.4 runs per game. After their home series with the Giants, their average increased to 4.2 runs per game. After the first three games of their home series with the Nationals, their average increased to 4.72 runs per game. Although Chase is a hitters park, I expect the Rockies to regress back to 3.4 runs per game.
The D-backs are winning. So far, they won 4 series, tied one series, and lost 2 series. I predict another series win. Because this series is played at home, I expect the D-backs to score many runs. It should be fun!
Although losing a series to San Diego was disappointing, winning a series against the Dodgers was awesome. Sadly, in the last game of that series, Shelby Miller left the game with an injury.
Because Shelby Miller’s return date is unknown, Zack Godley was inserted into the rotation Wednesday, pushing back the other starters by one day. So Robbie Ray will pitch Friday, the first game of this series.
This series is like a readiness test. Are the D-backs ready to defend their newly re-acquired first place standing in the NL West? Yes! And I like the pitching matchups!
Friday. Robbie Ray (3.42 ERA, 11.4 SO/9, 5.3 BB/9) vs Kyle Freeland(3.32 ERA, 5.8 SO/9, 4.2 BB/9).
Robbie Ray’s strikeout rate is elite. In April, he threw 17% curve balls, which is the most by far that he has ever thrown curves. It resulted in an 86% ground ball rate according to Brooks Baseball. The curve is another weapon added to his arsenal!
Kyle Freeland is a rookie. This is his first season in the Majors. Except for one game with 6 ERs, he has pitched very well. He grew up in Colorado, so the crowd will be cheering for him. The Dback hitters will look to take advantage of his rookie mistakes. It is a toss-up which team will win this game.
Saturday. Zack Greinke(2.93 ERA, 9.1 SO/9, 1.8 BB/9) vs Tyler Anderson(7.11 ERA, 7.8 SO/9, 2.8 BB/9).
Zack Greinke’s last two starts were spectacular - ERA of 1.29, SO/9 of 10.9, BB/9 of 0.6. His strikeout rate is elite. His walk rate is elite. Truly, he is back to being an ace! I predict the Dbacks will win this game.
Tyler Anderson is noticed. Looking at Rockies’ starters, his ERA is the worst by far while his strikeout rate is the best. Even Clayton Kershaw noticed him, but not for his pitching. On 19 April, the umpire told Kershaw to wait before throwing the first pitch of the game. Tyler Anderson was walking along the first base line to the Rockies dugout. After the game, Kershaw said, “That was one of the more disrespectful things I’ve been a part of in a game. Really didn’t appreciate that. The game starts at 7:10. ...” I predict this game will start exactly on time.
Sunday. Patrick Corbin (3.10 ERA, 9.1 SO/9, 1.8 BB/9) vs German Marquez(18.0 ERA, 4.5 SO/9, 6.8 BB/9)
Patrick Corbin pitched slightly better than usual on Tuesday: 7 innings with 2 ERs, 9 SOs, and 2BBs. This season, he started 5 games, never allowing more than 3 ERs. I predict the Dbacks will win this game.
Last season, German Marquez made 3 appearances in relief, with an ERA of 5.06, and three appearances as a starter with an ERA of 5.28. This season, he gave up 8 ERs in 4 innings in his first start. Will he pitch better in his second start?
State of the Season
So far, the season is excellent beyond expectations. The series win against the Dodgers was icing on the cake!
1. Wins. In the first 24 games, the D-backs have 15 wins, more than enough wins against a challenging April schedule to show they are a serious contender for the post season! I am bouncing off the ceiling with optimism.
2. Injuries. In the first 24 games, there was 1 significant injury - Shelby Miller.
3. Callups. In the first 24 games, outside of the bullpen, there was 1 callup. Zack Godley was called up to start on 26 April.
Mental Habit of the Series: Asking Questions
What I enjoy muchisimo is to observe with curiosity. When I am curious and full of wonder, it starts a journey of discovery. My wonderment leads to questions, which prepares me to find answers. The Official Rules of Baseball does not include an instruction manual for how to increase player skills. Instead, the skills are largely self-taught. Although experience, observation, and coaches are good sources of instruction, perhaps the best sources are successful players.
A valuable prerequisite to acquire instruction from successful players is to be seen as high energy, passionate about baseball, and having a relentless desire to improve. All those things have been said about a Rockies’ player. Ken Rosenthal wrote an article about him. His name is Nolan Arenado. So what did he do?
What stands out is that Nolan Arenado is always asking other players why they are so good. Arenado said, “I kind of just told myself, ‘I don’t care if he wants to hear it [the question] or not. I’m going to ask him. He’s good, and I want to learn about the game, and I want to know why he’s been so good.’” He asks discerning questions perhaps sort-of-like the following:
What are the little things you do? Perhaps that includes 1) quick and easy improvements, and 2) keys to unlocking or adjusting big things.
What makes you a better situational hitter?
What do you think about when playing?
How do you accomplish something that other players have trouble with?
Why are you a great example in the clubhouse?
How do you build on seasons?
How do you sustain success?
When he thinks about how to be a skilled baseball player, he is prepared to find answers. And finding answers to his questions keeps him at the top of his game. Asking questions is the mental habit of the series.