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Series Preview # 24 : D-backs vs Rockies

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“I know the D-backs are a good team. I know they can sweep this series. I know that consistent wins will put the D-backs a step ahead in the wild-card race.” — Makakilo

Three more opportunities for water celebration!
Three more opportunities for water celebration!
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Rockies and the D-backs are actively contending for a wild-card berth into the playoffs. Let’s compare the two teams:

This season, these teams played 7 games.

  • Five of the seven games were decided by 1 run.
  • Runs scored were exactly equal.

These teams are similar.

  • They hit plenty of doubles! In their last 3-game series, they hit 15 doubles. For the season through 15 June, their doubles (154 and 147) are ranked 1st and 3rd in the Majors!
  • The salaries of the top four players are about the same percentage of team salaries (55% for Rockies and 50% for D-backs).
  • The teams have similar records against teams with records >.500. Albeit that the D-backs have played that caliber team 3 more times than the Rockies. The D-backs are 18-22 (45%) and the Rockies are 17-20 (46%).
  • Win/loss percentages (.5211 vs .5205) are nearly equal.

These teams have differences.

  • The D-backs have a better run differential. The D-back differential is 58 runs and the Rockies differential is 12 runs.
  • The Rockies scored more runs per game (5.60 vs 5.26) through 15 June. Albeit playing more games at Coors Field is a factor.
  • The D-backs starting pitchers are much better (surprising, isn’t it?). Through 13 June, runs per game (earned +unearned) by starters were 2.53 vs 3.59.
  • Rockies relievers are better (WAA 1.6 ranked fourth in the Majors, vs -0.7 ranked 16th). Albeit they blew a six run lead in the ninth on June 14 against the Padres.
  • The Rockies have the best barehanded fielder at third base! “Arenado’s 50 barehand plays are more than twice as many as the next-most by a third baseman (Travis Shaw, 23) the last three seasons.” -- Mark Simon, Sports Info Solutions. At third base, the Rockies rank second in the Majors with 2 Wins above average (WAA). Albeit that the D-backs rank seventh with 1.1 WAA.

Who will pitch in this series?

Because the likely pitching match-ups look favorable to the D-backs, I predict the D-backs sweep the Rockies!

Each team has a rest day prior to the start of this series, allowing flexibility to change who starts each game. That being said, let’s look at the likely match-ups.

Tuesday. Antonio Senzatela (94 ERA+, 4.9 SO/9, 4.1 BB/9) vs Merrill Kelly (120 ERA+, 6.9 SO/9, 2.7 BB/9)

When Antonio Senzatela pitches, two statistics tell me to expect baserunners and to expect exciting baseball.

  • His hits per 9 innings: 8.6 in 2017, 9.4 in 2018, 10.5 in 2019.
  • His ratio of strikeouts to walks: 2.2 in April 2.2, 1.2 in May, 0.7 in June.

Which batters will hit best against Sanzatela? In 2019, four D-backs (minimum 3 at-bats) have hit well: Ketel Marte, Locastro, Eduardo Escobar and Nick Ahmed.

What happened in June? The D-backs were 9-3 through 13 June! While the D-backs were winning, Merrill Kelly pitched at an All-Star level! He pitched 22.1 innings pitched with 2 ER, 2 BB, and 18 SOs. With Merrill Kelly’s recent pitching, I predict the D-backs will win this game.

“...for those moments on the mound, at least for me, [baseball is] the only thing I think about. And that’s partly why I enjoy being out there.” — Merrill Kelly ‘for the love’ interview by Fox Sports, May 29, 2019

Wednesday. Jon Gray (118 ERA+, 10.0 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke (168 ERA+, 8.1 SO/9, 1.3 BB/9)

In his 27 May start against the D-backs he allowed 2 earned runs in 5.1 innings. He left the game after allowing three consecutive singles (Vargas, Marte, and Escobar).

In his last two starts, Jon Gray allowed 8 earned runs in 11.2 innings. I predict the D-backs will score more runs against Gray than the last time they faced him.

In his last start, Zack Greinke was pitching at his peak and was tickling a possible no-no game. Averaging 10 pitches per inning, Zack Greinke’s pitch count wasn’t going to stop him. Two hits stopped a no-hitter, and a rain-delay stopped the shutout. Nevertheless, it was memorable to see Greinke pitch against the Nationals. Knowing Greinke will be on the mound will give a boost to the entire team.

“A bunch of nonsense comes with it. I don’t think about no-hitters, ever.” — Zack Greinke

Thursday. Jeff Hoffman (74 ERA+, 9.1 SO/9, 2.6 BB/9) vs Robbie Ray (117 ERA+, 11.6 SO/9, 4.2 BB/9)

“[Jeff] Hoffman, the Blue Jays’ first-round choice in the 2014 MLB draft [traded to the Rockies in 2015], will face a pivotal year in 2019, as his future in the organization could be on the line in the coming season.” – George Miller, MLB Trade Rumors

Jeff Hoffman’s intensity was praised by Bud Black. Despite his intensity, so far his pivotal year has gone badly. In his first 5 starts, he pitched an average of 5 innings with an ERA of 8.06. Nevertheless, his FIP of 4.74 provided an indication that in the future he may pitch better. His sixth start was his best - he allowed one earned run in 5 innings. In that game, the Rockies had a six run lead in the ninth inning, but lost the game.

Robbie Ray is pitching well this season. In June, he bumped his pitching up to the All-Star level, pitching two quality starts. It would have been three quality starts except for his fielding error that led to a 3-run inning.

“I felt like I had my stuff all night. I mean, if I make that throw [to second] in the third inning, we’re having a different conversation right now, so I’ll just leave it at that.” — Robbie Ray