Might these sorry looking snakes sport hidden venom?

Coors Field has hosted the least number of games in MLB this year.  Finally, the boys are coming home.  After having a winning road trip on a treacherous 9-game run through California, Colorado now has a soft 10-game homestand against Arizona, Washington and Atlanta.  A strong 7-3 mark at Coors should be the goal at least, and that could set the Rox atop the wild card standings heading into the All-Star Break.

The Rockies opened 2009 with a satisfying series win on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks, picked by many to be the NL West Champions this season.  That series seems a little bit less impressive now, as the Diamondbacks sit just a game up on Cleveland for the second worst record in the league.  As I briefed Monday, their season has gone nowhere near expected.  I'm personally blaming the inhumane negative karma AZSnakePit hastily bought early in the season.  Again.  And again.  And again. (Warning: Disturbing images precede).

Because quite frankly, Arizona can't be this bad.  True, they have the fifth worst run differential in the league, so they are pretty bad.  But like the Rockies, a managerial change has helped.  Seriously.  The only difference is the shift is mless dramatic and more importantly has not translated to the W column for Arizona as it has for our Rox. 

The Diamondbacks just came off of a miserable 9-17 June, winning only one series. They have lost 10 of 12.  It looks really bad. However, a closer inspection brings pause.  As Jim McLennan at the Pit points out, Arizona was outscored by only four runs in June under AJ Hinch, and nearly every team statistic improved from Bob Melvin's 9-13 April.  They were 2-6 in one-run June games, then went out and lost consecutive one-run affairs to Cincinnati to open July.  In fact, six of their last eight losses have been by one run, pushing their season record to 10-15 in onesies, the 15 losses being an MLB most.

Other than their one-run woes slightly skewing their record, also beware of their strange home/road splits.  The D-Backs are 13 games below .500 at Chase Field, but are nearly  a .500 team (4 games below) on the road.  Perhaps their young hitters falter in front of their dissatisfied fans.  Also note we draw Max Scherzer and Dan Haren in the series, easily their top two starters.

To be clear, Arizona is a legitimately bad team, and the Rockies are clearly head and shoulders above them. Just recognize this team has a lot more talent than its record, and this could be a trap series.

This will be the first time Arizona visits Coors Field.  The series April 20-22 originally scheduled for Coors Field was swapped out with Chase, so this will be the first of three consecutive series at Coors between the two clubs.

As already noted, AZ Snakepit is the Diamondbacks' SBNation blog.  Go haze the hibernating DBacksSkins.  And don't worry, they've retired the act of threatening cute animals.

 

Dbacks_mediumArizona Diamondbacks (31-48, L2, 5th) 

Friday-Sunday: 3-game series at Coors Field


The Bats: D-

Diamondbacks have struck out 623 times in 2009, good for 2nd MLB, which is probably not surprising on a team that features Khris Young and Special K.  That contributes to a .245 average, worse than every MLB club other than Oakland or San Diego.  League -verage slugging brings thweir wOBA to 22nd at .317 (think Ian Stewart) - this despite playing in possibly the best offensive parks in MLB.  Chase Field has a one year 108 park factor, just higher than its 107 multi-year rating.  Bad offensive numbers in a launching pad.  Yeah, that's bad.

They have scratched out 341 runs, 19th in the majors, though they've managed only two runs and six hits in their last two games.  Their Fangraphs hitting value puts them at -41.9 runs, fifth worst in the majors.

LINEUP Avg HR RBI OBP SLG wOBA
Felipe Lopez -2B .304 4 16 .358 .413 .341
Stephen Drew- SS .248 5 31 .309 .399 .303
Justin Upton -RF .315 14 45 .394 .568 .416
Mark Reynolds - 3B .270 21 56 .357 .554 .392
Gerardo Parra - LF .261 3 24 .302 .400 .295
Chris Young - CF .195 6 18 .278 .364 .291
Miguel Montero - C .252 4 16 .339 .381 .318
Chad Tracy -1B .202 4 17 .265 .370 .270

By wOBA metrics, the lineup features one strong super stud star (Upton), one strong All-Star (Reynolds), one above average hitter (Lopez), two below average (Montero and Drew), and three flat out terrible hitters (Parra, Young, and Tracy).  Tracy has done nothing since the opening series, and Lopez used all his power Opening Day.  Parra is new in LF, filling in for Eric Byrnes who broke his hand but was terrible anyway in replacing the ill Conor Jackson, who was also ridiculously bad.

Luke Carlin (0-5) is the backup catcher with Chris Snyder on the shelf.  He may start tonight against lefty Jorge de la Rosa.  Alex Romero (.273, 0, 0) is the lone backup OF, while IF's Tony Clark (.200, 4, 10), Ryan Roberts (.255, 0, 5) and Augie Ojeda (.234, 1, 10) fill out the bench.

Hop after the jump for the scouting report on the arms, the D, the pitching matchups and the hot/cold players.

The Arms: B

We draw the the D-Backs top two starters in Dan Haren and Max Scherzer in addition to "6th" starter Yusmeiro Petit, so the cold Rockies bats don't really get a break despite facing MLB's 22nd ranked pitching staff by ERA.  Petit is terrible, but according to StatCorner, the dropoff from DanMax to anyone else is vast regardless.  Their bullpen has the 28th worst ERA at 4.91, but that's a bit misleading, according to their 3.99 FIP and 4.11 tRA.  Do note, however, that closer Chad Qualls has blown three of his last five save opportunities, including one yesterday, part of a June with a 5.59 ERA.  Fangraphs claims Arizona pitchers are the 10th most valuable in the league, so they are indeed a threat.

AJ Hinch's bullpen includes Qualls, Jon Rauch, Tony Pena, Blaine Boyer, Esmerling Vazquez, Juan Gutierrez, and lefties Clay Zavada (who gave up his first run of his career yesterday in 18.2 IP) and Scott Schoeneweis.  One of those will be sent down to activate Petit, but I'm not sure who.

 

The D:  B-

The Diamondbacks commit a lot of errors.  Their 71 miscues rank 2nd to Washington, and by a large margin - 3rd place Florida lags by 12.  Their fielding percentage ranks 2nd to the Nats in futility as well, so on the surface, their defense looks downright terrible.  However, they have a +2.9 UZR for solid range.  Conor Jackson's poor defense in LF has been replaced, and Fangraphs lists their defense as 8th most valuable.

 

Probable Pitchers:

Tonight, 6:10 pm MDT

W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2009 - Max Scherzer 5-5 3.67 1.39 83 35

W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2009 - Jorge De La Rosa 4-7 5.64 1.49 87 38

 

Saturday, July 4, 6:10 pm MDT

W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2009 - Yusmeiro Petit 0-3 8.03 1.74 19 10

W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2009 - Aaron Cook 8-3 3.77 1.33 50 31

 

Sunday, July 5, 1:10 MDT

W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2009 - Dan Haren 7-5 2.19 0.81 113 15

W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez 6-7 3.75 1.33 85 40

 

My take:  Arizona can steal this series with these pitching matchups.  A sweep will be incredibly difficult, but a series win shouldn't be taken for granted, especially if we don't win Friday and Saturday.  They better win tonight.  I'll be there.

33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_medium

Dan Haren has 15 of 16 quality starts this year, the only outlier being May 23 at Oakland of all places.  He has allowed two or less runs in his last 7 starts.  Chris Young rebounded from a terrible start to post a .910 OPS in June.  Miguel Montero has 8 hits in 20 trips with a home run.

 

IceChad Qualls has blown three of his last five save opportunities and has been scored upon in 5 of his last 11 appearances.  Tony Pena has been scored upon in 4 of his last 6. Stephen Drew and Justin Upton are a combined 7 for their last 47.

 

Bandaid_mediumTwo LF's are on the DL in Eric Byrnes (hand - 15day) and Conor Jackson ("pneumonia" - 60day).  Chris Snyder (back) and Yusmeiro Petit (shoulder) are also on the 15day DL, though Petit is due to come off today.    Tom Gordon and Brandon Webb (shoulder) are both on teh 60day DL.  If you've missed it, Webb will not have surgery on his shoulder and will try to return for September.  It won't be for a playoff run, but it might be for a chance to pitch for Arizona one last time should they decline his option for 2010.

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