That's not a rattler - it's just a little garter snake

This has truly been a miserable season for the Diamondbacks.  I didn't truly realize just how miserable until today.

Arizona is on pace to go 71-91 this season, their third worst season in franchise history.  Only their inaugural season in 1998 (65-97) and that sorry 2004 team (51-111) has finished below 76 wins.  Just for your comparison, the Rockies have 91 losses just thrice - 1993, 2004 and 2005.  And this Arizona team was almost universally expected to finish in the top three in the NL West, with several projections placing them atop the division.

Losing their ace and cleanup hitter from 2008 for the season sure doesn't help, but the futility doesn't just come from those two players' absences.  Anyone that had Arizona 24 games out at this point needs their own TV show.

Naturally, in all things sensical, it is the D-Backs that are just coming off a near sweep of the Padres, breaking San Diego's six-series win streak in the process.  This after losing 9 of their last 10 games.  After winning their last five games in August, Arizona is 4-11 in September.  Baseball can be so random at times.

With one win in the series, Colorado will clinch the season series from Arizona, quite the rebound from the 3-15 mark they put up last season.  Arizona's pitiful 32-40 home record bests only Washington, Cleveland and Kansas City for the worst home marks in the league, and given the Rockies are 38-37 on the road, the home field advantage for the series is flat non-existent.

Go hang out at AZ Snakepit.  They are good people.


Scoreboard Watch

San Francisco (3.5 game lead) @ Los Angeles (5GB).  Vicente Padilla vs Jonathan Sanchez.  Jon Garland vs. Brad Penny.  Randy Wolf vs. Tim Lincecum.

Atlanta (4.5) vs. Philadelphia.  Tim Hudson vs. J.A, Happ.  Javier Vazquez vs. Pedro Martinez.  Tommy Hanson vs. Cliff Lee.

Florida (5) @ Cincinnati.  Rick VandenHurk vs. Homer Bailey.  Ricky Nolasco vs. Bronson Arroyo.  Sean West vs. Kip Wells.

 

 

Dbacks_mediumArizona Diamondbacks (64-83, L1, 5th, 24 GB) 

Friday-Sunday: 3-game series at Chase Field

The Bats: C

 As Rockies fans know, it is hard to have a functioning offense with automatic outs in the lineup.  All season, Arizona has suffered with whoever was playing in CF or 1B (and in LF before Conor Jackson left).  With Brandon Allen showing signs of life and Chris Young heating up finally like D-Back fans prayed for all season, the easy outs are harder to come by.  They still have terrible OBP at the top of the lineup, but there's a considerable power threat from the top five in the batting order.  

For the season, they have the 4th worst batting average in the NL and MLB in spite of enjoying the benefits of Chase Field.  Their 158 HR are 4th in the NL, easing them up to 10th in the NL in wOBA.  They are middle of the pack in runs scored with 652, 8th in the NL.  But with Chris Young starting to hit, the lineup is more dangerous than has been this season thus far.

LINEUP Avg HR RBI OBP SLG wOBA OPS+
Chris Young - CF .206 13 38 .307 .399 .312 80
Stephen Drew - SS .257 12 58 .321 .432 .323 91
Justin Upton - RF .308 24 76 .377 .550 .399 134
Miguel Montero - C .300 14 53 .361 .487 .362 115
Mark Reynolds - 3B .272 42 97 .363 .571 .398 135
Gerardo Parra - LF .293 5 54 .324 .408 .315 87
Ryan Roberts - 2B .271 6 21 .362 .401 .341 96
Brandon Allen - 1B .224 3 24 .306 .421 .309 84

AJ Hinch has juggled his lineup in response to hot streaks (Young/Upton) and cold streaks (Drew/Reynolds/Roberts), also optimizing the left/right combo to the full extent.  However, to do so, he had to put Chris Young back at the leadoff spot, drop Ryan Roberts - who has hit just as well as Felipe Lopez did - to 7th, and drop their best hitter and MLB's 2nd leading home run hitter to 5th.  Even considering the streaks involved, It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. 

Via OPS+, Upton and Reynolds are strong All-Star caliber hitters and Montero is solidly above average.  Roberts is about average, Drew is a slightly below, Parra is moderately below while Allen and Young have been relative deadweights.

Chad Tracy (.227, 6, 34), Rusty Ryal (.262, 2, 3) and Augie Ojeda (.235, 1, 13) are Hinch's backup infielders.  Alex Romero (.259, 1, 18), Eric Byrnes (.216, 6, 26) and Trent Oeltjen (.246, 3, 4)  are on the bench as OFers while Luke Carlin (3-for-17) and John Hester (5-for-15, 1 HR) are the reserve backstops.

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

The Arms: B-

The Diamondbacks will throw out their top two starts for the series, including rejuvinated OMGace Dan Haren.  Scherzer and Haren have faced the Rockies in the same series once this season, with Arizona taking that series in Coors Field (although Scherzer actually lost his game).  Kevin Mulvey is no better than any of the pitchers we feasted on against the Mets or Reds

Juan Gutierrez has arguably been the best reliever for Arizona this season and has taken a strangehold on the closer's role after Chad Qualls went down.

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Juan Gutierrez 4-3 60 0 0 0 5 1 65.0 60 29 28 2 29 60 3.88 1.37

Gutierrez is joined in the pen by lefties Daniel Schlereth, Scott Schoeneweis and Clay Zavada as well as right handers Blaine Boyer, Bryan Augenstein, Daniel Cabrera, Leo Rosales, Yusmeiro Petit and Esmerling Vasquez

 

The D:  C+

Arizona has been 2nd in MLB in errors for most of the season, and they sit eight behind Washington's league high 124.  UZR-wise, their season-long range marks grade out above average, as they are 9th in the league.  Parra, Reynolds, Allen and Young are graded as weak by UZR, while the rest of the lineup is solid, led by Upton's 8.0 UZR/150.

 

The Ballpark:  VERY STRONG hitter's park

Chase Field has officially taken the torch from Coors Field as the NL's best hitters park.  This year, Chase is playing at a Baseball-Reference park factor of 108, clearly stronger even than Coors Field's 105/106 (both have multi-year factors of 107).  The park is extremely friendly to home runs and triples, giving a good shot in the arm for doubles as well.


 

Probable Pitchers:

Tonight, 6:40 pm MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jason Marquis 15-11 34 29 2 1 0 0 195.1 193 88 82 13 64 98 3.78 1.32
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Kevin Mulvey 0-1 3 1 0 0 0 0 7.0 12 7 7 2 3 5 9.00 2.14

Frankly, I'm a little worried about Jason Marquis, who has been poor in three of his last four starts.  It is the first time all year he has given up 5+ ER three times in four starts, and he was facing three of the most anemic offenses in the league in Sad Diego, San Francisco and New York.  The only time he has faced Arizona this season was in his third start of the year, when he allowed 6 ER on 9 hits (2 HR) in 5 IP at Chase Field. Luckily, he's drawing the weakest of starters for Arizona.  Kevin Mulvey stepped into the rotation in place of Yusmeiro Petit with no big league starts under his belt.  The waiver wire pickup from Minnesota got knocked around in his start Saturday while wearing a "Los DBacks" jersey, allowing 6 ER on 11 hits in 4 IP to Milwaukee.  In his appearance before that, he served up a home run to Carlos Gonzalez and walked three Rockies.  He utilizes a high-80's fastball, low-80's slider, mid-70's curve and will mix in a changeup now and again.   Favors:  ROCKIES moderately 

 

Saturday,  September 19, 5:10 pm MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jason Hammel 8-8 30 27 1 0 0 0 156.1 184 85 76 13 39 112 4.38 1.43

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Max Scherzer 9-9 29 28 0 0 0 0 160.0 158 87 72 18 55 162 4.05 1.33

Just when I started heaping uninhibited praise on Hammel, he broke his 8-game 3ER or less streak, allowing four to the Giants at AT&T.  One very unpublicized part of Hammel's game is his 0.75HR/9, which is absolutely fantastic for a fifth starter for the Rockies.  Part of that has been his filthy curveball, which Fangraphs has rated as 7th best in MLB, sandwiched in between Barry Zito and Chris Carpenter.  Nice company. He threw two scoreless innings in relief at Chase Field in April and allowed 3 ER in 6 IP Sept 4 at Coors against the D-Backs.  After suffering a miserable August, Max Scherzer has rebounded a bit in September, allowing 1 ER in two of his 3 starts.  The heterochromic right-hander faced the Rockies twice this year, both times at Coors in July, having success neither night.  He allowed 9 runs (7 earned) in 10 innings, serving up home runs to Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Stewart,  This is a fairly even pitching matchup.  Hammel has the better FIP, but Scherzer has the better tRA.  Favors:  DRAW

 

Sunday, September 20, 1:10 MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez 13-11 30 30 1 0 0 0 198.0 170 81 78 12 75 173 3.55 1.24
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Dan Haren 14-8 34 30 3 1 0 0 209.1 166 68 65 25 32 201 2.79 .95

After being consistent for so long, it's odd to say Ubaldo has not given us what we wanted to see the last two starts.  Tuesday at AT&T was the kind of abomination we ought to expect every once in a while, as even aces have bad games.  Coming off that hamstring injury, one might think the leg contributed to the poor start.  But I didn't see any evidence of that - I saw rust.  If he can get Ian Stewart to play third and get back into his routine, we'll see the Ubaldo of old.  After four weeks of struggles from mid-July to mid-August, Dan Haren has returned back into a forceful hurler.  Since getting lit up in Philly, he has allowed no more than 3 ER in 5 straight starts.  He did allow home runs in 9 of his last 10 starts before pitching in the land dingers go to die his last outing, so he could be vulnerable to the heavy hitters at Chase.  Combine that with the fact that he walks no one and strikes out plenty, and the Rockies need to be very aggressive to achieve success.  Overall, Haren has a slight edge over Jimenez in tRA and FIP. The two locked horns on July 5, with Haren besting Jimenez in the rubber game 4-3.  Favors:  DIAMONDBACKS slightly

 

My take:  This series isn't absolutely essential in terms of the wild card.  The Giants and Dodgers will beat up on each other.  The Marlins are probably out of it as is and the Braves will get all they can handle against Philly.  Even with a series loss, they'll still be in prime position.  Now that I'm done sandbagging, the pitching matchups give the Rockies a solid chance in every game and there's no reason to drop this series.  Rox take two,

 

33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_mediumChris Young is hitting a stout .302/.373/.698 (.438 wOBA) for the month of September with 6 HR.  Starting with the series at Coors Field two weeks ago, the CF has hit safely in 10 of 12 games.  His previous best stretch of 10 games with hits was 16 games to start the season.  Gerardo Parra is hitting .367 and Miguel Montero .327 this month.  Juan Gutierrez has permitted just one run in his last 12.1 IP.  

IceRyan Roberts is hitting only .152 (7-for-46) in September, while Eric Byrnes, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds and Brandon Allen are all batting at a .220 clip or worse since the monthly calendar flip.  Daniel Schlereth just gave up four runs in his last outing, Daniel Cabrera threw three scoreless innings in his last relief appearance, but in his only other appearance this month, he faced 5 Rockies and all scored in his D-Backs debut.  

Bandaid_mediumChad Qualls is out with a nasty knee injury he sustained August 30 and will not return this season.  Conor Jackson (Valley Fever - 5/12) and Brandon Webb (shoulder - 4/7) are also on the 60-day and have essentially provided no value to the team all year.  Eric Byrnes (fractured hand - 6/26), Chris Snyder (lower back - 8/23) is on the 15-day.  Snyder may still return this year - everyone else has been shut down for the season.

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