Sorry if this one's a bit scatterbrained, Rowbots - I spent the afternoon stranded due to a broken down vehicle. On to the snakes:
Don't underestimate them. I've seen this in numerous comments over the past couple weeks. You people are smart. Arizona dug themselves a huge hole in the standings and lost key contributors early on from injury (Webb), illness (Jackson) and aliens stealing a player's talent a la Space Jam (Young). After falling to the cellar due to those factors, ineffectiveness and just bad luck, Arizona was clearly in a position to play for next year.
Thusly, they sold off a number of prominent players, including Felipe Lopez, Jon Garland, Tony Pena, and Jon Rauch. Granted none of those are scary names and two of them are recent, but the point is after committing to youth, they have actually gotten better. By a lot. In fact, since the Rockies took two of three from them in mid-July, Arizona is 21-19, and that includes a 1-9 stretch on the road. So they've been a .500 team of late despite basically conceding the season. We are left to wonder where Arizona would be had they sustained their early season ineffectiveness and injuries. Most interesting of all to me - their run differential is just four runs worse than it was in 2007.
The Diamondbacks were nice enough to to pull out a 4-game split at Dodger Stadium, allowing the Rockies to gain a half game on Los Angeles. The D-Backs could close the divisional race more by falling flat in this upcoming series before rebounding against the Dodgers at home next week. A boy can dream.
As they all are now, this will be an important series. The Giants have a moderately difficult task playing in Milwaukee against three capable pitchers, but Los Angeles gets three home games against the last place Padres. Atlanta has a home series against the suddenly surging Reds while the Marlins hit the road against the ice-cold Nats. The Rockies are just 6-6 against the Diamondbacks, one of the few below .500 teams the Rockies don't have a winning record against. Time to change that.
Go hang out at AZ Snakepit. They may be rivals, but they're a good bunch all in all.
(61-74, L1, 4th, 19 GB)
Friday-Sunday: 3-game series at Coors Field
The Bats: C
The starting lineup looks very different from the beginning of the season. Chris Snyder and Conor Jackson are on the DL, Chad Tracy is on the bench, Felipe Lopez has been traded, and a fringe prospect has taken over the body of Chris Young. However, Reynolds is 2nd MLB in HR and Justin Upton is showing signs of superstardom. They may rank 3rd worst in batting average despite the NL's most offensive park this season, but their team wOBA is right in the middle of the National League, while the majority of the lineup is hitting better of late. AJ Hinch has been shuffling his lineup frequently, but here are the predominant starters:
|Ryan Roberts - 2B||.291||6||20||.386||.439||.364|
|Gerardo Parra - LF||.287||5||52||.324||.408||.315|
|Brandon Allen - 1B||.220||2||7||.273||.439||.296|
|Chris Young - CF||.187||7||28||.292||.343||.287|
By wOBA metrics, the lineup features two superstar caliber players (Punk and Reynolds), two solidly above average hitters (Montero and Roberts), one average (Drew), one below average (Parra) and two that are struggling (Young and Allen). Brandon Allen came in the trade of Tony Pena and his presence in the starting lineup pretty much signals the end of the Josh Whitesell experiment. Oh, and batting Drew leadoff is stupid.
Chad Tracy (.234, 6, 34), Rusty Ryal (.303, 2, 3) and Augie Ojeda (.240, 1, 12) are Hinch's reserve infielders. Alex Romero (.261, 1, 17) is listed as the lone reserve outfielder and John Hester (4-for-6, 1 HR) was called up a week ago as the backup catcher and hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat.
Hop after the jump for the scouting report on the arms, the D, the pitching matchups and the hot/cold players.
The Arms: C+
Of the two series at Coors, we won the one in which Dan Haren did not pitch and lost the one in which he did. Haren does take the hill this weekend, but Haren is struggling a bit and his supporting cast in the rotation is not as fearsome. Doug Davis had major issues at Coors in his last start, and Yusmeiro Petit serves up home run balls as well as Josh Hamilton's batting practice pitcher. The Diamondbacks as a staff have a 4.25 ERA, tied with the Rockies, but with so many players coming and going, that doesn't mean much.
Four members of the Opening Day bullpen are gone, notably closer Chad Qualls, who is out for the year with a knee injury. His replacement - Juan Gutierrez - has arguably been the best reliever for Arizona this season.
|2009 - Juan Gutierrez||3-3||55||0||0||0||3||1||59.1||57||28||27||2||27||55||4.10||1.42|
Gutierrez is joined in the pen by lefties Daniel Schlereth and Clay Zavada as well as right handers Blaine Boyer, Bryan Augenstein, Daniel Cabrera, Kevin Mulvey, Leo Rosales and Esmerling Vasquez. Despite the lack of name recognition there, only Vasquez has really been a negative in the pen.
The D: C+
Arizona has been 2nd in MLB in errors for most of the season, and their 111 is no fluke. However, their range is above average, at least by UZR, and they are listed as the 9th most valuable defense on Fangraphs. Parra, Reynolds and Young are graded as weak by UZR, while the rest of the lineup is solid.
Tonight, 7:10 pm MDT
|2009 - Dan Haren||13-8||31||27||3||1||0||0||188.0||147||61||58||22||29||180||2.78||0.94|
|2009 - Jason Hammel||8-7||27||24||1||0||0||0||137.0||169||75||67||12||34||93||4.40||1.48|
One should have expected regression from Haren, whose BABIP against at the ASB was below his playing weight. After allowing more than 3 ER in a start just once in the first half, he allowed 5+ in half of his six August starts, including a game in Philadelphia where he allowed three home runs. So hopefully he's primed to see his numbers fall off against the Rockies, who he's given up just 2 ER in 20 IP this season. Hammel is coming off his best 3-start stretch, allowing 5 ER through those 19 IP. He didn't allow more than 3 ER in his 6 August starts, and the Rockies have won 7 of his last 8 Coors starts. This game could be a lot more competitive than expected. Favors: DIAMONDBACKS moderately
Saturday, September 5, 6:10 pm MDT
|2009 - Doug Davis||7-11||28||28||0||0||0||0||169.0||155||79||71||21||87||125||3.78||1.43|
|2009 - Jose Contreras||5-13||21||21||0||0||0||0||114.2||121||83||69||11||45||89||5.42||1.45|
Doug Davis has a nice ERA, but his 4.80 FIP and 5.41 tRA suggest that's not quite as true, not surprising with those HR and BB rates. In the eight starts since allowing eight runs at Coors Field while getting just 7 outs, Davis was touched up for more than 3 runs only once. Arizona won his last start, though he allowed three HR at Dodger Stadium. Jose Contreras will make his Rockies debut. He hasn't started since August 19 yet pitched August 29, when he was lit up at Yankee Stadium. As RockiesMagicNumber wrote Tuesday, the Cuban has been more effective than his ERA would suggest. Note his comparable WHIP to Davis with far less HR allowed. Contreras' issue has been making pitches to strand runners. With a talented defense behind him, he should get better results, in theory. I view this game as the swing game of the series, with the teams favored to spilt the bookend games. That makes Contreras' performance all the more critical. Favors: ROCKIES slightly
Sunsday, September 6, 1:10 MDT
|2009 - Yusmeiro Petit||3-8||17||16||0||0||0||0||82.1||93||54||50||17||28||66||5.47||1.47|
|2009 - Jorge De La Rosa||13-9||27||26||0||0||0||0||154.2||152||84||79||19||65||158||4.60||1.40|
The Petit Unit doesn't even deserve the nickname he earned in jest. He nearly no-hit the Pirates, but that was the only time he's gotten into the seventh inning this season. He's allowed 6 ER in 8.0IP covering two starts against the Rockies this year, though in fairness, he's pitching better of late, having allowed just 3 ER in his last three starts, covering 17.0IP. He's a poor match for the Rockies though, given Colorado's strength in hitting for power. The only pitcher in MLB with a higher HR/9 than Petit is the demoted Josh Geer.
My take: Obviously, the Rockies must take this series. The games start with the most difficult to win and end with the most favorable matchups, so if Colorado doesn't come out like gladiators, there's no cause for alarm. Hammel/Haren is an intriguing matchup that the Rockies could possibly win, which would make winning the series all the more probable. I'll project the Rockies to take two.
Justin Upton is en fuego, rapping 13 hits in the last week, three over the wall. Miguel Montero is 8-for-23 over the last week with a HR, and Juan Gutierrez has back-to-back saves, part of a six outing scoreless streak.
Chad 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) and Scott Schoeneweis (depression - 8/10) are on the 15-day. Of the six, only Schoeneweis and Snyder are likely to return this year.