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Rockies hope to rebound against wallowing Nationals

Friday, I said this about the Diamondbacks series:

Arizona can steal this series...a series win shouldn't be taken for granted.

No one bought it, as evidenced by the 91% of you that still picked a series win for Colorado. The Diamondbacks series had all the earmarks for a trap series, and now we have lost three out of the last four series. We are officially no longer hot. So is Washington a trap too?

No. We will win this series.

One big reason in their appalling 9-29 record on the road. I suppose that might not be too surprising, considering Scott Olsen represents the senior member of the Nationals' staff at just 25. Their -101 run differential is worst in the league, and while their record is a full 6 games worse than their pitiful Pyth W-L, it still is strongly indicative of the worst team in the majors. There's really no smoke and mirrors here. You might remember them winning a series at Yankees Stadium and winning four straight over New York and Toronto, but that only contributed to a 9-17 June.

This will be the first time the teams square off this season. Last year, Washington took 3 of 4 at Coors Field, though the Rockies returned the favor with a sweep in Washington later in the month. That trend was reversed in 2007, when the Nats took 3 of 4 in Nationals Stadium but got swept in three games at Coors. On the strength of an 8-0 mark in 2006, the Rockies are 18-10 vs. the Nats since their inception, yet are only 8-6 at Coors Field.

The Nats' blog is called Federal Baseball. We definitely win in the best name for a blog comparison. They don't have a series preview, but here is their game thread for tonight.


Washington Nationals (24-55, W2, 5th)

Monday-Wednesday: 3-game series at Coors Field

The Bats: C

All statistics point to a very average offense, perhapes slightly below. Their batting average is 17th, HR is 22nd, 21st in runs, 14th in wOBA and a 14th best team value of -0.1. With more ABs going to Josh Willingham, one of my obscure favorite players, instead of Austin Kearns, and a few other changes, the offense is slightly better than their season numbers.

Nyjer Morgan - CF .276
2 28 .350 .359 .316
Nick Johnson - 1B .293 5 35 .404 .406 .364
Ryan Zimmerman -3B .293 13 47 .363 .481 .362
Adam Dunn - LF .265 22 59 .401 .545 .400
Josh Willingham - RF .285 9 20 .404 .527 .404
Cristian Guzman - SS .318 3 21 .333 .429 .328
Josh Bard - C .265 1 15 .342 .392 .328
Anderson Hernandez -2B .255 1 21 .318 .320 .286

By wOBA metrics, the lineup features two guys on the cusp of being big times stars (Dunn and Willingham, a personal favorite), two above average hitters (Johnson and Zimmerman), two average sticks (Bard and Guzman), one below average (Morgan) and one terrible hitter (Hernandez).

Second base is a big time revolving door. Willie Harris (.248, 4, 15) could start there as well as the outfield, while Ronnie Belliard (.185, 2, 8) and Alberto Gonzalez (.309, 1, 7) could start there too. Wil Nieves has been splitting time with Bard since Jesus Flores went down. Austin Kearns (.196, 3, 16) is also still somehow on that bench. Elijah Dukes was optioned to AAA Saturday.

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

The Arms: D-

Fangraphs lists the Nats as having the 3rd worst staff in the bigs. Their ERA is 29th at 5.21, and their ERA/FIP/tRA splits for starters and relievers are 4.94/4.66/5.59 and 5.69/4.68/5.27. That's really bad. Despite John Lannan's good looking-stats, Jordan Zimmermann is the only above average starter, according to Stat Corner, while no one applies from the bullpen, though Sean Burnett will be one with more innings.

Joe Beimel, Ron Villone and Sean Burnett make up Manny Acta's lefty-heavy bullpen. Jason Bergmann, Tyler Clippard, Julian Tavarez are his right-handed options in bridging to new closer Mike MacDougal, the former Royals closer who was signed to a minor league deal May 3 after his release from the White Sox in April. Kip Wells was sent down after June 23 with a 6.49 ERA and Opening Day closer Joel Hanrahan was sent to Pittsburgh in the Burnett/Morgan deal.

The D: F

This is the worst defense we will see this year. They have committed 73 and have been worst in the majors in that category until Arizona's gaffe Friday and the preceding week. This despite the fact they have the worst UZR/150 rating in MLB. They have the worst fielding percentage and allow a whopping 43 unearned runs. Not convinced? Fangraphs gives them an MLB-worst value of -29.7. Easiest failing grade ever to assign.

Ryan Zimmerman and Nyjer Morgan are plus defenders, but everyone else on the diamond is below average. Adam Dunn is nearly negating his offensive contribtuions with his play in LF.

Probable Pitchers:

All three Nationals starters are rookies. They had 1.0 IP of experience at the MLB level combined before 2009, a relief appearance by Detwiler. Obviously then, the Rockies have not faced any of them.

Tonight, 6:40 pm MDT

2009 - Craig Stammen 1-3 5.44 1.30 22 10

2009 - Jason Marquis 10-5 3.87 1.31 51 36

Tuesday, July 7, 6:40 pm MDT

2009 - Jordan Zimmermann 3-3 4.52 1.30 75 21

2009 - Jason Hammel 5-4 3.90 1.35 56 19

Wednesday, July 8, 1:10 MDT

2009 - Ross Detwiler 0-4 5.81 1.67 30 19

2009 - Jorge De La Rosa 5-7 5.14 1.44 93 42

33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_mediumJordan Zimmermann has not allowed more than two runs in a start since May 27, spanning five starts. Adam Dunn has 3 HR and 2 2B in his last six games with 6 RBI. Josh Willingham is 7-21 in that span with 2 2Bs.

IceCristian Guzman is just 5-25 in the past week, and Ryan Zimmerman is 6-26 in the same time. The two catchers, Nieves and Bard, have combined to scratch out just three hits in their last 20 ABs. Nick Johnson is 5-23. Austin Kearns doesn't have a two hit game since May.

Bandaid_mediumJesus Flores is the biggest blow to the Nationals. He has been on the DL since May 10 with a shoulder injury and will likely be out the rest of the year. He had a .905 OPS in 90 ABs before the injury. Dmitri Young has been on the 15day since Opening day, while Matt Chico (elbow), Roger Bernadina (ankle) and Terrell Young (shoulder) are on the 60day.