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Rockies close out road trip by visiting World Series champs

Of their last eight series, the Rockies have faced just one team above .500 (the Giants) and zero teams that one would consider had an above average offense. It's time for a litmus test. I'm sure Philly and their unphailing aphinity for pH will be suitable.

Philadelphia took 2 of 3 from the Rockies in April, but none of the Phillies' starting pitchers from that series will face Colorado this time around. Naturally, much has changed for these teams since that series. That was back when Ryan Spilborghs was the primary CF and Jason Grilli was the 7th inning man. Perhaps more valid are recent games.

Philadelphia won 14 of 16 from July 8- and 18 of 21 from July 3-28 but have since hit a bump in the road. They have lost 4 of 5 (all against the NL West), their worst stretch in nearly six weeks. The only game they won in the last rotation cycle was by newly acquired Cliff Lee, as they dropped 3 of 4 to San Francisco at AT&T Park. But of course, they are blaming the ballpark since:

"Quite a few balls we hit were homers in Philly,'' - Jayson Werth

"If we play at our field, I think it will be see where we hit the ball, those are definitely out of our ballpark." - Cole Hamels

No kidding. But you guys might not want to use Citizens Bank Park as your standard, even if it is your home park. Both teams hit in the same conditions. You just got beat, and you have to be able to win games on the road to be a legitimate playoff team. The Rockies split two games at AT&T Park earlier this year. The ascertation of blaming the park is a bit strange coming from the Phillies, whose 27-25 home record is worse than the Rockies' 31-26 mark on the road, while Philly is a league best 32-19 on the road.

As for head to head, the Rockies have won just 1 of their past 9 games against Philly, losing all four on the road in that stretch. One other interesting note for the series: all three starting pitchers for Philly are left-handed. Despite the fact that the Rockies' best lineup includes only three RH bats, Colorado is a cool 16-16 against LHP and actually sport a better situational OPS against lefties.

A series win actually yields at least a winning road trip at 6-4 (7-3 with a sweep), while scratching out one win in Pennsylvania will go down as a 5-5 road trip, not terrible given the east coast nature and debacle at Citi Field.

To see the Philly side of things, immerse yourself in the overuse of pH, which continues to maniphest in the Phillies' SBNation blog as well: The Good Phight.


Philadelphia Phillies (59-44, L2, 1st, 5 Gm lead)

Tuesday-Thursday: 3-game series at Citizens Bank Park

The Bats: A-

Philly is dead average in batting average at .260, but make no mistake - their offense if vaunted and quite frankly belongs in the American League. They lead the NL in HR, SLG and wOBA (though are 3rd, 6th and 5th in those categories overall). Their 143 HR are far ahead of Colorado's 122, which is 2nd in the NL. Overall, the offense is incredibly strong, and facing them will be like a facing a Ubaldo heater after a month of BP off of Livan Hernandez. I've rated the last teams the Rockies have faced offensively as F, D+, F, D-, D, C-, C, D-. Five-eighths of their starting lineup was at the All-Star Game this year, and of the three who weren't, one was the 2007 MVP and another is a well-known Rockie-killer. The vaunted lineup:

Jimmy Rollins - SS .239 11
.290 .385 .299
Shane Victorino - CF .315 8
.382 .470 .373
Chase Utley - 2B
.301 23 70
.420 .546 .424
Ryan Howard - 1B .263 26
.347 .529 .375
Raul Ibanez - LF .301 26
.366 .627 .417
Jayson Werth - RF .270 22
.381 .503 .383
Pedro Feliz - 3B
.289 6
.337 .395 .322
Carlos Ruiz - C .225 5
.325 .368 .304

By wOBA metrics, the lineup features two hitters performing at Superstar levels (Utley and Ibanez) , one performing at a strong All-Star caliber clip (Werth), two hitting well above average on the cusp of being a legit All-Star (Howard and Victorino), one below average hitter (Feliz), one well below average hitter (Ruiz) and one hitting very very poorly (Rollins). The 2007 MVP has a worse wOBA than several stud shortstops, like Luis Valbuena, Everth Cabrera, Willie Bloomquist, and Julio Lugo. Chase Utley is the Most Valuable Player in MLB by FG value.

Victorino has been relegated to pinch-hitting the last few games with a bruised knee but will return to the lineup, if not tonight, sometime in the series. He has been replaced by the only bench player younger than 31 - Ben Francisco (.253/.335/.425). Matt Stairs (.230, 4, 13) joins Francisco in the outfield reserves while Paul Bako (.167, 0, 4) is the backup catcher since Chris Coste was claimed off waivers by the Astros July 11. Eric Bruntlett (.133, 0, 6) and Greg Dobbs (.256, 5, 18) fill out the old, balanced and slow 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-

The Phillies' staff ERA of 4.37 (19th) and ERA+ of 98 certainly aren't overwhelming. However, they have taken great strides in improving that. Their rotation ERA has improved to 4.60 (20th) with the addition of J.A. Happ yet stills sports a 4.69 FIP and 4.80 tRA. Adding Cliff Lee and subtracting Chan Ho Park or Rodrigo Lopez is a huge boost to that though. Their bullpen has been below average as well, posting a 3.94 ERA (13th), 4.48 FIP (22nd) and 4.74 tRA. By Fangraphs value, the pitching staff has been fifth worst in the majors. Again, this should be adjusted upwards, particularly for this series, given the addition of Cliff Lee and J.A. Happ's addition to the rotation in late May. In addition, Brad Lidge has been horrific as the Phillies closer, but in a small sample, we all know he can be far more dominating than your average pitcher with an ERA north of 7.

2009 - Brad Lidge 0-4 7.11 1.79 41 24

Charlie Manual's lone lefty is Scott Eyre. Ryan Madson sets up for Brad Lidge, Tyler Walker is a middle reliever, while right handers Kyle Kendrick, Rodrigo Lopez, and Chan Ho Park represent rotation outcasts in the pen. Walker, Park and Madson have been above average relievers, while the rest (sans Lopez who has yet to appear as a reliever) have been liabilities out of the pen.

The D: B

The Phillies are ranked 10th in UZR/150 while also making the 3rd-least errors which equates to Fangraphs' 10th best fielding value. Should you choose to believe Fangraphs, Philly has above average fielders at every position except CF, where Shane Victorino has been a strong liability (-8.8) almost to the point of being Brad Hawpe (-11.7).

The Ballpark: Slight hitter's park

Contrary to many popular advances, Citizens Bank Park isn't video game bandbox. It's 102/101 Baseball Reference park factor does ascertain its offensive tendencies, but they are far slighter than advertised. The park smothers inside-the-park hits while ballooning home run numbers. Its 116.4 HR/FB park factor is less than Coors Field's 121.6 however while being more on par with Chase Field's 115.3.

Probable Pitchers:

Tonight, 5:05 pm MDT

2009 - Jason Hammel 5-6 4.66 1.50 71 25

2009 - Jamie Moyer 10-7 5.32 1.45 65 33

Hammel has never been a full-time starter. Perhaps fatigue or scouting reports are starting to catch up to him, as he has given up at least four runs in three of five starts, with the only two quality starts coming against the pansy offenses in San Diego and San Francisco. Jamie Moyer has won 6 of his last 7 starts, posting a 3.30 ERA in July despite pitching in very offensive minded parks. There were even reports he reached 83mph on his fastball once or twice. Hammel has been the better pitcher overall this year, but Moyer is going to force Jim Tracy to use a lot of the bench in terms of RH bats in the lineup. Favors: ROCKIES very slightly

Wednesday, August 5, 5:05 pm MDT

2009 - Jorge De La Rosa 9-7 4.68 1.35 117 50

2009 - J.A. Happ 7-2 2.97 1.16 76 35

DLR is on some kind of run, winning a franchise record seven straight starts, winning part of a streak where he has won 9 of 10 decisions. His 5-0 July with a 2.50 ERA should put him in the conversation for NL Pitcher of the Month (no one else managed a 5-0 month). Statcorner rates him as a better starting pitcher this year than any Phillie hurler, including Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ, who is enjoying a fantastic year, with the help of some better than average BABIP and strand rates. He throws a fastball around 90mph almost three quarters of the time, which is rated by Fangraphs as the 12th best fastball in MLB. He as also apparently scrapped his slider in exchange for a cutter and throws a change and curve. This is another competitive pitching matchup, though the Phillies' superior offense and home field offer a boost. Favors: PHILLIES slightly

Thursday, August 6, 11:05 MDT

2009 - Aaron Cook 10-3 3.88 1.41 73 41

2009 - Cliff Lee 8-9 3.02 1.27 113 35

Lee threw a complete game four-hitter, allowing just one run in his Phillies debut, though it was in San Francisco. He has been death on lefties, of which the Rockies' best hitters are, though Colorado has hit better off lefties than righties for the season. In his lasat four starts, Lee is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA, striking out 20 and walking jsut 2 in 36 IP. It's going to be a tough matchup, even though the Rockies turn to their "ace." Aaron Cook hasn't lost since "the streak" started in early June, winning his past seven decisions, even with an inconsistent sinker. He is giving up more HR than any other full season in his career. If Cook is on, the aggressive Phillies might find themselves trotting to first and back to the dugout frequently. If he's not, this will be a difficult game to win. Favors: PHILLIES strongly

My take

The Rockies can take this series over the struggling Phillies, but it would be difficullt to go through Cliff Lee. The traditional home field advantage is out the window, given that the Rockies are better on the road than Philly is at home this year. The addition of Franklin Morales and Joe Beimel to the bullpen make the Rockies far more suitable to face Charlie Manual's big lefty or switch bats (Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Ibanez) late in the game, especially since all five hit in consecutive order. On top of that, Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs are their top two PHers, and both swings from the left side. The Rockies actually have a bullpen advantage, so if the Rockies' three starters each turn in a quality start, they have a chance, though winning just one game should not be seen as a failure.

33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_mediumJimmy Rollins has a nine game hitting streak and is hitting over .315 since July 1. Cliff Lee is pitching dominantly (see above), while Ibanez, Howard and Victorino have 10 HR between them, each around a .900 OPS since the ASB. Scott Eyre has appeared in 32 games this year. He allowed a solo homer July 29 - before that, the last time he allowed an earned run was April 27, the only other appearance he allowed a run (he allowed four).

IceMatt Stairs has just one hit in 20 ABs. Philly catchers are just 10 for their past 63, and Pedro Feliz has just one XBH in his 66 post-ASB ABs. Brad Lidge just posted a 5.91 ERA in July, his best month of the year. Tyler Walker and Ryan Madson also posted July ERAs over 5.00.

Bandaid_mediumShane Victorino is listed as probably for tonight's game with a bruised knee but will be starting at some point in the series, if not tonight. Brett Myers did the rotation a favor by going on the 60-day DL May 28 with a hip injury, which in part opened the door for Happ to hold onto a rotation slot. Five pitchers are on the 15 day DL, including Clay Condrey (oblique - 7/23), J.C. Romero (forearm - 7/20), Chad Durbin (7/23), Pedro Martinez (shoulder - 7/15), and Antonio Bastardo (shoulder - 6/26)