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20 things to know about the Diamondbacks and Rockies

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Divisional foes square off for the 20th—and most important—time this season

After a wild season with as many downs as there were ups, the Colorado Rockies find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Unlike that year, however, the Rockies are not the only Wild Card team in this year’s NL playoffs. Instead, after the 2012 rule change, they will visit the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in a one-game playoff to determine who will face the Dodgers in the NLDS. So far, the Wild Card game has just a ten-game history (11 if you count last night’s game) but those ten games can tell us a bit about what to expect in this one. Here are 20 facts to ponder as The Wild Card Game approaches.

Five Wild Card Game Facts

  • In the ten Wild Card games played so far, the home team has a 3-7 record. In the National League, only the 2013 Pirates have managed a home victory.
  • Wild Card game winners have a 5-5 record in the NLDS, a 2-3 record in the NLCS, and a 1-1 record in the World Series.
  • Only one Wild Card game has been decided by more than four runs, with an average margin of victory in those nine games of 3.2.
  • Five of the ten Wild Card games have featured shutouts, including all three most recent NL games.
  • The National League divisional records in the Wild Card game: The NL West is 2-0, the NL Central is 3-3, and the NL East is 0-2.

Five Rockies-Diamondbacks Series Facts

  • The Diamondbacks lead the overall season series at 11-8, with a total combined score of 101-69. At Chase Field, the series is tied 5-5 and the D-Backs lead in total scoring 43-32.
  • At Chase Field this season, the Rockies have slashed just .208/.269/.373, while their pitching staff owns a 4.13 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, and a 2.5 K/BB ratio.
  • At Chase Field, the Rockies have just two regulars hitting better than .240 in Trevor Story (.286/.375/.629) and D.J. LeMahieu (.300/.364/.533). Against the Rockies this year, the D-Backs have just one regular hitting worse than .240 in Jake Lamb (.197/.280/.303).
  • Against Zack Greinke this season, the Rockies own a .229/.241/.435 line with six home runs. Aside from the homers however, Grienke has a 3.41 ERA, an 0.94 WHIP, and a whopping 18.5 K/BB ratio.
  • Against Jon Gray this season, the D-Backs own a .264/.308/.458 line. Gray is 2-1 against them and has a 3.50 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in his three starts against them. In two starts at Chase Field, Gray has been dominant with a 2.77 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 20 strikeouts and just one walk in 13 innings.

Five Diamondbacks Facts

  • At Chase Field this season, J.D. Martinez has slashed .373/.448/.891 with 16 home runs in just 30 games, completely justifying the deadline deal.
  • Zack Greinke owns a 3.40 FIP, a 1.09 WHIP, and a 23.7% strikeout rate at home in the second half, compared to a 3.03 FIP, 0.87 WHIP, and a 32.8% strikeout rate at home in the first half.
  • The Diamondbacks pitching staff owns the National League’s second best home xFIP at 3.83, the NL’s second best home strikeout rate at 24.5%, the NL’s third best home WHIP at 1.24, and the NL’s second lowest home wOBA allowed at .303.
  • The Diamondbacks hitters have the second highest strikeout rate in the National League at 23.4 percent but also have the NL’s fourth highest walk rate at 9.3 percent. They also own the NL’s best hard contact rate at 34.5% and the NL’s second lowest soft contact rate at just 17.4%.
  • With runners in scoring position, the Diamondbacks hitters have the NL’s third highest OPS (.817) and wRAA (26.8). In those situations, their pitching staff has the NL’s third best FIP (4.09) and the NL’s second best strikeout rate (23.1%).

Five Rockies Facts

  • The Rockies have two players in the top-five best odds to win the NL MVP in Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon both at 9-1. The two have been responsible for 28.8% of the Rockies runs scored, 29.5 percent of the team’s RBIs, 38.5% of the team’s home runs, and are the only pair of teammates on the list of baseball’s top-14 wRC+ leaders.
  • Since the beginning of August, Jon Gray owns a 2.72 FIP, a 1.12 WHIP, a 4.4 K/BB ratio, and a .275 wOBA against.
  • The Rockies pitching staff has a 4.25 FIP and a 1.33 WHIP on the road while inducing a 19.9% soft contact rate as well as a 44.9% groundball rate. All those numbers are good for top-ten league-wide.
  • On the road, the Rockies offense owns the NL’s third highest strikeout rate at 24.6%, the NL’s third worst slugging percentage at .390, the NL’s third lowest hard contact rate at 29.9%, and the NL’s fifth worst wRC+ at 82.
  • If you removed Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado from the lineup, the Rockies drop from an 87 wRC+ team to a 73 wRC+ team over the full season. To put that number in perspective, over nearly 150 years of major league history there have been 2,865 team seasons played. A 73 wRC+ would tie the Rockies for 2,837th all-time and would be the worst number since the 72 wRC+ of the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays. Luckily for the Rockies, neither guy missed significant time this season.

Analysis

If recent history is any indicator, this game will be low scoring and won with pitching. Both teams have put together impressive pitching seasons. For the Rockies, their pitching staff has been their saving grace, pulling up an offense that has been one of the worst this franchise has ever seen. For the Diamondbacks, the pitching staff has been the driving force behind an excellent overall season. The starting pitching matchup should be incredible to watch. Jon Gray has been one of the best pitchers in the league over the last two months and Zack Greinke is a legitimate Cy Young candidate. I expect both pitchers to be effective and the game likely to come down to one or two runs. Both bullpens have also been excellent on the year and a bullpen showdown in the late innings wouldn’t be at all surprising.

On the offensive side of things, the Diamondbacks have had a great season at Chase Field but have struggled a bit against the Rockies, averaging just over four runs per game in their ten meetings. On the other side, the Rockies power hitters have gotten to Greinke on the year but as a complete offense, it has been tough sledding. Trevor Story will be the man to watch as his numbers at Chase Field are impressive. In 16 games there, he has eight home runs and four doubles, by far his best numbers in any away ballpark. For the Diamondbacks, they will look to get their big guys going in J.D. Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt. In his career, Gray has struggled against this roster, as they are slashing .330/.351/.544 against him. However, the Gray of the last few weeks is a different pitcher; he’s in a zone right now and it will be hard to get much going against him.

The pressure will be on both offenses to get to the starter. Both are capable of doing so, but it’s certainly easier said than done. The Rockies may have actually caught a break with this one being played at Chase Field, as the D-Backs have been impossible to slow down over the course of this season at Coors. These teams know each other well and emotions will be running high for these two franchises who have been in playoff droughts. If the Rockies can jump on Greinke early and pile on four or five early inning runs, it should be enough to let Jon Gray and the Rockies bullpen seal the deal and send them out to Los Angeles riding a wave of momentum.