Th Colorado Rockies will close out their nine game homestand with a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants. So far, the homestand has been one of the lowlights this season. The Rockies have gone 1-5 with just twenty runs scored in the six games against the Tigers and Diamondbacks. Entering the most important and challenging part of the season schedule, the Rockies haven’t shown up, and the team looks closer to a bottom five National League team than a top five one. Unfortunately for the Rockies, this homestand was their best chance to take advantage of their homefield advantage at Coors, as 14 of their last 23 games will be played away from Denver. All in all, it’s been a pretty depressing week, and the Rockies now sit just a half-game ahead of the Brewers in the Wild Card race. This is not exactly the march to the playoffs Rockies fans were hoping for.
In all this gloom, however, there is a beacon of light in the form of a terrible Giants team the Rockies face to end this homestand. The Giants have been the league’s second-worst road team this year, ahead of only the Oakland A’s. They have won only 22 road games this year and are averaging under four runs per game away from AT&T Park. The Rockies have had great success against the Giants this year, owning a 10-4 record and averaging 5.7 runs scored per game. It’s a good opportunity for the Rockies to recapture their form as they look ahead to the most important and challenging road trip of the season.
The Giants offense has been one of baseball’s worst all year. They are hitting .247 (24th in in the league), slugging .377 (last), with a wOBA of .295 (last), have scored 543 runs (29th), hit 108 homeruns (last), own a 7.8 WAR (28th), and their wRAA sits at an appalling -121.2. Their 81 wRC+ is worst in baseball this year and ranks second worst in Giants history, a history that goes back as far as 1883 when they were known as the New York Gothams. It is a historically bad offense, but the lineup still includes Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. They’re the guys most capable of doing damage.
Starting Pitching Notes
The Rockies will face Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, and Johnny Cueto in this one. Stratton is a rookie making his sixth start this season. Originally drafted 20th overall by the Giants in 2012 out of Mississippi State, Stratton has had a long road through the minors but has pitched well since coming up. Stratton’s biggest issue throughout his career has been his lack of control and that has continued in the majors, as he sports a 4.78 BB/9 in his 38 innings. Ty Blach will be making his sixth appearance and third start against the Rockies this year. The Rockies have struggled against him, posting a meager .236 batting average with 13 strikeouts in 16 innings. His last start against them came on June 28, when he threw six and a third innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits and three walks. Cueto stumped the Rockies in their first meeting, but the team had him figured out in their most recent matchup, when they scored six runs on him in five innings back on April 21. Cueto has really struggled on the road this season. He sports a 4.78 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
The Giants bullpen has been another source of frustration for the team. As a group, their 4.60 xFIP is fourth highest in baseball and their 1.48 WHIP is second highest. From an individual standpoint, it’s hard to find a pitcher in the Giants bullpen that hasn’t struggled this season. Mark Melancon has dealt with an elbow injury all year and hasn’t been terribly effective when he’s been out there. Hunter Strickland has a 2.96 ERA, but his poor peripherals (1.55 WHIP, 5.02 xFIP) suggest he hasn’t been all that dominant. Since coming over to San Francisco in June, Sam Dyson has put together a strong season, but like Strickland his poor peripherals point to a looming regressing which may have already started after he gave up five earned runs in a third of an inning against the Cardinals on Friday.
The Giants have a DRS of -31 which puts them 25th in the league. That number, however, is a bit deceiving, as they boast baseball’s worst defensive player in terms of DRS. Denard Span has a shocking -27 DRS in center field. In all of baseball, the next closest player is Daniel Murphy’s -16 DRS at second base. If the season were to end today, Span’s -27 DRS would be the third worst mark for a centerfielder since DRS became a measurable statistic in 2003. Only Matt Kemp’s -33 in 2010 and Andrew McCutcheon’s -28 last year are worse. Aside from Span’s awful season, the Giants have been a sound defensive team led by Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt.
Since August 1, the Rockies have been essentially useless with runners in scoring position. Their 56 wRC+, .309 slugging percentage, .103 ISO and -13.9 wRAA all rank dead last in baseball in those situations. Over the same time span, Rockies pitchers have the eighth best xFIP in baseball, so there is no question where the blame lies in this most recent tailspin. The Rockies will face the Dodgers and Diamondbacks on the road for four games each following this one, so a series win against the Giants is essential.
The Rockies continue to be terrible at hitting. It’s to a point where the expectation of four runs per game is the best you can hope for. Therefore, the pitching staff needs to hold down a bad Giants offense in this three game set. Fortunately, the Rockies still hold a minuscule lead in the Wild Card and they get to play the second-worst team in baseball in terms of record. There is no excuse for a series loss in this one and this is a team the Rockies really need to sweep. Things only get more difficult from here on out so it will be up to the pitching to carry a miserable offense through this series. Even if they do manage a sweep, the road is long on the other side and unless the offense figures it out, a sweep of the Giants may be the last thing the Rockies can celebrate this year.
Probable Pitchers and Schedule
Monday, September 4 @ 1:10 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Chris Stratton (0-0, 3.82 ERA) vs. Chad Bettis (0-2, 4.88 ERA)
Tuesday, September 5 @ 6:40 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Ty Blach (8-11, 4.68 ERA) vs. Antonio Senzatela (10-5, 4.68 ERA)
Wednesday, September 6 @ 6:40 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Johnny Cueto (6-7, 4.54 ERA) vs. Kyle Freeland (11-9, 3.89 ERA)