Jun
29

Series Preview: Colorado Rockies

By

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Jeffrey Beall via Creative Commons license)

And now it’s the National League’s turn to come to the Yankees. The Bombers have done their time in Chicago and Cincinnati, and now they’re back in their natural element, with nine real hitters in the lineup and no need for double switches. The less “strategy,” the better.

What Have The Rockies Done Lately?

Although they dropped their most recent game to the Indians, the Rockies are coming in hot. They’ve won two of their last three games, six of their last eight, and nine of their last 14. Most of those games have been close though, nine of the 14 were decided by two runs or less. Four of the last five have been one run affairs. Colorado is exactly .500 at 37-37, and their +11 run differentially is just a win or so better than average.

Rockies On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user SD Dirk via Creative Commons license)

The Rockies can definitely hit (.323 wOBA as a team, ninth best in baseball), but their lineup is very top heavy. It starts right at the top with Carlos Gonzalez, who has followed up last year’s monster .416 wOBA, 6.6 fWAR season with a .348/1.5 effort this year. Since moving to the leadoff spot earlier this month, the center fielder is hitting .362/.392/.551 in 16 games. The number two hitter changes by the day, but of late it’s been either Jonathan Herrera (.319 OBP, .288 wOBA) or Chris Nelson (.279 OBP, .327 wOBA). They split time at second base as well.

Batting third is the best player in franchise history, Todd Helton. He’s having a great dead cat bounce year (.382 wOBA), doing his usual job of getting on base like a fiend (.387 OBP) while rediscovering some of that lost power (.190 ISO and nine homers, already more than he had last year in half the plate appearances). Troy Tulowitzki is generally one of the five most valuable players in baseball and the cleanup hitter, but he’s down to a .357 wOBA due to a prolonged stretch of mediocre hitting (.251/.300/.407 since the end of April). It’s worth noting that his last 14 games feature a .356/.387/.559 line, and he capable of doing major damage at any moment. Former Yankee Jason Giambi will be the designated hitter and protect Tulo, and he brings a .426 wOBA to the table in limited playing time. Hopefully the Yankees take a huge lead in one of these games and the Giambi parks one into the upper deck in garbage time, I wouldn’t mind that for old time’s sake.

The rest of the lineup is a bit more fluid. Ty Wigginton (power heavy .358 wOBA) is now the regular third baseman after Ian Stewart’s disaster start, and the duo of Ryan Spilborghs (.320 wOBA vs. LHP) and Seth Smith (.427 wOBA vs. RHP) platoon in right. Catcher Chris Iannetta sports a .229 batting average but a .389 OBP because his 19.9% walk rate is the second highest in baseball (behind only Jose Bautista). His power is very real as well (.218 ISO). Recent call-up Charlie Blackmon (.338 wOBA in limited time) handles left field duties. Colorado has three guys that qualify as elite count-workers (Helton, Giambi, and Iannetta), three that can steal a few bags (CarGo, Tulo, Blackmon), and a number of players capable of putting one in the people. It’s a diverse and effective offense, but that top five is where the real damage is done.

Rockies On The Mound

(Photo Credit: The Chicago Sun-Times)

Friday, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez: It’s been a very up-and-down year for Mr. Jimenez. Sometimes he’ll be this guy, other times he’ll be this guy. He’s very enigmatic, almost like a younger version of A.J. Burnett (who he will be facing). Ubaldo’s strikeout numbers aren’t as good as you’d expect them to be with his stuff (7.83 K/9) but he’s gotten the walks under control (3.86 BB/9) and generates a fair number of ground balls (45.9%). His stuff is absurd despite a noticeable drop in velocity; he’ll still sit 94-96 with both a two and four seamer. Jimenez’s wide array of secondary pitches includes a changeup (mid-80′s), slider (low-80′s), and curveball (high-70′s), and his new toy is a nasty little splitter that dives down and away from lefties and sits in the high-80′s. You can see it at 0:30 and 0:40 of this video. Filthy. If good Ubaldo shows up tonight, there’s almost nothing the Yankees can do. If it’s bad Ubaldo, then it’s all about patience.

Saturday, RHP Aaron Cook: A shoulder issue kept Cook on the shelf until late-May and this will be his fourth start back. He’s an extreme pitch-to-contact guy, having struck out just four men per nine innings since his first full season in 2006. Cook will get a healthy amount of ground balls (50% in 2011, but well over that in the last few years) with an upper-80′s sinker and a low-80′s slider, plus he’ll also throw some low-70′s curves on occasion. He typically won’t hurt himself with walks, but the Yankees tend to eat pitchers without overpowering stuff and a pitch-to-contact approach for breakfast. Cook hasn’t been great since coming off the disabled list, which naturally means he’ll throw eight scoreless tomorrow.

Sunday, RHP Juan Nicasio: Nicasio started this season in Double-A and crushed the competition there (10.0 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 56.2 IP) before skipping right over Triple-A and joining the Rockies’ rotation. His numbers aren’t as stellar in five big league starts (7.53 K/9, 2.20 BB/9, 40.7% grounders) but that’s to be expected. The 25-year-old relies heavily on a mid-90′s fastball, throwing it about two-thirds of the time. Nicasio backs it up with a low-80′s slider and a mid-80′s changeup, but when push comes to shove he goes back to the number one. There’s nothing tricky here, it’s power stuff and he dares you to hit it.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user joseph a via Creative Commons license)

Bullpen: It doesn’t show up in the ERA (3.93), but the Rockies have a phenomenal relief corps that is near the top of the league in strikeout rate (8.01 K/9) while boasting the game’s best walk rate (2.72 BB/9). It starts at the back with Huston Street (8.31 K/9 and 1.56 BB/9), who does his job well but is amazingly homer prone (1.56 HR/9 this year, 2.09 HR/9). I guess solo shots aren’t the end of the world. Rafael Betancourt might be the best setup man in the world, having struck out 11.6 batters per nine innings since the start of last season while unintentionally walking just 1.08. He’s a human rain delay because he takes his sweet time between pitches, but he’s also brutally effective.

The middle innings feature former Marlins and Astros closer Matt Lindstrom, who throws serious gas but doesn’t miss as many bats as you’d expect. He can make it interesting on occasion, but he gets it done more often than not. The criminally underrated Matt Belisle (8.39 K/9 and 2.10 BB/9) will throw four different pitches in relief and fill-in wherever manager Jim Tracy needs him. You could see him in the third or the eighth, he’s like the 2009 Al Aceves. Lefty specialist Matt Reynolds has held same side batters to a .188/.239/.288 batting line since coming up in the second half of last year. The hard-throwing Rex Brothers was just called up and doesn’t really have a defined role, and we’re most likely to see his mid-90′s gas from the left side in low leverage spots, if anything. Swingman Clayton Mortensen has done some starting and some relieving this year, and right now he’s the weak link in the bullpen (4.98 FIP). The Rockies’ bullpen is a microcosm of the team; they’re deep and diverse with no obvious weak spot, better than their .500 record would lead you to believe.

Recommended Rockies Reading: Purple Row

Categories : Series Preview

52 Comments»

  1. Skip says:

    Hey Mike, good job as usual.

    Off topic question – you’ve used the term dead cat bounce year twice today. I get the meaning from the context, but what does it refer to? I’ve never heard that before today.

  2. Uh-huh, you know what it is/
    Black and purple black and purple black and purple black and purple/

    #rubseyes

  3. Todd Helton: 15 seasons, 1994 games, 59.3 bWAR (4.46 bWAR/150), 62.9 fWAR (4.73 fWAR/150)

    Larry Walker: 10 seasons, 1170 games, 44.1 bWAR (5.65 bWAR/150), 49.0 fWAR (6.28 fWAR/150)

    15 years of excellence, or 10 years of dominance? Tough call.

  4. Esteban says:

    Saturday, RHP Aaron Cook: He’s an extreme pitch-to-contact guy

    UGH. Yankees should kill him, but I could also see this being a very frustrating game. Almost like the Doug Davis game. I have faith they’ll hit him though.

  5. dkidd says:

    rockies mascot makes mister redlegs look elegant and restrained

    also, houston street looks like richard gere

    just win series

  6. Monteroisdinero says:

    Can we run on them? 3 righties starting= running opportunities.

  7. nsalem says:

    ” Hopefully the Yankees take a huge lead in one of these games and the Giambi parks one into the upper deck in garbage time, I wouldn’t mind that for old time’s sake.”

    I hope he goes 0 for the series. Though he did a couple of good things in a Yankee uniform. His cheating (which I believe destroyed his health) and his incredibly limited defense cost us big time in our failure to win a ring during his stint in The Bronx. I have no fond memories of Jason (except for ALCS game 7). He is symbolic of a mini era I would prefer to forget.

    • Pat D says:

      Please provide examples of your theory.

      • bexarama says:

        I guess you could say that not having him for most of 2004, including the playoffs, really hurt, but that’s stretching it. His absence is hardly the only reason we lost that series. The defense comment – I don’t even know. He was bad defensively, but that never cost the Yankees in the playoffs.

        Though I too hope he goes 0-for the series, but that’s because I hope for that about every opposing player.

        • Pat D says:

          Yea, I mean I can’t see what he specifically cost them in any one of his seasons. Considering that they made the playoffs every year, all you can do is analyze what made them lose each of those series. And I don’t think Giambi was the reason for any, even 2004.

          • nsalem says:

            He didn’t play in the 2004 playoffs His replacements were John Olerud 2 for 12 and
            Tony Clark 3 for 21. You don’t think that was costly??????

            • Pat D says:

              If Tony Clark’s double in Game 5 at Fenway Park doesn’t bounce over the two-foot wall in right field, Ruben Sierra scores easily and the Yankees win that series right there.

              His not being there was not one of the top 5 reasons they lost that series.

              • nsalem says:

                It wouldn’t have been over then and there because ther was still the bottom of the inning to play. Giambi’s replacements were 5 for 34 for the series with a slugging percentage of under .300. If you want to believe that wasn’t costly thats your prerogative. Your argument that Giambi didn’t cost the Yankee’s anything holds even less weight than your Gardner is a fourth outfielder claim.

                • Pat D says:

                  When did I ever say that about Gardner? Last year? I believe I said he would have to prove to me again this year that last year wasn’t a fluke. So far, he’s done that. Don’t put words in my mouth unless you can prove I said it, and I’m pretty damn sure I never said Gardner was a fourth outfielder.

                  And as I posted below, there were plenty of other, more significant reasons they lost in 2004.

                  • nsalem says:

                    You made a comment a couple of weeks ago to paraphrase.
                    Don’t look now but Gardner’s hitting .240. The implication was you knew he was bound to fail.

                    • Pat D says:

                      Nope. Not at all.

                      Probably just pointing out that he was having a slump.

                      That’s why you don’t assume.

      • nsalem says:

        He supplied little to no offense in his playoff appearances with the Yankees besides his 2 HR
        ALCS game 7 2003 and a decent but powerless 2005 ALDS vs the Angels. I forgot whether he was injured or not in 2007, but he only appeared in one game in that series and he was dismal
        vs Detroit in 2006. His throwing ability was non existent and he rarely attempted to turn a 3-6-3 in hi time with the Yankees This may have been a good thing because his lack of throwing skills directly resulted in the A’s undoing vs the Yankees in 2001. There were many reasons for
        our playoff draught from 2002-2008 other than Giambi’s. His poor playoff performances and self inflicted illness was one of them and I don’t miss him. Just a subjective opinion.

        • Kosmo says:

          It may be a “subjective opinion“ but one I tend to agree with.The Yanks didn´t shell out 20 million per for a .260 often injured player .All I remember of Giambi were those frequent pop up outs and his inability to hit opposite field when the shift was on.

        • Pat D says:

          Yea, but you’re making it sound like they lost mostly because of him.

          2002 ALDS: I’m gonna point the blame at every pitcher not named Mariano Rivera (0.00 ERA in 1 freaking inning) and Orlando Hernandez (2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings). Their ERA for that series, with those guys, was 8.21!!! Giambi hit .357/.526/.571 for that series too!

          2003 WS: .235/.409/.471 ain’t the prettiest line, but it’s not terrible. Let’s see. Extra inning game in Game 4 and Torre never brings in Rivera. FAIL! David Wells asks out of Game 5 after 1 inning. Josh Beckett was just that good in Game 6.

          2004 ALCS: Discussed somewhat, but Mo blowing Game 4 and nobody showing up to pitch in Game 7 were much costlier than Giambi’s absence, as well as the bad luck in Game 5.

          2005 ALDS: Giambi hit .421/.500/.579, albeit with no home runs. They lost Game 2 mostly due to errors by ARod and Wang that led to 3 unearned runs. Then Randy Johnson got shelled in Game 3 and Mike Mussina did likewise in Game 5. Bad pitching.

          2006 ALDS: Giambi hit .125/.417/.500 in 3 games. His one hit was a home run in Game 1, the only game they won. But I’m again going to point to a mediocre start by Mike Mussina and terrible starts by Johnson and Jaret Wright as the primary reasons for their loss.

          2007 ALDS: Giambi went 1 for 4 with a single. This series was pretty much single-handedly lost by Wang.

          2008 Season: Giambi hit 32 home runs and had a 128 OPS+. Yea, he was negative defensively, as I would expect most 37 year old first basemen are, but I think there were a ton of other reasons they missed the playoffs (Posada/Matsui/Wang injuries, down years from Jeter/Cano/Pettitte, starting guys like Rasner/Ponson/IPK).

    • jsbrendog says:

      jason giambi was really, really good in pinstripes. the yankees did not win because of 1 thing and one thing only. lack of pitching.

      • jsbrendog says:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/stats.....ngadvanced

        fielding – and as we know uzr isn’t the best because it says teix is bad, so these might actually be better than they look:

        his worst was -9.1 uzr (-23.6 uzr/150) in 2006. in only 480 innings at 1b…

        • Kosmo says:

          I think Giambi was a grand failure as a Yankee. His first season with NY 2002 he was great and then he stopped using PEDs mid 2003 and his health and production wavered.The Yanks signed a great offensive player and what they ended up getting was a decent yet often injured power hitter .Giambi had a great eye, hence the high OBP but wasn´t an all-star caliber player- MVP type after 2002.

      • nsalem says:

        After 2002 he never came close to the numbers he produced as an Oakland A in 2000 and 2001, He was good for a couple of years, but he came nowhere near putting up the numbers
        he was paid to. So I consider him a failure. Jason used to say “play like an all star and party like a rock star”. Not so easy to do when you’re on the wrong side of 30.

  8. jsbrendog says:

    http://www.baseball-reference......ja01.shtml

    OPS+ by yr 02-08:

    172
    148
    90 (only 80 games)
    161
    148
    107 (83 games)
    128

  9. Monteroisdinero says:

    Swish get the batting average over .200 this weekend batting against 3 righties?

    the guy is on fiyah.

    1-7 in the doubleheader in Cincy with a big swagger HR to the first row opposite field and a kiss to the heavens.

    dude leads the league in accessories and gear/equipment at the plate.

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