5/7-5/9 Series Preview: Colorado Rockies

Cervelli still five weeks away from resuming baseball activities
Injuries, winning, and the rest of AL East
(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

For the first time this year, the Yankees are heading to a National League park for interleague play. They’re in Colorado for a three-game set with the Rockies, only their third trip to Coors Field since the place opened. The Yankees are just 2-4 at Coors all-time, and that includes getting swept in three games back in 2007. On the other hand, they scored 41 runs in three games back in 2002, the all-time for a three-game series in that building.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rockies were picked by many (including me) to finish in last place in the NL West, but they’re currently right behind the Giants for the division lead at 18-13 with a +27 run differential. They did just lose two of three to the Rays this weekend though, and after starting the year with 13 wins in 17 games, they’ve since lost nine of their last 14 games.

Home/road splits might be one of the most over-analyzed things in baseball, but Coors Field is a different animal. It’s an extreme hitter’s park not only because there are more homers due to the way the ball carries in the thin mile-high air, but also because breaking balls don’t break as much as they do at sea level. Outfielders tend to play deeper as well, which results in more bloop hits. Since the place opened in 1995, games at Coors Field have a .3333 BABIP compared to a .3001 BABIP everywhere else. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of plate appearances here.

Anyway, rather than the usual block text preview, I’m going to present the Rockies’ active position players in a table to make life easier. All of the stats are for this year only.

Overall wRC+ Home wRC+ Road wRC+
CF Dexter Fowler 158 125 186
2B Josh Rutledge 72 77 70
LF Carlos Gonzalez 157 127 186
SS Troy Tulowitzki 182 197 172
RF Michael Cuddyer 162 226 115
1B Todd Helton 88 0 179
C Wilin Rosario 128 28 231
3B Nolan Arenado 171 270 102
OF Eric Young Jr. 104 99 106
UTIL Jordan Pacheco 90 67 112
C Yorvit Torrealba 110 143 84
IF Jonathan Herrera 50 123 -73
IF Reid Brignac 57 57 58

Surprisingly, the Rockies are actually hitting better on the road (120 wRC+) than they are at home (105 wRC+) so far this year. I’m guessing that has a lot to do with some brutally cold April weather in Denver, which included a few snow-postponed games. I don’t expect that reverse split to last long, the Rox are going to mash at home once it heats up. Hopefully that process doesn’t start this week.

Starting Pitching Matchups
Just in case you’re wondering, no, Colorado no longer employs that four-man rotation/tandem starter thing they tried for most of last season. It’s a regular starter/bullpen setup.

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Jorge De La Rosa
It’s safe to say the Rockies haven’t gotten their money’s worth out of the 32-year-old De La Rosa, who signed a two-year, $21.5M deal with Colorado prior to 2011 before exercising his $11M player option for 2013. He made just 13 starts from 2011-12 due to Tommy John surgery and subsequent setbacks, and so far this year he owns a 4.18 ERA (4.64 FIP) in six starts. His strikeout rate (5.29 K/9 and 14.3 K%) is way down from his pre-surgery levels, and neither his walk (3.62 BB/9 and 9.8 BB%) nor ground ball (43.9%) rates have improved to compensate. De La Rosa’s two- and four-seamer now sit in the low-90s, down a few ticks from before surgery. A low-to-mid-80s splitter is his top secondary offering, but he’ll also throw low-80s sliders and low-70s curveballs. The Yankees haven’t faced De La Rosa since 2007, and he’s had a massive platoon split in recent years. It’s a good game to sit some lefties and load the lineup with righty hitters … if the Yankees had anyone worthwhile righty bats.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Juan Nicasio vs. RHP David Phelps
Nicasio, 26, is best remembered for having his neck broken by a line drive back in August 2011. He had surgery and missed the rest of the season, but recovered well enough to make the team’s Opening Day rotation last year. That’s pretty remarkable. Nicasio owns a 4.91 ERA (5.83 FIP) in six starts this year, and outside of his ground ball rate (47.9%), his peripherals stink. He doesn’t get a ton of strike threes (6.14 K/9 and 15.0 K%) and issues a lot of ball fours (4.60 BB/9 and 11.3 BB%). Nicasio is very fastball heavy, throwing his 91-95 mph four-seamer more than 70% of the time. A low-80s slider is his offspeed pitch of choice, and he’ll seldom use his mid-80s changeup. The Yankees saw Nicasio when the Rockies came to the Bronx in 2011, and they hung four runs on him in five innings. It was his sixth career start and a little more than one month before the neck injury.

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Jeff Francis
The 32-year-old Francis falls into the Mark Buehrle category of soft-tossers, meaning the laws of FIP/DiPS Theory don’t really apply. Unlike Buehrle though, Francis’ career 4.91 ERA is more than half-a-run higher than his career 4.40 FIP. Buehrle has outperformed his FIP, Francis has underperformed it. The left-hander owns a 7.27 ERA (5.27 FIP) in six starts this year even though his strikeout (7.27 K/9 and 16.7 K%) and ground ball (52.8%) numbers are his best as a full-time big leaguer. His walk rate (3.81 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) is a career-high and more than double what he’s done in recent years. Francis sits in the mid-80s with his four-seamer and sinker, two pitches he uses to setup his upper-70s changeup and upper-60s curveball. Francis has faced the Yankees once in his ten-year career, holding them to one run in seven innings back in 2007.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Both teams were off on Monday, so both bullpens are as fresh as can be. The Yankees might get David Robertson back from his hamstring problem tonight, though that depends on how his pre-game workout goes. Check out our Bullpen Workload page to see the team’s reliever usage info.

Rookie Rockies manager Walt Weiss has a pretty awesome bullpen at his disposal, starting with veteran closer RHP Rafael Betancourt (3.16 FIP). RHP Matt Belisle (2.94 ERA) and LHP Rex Brothers (2.09 FIP) do most of the setup work, but former Yankee farmhand RHP Wilton Lopez (2.32 FIP) will draw some high leverage work as well. Brooklyn-raised RHP Adam Ottavino (3.51 FIP) shares middle relief worth with LHP Josh Outman (2.30 FIP). RHP Edgmer Escalona (3.87 FIP) does most of the long relieving. For the latest and greatest on the Rockies, check out Purple Row.

Cervelli still five weeks away from resuming baseball activities
Injuries, winning, and the rest of AL East
  • MannyGeee

    Their pitching is surprisingly mediocre at best. Game 2 is going to be a slugfest and is consequently the only RHP they see this series.

    Also, thank god Hughes is not scheduled for the trip to Coors, that could have gotten ugly.

  • gc

    Not that it means anything for this series, but the Yankees have the best inter-league record in MLB regular season history, 170-112, good for a .603 winning percentage. The next best team is Anaheim at 164-120 (.577). Yay for useless stats, but at this point I’ll take what I can get to be hopeful. :)

    • ROBTEN


      Yankees are hitting .222/.295/.654/wOBA .288 wRC+ 75 against LHP and yet are 8-3 against LHP.

      They’re hitting .281/.347/.475/wOBA .354 wRC+ 120 against RHP and yet are 10-9 against RHP.

      So, the moral of the story is…now is not the time for a correction.

  • jjyank

    I forgot that Jeff Francis still played baseball. Oh the people you remember thanks to inter-league play.

    Losing Hafner’s bat (for the most part) sucks, but those Rox starters hardly inspire fear. Just take the series, boys.

  • The Real Me

    Just take the series, boys.

    This. KC is no longer a cake walk. Taking 2 of 3 in CO will set the table for a nice road trip. Hope they take (at least ) the Wednesday night and Thursday games. (Being selfish.)

  • Frank

    Colorado, KC and a make up DH next Monday at Cleveland. Given the current state of this team, this has the makings of an ugly road trip.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Rex Brothers? That’s not a real baseball player’s name.

    Folks really think the Yanks are going to get swept here? I mean, YCPB and all, but I’m not intimidated by what I’m seeing here in the least.

    We’re going to murdalize them. For Prussia.

    • trr

      Rex Brothers are a cartage company near where I live.
      call them for your disposal needs…

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Rex Brothers is what you get when you hit “random” on a “bad professional wrestler name generator” page.

    • jjyank

      Indeed. Like I said above, they pitchers they’re throwing at the Yanks aren’t exactly intimidating. Who knows what Phelps will give, but with CC and Kuroda both going, I’m pretty hopeful they can take 2 of 3.

      • The Real Me

        I think the biggest question about Kuroda is how will his sinker work at altitude? If he can get his sinker working, he should be fine. 2 of 3 is definitely achievable if Hiroki wins tonight. Hoping for good games our of Phelps and CC as well. A sweep woulld be great! Rockies pitching is nothing to write home about.

    • trr

      swept? no…but we may lose 2/3 here.
      may…let’s win this one tonight!

  • trr

    Concerned aabout this series, and the road trip in general.
    Let’s tread water, go 4-4, and go from there

    • Wheels

      I’d be cool with that record.

  • Eddard

    I think it’s going to be tough to win the series on the road with a short bench. We lose one of our best bats and have to hit the pitcher instead. They’ll need the starting pitchers to carry them if they are to win this series.

    I’m guessing Nixy will hit 2nd between Gardner and Robbie. Ichiro 5th? Overbay? The lineup won’t be pretty.

  • WhittakerWalt

    Come on, guys. It’s not like NL lineups go 9 deep, either. We’re stuck with Nix and Francisco, they’re stuck with Josh Rutledge, Wilin Rosario and the ghost of Todd Helton.

    • vicki

      this point is well-taken, yet somehow their lineup is at the top of the majors in most offensive categories.

      it’s helped that they’ve seen the brewers, mets and the padres (twice).

    • bobtaco

      Do you know anything about Wilin Rosario?

      He’s killing it for my fantasy team:

      .299 14 7 19 3

      Would you rather have him or Chris Stewart?

      • vicki

        i think we know the answer to that. even after wilin inevitably regresses (let’s be honest) we’d still prefer him to stewie.

      • WhittakerWalt

        28 wRC at home, though.

  • DInnings

    I expect no less than 11-4 on this roadtrip and the homestand after it.

    The Rockies, Indians, Mariners, and Blue Jays suck and the Royals are the Royals i.e. crap until they prove otherwise.

    Time for Sabathia and Pettitte to step it up.

    ‘Say the Yanks went just 10-5 in the next 15 games. That’s 28-17 through 45 games. That means the Yanks would have to play only 62-55 ball to win 90 games thus a wildcard slot at worst. One 7-game winning streak after these 15 games and the Yanks could .500 ball stumble in the other 110 games and still make the postseason as a wildcard.

  • Captain Bawls

    I’m living in Colorado and have been looking forward to this series. We’re supposed to get pounded with rain tomorrow and Thursday, though, so I’d expect some heavy delays if not postponed games

  • Ruby

    So stoked to watch cc hit in coors. I know its not likely but i’d love to see him go yard.

  • Mike

    Someone just run down to Sports Authority and buy Pronk a 1B Mitt and hope he doesn’t break in 4 games.