Archive for Colorado Rockies
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.
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.
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.
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Rockies are looking to trade for rotation help and may be willing to dangle one of their catchers as bait. Colorado has Ramon Hernandez, Wilin Rosario, and Jordan Pacheco on the 40-man roster and Yorvit Torrealba in camp on a minor league deal.
I doubt the Rockies would be willing to trade the 23-year-old Rosario following his 28-homer, fourth place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting last season. I’ve written posts about Hernandez and Pacheco in the last eight months or so, but both guys have their warts. Hernandez is old and declining while Pacheco isn’t much of a catcher. With Phil Hughes on the shelf due to a back injury, the Yankees don’t really have an extra starter to deal anyway. The team went all winter saying they’ll go in-house behind the plate and I have no reason to think that will change now.
Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees had a deal in place to acquire Franklin Morales from the Rockies for cash last May. Colorado apparently shopped the offer to the Red Sox though, who offered more money. Sherman says the Yankees refused to up their bid due to what they felt was unethical behavior.
Morales, 26, will start one game of tomorrow’s doubleheader. The left-hander as finally started to cash in on the ability that once earned him a top-ten spot in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List, pitching to a 2.51 ERA (2.59 FIP) in 43 innings across three starts and 23 relief appearances. Sucks they were unable to get him, but that was a dick move on the part of the Rockies.
Via George King, the Rockies have been scouting the Yankees Triple-A and Double-A affiliates recently, and are said to be high on (who else?) Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos. Colorado has interest in Montero as a first baseman, not a catcher. The Yankees, meanwhile, are telling teams those three are untouchable, but that’s not surprising. New York was one of 17 teams on hand to scout Ubaldo Jimenez last night, when he held the Brewers to two runs in six innings. And so it begins…
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
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
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.
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
This should explain precisely why the Yankees sucked it up over the past three days. Small sample, yes. But we’re not getting predictive here. We’re just saying “man, you guys sucked.”
Looks okay, right? Those guys combined had 45 plate appearances. And, for the most part, they were together in the order (Melky-Jeter-Abreu-Alex-Jorge). So you’d think they’d actually string together some runs. Uh, apparently not. Reason No. 1:
There exists a tendency after a loss to assign blame to the manager. Some people go so far as to blame the manager exclusively for the loss (we’re looking at you, NoMaas). Yes, sometimes it is the manager’s fault. Most times, though, it’s everyone’s fault — and the manager just doesn’t help things.
Yes, I’m referring to Torre’s decision to bring out Pettitte for the seventh. Now, let’s be clear: I’m not saying “Joe’s an idiot” or anything of that nature. I’m just pointing out that sending him out for the seventh, after a 21-pitch, two-run sixth, was a questionable move.