Monday, July 6, 2009

Rockies Series Preview

Myth 1: Coors Field is a pitcher's nightmare. What is this, 1995? While the altitude and dry air in Denver will never allow visiting pitchers to feel comfortable with their breaking pitches, there is one force that is constant everywhere: gravity. Check out the Rockies top 3 starters and note that all three have a fastball value over 5. While Ubaldo Jimenez has the velocity to over-power hitters, both Jason Marquis and Aaron Cook pound the bottom half of the strike zone with average fastballs. The key isn't to strike batters out, but to get batters out. Aaorn Cook, for instance, sports fairly similar K/9 ratios home and away. Even a Hall of Famer like Greg Maddux struggled to find consistency at Coors, posting drastically lower K rates there as opposed to elsewhere. Pitchers can succeed at Coors with the sinker. Combine that with an optimistic offense and lowered expectations and many pitchers can thrive. Rookies Zimmermann, Stammen, and Detwiler don't fit the profile at this team and may get hammered.

Myth 2: The Nationals are the only team with an over-crowded outfield. The Nats have solved some of their issues via trade and demotion, but the Rockies have yet to find a home for all their hitters. Brad Hawpe is anchored in right and has earned it. Trading Matt Holliday opened left field for a fresh young bat, but the Rockies continue to go another direction. The second best hitter on the club, Seth Smith, has been relegated to pinch hitting duties while Ryan Spilborghs gets half the at bats. The Rockies do commit to defense to protect their ridiculous outfield acreage, but Smith has proven to be more than adequate in left. This isn't exactly Nyjer Morgan over Josh Willingham here. The Nats can only hope for more Spilborghs (and Dexter Fowler) to help get their young pitchers through the lineup three times.

Myth 3: Garrett Atkins sucks. Atkins had a Kearnsian May, but started swinging the bat well again in June. His season line is still weak, but still needs to be pitched to with respect.

Myth 4: Home runs are key at Coors. Flat out not true. It is true that if you give up four bombs, it is difficult to win, but it is equally difficult if the other team is dropping base hits all over and batting .400... outfield defense in Coors always takes a back seat the offensive numbers. Coors is an enormous park and watching Nyjer Morgan and Willie Harris run down balls that would be certain doubles and triples should tip Manny off as to how he should approach this series. Willingham and Dunn will see some innings off, especially given the taxing conditions of playing at altitude.

Tough draw for the Nats here. Detwiler and Stammen are still AAAA level starters, while Zimmermann is strike out guy who leaves the occasional ball out over the plate. Could be a long three days in Denver. And let's not get started on the bullpen...

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