The Rockies, it should be noted, are way, way better at home.
Guys, I have some bad news.
The Rockies are kind of a good team when they play at home. Now, given the Cardinals’ struggles against teams that aren’t the Arizona Diamondbacks, I don’t think many fans are going to waltz into this series expecting the Cards to dominate or anything. Just saying, the Rockies at home and the Rockies on the road are two very different things.
Need proof? They are 28-16 at Coors Field. They are unimaginably bad on the road, like if the Springfield Cardinals suddenly had to play in the major leagues for a full year, the Rockies on the road might be worse than them. Unfortunately, we aren’t playing at Busch Stadium tonight and over the weekend. And yeah there’s a good chance their “true talent” at home is not this good – not that we’d ever find out what that true talent is – but I feel comfortable saying they may as well be different teams at Coors and everywhere else.
This is my third series preview, and I’ll just note that I use the pitching matchups that ESPN provides. I say that because in the last two series, the pitching matchups I said were happening didn’t happen in exactly the way I said. So there’s the disclaimer that for whatever reason, what ESPN has as the matchup has been wrong for my previous two series previews and I’ll be using that site again and don’t be surprised if they’re 0-3.
Thursday (7:40 CT)
Adam Wainwright (3.59 ERA/3.93 FIP/3.66 xFIP) vs Anthony Senzatela (4.76 ERA/4.12 FIP/4.35 xFIP)
This would appear to be a good matchup for the Cardinals if you don’t look deeper. Don’t look deeper. I don’t want to spit in your Cheerios, but this is arguably a bad matchup for the Cardinals. Why? Well, to put it simply, Senzatela is better at home and Wainwright is much, much worse on the road. And Wainwright’s road numbers haven’t been at Coors Field either. Let’s look at the home/road specific numbers.
Wainwright (6.31 ERA/5.26 FIP/3.75 xFIP), Senzatela (3.91 ERA/3.67 FIP/4.27 xFIP)
Well if you want to zero in on xFIP, you can still retain your optimism! Granted, Wainwright’s home run luck changing at Coors Field seems rather unlikely, but at least the other guy’s success is a fluke. For his career at Coors Field, his FIP is 4.47 and his xFIP is 4.51. So absolutely no home run talent here. Just pure luck. Let’s reverse some of that tonight.
Friday (7:10 CT)
Johan Oviedo (5.23 ERA/5.30 FIP/5.10 xFIP) vs. Chi Chi Gonzalez (5.81 ERA/5.17 FIP/4.76 xFIP)
Gonna be honest here. The Rockies might have a different game plan at home. In fact, I’m sure they do. Gonzalez has a 49 GB% at home this year, 36% on the road. He is prioritizing groundballs at Coors Field. Both him and Senzatela in fact have less strikeouts at home than on the road. Maybe prioritizing not walking hitters. Senzy, which I’m calling him because I’m tired of writing out his name, has less walks, Chi Chi does not. But as I said, way more groundballs.
The whole not walking hitters thing might be a problem for Oviedo, but he does force hitters to hit the ball on the ground a reasonably high amount with a 47.4 GB% on the year. So he’s got that going for him. This is another neutral pitching matchup. Oviedo is a bit more unpredictable than Chi Chi, who seems to consistently be bad, so it all depends on if Oviedo can throw strikes that day.
Saturday (8:10 CT)
Wade LeBlanc (5.60 ERA/5.59 FIP/4.96 xFIP) vs. Kyle Freeland (6.54 ERA/6.73 FIP/4.83 xFIP)
You can look at the bright side or not with this matchup. LeBlanc will not walk hitters. That’s good. Especially at Coors Field. He allows very hard contact though. That’s bad. Especially at Coors Field. If he can somehow pitch like he did versus the DBacks, which mostly featured weak contact, he should be okay, even at Coors Field. But a contact heavy pitcher at Coors is, shall we say, subject to the whims of BABIP, and that’s usually a losing battle at Coors Field.
On the other hand though, it doesn’t really seem like Freeland is any better. He has a 6.67 FIP at home if you were wondering, so he hasn’t quite gotten the same home boost that the previous two pitchers have gotten. He’s also barely pitched this year, with just 7 starts and 31.2 IP. His latest update says “Freeland (hamstring) was spotted playing catch from about 120 feet Wednesday, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports.” so uhhh I’m not sure he’s actually pitching on Saturday? ESPN says he is and if I’m wrong, go pelt ESPN with eggs.
Favorite: Another toss-up
Sunday (2:10 CT)
Carlos Martinez (6.38 ERA/4.63 FIP/5.09 xFIP) vs. German Marquez (3.62 ERA/3.45 FIP/3.71 xFIP)
Yeah this is about as lopsided a matchup as you can get. Not much else to say here. Marquez very nearly threw a no hitter at Coors on Tuesday. At Coors. He’s very, very good. Martinez was very, very good in his last outing. So hopefully, he can build on that. But yeah the Rockies have to be the favorites on Sunday.
Catcher – Well it doesn’t really matter who the Rockies use. They have Elias Diaz (43 wRC+, career 70 wRC+) and Dom Nunez (45 wRC+, career 45 wRC+). Yadier Molina is better than both of them fairly easily, even accounting for a home boost in those stats. Hell, Andrew Knziner will probably start at least one game this series and he’s better than both those guys.
First Base – Technically, CJ Cron has better stats, which is no surprise given the hitting environment, but even accounting for that, his 110 wRC+ is better than Paul Goldschmidt’s 106 wRC+. But honestly, if Goldschmidt were playing at Coors, I kind of think he’d have better than a 110 wRC+. I know wRC+ accounts for this already, buuuuut feels like Goldy is really hurt playing half his games at the right-handed power killer that is Busch Stadium.
Second Base – Brendan Rodgers has had a promising first 33 games in the majors this year. His previous efforts did not go so well. With a 111 wRC+ and iffy projections (92 wRC+), I’d probably take Rodgers over Edman unless a lefty is pitching for the Rockies. I’ll definitely take Rodgers over Edmundo Sosa and Matt Carpenter if they get the nod at 2B.
Third Base – You can’t take away any games from a player, BUT I have Ryan McMahon in fantasy and he hit three home runs and a double in one of his games. His wRC+ is only 95 for the season. He is no Nolan Arenado.
Shortstop – Trevor Story is going to win this matchup no matter who plays for the Cards.
Left Field – Ramiel Tapia is a fun player who’s been around way longer than I thought, but Tyler O’Neill is both a better hitter and fielder than him so this isn’t much of a contest. And I just got reminded that O’Neill might hit a home run at Coors! Exciting! It might go 600 feet.
Center Field – HARRISON BADER IS BACK. And he’s better than Yonathan Daza, currently running a .393 BABIP and somehow only a .093 ISO good god how little power would he possibly have literally anywhere else. His 102 wRC+ is technically better than what Bader would do, but again: .393 BABIP. Plus defense.
Right Field – Charlie Blackmon isn’t what he used to be, probably a below average hitter and definitely a below average fielder at this point in his career. Dylan Carlson, in RF at least, is probably above average at both aspects of baseball. Easily Carlson!
Joshua Fuentes plays a fair amount at 3B and is terrible so it’s even more lopsided a matchup if Fuentes is playing at 3B. Garrett Hampson will get a couple starts at either 2B or in the OF, and he’s an easily below average fielder, though probably above average fielder. So like Edman, but worse at hitting. Not sure he changes any of the conclusions above either.
So it’s completely up to the hitting to show up this weekend. They are better at everywhere but the middle infield. They are not better in any of the pitching matchups, so they’re just going to have to hit their starters. That’s what it comes down to: hit the ball more than the other team. Not sure I feel real confident given the Rockies record at home, plus the absolute difficulty the Cards have scoring any runs, despite my belief that the offense is fine.
So go team, should be… fun might not be the right word. While more offense = better is the popular belief, I think I hate the pitching constantly giving up runs way more than I hate watching an anemic offense. So don’t do that pitching and be improbably good when the odds are stacked against you. Improbably good at Coors with who’s pitching is giving up like…. four runs a game I think. So, like I said, please show up offense.
Also, as you can see, the times this series are all over the place, so be aware of that. I have no idea why one game is at 7:40, one game is at 7:10 and one game is at 8:10. Make up your mind, Rockies!