Happy 4th of July to everyone on Talking Chop. Hopefully it is early enough in the day to where we all aren't hopelessly intoxicated and are ready to talk Braves vs. Rockies.
The Rockies come in to the series sporting a 41-43 record and sit 6.5 games back of the NL West leading San Francisco Giants. In their last series, the Rockies took two of three from the Kansas City Royals, winning the first two but giving up 16 runs in the series finale in a loss.
First, let's take a look at the offense of the Rockies. So far in 2011, they are seventh in the National League in average (.255), fourth in OBA (.327), fourth in slugging percentage (.415), second in wOBA (.326), and sixth in wRC+ (95). They are also tied for third in the National League in homers with 91. They don't steal a whole lot, but have recorded 52 steals on the season.
The first two players that come to mind when the Rockies offense is mentioned are Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Tulowitzki is having another great year, putting up a triple slash line of .272/.341/.498 with a wOBA of .361. He's crushed 17 homers and recorded six steals en route to a WAR of 3.5 already.
Gonzalez is hitting .296/.363/.497 with a wOBA of .374 and has 13 homers and 14 steals so far in 2011. He was injured in the series finale making a catch up against the wall, and it was diagnosed as a wrist contusion. It should be noted that his drastic home/road splits have continued in 2011. He's hitting only .238/.302/.385 on the road, compared to a ridiculous .345/.415/.591 in the friendly confines of Coors Field.
The veteran Todd Helton is also having a good year, hitting .320/.394/.492 with nine homers. My personal favorite Rockie, Seth Smith ( was Eli Manning's back-up QB at Ole Miss) is hitting .301/.353/.518 while Ty Wiggington is hitting .263/.321/.504 with 13 homers on the season.
The average isn't there for Chris Iannetta (.227/.384/.438), but that OBP and slugging are very good. Ryan Spillborghs (.228/.312/.331) and the recently acquired Mark Ellis (.237/.270/.349) are struggling at the dish.
After the jump, we'll take a look at the pitching matchups and the Rockies bullpen.
Monday, July 4th, 7:10 EDT
In the first game of the series, the Braves celebrate America's birthday by sending Tommy Hanson ( 9-4, 2.62 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 3.07 xFIP) against the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez. In 2011, Ubaldo is 3-7 with a 4.35 ERA, 3.68 FIP, and 3.83 xFIP. That really doesn't tell the whole story though, as Jimenez has been tough as nails away from Coors Field. He's got a 2.14 ERA on the road compared to 6.24, a 2.47 FIP on the road compared to 4.72 at home, and a 3.41 xFIP on the road compared to 4.19 at Coors. Ubaldo has seen both his strikeout numbers and his veolocity drop from last season. He had a K/9 of 8.69 in 2010 but a 7.71 K/9 in 2011. He also walks a few, with a BB/9 of 3.86.
Ubaldo throws five pitches, a two-seam and four-seam fastball, along with a slider, curve, and a change. He throws the four-seam 26.5 % of the time, but with a velocity of 93.9 mph compared to 95.8 mph last year. His two-seam has also dropped in velocity, 93.8 mph this year from 96. 3 in 2010. He's using his change 5% more than he did last season. His slider has also dropped three miles per hour from 86.4 to 83.3 miles per hour this year. In his last outing, he earned a no-decision by throwing seven innings, giving up four hits, two runs (earned), two walks, and four strikeouts against the White Sox. The last time we saw Ubaldo at Turner Field, he threw a no-hitter so let's try and avenge that tonight.
Tuesday, July 5th, 7:10 PM EDT
Game two of the series features Derek Lowe ( 4-6, 4.16 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 3.41 xFIP) against Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin is 8-5 with a 3.10 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 3.32 xFIP. He's become an extreme groundball pitcher in 2011, with a GB% of 59.5, which is more than Lowe. Probably a relation to his increased groundballs, his strikeout rate has gone down from 9.04 K/9 last year to 7.91 this year. He also will walk a few, with a BB/9 of 3.70. He throws a four seam 33.2 % of the time, with an average velocity of 91.1 mph. He's throwing his two-seam much more in 2011, a possible answer to the increase in groundballs, as he's using it 25.8% percent of the time, up from 13.8 % last season. He also has a slider, curve, and change. In his last outing, he got the loss after giving up nine hits, six runs (all earned) and three home runs in five innings. He's had a shoulder issue but should be good to go Tuesday.
Wednesday, July 6th, 7:10 PM EDT
Jair Jurrjens (11-3, 1.89 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 3.66 xFIP) goes against Aaron Cook in the third game of the series. Cook is 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 4.59 xFIP. Cook has walked more than he's struck out so far in 2011, which is never good. He's got a K/9 of 3.72 and a BB/9 of 4.03. He's primarily a two-seam and slider guy, as he throws his two-seam over 50 % of the time with an average velocity of 87.9 mph. He's throwing the slider significantly more in 2011, 20.7 % this year compared to 7.4 % last year. He also has a curve and a four-seam. In his last outing, he earned a no-decision giving up only one run (earned) in six innings pitched.
Thursday, July 7th, 1:05 PM EDT
In the series finale, Tim Hudson (7-6, 3.57 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 3.31 xFIP) goes up against Juan Nicasio. In 7 starts, the rookie Nicasio is 3-1 with a 4.10 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and a 3.46 xFIP. Nicasio has a K/9 of 6.48 to go along with a BB/9 of 2.16 so he doesn't walk too many. He's a hard thrower, averaging 93.9 mph on his fastball which he throws 67.9 % of the time, and 92.7 mph on his cutter. He has a slider that is his main off-speed pitch, and also has a change that he likes to use occasionally as well. He dominated in his last start out, earning a win pitching eight innings, giving up three hits and no runs.
Huston Street -RH (CL)
Matt Belisle -RH
Matt Lindstrom -RH
Matt Reynolds -LH
Rex Brothers -LH
Edgmer Escalona -RH
The Rockies pen in 2011 ranks 12th in the NL in ERA, 7th in FIP, and 3rd in xFIP so it hasn't been as bad as some of the numbers look.
Huston Street has been solid as the closer, sporting an 0-2 record with a 3.46 ERA and 24 saves with two blown.
Betancourt, Belisle, Reynolds, and Lindstrom are the four main horses in the pen, as they've all pitched in at least 36 games.
As usual, a sweep would be tough but winning three out of four should be within reach of Atlanta.