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Nationals Hope To Take Advantage Of Struggling Rockies

You would be hard pressed to find two more opposite teams this season than the Washington Nationals (41-29) and the Colorado Rockies (27-44). As the Nationals travel to Denver, they bring with them the second-best record in the National League, an unexceptional offense and a superstar pitching staff. The Rockies prepare to receive them with the third-worst record in the major leagues, a power hitting offense and a seriously floundering pitching staff. The Nationals offense is likely to get a boost against the Rockies’ rotation at the famously hitter-friendly Coors Field. As long as the Nationals’ pitchers can keep performing, and the outfielders can adapt to the extra large outfield, the odds are in favor of the Nationals for this four game series.

The Nationals have gone 12-8 in June. Winning this series will be key to their finishing the month with a winning record. They are 16-33 against the Rockies since 2005, and 9-16 at Coors Field.

Misleading stats

Out of all major league teams, the Rockies have the fourth-highest batting average (.266), the third-highest slugging percentage (.451), the fifth-most home runs (89), and the most triples (25). None of the Nationals’ offensive numbers even come close to those; however, before you panic that the Rockies are going to crush them (no pun intended), take a look at their home and away splits. When batting in their home field, the Rockies have the highest team batting average and slugging percentage in the league (.289, .507), but when home field advantage is taken away, they are hitting just .243 (18th) and slugging .390 (16th). Even though the Nats will be pitching in the Rockies’ home field, those stats show that they aren’t exactly a team of Silver Sluggers, – they just have a home ballpark that likes to help them out. So, the Nats’ pitchers shouldn’t be worried that they are going to get dominated.

In the same vein, the Nationals pitch better when they are away (first-place 2.78 ERA) and the Rockies pitching is no good no matter what field they are standing on when they throw the ball. Their away ERA is a 23rd place 4.69, and at home it’s even worse at 5.91 in last place. Overall, they have the highest opponent batting average (.297), WHIP (1.60) and ERA (5.33) in all of the major leagues.

Pitching Woes and a Four-man Rotation

Last week, Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy made the unorthodox decision to downgrade their pitching rotation from five starters to four. In a damage-control effort, their Opening Day starter, Jeremy Guthrie, who posted a 7.02 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP through 11 starts, was moved to the bullpen. The weight of the game will now sit on the shoulders of the middle relievers, who have a collective 4.06 ERA to the starters’ 6.31.

According to the Denver Post, Tracy felt that he had to do something “non-conventional” to try and help the team succeed. After four of their five season-opening starters were either reassigned, released or placed on the disabled list, Tracy and pitching coach Bob Apodaca were essentially out of options for moves they could make with the starting rotation.

Apodaca said, ”We’re dealing with a very youthful…rotation, very little experience. We haven’t been getting the…production, especially at home. Coors Field is playing different this year than in past years. It’s wreaked havoc on all pitching staffs, not just ours, and we haven’t been getting the production, as far as length, out of our starters.”

As a result of the move, the Nationals will see all four of the starters the Rockies have to offer this week in Denver.

With Guthrie now in the bullpen, none of the new starting four began the season in the pitching rotation. 

Predictions

Don’t hate me for jinxing, but the Nationals should win this series, easily. All four of the starters the Rockies are going to see from the Nats have ERAs below three, for a combined 2.70 ERA. The Rockies starters on the other hand have a combined 7.22 ERA, and two of those four pitchers have ERAs in the eight range. In a hitters ballpark, even the Nationals’ offense should be able to come alive enough to add some curly W’s to their win column for what has so far been an unsuccessful road trip. 

Who’s hot?

Carlos Gonzalez (LF) .330 AVG, .997 OPS, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 10 SB

Will Nieves (C ) .357 AVG, .879 OPS, 1 HR, 4 RBI (28 at bats)

Matt Belisle (RP) 2.08 ERA, 31 SO, 1.18 WHIP (hasn’t allowed a run in his last six outings)

Who’s not?

Todd Helton (1B) .245 AVG, .344 OBP, 29 SO (2-for-10 in last four games)

Michael Cuddyer (RF) .260, .314 OBP, 55 SO (2-for-25 in last six games)

Alex White (SP) 6.45 ERA, .302 AVG, 34 SO (5 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 3.2 IP last start) 

Probable Starters

Stephen Strasburg (9-1, 2.46 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (0-1, 8.56 ERA)

Gio Gonzalez (9-3, 2.55 ERA) vs. Alex White (2-5, 6.06 ERA)

Jordan Zimmermann (3-6, 2.89 ERA) vs. Josh Outman (0-3, 8.64 ERA)

Edwin Jackson (4-4, 2.91 ERA) vs. Christian Friedrich (4-4, 5.65 ERA)

That’s A Clown Question, Bro

Also, we can’t forget that the Rockies have made the first ever beer in honor of Bryce Harper, which will be served at Coors Field during this series.

About Joe Drugan

Managing editor of The Nats Blog and co-host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast.

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