Series Preview - Braves @ Rockies (July 9th-12th)
July 9th - Tommy Hanson (4-0, 2.25) vs Aaron Cook (8-3, 3.76)
Hanson's vaunted scoreless innings streak was broken in his last start against the Nationals, courtesy of an Adam Dunn moonshot, but he still managed to lower his ERA. Tommy did get a no decision on Saturday, thanks to the collapse of the bullpen. These things happen, and Tommy should rebound nicely. Here in Colorado, things can get out of hand quickly, so he really needs to not screw around with the walks and the flyballs. The thin air can result in balls flying out of the park pretty quickly, so I'd really like a night with at least 6 strikeouts.
Aaron Cook got off to a real rough start at the beginning of the year, but has really calmed down after a complete game shutout against the Braves on May 21st. Cook had 4 quality starts in his 6 starts since that fateful night in May, and has lowered his ERA by nearly a full run. Cook is an absolute ground ball phenom (2.29 GB/FB this year), which compensates for his very, very low strikeout rate (currently sitting at 4.54, which is nearly a full K above his career mark). One thing about Cook this season is that so far, he's allowed as many homers as he did over all of last season. Worth noting.
July 10th - Derek Lowe (7-7, 4.56) vs Ubaldo Jimenez (6-8, 3.86)
Derek Lowe is a lot like Cook, in the fact that they loooooooooove the ground ball, except Lowe is usually more effective than Cook...Lowe's walk rate has jumped this season, while is K rate has decreased and his GB:FB has also fallen. The Nats beat the hell out of Lowe in his last appearance on Sunday, allowing 10 hits and 4 runs in 5 1/3. The hits don't really worry me since they're defense based, and I can take solace in the fact that he only walked one. The one strikeout though? Blegh
Ubaldo Jimenez is a really great young starter for the Rockies that gets overlooked a lot. He had a couple of bad starts in April, but has been fine since. He's a very talented kid, and his only real problem is the walks: 3.69 per 9 this year (which is actually a drop of 1 from last season), which isn't going to cut it. However, there is a silver lining: he can get the strikeout when he needs to, he keeps the ball on the ground a good bit, and balls do not go over the fence too often (only 5 homers in 109 2/3 innings this season). I really like this guy, and he's breaking out in a huge way this season. Its a shame no one is noticing though.
July 11th - Jair Jurrens (6-7, 2.91) vs Jason Marquis (11-5, 3.61)
Something just seemed off about JJ on Monday. He never really got it out of first gear, and had what I'm considering his worst start of the year. A homer, 3 walks, 4 runs, only 1 strikeout...just not a good effort all around. He got balls on the ground, which I guess I can take as a positive. Heres hoping things get turned around against this dangerous Rockies team.
NL All Star Jason Marquis (had to say it, slays me every time) has been on a roll lately. He's pitched at least 7 innings in 4 of his last 5 starts, and allowed a total of 4 runs in those 4 starts. The fifth start...yeah, the Angels shelled the bejeezus about him. I honestly don't know how he's doing this. He's not striking anyone out, has a walk rate not low enough to offset those lack of Ks...so yeah, its gotta be the low homer rate and ground ball rate resembling nothing he's ever done in his career. I can't even say the league high 11 wins is because of an abundance of run support...he's getting 4 a game. The only real explanation for this sudden career change is that he sold his soul to the devil. Fun fact: he's making a shade under $10 million this year. For Jason Marquis? Lord.
July 12th - Javier Vazquez (6-7, 2.95) vs Jason Hammel (5-4, 4.07)
I'm gonna go ahead and assume that Javy was REALLY REALLY angry about not being named a NL all-star, so he said screw it, threw the team on his back Tuesday, and made the Cubs look silly to get to within a game of .500. 6 of his last 8 starts have been of the quality variety, and he is...2-3 with a trifecta of no decisions. Lovely.
Lets talk about Jason Hammel. He came to Colorado from Tampa Bay right at the end of the spring to shore up the Rockies rotation, and help the Rays take care of their starting pitching surplus. Hammel is another pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground more often than not. He's in between Cook and Jimenez in the strikeout and HR rate departments too. He's really...a perfect Rockies type pitcher. Stamina may be an issue for Hammel, as he's only gone past the 6th inning 3 times this season. He's allowing a lot of hits, but I'm willing to overlook them due to a high (.330) BABIP. His strand rate is under 70% too, but he's not really getting screwed over too badly, with an ERA only 3 tenths higher than his FIP.
Jeff Francoeur popped back into the Braves lineup during the Cubs series, and responded with a fantastic 2 for 9 effort that made (Cubs) fans beg for more. Chipper Jones didn't play the final 2 games of the series after tweaking his groin, which shifted Prado to third and let Brooks Conrad get some playing time. The two then went 6 for 14, which I'll take any day out of someone I considered a bench player and a minor league free agent. Conrad is proving to be very capable at knocking the ball around with some authority. Nate McLouth has also awakened from his slumber by going 6 for 14 with 3 XBH against the Cubbies. If he can get things rolling, things will start falling into place a lot better, and that is exactly what this team needs going into the All-Star Break.
The big Rockies slugger this season is right fielder Brad Hawpe, who has absolutely come into his own with a .985 OPS on the season. And you can't blame the Coors Field effect on that: his road OPS is .914. Matt Who? Exactly. Todd Helton is showing some folks that he's not quite done yet, with a solid .907 OPS and as many strikeouts as walks. I don't think he'll end up being worth his 16.6 million dollar salary, but hey...player values are a funny thing, who knows how things will end up. Middle infielder Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes are each having good years with ISOs at .200 or better. This Rockies team...the Braves need to be very careful with them, because they are rolling, and they are SCARY.
Cubs series recap will be up tomorrow evening, I plan on doing a Danville preview, but I've been saying that over the past week or so, and we all know how well thats worked out thsufar. Cross your fingers for me.
Final series before the break...fun times. I've had one hell of a long day, so I'm kicking back right now with a Labatt Honey Lager, and we're gonna try to get FOUR GAMES worth of pitching matchups done. Absolutely fantastic, and I have to wake up...9 hours from the time I'm starting this! Great. So without further ado...a team that we woke up down in Atlanta back in May, the Colorado Rockies! This makes me nervous.