Series Preview: Braves vs Rockies


July 28, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) hits a double in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field. The Rockies defeated the Brewers 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsThe Atlanta Braves continue their homestand against the Colorado Rockies on Monday night. The Braves are fresh off a sweep of St Louis Cardinals and are the best home team in baseball. This should give them the advantage against the Colorado Rockies who come into the series in third place in the National League West with a 51-55 record.

The Rockies may also be down their best hitter Carlos Gonzalez who injured a finger on Saturday and whose status for the series against the Braves is uncertain. Gonzalez is having a spectacular season with a 149 wRC+ and 4.6 fWAR. If Gonzalez can’t play or is limited by his injury, the Rockies lineup becomes much weaker overall. Troy Tulowitzki is having another spectacular year and has managed to remain relatively healthy. With his 162 wRC+ Tulowitzki is an extremely dangerous hitter and provides strong value giving the Rockies that kind of offense from the shortstop position. Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer are also having very good years but after that the Rockies lineup starts looking pretty thin. The Rockies have four hitters who should scare Braves fans and if one of them can’t go then things start to feel much more comfortable for the Braves.

Nolan Arenado is having a tremendous defensive season at third base but isn’t much of a threat with the bat. Wilson Rosario has good power from the catcher position but a lack of on base skills diminishes his overall offensive value. Todd Helton has had a HOF career but is no longer an offensive threat at the end of his career. Josh Rutledge, Eric Young, and Tyler Colvin have all been amongst the worst players in baseball this year and haven’t been able to hit at all.

It would be helpful if Brandon Beachy were to face a Rockies lineup missing its best hitter in making his season debut in the big leagues. Beachy is a major question mark for the Braves. Before his injury last year Beachy had the look of a future ace and when Beachy went down he was leading the league in ERA. Since undergoing Tommy John surgery, Beachy has faced setbacks in his return and struggled with his control in the minors. What Braves fans should expect from Beachy this year is impossible to really predict and Monday night will give the Braves their first look at him back in the majors.

The Rockies lead the National League in pitcher fWAR and Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood have been very strong starters for the Rockies all season. Neither strikes out a ton of hitters but both limit walks and home runs. Anytime you have Rockies’ starters who are above average at limiting home runs you know they are doing something right. Juan Nicasio has very similar strikeout and walk numbers to De La Rosa and Chatwood but has been much less successful at limiting home runs.

The Rockies numbers are as always difficult to judge due to the fact that they play their home games in the most hitter friendly park in baseball. At the same time three of the Rockies division foes play in the most extreme pitchers parks in baseball. As a result, neither the Rockies home stats nor road stats can ever be taken at face value. Wins above replacement and wRC+ are two stats that do their best to quantify the affects ballparks have on players’ numbers. For example wRC+ rates the Rockies offense as being 2 percent better on the road than at home despite the Rockies putting up a .340 wOBA at home and a .305 wOBA on the road. The Rockies rank second in the NL in runs scored but they rank 12th in wRC+. Conversely, the Rockies pitchers lead the National League in fWAR despite being 10th in FIP. Overall, an injury limited Rockies lineup in Turner Field is not a group that should scare the Braves. The Braves just swept the best team in baseball and are better than the Rockies. As always though, anything can happen in baseball as evidenced by the Braves dropping two of three to the last place White Sox barely a week ago.

Monday, July 29th Brandon Beachy vs Jorge De La Rosa

Tuesday, July 30th Alex Wood vs Juan Nicasio

Wednesday, July 31st Mike Minor vs Tyler Chatwood

Thursday, August 1st Julio Teheran vs TBD