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Series Preview: Mariners (48-58) at Rockies (44-59)

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The Mariners travel to the Mile-High city to take on the Colorado Rockies.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, August 3

5:40 pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Rockies

RHP Eddie Butler

Tuesday, August 4

5:40 pm

Mariners

LHP Vidal Nuno

Rockies

RHP Jon Gray

Wednesday, August 5

12:10 pm

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Rockies

LHP Chris Rusin

Mariners

Rockies

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

94 (13th in AL)

101 (7th in NL)

Rockies

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-16.2 (11th)

18.5 (9th)

Rockies

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

106 (9th)

123 (15th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

101 (10th)

96 (10th)

Rockies

The Mariners have played 17 straight games since the All-Star break and wrap up that long, grueling stretch of play with three games in Colorado. The Mariners last made the trip up to the Mile-High City in 2012. Their visit to offense-boosting Coors Field comes on the heels of a month where the Mariners put up a 116 wRC+ as a team. Unfortunately (fortunately), playing in a National League stadium could result in more situations like this:

Rodney Bat

The Rockies had an interesting trade deadline. They traded away the face of their franchise, Troy Tulowitzki, but replaced him with another veteran shortstop with a large contract, Jose Reyes. They still have a young-ish offensive core to build around but until they’re able to find a way to make the most of their home park, they’ll continue to fight an uphill battle. The Mariners will be facing the Rockies’ top two pitching prospects in this series giving us a good look at what could-be for the Rockies.

The Rockies:

The Rockies are in last place in the NL West, 15 games behind the Dodgers. Despite possessing an offense that’s scoring at the third highest rate in baseball, their run differential is an ugly -61. They have played much better at home this year, with a 24-27 record and just a -8 run differential. They just wrapped up a seven-game road trip where they went 2-5 including three walk-off losses.

Key Players

3B Nolan Arenado Nolan Arenado has slowly improved every aspect of his game in his three years in the majors. Maybe that’s why his breakout this year has flown under the radar, because it’s just the natural progression of his development. His power output has exploded and he’s on pace to double his home run total from last year. His defense at third base is elite and he’s only a few months older than Mike Trout. His emergence is one of the main reasons the Rockies didn’t completely reset before the trade deadline.

RF Carlos Gonzalez There were many who expected the Rockies to trade Carlos Gonzalez before the trade deadline. He’s signed for just two more years and injuries have taken their toll on his playing time and his performance. He’s enjoyed a fairly healthy season this year but his offensive totals aren’t anywhere near his previous peaks. He’s also played much better as the season has gone on and could see a resurgence the farther away he gets from his injury-riddled year last year.

CF Charlie Blackmon Charlie Blackmon was a revelation last year. He raced out to a 115 wRC+ in the first half of 2014 before falling back to earth in the second half. His improvements weren't a mirage however. He almost doubled his walk rate last year and has almost doubled it again this year. He’s cut his whiff rate from 8.7% to 6.5% while maintaining his high contact rate. Now that he’s getting on base at a much higher rate, he’s become a much better leadoff man for the Rockies, allowing him to utilize his impressive speed on the basepaths.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Eddie Butler

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

65 1/3

11.9%

11.9%

15.8%

50.7%

4.82

5.61

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

94.0 mph;

41.9%

93.3 mph;

23.7%

87.6 mph;

15.2%

87.8 mph;

13.1%

81.8 mph;

6.0%

Butler PA

Eddie Butler was a first round supplemental pick in the 2012 draft but his minor league results haven’t matched his prospect pedegree. Nonetheless, the Rockies have moved him quickly through their system and he made his major league debut last September. His ability to generate strike outs has dwindled as he’s reached higher levels and it’s now at a career low. He possesses a live fastball and his changeup has looked promising but he hasn’t been able to put everything together yet. The one thing he does do well is generate groundballs, which is critical when you’re calling Coors Field home.

RHP Jon Gray (Triple-A)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

114 1/3

21.7%

8.1%

11.4%

44.3%

4.33

3.89

The Rockies are calling up their number one prospect, Jon Gray, to start Tuesday against the Mariners. Gray was drafted third in the 2013 draft and has quickly moved through the organization. He features a plus fastball that averages 91–94 and a plus slider; his changeup is still a work in progress. Unfortunately, his command isn’t at the same level as his stuff. He ran a walk rate around 8% during his minor league career and that should see a bump after his move to the majors. He offsets his high walk rate by generating a ton of strikeouts. His minor league strikeout rate was a 26%, although it had dropped to around 21-22% in the higher levels of the minors.

LHP Chris Rusin

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

70 1/3

15.8%

5.7%

18.6%

54.2%

4.61

4.51

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

90.5 mph;

14.0%

90.0 mph;

31.2%

87.4 mph;

22.4%

82.4 mph;

19.1%

82.7 mph;

8.6%

78.9 mph;

4.8%

Rusin PA

You have to hand it to the Rockies, they’re trying to make the most of the thin air. That means pitchers with good fastballs who can keep the ball on the ground. Only one of those things describes Chris Rusin. His sinker generates more groundballs than any other sinker in baseball. This is a recent development for him as he’s never run a groundball rate higher than 48% before this year. And, despite it being his most effective pitch considering his circumstances, he’s still allowing a ton of homers. He has upped his strikeout rate and cut his walk rate but it’s isn’t enough to compensate for his home park and the mediocre repertoire past his terrific sinker.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

60-46

.566

-

W-W-L-W-W

Angels

55-49

.529

4.0

L-L-L-L-L

Rangers

51-53

.490

8.0

W-W-W-L-W

Mariners

48-58

.453

12.0

L-L-W-L-W

Athletics

47-59

.443

13.0

L-L-L-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

55-49

.529

+1.0

L-L-L-L-L

Twins

54-50

.519

-

L-W-L-W-L

Orioles

53-51

.510

1.0

W-L-W-W-L

Blue Jays

54-52

.509

1.0

W-W-W-L-W

Rays

52-54

.491

3.0

W-L-L-L-W

Since their post-All-Star break six game win streak, the Angels have gone 1-9 including their current six-game losing streak. They’ve given up all the progress they had made in the division and are only one game ahead of the Twins in the Wild Card race. The Astros made the most of the Angels’ swoon by beating the Diamondbacks twice over the weekend. Houston travels to Arlington to face the Rangers while the Angels host the Indians to start the week. At the trade deadline, the Orioles made a few minor upgrades while the Blue Jays bought practically every single available piece. They’re both tied one game behind the Twins in the Wild Card race and Toronto has the chance to swap places with Minnesota as they face off to start the week.