Why the Rockies will beat the Phillies

For the second time in three years, the Colorado Rockies are in the postseason. Many thought their terrific run in 2007 was a fluke after finishing with a dismal 74-88 record in 2008, but it’s looking more and more like that season was the aberration. These Rockies, led by young stars such as Troy Tulowitzki and Ubaldo Jimenez, are here to stay. Waiting for a chance to exact revenge on the Rockies for sweeping them in the 2007 NLDS are the defending World Series-champion Philadelphia Phillies. Here is a look at the players who, if properly used, will help the Rockies upend the Phils:

Jorge De La Rosa/Jason Hammel/Jason Marquis

The Rockies’ top two starters have been solidified. Ubaldo Jimenez has Cy Young-potential and began to show it this year, posting a 3.47 ERA despite pitching half of his games in Coors Field. Meanwhile, Aaron Cook, who boasts one of the best sinkers in baseball (especially since Brandon Webb went down to injury), returned with a vengeance at the end of the regular season. He allowed just one run in 13 innings against two good offenses (St. Louis and Milwaukee). That leaves Jim Tracy with a tough decision about who to send to the hill in Game Three.

De La Rosa, who would be the obvious choice, is the ultimate wild card for a team that is all too familiar with the term. He bounced back from an 0-6 start to ultimately win 16 games for the Rockies, and his ability to miss bats—especially those of the left-handed variety—was a big reason why. Lefties posted just a .568 OPS against Jorge, and his 4.75 K/BB ratio against them heavily outweighed his performance against righties, where the ratio fell to 1.92.

All of this, of course, is moot for now. De La Rosa’s groin injury will keep him out of this first round series against the Phillies. In his place as the Game Three starter the Rockies could go with Hammel, who has had patches of success in his first year in the NL, or Marquis, who shut the Phillies down in the only start he made against them this season. Hammel would be the better choice (and could end up starting in Game Four if it goes that far, anyway) because of his ability to keep hitters off-balance with a plus curveball, and because of the fact that Marquis has really struggled over the past month.

Any way you look at it, most clubs would like to have the option of running guys like Jason Hammel and Jason Marquis (based solely on the success they’ve experienced this season) out there if one of their better starters was unable to go due to injury.

Chris Iannetta

Iannetta lost his job to the “hot-hitting” Yorvit Torrealba in the month of September, as Torrealba’s batting average began to surpass Iannetta’s. In the minds of most casual baseball fans, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that—especially when you consider his clutch stats (.477/.544/.591 with runners in scoring position). However, a closer look will indeed suggest that Iannetta is the better option behind the plate. First off, neither catcher is particularly good at throwing out would-be base stealers, but Iannetta’s 26 percent (18-for-68) trumps Torrealba’s 14 percent (8-for-57). In addition to the defensive upgrade, Iannetta is able to rely less on luck when attempting to get on base. Torrealba has walked just 21 times this season (which is an improvement over last season, believe it or not) and has a .347 batting average on balls in play (BABIP)—all contributors to his .351 on-base percentage. Meanwhile, Iannetta’s 43 walks have helped mask his terrible luck with batted balls; his .247 BABIP is among the worst in baseball. Because of the relatively high walk total, though, Iannetta’s OBP isn’t too far behind that of Torrealba, at .344.

With all that said, the largest advantage the Rockies will see with Iannetta in the lineup is that he absolutely crushes lefties (hello, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee); his .986 OPS against southpaws is the best on the team. He also has the ability to hit the long ball, with 16 home runs in just 289 at-bats. The Rockies could (and should) consider using a platoon behind the plate, as Torrealba more than holds his own against right-handed pitchers (.316/.376/.400).

Troy Tulowitzki

Tulowitzki has regained his 2007 form, when he was one of the best shortstops, offensively and defensively, in all of baseball. After a third consecutive slow start, Tulo started heating up in early June (and, not coincidentally, so did the Rockies). He was hitting just .218/.309/.382 when the Rockies lost their third game in a row in Houston on June 2, but he emerged from a red-hot June (in which he hit seven home runs) hitting a much more respectable .253/.346/.469, and things only got better for the soon-to-be 25-year-old shortstop. Tulo finished the year with 32 home runs and a .929 OPS.

Tulowitzki has the ability to do something that a lot of other Rockies’ hitters do not—hit off-speed pitches with consistency. He has great pitch recognition and does a good job of staying back on soft stuff. If a pitcher leaves an off-speed pitch up in the zone, he will almost surely make him pay for it, whereas a lot of other Colorado hitters will pass on those pitches, looking for a fastball instead. He is also terrific at what a lot of other Rockies’ hitters DO have success at doing, which is hitting first pitch fastballs (and hitting them hard).

Colorado is coming off another very good finish (20-11 in September and October) and is drawing a lot of parallels to the 2007 club that won the National League pennant. However, this club is much more well-rounded, especially in the starting rotation, and as SI.com’s Bruce Jenkins wrote in a late-September article, “even their depth is deep.” The team, provided it executes properly, has enough pieces to overcome its only real weakness heading into the playoffs (the middle relief). If Jim Tracy makes smart moves (i.e. starting Iannetta and Garrett Atkins against lefties, not over-managing his bullpen, etc.), and De La Rosa’s injury isn’t too serious, the Rockies should have another deep postseason run.

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  1. Gilbert said...

    Hey THT Editors:

    Tulowitzki has the ability to do something that a lot of other Rockies’ hitters do not&mdashhit; off-speed pitches

    I almost thought it meant “mash sh##y off-speed pitches”

  2. Joel Dirt said...

    The front page headline informs us that the Rockies’ season will not end in the ALDS. Now that’s a bold prediction.

  3. David said...

    You are crazy to think that Chris Iannetta should be starting…your reason??  Because he walks more.  Wow.  That is ridiculous.  Torrealba has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball…do I think that Iannetta has more God-given talent?  Yes.  Do I think that Torrealba is more of a gamer?  Yes.

  4. Bryan said...

    I don’t think I’m crazy at all to suggest that Iannetta and Torrealba should platoon. Go look at the numbers.

  5. puck said...

    David’s view on Torrealba vs. Iannetta is the sort of thing that will lead to the Rockies’ loss.

    I’ll be surprised if Iannetta gets more than 1 AB in this series.

  6. Adam Guttridge said...

    A major Tracy drawback was his benching of Iannetta. Chris is clearly the superior player.

    It did have one fringe benefit, however; Torrealba needed virtually every at-bat, but he just barely snuck into Type B status. Now, he’s a pretty risky arb offer. But the Rockies have Betancourt as a Type A, and Beimel, Marquis, and Torrealba as Type B guys.

    Thus, the’yre going to have at least 4 and as many as 7 of the top ~75 picks.

  7. nu46 said...

    Im a big Phillies fan. The Phillies will beat the twins because they are better prepared and the stronger team. If the Rockies trained in the correct manner, maybe they could even have the ability to compete with the Phillies, heres a suggestion. Rockies, go train at EFT Sports Performance, get in shape, get stronger faster more powerful and more explosive and then maybe they’ll have a chance just to compete

  8. Kenny said...

    I am not going to pretend that I am not a HUGE Phillies fan, but statistically speaking this series is going to be close, however read “Why the Phillies Will Beat the Rockies”, ironically, on this same site. However the Phillies have an advantage with their starting rotation with a team ERA of 4.16 to the Rockies 4.22, Phillies also lead the Rockies in major batting stats over the last 30 days with a .263 BA over the Rockies .248, as well as a lead in slug%, SB, and RBIs. All of the key players mentioned above need to have a big series to take down the champs, because although Tulo and both catchers have the potential to be explosive, but there are a lot of ifs regarding a deep run by the Rockies. The Rockies lost two out of three to a wavering LA ball club; which isn’t to say the Phils didn’t have a “rocky” end to the season, and that is why I say this is going to be close. It may be Roctober in Colorado but Philadelphia is a baseball city year-round, and after a taste of the good life the Phillies will come out with a chip on their shoulder after the ‘07 embarrassment. I go to Colorado State University and I cheer for the Rockies in every game other than when they play the Phillies. This is going to be a good series with a lot of offense, I can’t wait.

  9. Peter D said...

    It’s a small sample size but Iannetta was 0-5 with 4 k’s against Lee and Hamels combined.

    I’m picking the Phillies to win this series.

  10. Wat said...

    nu46, what in god’s name are you talking about? First of all, what the hell do the Twins have to do with anything? Second, I have a feeling you’ll end up eating a large dish of crow by the time this series is over. Don’t let two bad innings fool you into thinking the Rockies can’t compete.

  11. Ian said...

    Spoilt V Child: (10:03:02 PM) That article is particularly funny if you’re aware that Jorge De La Rosa is the Phillies’ favorite pitcher.

  12. rocco said...

    Wow all these articles about how the rockies would beat the phillies were spot on lol. Hope all you baseball analysts have another source of income cause when a series dosent even go five games it wasn’t even close.

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