Oakland looks to turn things around in Colorado this afternoon. Who should you bet on?
Oakland Athletics vs. Colorado Rockies
Wednesday, September 16, 2020 – 03:10 PM EDT at Coors Field
Oakland starter Mike Fiers (5-2, 5.06 ERA) hopes to stop suffering one of the worst seasons in his career. He’s walking almost more batters per nine innings than he ever has before.
Likewise, he’s allowing 1.50 home runs per nine innings, which is a scary figure for a pitcher to have when he heads into Colorado’s Coors Field. Coors Field is notoriously the most home run-friendly ballpark in baseball due to Denver’s altitude.
Fiers’ Game Plan
Fiers is not going to blow batters away with higher velocity. He also doesn’t have the quality of stuff that allows him to find success throwing his pitches in the more middle parts of the plate. A look at his pitching chart shows that batters regularly punish him with high slugging rates when he does leave his pitches in poor locations.
So what Fiers wants to do is to compensate for his lack of velocity by injecting greater variety into his pitching repertoire in order to keep hitters off-balance. Also, he wants to make his pitches more difficult to hit by emphasizing the borders of the strike zone. Fiers requires precision.
Fiers In Coors Field
Obviously, one doesn’t want to place too much analytical emphasis on a game that took place in 2012. In 2012, Fiers made his one and only career start in Denver. He allowed eight runs in only two innings. Quite independently of that game long ago, I don’t like Fiers today because of his pitching style.
Due to the atmospheric forces in Colorado, pitches break and drop very differently than they do elsewhere. So not only does a pitcher, as always, need to be precise in Colorado. But he also needs to adjust or recalibrate his method of being precise. He needs to re-aim his pitches.
One batter who looks to take advantage of Fiers’ weakness is Daniel Murphy. Murphy is already 2-for-5 (.400) with a homer in his career facing Fiers.
Marquez has matured from a young pitcher who is most committed to his fastball to a pitcher who combines a high-velocity fastball with other pitches. He throws three different pitches with over 10 percent frequency in addition to his fastball, which he throws 38 percent of the time after throwing it with over 60 percent frequency as a rookie in 2016.
His increased comfort and increased usage of both his slider and curveball help him immensely. Both pitches combine for 43 percent of his arsenal and each pitch yields a BA of under .200.
Whereas Fiers, during his awful season, is leaving a greater percentage of his pitches down the middle, the three most frequent locations by the percentage of Marquez’s strikes are in the lowest row of the strike zone.
Precision is sure to continue for Marquez because Coors Field has always been his home. He is used to pitching in Denver’s climate.
I also expect Marquez’s precision to remain solid because of how well he is pitching at this moment. His positive form is evident in the fact that he’s yielded two runs in seven innings in each of his last two starts.
Metrical measurements substantiate this surface-level evidence. For example, his FIP (like ERA, but factors out fielding) was 3.06 or lower in both of those starts. In fact, his FIP is clearly lower in this entire season than his ERA — his FIP is 3.54 and his ERA is 4.35. So Marquez’s individual performance is significantly stronger than it seems.
Marquez vs. Oakland Batters
In contrast, the form is not a positive feature of Oakland, which allowed Antonio Senzatela to go the distance yesterday when he allowed one run in nine innings. Oakland’s difficult road trip has included four losses in its last six games with the bad offense being a common feature of those games.
One may want to point out that Athletic batters collectively own strong numbers versus Marquez. But these are highly misleading because Jake Lamb has almost half of his team’s at-bats against Marquez.
While Lamb hits him well, he is having a putrid season, which is why Arizona wanted to let him go. His current BA is .160. Equally, non-existent today will be the injured Matt Chapman. Oakland misses its top slugger. Expect Marcus Semien to struggle. He’s 0-for-6 with two strikeouts against Marquez.
Because Senzatela pitched a complete game yesterday, Colorado has its best arms available. This fact is crucial for deciding whether to make a full- or half-game MLB Pick in favor of the Rockies.
ERA is relatively difficult to measure for a Rockies pitcher because most of his games take place in high-altitude Denver. But they do have some guys who can reliably hold a lead. Yency Almonte and Daniel Bard are among team leaders in ERA — the former’s ERA is 3.04 and the latter’s is 3.60.
Colorado has the edge in pitching with the more comfortable, in-form, and stylistically better adapted Marquez starting. He’ll hand the baton off to a fresh bullpen which will be glad to face a slumping lineup like Oakland’s.
I also like the full-game wager because the run-line becomes more rewarding to hit. Due to the higher scores in Colorado, multi-run deficits are likelier. Eight of Colorado’s last 10 home wins have come by at least one run.
For the above reasons, we’ll go for the plus money offered by the top-rated sportsbooks and take Colorado on the run-line.