Rockies Smart Bet Early in Game Vs. Diamondbacks

rockies diamondbacks

Rainman M.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 1:03 PM GMT

The Rockies snapped the Diamondbacks’ seven-game win streak Tuesday night. Colorado looks look to build on its own six-game win streak when the two hottest teams in baseball meet in Coors Field for Game 2 of their series Wednesday.

Diamondbacks At Rockies

The Rockies have gotten over their difficulties at home, as they have won five in a row in Colorado. The Diamondbacks had been one of the worst road teams before winning five straight road games -- then they lost at the Rockies on Tuesday. The hitter that stands out most for Wednesday's matchup is Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, who hit for the cycle on Sunday against the Giants and was 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs on Tuesday. Teammate Ian Desmond’s batting average has likewise been surging. He also has the most positive history against Diamondbacks starter Taijuan Walker: Desmond is 4-for-11 with a home run in his career against Walker.

 

Probable Pitchers

Walker (5-3 3.32 ERA) has vastly improved since his move to Arizona. Despite playing in a ballpark that is much more conducive to power hitters than that of Seattle, the rate per nine innings at which he gives up home runs is down from 1.81 last season, as he pitched for Seattle, to 0.63 this season. Pitching in hitter-friendly Chase Field has forced him to reconstitute himself as more of a ground-ball pitcher; his ground-ball rate is up last season from 44% to nearly 50%. He is locating his pitches more effectively down in the strike zone, which is keeping the ball on the ground at a higher rate. While he relies mostly on a four-seam fastball that he throws at a blazing average of 93.7 MPH, he throws his secondary pitches for contact. Particularly the downward movement of his splitter and slider are never swung at and missed by batters but instead induce an extremely high amount of ground balls.

Walker has a tendency, however, to be overcautious instead of trusting his stuff; his BB/9 rate is up from 2.48 last season to 3.00 this season. He already faced Colorado once in Coors Field. On May 7 he struck out a season-low one batter but gave up only one run, a solo home run, in 5.2 innings. His FIP (like ERA but factors out luck) of 5.07 suggests that he was rather lucky than good. Even though Colorado tends to struggle with power stuff, its .816 OPS (on-base plus slugging; average is .730) against ground-ball pitchers indicates the team is comfortable against pitchers who, like Walker, like to throw down in the zone.

Jeff Hoffman (4-0 2.25 ERA) counters for the Rockies. He has vastly improved since his professional debut last season. His K/9 rate is up from 6.32 to 10.13; his BB/9 rate is down from 4.88 to 1.69 and his HR/9 rate is down from 2.01 to 0.84. As a result, his ERA is down from 4.88 to 2.25 and his FIP is down from 6.27 to 2.75.  He is improving his stuff, locating his pitches more effectively and enjoying a more dominant command of the plate. The velocity of his pitches has also significantly improved, making them harder to hit.

Hoffman, like Walker, is a power pitcher. But he is absolutely a fly-ball pitcher, as he is inducing ground balls at just a 33% rate so far. He has suffered two relatively poor outings this season: against the Giants (4.13 FIP) and the Dodgers (3.69 FIP). Both teams are their strongest at hitting fly-ball pitchers, while the Diamondbacks are best at hitting ground-ball pitchers. Hoffman has yet to face Arizona this year. Arizona batters will see a pitcher who is vastly improved from the one who, in September 2016, got tagged in Chase Field with four earned runs in just 4.2 innings. He allowed two home runs in that start, but just three home runs in his last nine starts since.
 

The Verdict

Even though Walker is a much-improved pitcher, his inconsistency with his command is worrisome. But he does have three adequately fresh relievers who should be ready to go tonight in Andrew Chafin, Archie Bradley and closer Fernando Rodney. Colorado’s bullpen has been shaky lately. They are also less fresh. So it's not worth laying heavy juice on them for the full game money line, but I will back them on the first-half run line (-1/2) as my MLB Pick. The kind of power pitchers with marked ground-ball tendencies who Colorado has hit well against are those such as Trevor Bauer and Eddie Butler who walk a lot of batters and so struggle with command. Walker therefore presents an obstacle that they have mastered before.

On the contrary, Arizona is at its worst against power pitchers and pitchers, like Hoffman, who have marked fly-ball tendencies. Also note that Walker struggles most with his stuff and command in his second time facing the opposing lineup. Colorado’s OPS is also above .860 this season in innings 3, 4 and 5 --  the innings in which they see the starting pitcher for the second time. So if they don’t procure Hoffman a lead in the first two innings, look for them to do so in the next three.

Free MLB Pick: Rockies First 5Best Line Offered: BetDSI

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