Two Pitchers in Good Form Duel When Rockies Visit Mets

Rainman M.

Friday, July 14, 2017 3:36 PM UTC

Friday, Jul. 14, 2017 3:36 PM UTC

A recent slump has dropped the Mets to 8 games below .500.  Can they rely on Jacob deGrom on Friday to help them climb out of their hole against a Rockies squad that is looking to regain consistency?

Colorado Rockies At New York Mets

The Jekyll and Hydes from Colorado came into the All-Star break averaging nine runs in their last three games and riding some impressive pitching performances, including a near no-hitter from rookie Kyle Freeland. But look for a slow start from Colorado's bats when they face Mets starter Jacob deGrom in Citi Field on Friday. Left-handed batters have a slight edge in that stadium. But the Rockies will count on the following lefties: Carlos Gonzalez, who has yet to be Carlos Gonzalez, as his .221 BA in the first half of the season is .66 below his career average; furthermore, Gerardo Parra and Charlie Blackmon are a combined 1-for-23 in their career against deGrom. Righties haven’t fared much better. Current Colorado batters are batting just .120 in 75 career ABs vs deGrom.

The Mets slumped into the All-Star break, dropping five of six. But this slump is no fault of lefty slugger Jay Bruce, who finished 7-for-17 with 3 home runs in his last four games. His BA (.266) is currently at the second-highest point in his career and his slugging (.538) is at its highest, which indicates an impressive improvement from somebody who played his home gams in Cincinnati, which is very much a hitter-friendly ballpark. Bruce, in his career is 2-for-3 with a double and a home run against Rockies starter Jon Gray.


Probable Pitchers

Gray (2-0 3.75 ERA) spent most of the season on the DL and has been sorely missed by the Rockies. But he has returned strong, allowing an ERA of just over 3 in his last two starts against Arizona in Chase Field and the Reds in Coors Field. The main reason for his strong return is the surprise that he has presented opposing batters in the form of a tight slider. His slider is very unique because of its vertical movement.  It attacks the plate like a fastball until it eludes the opponent’s swing by suddenly dropping. His slider complements his fastball, because batters cannot be sure which pitch is which until it’s too late. He is throwing this slider at a vastly higher rate than before his injury and he is commanding it well, indicating his level of comfort with it. Batters are swinging and missing or hitting his slider into a weak ground ball. The Diamondbacks hit just .143 and the Reds only .200 against his slider. 

DeGrom (9-3 3.65 ERA) counters for a desperate Mets squad. He had a roller coaster-like first half of the season. The big down month was in May, which is why his ERA is currently 0.74 higher than his career average. In May, deGrom's command was worrisome. His BB/9 rate spiked up to 4.46, which is 2.10 higher than his career average. Normally, deGrom is able to rely on a variety of pitches.  But in May, he could not command his breaking pitches effectively. He tried to throw them, but could not throw them consistently for strikes. Because he therefore had to rely extensively on his fastball, he became more predictable. Since opposing batters could rather foresee that a fastball would come -- especially when deGrom really needed to throw a good pitch -- he had to be extra careful with his location and was consequently prone to missing corners of the plate. But after May, things changed: the percentage of his fastball usage dropped from nearly 50% to 33% in June. The rest of deGrom’s pitching arsenal opened up to him and he threw his sinker, change and curve more frequently. His FIP dropped from 4.22 in May to 2.40, 3.40 and 0.15 in his last three starts in June.

The Verdict 

The Mets have history on their side in a power-laden versatile pitcher in deGrom who is historically strong both in July and against the current Colorado batters.  The Rockies are at their worst against power pitchers and pitchers who, like deGrom, induce a mixture of fly balls and ground balls. Now that deGrom is rediscovering his off-speed pitches, look for opposing batters to continue to struggle to make hard contact against him. Gray is no deGrom, but he has been pitching effectively even against baseball’s better lineups and even without having rediscovered his curveball.  Since Gray has the support of an effective slider, the Mets will have to wait another night to find productivity from their lineup. Sounds like a low-scoring game for my MLB pick. 

Free MLB Pick: 'Under' 4 First 5Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

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