Tag Archives: NL West

Bud Black trying to guide Rockies back to the MLB postseason

Black and Rockies in control of a postseason berth
This is the first year as the skipper at the helm of the Colorado Rockies for former big league pitcher Bud Black.
Black has prior big league managerial experience, of course. For more than eight seasons, from 2007 through the opening months of 2015, he guided the San Diego Padres.
In that first season of 2007, Black succeeded Bruce Bochy. All Bochy had done was take the Friars to the postseason four times in a dozen years, including to the 1998 World Series. They remain the only postseason appearances in San Diego history, aside from the Fall Classic team of 1984.
San Diego would win 89 games that first year, but the team would finish in just third place. His 2010 Padres club won 90 games and finished in second. But neither of those teams, nor any of the others, would reach the postseason.
Those 2007 and 2010 clubs were the only in Black’s tenure to finish with a winning record. He was relieved of his duties 65 games into the 2015 season with the Padres languishing a game below the .500 mark. Overall he finished with a 649-713 mark as the manager in San Diego.

HEAD FOR THE MOUNTAINS

The previous manager in Colorado was Walt Weiss, a popular former Rockies player. Weiss had been the Rockies scrappy shortstop from 1994-97 during the time of the ‘Blake Street Bombers’ of Larry WalkerAndres GalarragaVinny Castilla, and Dante Bichette.
But popularity and nostalgia weren’t enough for Weiss to keep his job at the team’s helm after he fashioned just a 283-365 mark. None of his Rockies teams finished higher than third place.
Enter Black, a15-year veteran pitcher in Major League Baseball who won 87 games while pitching with five different organizations. The righty won a World Series as a member of the 1985 Kansas City Royals starting rotation.
Black had also been a bit player in some MLB historical moments during his playing time. He was the starting pitcher for the Royals at Yankee Stadium in June of 1983 for what would become known as the George Brett ‘Pine Tar Incident’ game. He also surrendered both Reggie Jackson‘s 500th and Mike Piazza‘s first career home runs.
In the first half of the last decade, Black served as the pitching coach with Mike Scioscia‘s early Angels teams. He was in charge of the Halos arms as the team captured the 2002 World Series championship.
Black was brought in by young Rockies GM Jeff Bridich in hopes that his decades of experience as a player, coach and manager would help the team overcome a history of futility. This is the 25th year of Colorado Rockies baseball, but just three times has the organization reached the postseason. There has been no playoff baseball in Denver since October of 2009.

HOLDING ON DOWN THE STRETCH

It has been a largely successful first season for Black as the Rockies skipper. After 140 games, the club controls the second National League Wildcard wildcarplayoff berth.
However, with just over three weeks to go, their lead is just three games over both the Milwaukee Brewers and Saint Louis Cardinals.
The Rockies have been staggering along for just over a month now. Since August 5, Colorado has fashioned just an 11-18 mark. That’s a month of mostly bad baseball.
However, with September and the stretch run of the season now underway, the team may be regaining some equilibrium. On Thursday night, the Rockies blitzed Clayton Kershaw and the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers by a 9-1 score. It was Colorado’s third win in their last four games.
Black is hoping that his lineup, which has produced nine runs twice now in three games, is beginning to feed off one another once again.
“I think there’s something to that,” said Black per MLB.com’s Joshua Thornton and Ryan Posner. “When you see a couple guys ahead of you in the lineup having good at-bats. It’s a momentum-builder for you up there, too, that you’re seeing it, and it sort of heightens your awareness with what’s happening …I believe in contagious.”
When they’re healthy and feeding off one another, the Colorado lineup can be downright frightening for any pitcher to face. Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieuCharlie BlackmonMark ReynoldsCarlos GonzalezGerardo ParraTrevor StoryJonathan Lucroy, and Ian Desmond make for as daunting a lineup as there is in the game.
Three more weeks. They need to continue feeling that momentum from one another, feeding off it, spreading it around to one another like the contagion described by Black. If they do, the Colorado Rockies will once again get to enjoy the thrill of October baseball.

MLB Spotlight Series: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado visits Arizona in big NL West series
The weekend series that is about to take place between the host Arizona Diamondbacks and division-rival Colorado Rockies is extremely important.
These have been two of the more surprising contenders of the 2017 season. The Dbacks lead the NL Wildcard race. Arizona has a 9.5 game cushion on one of those postseason berths.
The Rockies currently control the second NL Wildcard berth. Their nearest pursuer for that spot, the defending NL champion Chicago Cubs, are six games back.
But while these have indeed been two successful clubs over the course of the season, each is struggling of late. Colorado has dropped eight straight games. Arizona comes in after dropping the final two of their last series with the Saint Louis Cardinals.
Both teams have fallen behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the NL West Division crown. The Rockies led the division for most of the season until the current losing streak. Arizona has been playing catch-up, spending just one recent day tied atop the division back on June 1.
The desperation factor is clearly a check mark on the Colorado side. Already fully immersed in a losing streak, the team needs to wake up and reverse the skid before losing becomes habitual. No time like a big weekend series with a division rival to do so.
The Dbacks have lost three games in a row just three times all season. They haven’t dropped four in a row all year. The club certainly doesn’t want to slip in to such a losing skid now.
The series has plenty of talent for MLB fans to enjoy. That includes two of the top superstars in the game today in Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Dbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

WEEKEND PITCHING MATCHUPS

FRIDAY: Jon Gray (COL) vs Robbie Ray (ARZ)
SATURDAY: Tyler Chatwood (COL) vs Zack Greinke (ARZ)
SUNDAY: German Marquez (COL) vs Taijuan Walker (ARZ)
At age 25, Gray is the Rockies best starter. He has made just three starts this year, however, due to a stress fracture in his left foot. The righty is expected to be activated for Friday night’s game, his first appearance since April 13.
He will be opposed by the 25-year old lefty Ray, who has drawn at least even with Greinke as the Dbacks top starting pitcher. Both clubs will be looking to get off on the right foot in the Friday night matchup.
Both teams are already experiencing major improvement in the standings from a year ago. In 2016 they finished third and fourth in the NL West. The Rockies went 75-87 in what was their sixth consecutive losing campaign. Arizona went 69-93, narrowly avoiding last place.
The rivals have already met nine times this season. The results have been fairly even, with the Rockies capturing five of the nine games thus far. Just over a week ago, the Dbacks took two of three at Coors Field.

STATISTICAL COMPARISON

The Diamondbacks rank fourth and the Rockies sixth in all of Major League Baseball in runs scored this season. That is no surprise. Chase Field, host to this weekend’s matchup, ranks second among all ballparks in the MLB Park Factors ranking for run production. Coors Field is at the very top of the list.
Arizona shows a bit more power. Their cumulative .782 OPS mark is fourth-best in MLB this year. The Rockies .757 is tied in the 11th spot.
The Dbacks are also more patient, ranking 13th in all of MLB compared to Colorado’s 24th in the Walks category. Speed also shows as a huge Arizona advantage, with the Diamondbacks ranking sixth in steals and the Rockies only in 25th place.
Arizona has the statistical advantage on the mound as well. The Dbacks staff is tied for third with a .235 Batting Average Against. The Rockies .256 mark ranks 16th in baseball. Arizona is 7th and Colorado 15th in Quality Starts.
One of the major factors cited by many following this year’s Arizona turnaround has been the positive influence of new manager Torey Lovullo. This is the first big league managerial opportunity for the long time bench player and coach.
Bob Baum of The Boston Globe recently quoted Lovullo on his journey. ‘‘I started to sit on the bench a lot and I started to pay attention a lot. I started to realize there was something inside of me that felt like I could manage. … I thought about being the leader of a team that could win a World Series. That became a goal of mine.’’
It appears that Lovullo can indeed manage a big league ball club. If he continues to push the right buttons in the clubhouse and dugout, he could very well end up leading a team to win the World Series, far sooner than he may have ever believed was possible.

Owings helping Dbacks overcome injuries to stay in NL West race

A check of the National League West Division standings this morning shows the Arizona Diamondbacks right in the thick of things. 
The Snakes are now 36-25, tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers in second place, two games behind the Colorado Rockies.
The Dbacks dropped three straight games in Miami last weekend. But now back home at Chase Field, Arizona has gotten back on track with a pair of wins over the division-rival San Diego Padres. A key performer in these two games has been utility player Chris Owings.
On Tuesday, Owings cracked his seventh home run of the season. The three-run shot in the second inning blew the game open early, giving Arizona a 7-0 lead en route to a 10-2 rout.
Last night, Owings went 1-3, scoring a run and driving home another. His seventh inning sacrifice fly brought home Paul Goldschmidt with a run to open up a 7-3 lead. Arizona would eventually win the game by a 7-4 margin.
In both games, he was the starting shortstop in new manager Torey Lovullo‘s lineup. Owings has started 30 of the Dbacks’ 61 games this year at the position. He evenly splits time there with Nick Ahmed, who has started the other 31 games at shortstop.

OWENS PROVIDES LINEUP VERSATILITY

Owings has also proven his versatility by stepping in to start 16 games in right field and four games at second base. He went out to left field once, and has come off the bench on numerous occasions at each of the other three positions.
Owings versatility has helped Arizona weather the storm when injuries hit the outfield. Two starters, Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock, are currently on the Disabled List.
A couple of weeks back, Jack Magruder of Fanrag Sports Network quoted Owings on his role with the ball club this year.
“Wherever I am that day in the lineup, hitting second, seventh. Whether it is playing short, second, right, I just have the same attitude every day. Whatever the situation is, execute it. For me, it was wherever you need me. I’ll work hard to be ready to go for you.”
Owings is now hitting for a .297/.335/.464 slash line. Those would all be career full season highs for the player who will turn 26 years of age in August. The Tuesday home run was his career-high seventh of the season. He also has 34 RBI and nine stolen bases.

DBACKS COVERING FOR INJURIES

Pollock has been sidelined for three weeks with a Grade 1 right groin strain. He is likely still at least a couple of weeks away from a return to the lineup. Tomas also has a groin issue, and his return is still to be determined. Groins can be particularly tricky injuries, so Arizona will be cautious with both players.
Normally bench players, Daniel DescalsoGregor BlancoRey Fuentes, and Jeremy Hazelbaker are also stepping up in the outfield. The remaining starter, right fielder David Peralta, is having a nice season after missing most of 2016 with his own injury issues.
Losing two starting outfielders for a chunk of your season while trying to stay in contention requires others to step up. Since providing the walkoff hit on Opening Day, Owings has been stepping up regularly, helping to keep the Diamondbacks in the race.

Surprising Mark Reynolds helps Colorado Rockies to surprising start

At the start of the 2017 season in Major League Baseball, the Colorado Rockies were not considered a favorite in the NL West Division.
Most prognosticators had the four-time defending division champion Los Angeles Dodgers as the favorites once again. 
If someone was going to dethrone LA, it was likely to be their arch-rivals, the San Francisco Giants.
Either the Dodgers or Giants have won eight of the last nine NL West crowns. The Giants have captured three World Series championships during that stretch.
The Rockies joined the division in MLB’s 1993 expansion. They last won the division title, well, never. In fact, the Rox have been to the postseason just three times. They went as the NL Wildcard in 1995, 2007, and 2009. That 2007 team is the only Colorado team to reach the World Series.
Yet here we are, nearly seven weeks into the 2017 season. And there at the top of the National League West Division standings are those Colorado Rockies. The Rockies are 25-15 following a 7-3 inter-league victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Colorado is not just a Coors Field phenomenon either. The club has a 13-10 record in the Mile High City. They also sport a winning 11-5 mark away from Denver.
As a result, the Rockies are three games up on the Dodgers, against whom Colorado has gone 5-4 in head-to-head matchups this season. They have also taken six of seven games over the Giants. The Arizona Diamondbacks, currently 2.5 games back in second place? Colorado has taken four of six.

ROCKIES OVERCOMING INJURIES

When a team is having as good a start as the Rockies are, there are a number of things going right. Manager Bud Black has gotten great pitching from a pair of rookies, 24-year old Kyle Freeland and 22-year old Antonio Senzatela.
The Rockies has also overcome key injuries and illness issues. Perhaps their best anticipated starting pitcher, 25-year old Jon Gray, has been out for over a month with a broken foot. Gray is not expected back until mid-June at the earliest.
Starting shortstop Trevor Story (shoulder), pitcher Chad Bettis (cancer), catcher Tony Wolters (concussion), catcher Tom Murphy (arm fracture), and outfielder David Dahl (rib) have all missed time. All but Bettis, who just completed chemotherapy treatments, are on their way back.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado and center fielder Charlie Blackmon each won a Silver Slugger Award last season. Arenado was a Gold Glover. Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu won a Gold Glove in 2014 and was a 2015 NL All-Star. They are each off to strong starts.
But the Rockies expect to get solid production from those players. One of the biggest keys to the club getting off to such a hot start has been some relatively unexpected production.

UNEXPECTED PRODUCTION FROM A JOURNEYMAN

Mark Reynolds is the club’s 33-year old first baseman. The Rockies are the journeyman slugger’s seventh MLB organization. This is his second season with Colorado, the 11th of his big league career, and that he is even with the ball club is a bit of an upset.
Rockies
As spring training was wrapping up, Brad Faber here at FanSided wrote that the Rockies had decided to bring back Reynolds, mostly due to an injury to big free agent signing Ian Desmond.
Reynolds had been signed to a minor league deal at the start of spring training. In 2016, he hit for a .282/.356/.450 slash line over 441 plate appearances with Colorado. He contributed 14 home runs and 24 doubles ,knocking in 53 runs and scoring 61 times.
At that time, Faber noted that Desmond “was signed to a five-year, $70 million deal over the offseason, is expected to reclaim first base upon his return. Desmond is currently out with a broken hand.”
Well, Desmond has been back since for three weeks. And yet there is Reynolds, still manning first base for the Rockies. Desmond has instead been pushed out to left field, where he has played in a dozen of his 13 games since returning to the lineup.

REYNOLDS HITS WAY TO STARTING JOB

Reynolds has simply refused to allow Black to even consider removing his bat from the Rockies lineup. Through Tuesday night he has a .326/.399/.630 slash line. Reynolds leads Colorado hitters with a dozen homers and 33 RBI, and is second on the club with 26 runs scored.
Since Desmond’s return, Reynolds has upped the ante a bit, hitting .356/.453/.622 with four homers and 10 RBI.
“He’s been playing phenomenal,” said Desmond per an AP report carried by the New York Times.
“He’s been a huge part of us…carrying us. It doesn’t seem like there is any signs of slowing down, which is awesome.” ~ Desmond
Furthermore, that phenomenal play has helped the team overcome an unusual slow start from star Carlos Gonzalez. The right fielder, a three-time NL All-Star and Gold Glover, is hitting just .213/.282/.315 thus far with two homers and 11 RBI.
Following a streak earlier this month in which he homered in three straight games, Reynolds was quoted by Nick Groke for The Denver Post:
“I want to keep playing. If you want to play, you have to produce — especially in my situation. I’m just trying to produce every night and hopefully be in there the next day.”
Reynolds has been playing and producing all season, and the Rockies are at the top of the NL West pile in part because of that production. If he can continue at even a reasonable fraction of this pace, Reynolds may help Colorado end a season at the top of the mountain for the first time.

Jake Lamb Shepherds Dbacks Renaissance

Heading into Thursday night action in Major League Baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks are tied atop the National League West Division standings with a 10-6 record.
This comes one year after a disheartening 69-93 campaign for the Dbacks. Last season found Arizona avoiding the division cellar by just a single game.
The biggest offensive contributor in the lineup thus far has been third baseman Jake Lamb. The 26-year old is now in his second season as a full-time starter.
A native of Seattle, Lamb was the Diamondbacks selection in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Washington.
The 6’3″ lefty-swinging Lamb achieved success in the minor leagues between 2012-14. In doing so, he became a Top 100 Prospect as ranked by both MLB and Baseball America prior to the 2015 season.

LAMB REACHES THE BIG LEAGUES

Lamb made his big league debut on August 7, 2014 in a game at Chase Field against the Kansas City Royals. He went 1-4 and drove in a run that night, and stayed with Arizona for the last two months of the season. With the exception of a month-long stay on the DL early in the 2015 season, he has been up with the Dbacks ever since.
Last year, while the team struggled in his first full big league season, Lamb powered up. He clubbed 29 home runs and raked 31 doubles. Lamb also drove in 91 runs and scored 81 times.
Lamb has begun the 2017 campaign by taking his overall game to another level. Over his first 15 games and 65 plate appearances, he is hitting for a .304/385/.554 slash line. His counting numbers would project out to 30+ homers, 140+ RBI, and 120+ runs over a full season.
It is somewhat unlikely that he will maintain that RBI and Runs pace. But the 30+ homer power is for real. Lamb is emerging this year as an NL All-Star caliber player.
Lamb is also trying to take on more of a leadership role in the clubhouse. He was interviewed by Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic late in spring training:
“I’m trying to bring a little more fun in the clubhouse in a smart way, in a respectful way. It’s good to be loose, you know. I think it’s really important to have a loose clubhouse. You play better.”

DBACKS APPEAR GREATLY IMPROVED IN 2017

Lamb and left fielder Yasmany Tomas have joined perennial MVP candidate first baseman Paul Goldschmidt as threats in the middle of the Dbacks batting order.
Diamondbacks
Center fielder A.J. Pollock is back and healthy. Arizona also features an underrated middle infield of Brandon Drury and Chris Owings. The overall lineup appears much more solidified and deep than a year ago.
On the mound, Zack Greinke heads a rotation in which each member has been improved over their 2016 performances. Lefties Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, and righties Shelby Miller and Taijuan Walker, are all 27 years of age or younger.
The closer is 40-year old veteran Fernando Rodney. If he can hold up over the entire season, the bullpen may also prove to be greatly improved. A pair of youngsters have been keys to that improvement. Righty Archie Bradley and lefty Andrew Chafin have each gotten off to strong starts
The club also has a new man at the helm in manager Torey Lovullo. The former Boston Red Sox bench coach has long been considered as managerial material. His debut has gone as well as any Dbacks fan could hope to this point.
Can the Arizona Diamondbacks go from near the bottom of the division one year to a playoff team the next? The talent appears to be there.
If Lamb and the Dbacks keep up this pace, then the preseason favorite Dodgers and Giants may find themselves doing some unexpected chasing all summer long.