Tag Archives: Paul Goldschmidt

Why the Diamondbacks / Rockies will win the NL Wildcard game

NL West rivals will meet in the NL Wildcard Game

The New York Yankees defeated the Minnesota Twins by an 8-4 final score in Tuesday night’s AL Wildcard Game.

I called it 7-4, Yankees, in yesterday’s AL Wildcard preview and prediction piece. Now it’s time to take a look at the National League matchup.

Wednesday night will find the NL Wildcard Game taking place at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. There the Arizona Diamondbacks will host the NL West Division rival Colorado Rockies.

The winner of this win-or-go-home matchup will move on to face yet another division rival. That would be the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will host the NLDS opener beginning on Friday.

Arizona has a first-year big league manager in Torey Lovullo. The 52-year old played 303 games in Major League Baseball, mostly as a utility infielder, spread across eight seasons between 1988 and 1999.

Lovullo did have extensive minor league experience. He registered more than 5,000 plate appearances over a dozen minor league seasons from 1987-99. He then wrapped up his playing career overseas in the Japanese Central League in the 2000 season.

Following his retirement, Lovullo was hired as a minor league coach by the Cleveland Indians. He would rise during the 2000’s to become one of the most successful managers in the minors, becoming a frequent big league managerial candidate and interviewee.

Following stints as bench coach under John Farrell with both the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, Lovullo finally received his own chance to manage a big league club when hired to guide the Dbacks last November.

The Rockies are skippered by 60-year old Bud Black, a successful starting pitcher over 16 MLB seasons. Black compiled a 121-116 record over 398 games, including 296 starts. In all, the lefty tossed more than 2,000 innings with a career 3.84 ERA between 1981 and 1995.

Black’s best season came in 1984, when he went 17-12 in 257 innings over 35 starts for the Kansas City Royals. He notably surrendered both Reggie Jackson’s 500th and Mike Piazza’s first big league home runs, and was the starting pitcher for the Royals in the infamous George Brett ‘Pine Tar Incident‘ game.

Black became a pitching coach under Mike Scioscia following his retirement, and in that role was a member of the 2002 Anaheim Angels team that won the World Series.

In 2007, Black became manager of the San Diego Padres. Over nine seasons he compiled a 649-713 record. His 2010 Padres club finished 90-72 and in 2nd place in the NL West. He was fired as the Padres floundered early in the 2015 season. Black was then hired to manage the Rockies last November, just three days after Lovullo took the same job in Arizona.

So each club enters this game with a manager who just wrapped their first season guiding their club. The Dbacks finished 93-69 under Lovullo, tied for the fifth-best record in the game. The Rockies went 87-75 under Black, clinching their postseason berth on the final weekend.

Arizona was an expansion franchise that began play in 1998. The Diamondbacks have been to the postseason five times in their history, and won the 2001 World Series. This is the club’s first playoff game since the 2011 season.

The Rockies were also an expansion franchise, beginning play back in 1993. They have been to the postseason just three times, and were swept by the Boston Red Sox in their only World Series appearance in 2007. Earlier that October, Colorado had swept Arizona out of the NLCS in the only postseason meeting between the two clubs prior to this Wildcard Game.

WHY THE DBACKS WILL WIN
These are two high-scoring teams who match up fairly even in the offensive aspects of the game. But it is on the mound where the Diamondbacks enjoy a clear advantage.
The Arizona pitching staff compiled the third-best ERA (3.66) in all of Major League Baseball this season. The Dbacks arms tied for sixth in Batting Average Against (.240), and were sixth in strikeouts. The staff allowed the third-lowest home run total in the big leagues.
Drawing the starting pitching assignment for this Wildcard Game will be their ace, Zack Greinke. Turning 34 years old later this month, Greinke went 17-7 this year, allowing 172 hits over 202.1 innings across 32 starts. He had a fine 215/45 K:BB ratio, a 1.072 WHIP, and a 149 ERA+ mark.
Since this is an “all hands on deck” situation, Lovullo could turn to any of his remaining starting pitchers. Most likely that would mean lefty Robbie Ray or right-handers Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley.
In addition to those strong starters, Lovullo has a variety of effective options among his normal relief corps. Those include righties J.J. Hoover and Jimmie Sherfy, and lefties Jorge De La Rosa and Andrew Chafin.
When it comes down to the late innings, a pair of right-handers at opposite ends of the career spectrum can shut things down. 25-year old Archie Bradley is a converted starter who has been lights-out in the bullpen. 40-year old Fernando Rodney saved 39 games and is a 3x All-Star.
Offensively, Arizona was 8th in Runs, 7th in OPS and Steals, and 6th in Total Bases. They can hit, run, and score with any team.
That offense is led by perennial MVP candidate first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. The 30-year old slashed .297/.404/.563 this season with 36 homers, 73 extra-base hits, 120 RBI, 117 runs scored, and 18 steals.
Lefty-swinging third baseman Jake Lamb turns 27 years old next week. He had strong final numbers of 30 home runs and 105 RBI, but hit just .204 after June. Center fielder A.J. Pollock’s return after missing most of last season has been huge. He leads the club with 20 stolen bases, and had 53 extra-base hits in just 466 plate appearances.
While Lovullo’s lineup has a variety of weapons beyond that handful, a late-season addition has proven to be the single most dominant over the last couple of months.
30-year old right fielder J.D. Martinez was obtained from the Detroit Tigers prior to the trade deadline. All he did after the trade was slash .302/.366/.741 with 29 homers and 65 RBI over just 257 plate appearances in 62 games. 
When I first came, I really wasn’t doing that well,” said Martinez in an interview with Marly Rivera for ESPN. “I was struggling. I felt like I was trying to be someone that I wasn’t; trying to do a lot more. And the guys were like nothing, they were like, ‘Dude let’s go,’ every day picking me up, picking the whole team up. I felt a part of the team very quickly here.
If Greinke dominates for five or more innings, great. If not, Lovullo can become a Brian Kenny disciple and go “bullpenning”, as Girardi did with the Yankees last night. Dominating pitching, some big hits from Goldschmidt, Martinez, Pollock and company, and the Dbacks advance.

WHY THE ROCKIES WILL WIN

The Rockies offense got to the Dbacks strong pitching for five or more runs on seven occasions this season. They won five of those games. It’s my opinion that this will be the biggest single key for Colorado if they are going to win tonight – score at least five or six times.

The Colorado offense is equipped with the talent to score on anyone. The Rockies were third in Runs scored, second in Hits, and fifth in OPS this season in all of Major League Baseball.

Black’s attack is led by MVP candidate third baseman Nolan Arenado. The 26-year old is one of the best young players in the game. He has been an NL All-Star each of the last three years, and has won a Gold Glove in each of his four previous big league seasons.

This year, Arenado slashed .309/.373/.586 with 37 homers, 87 extra-base hits, 130 RBI, and 100 runs scored. Not just a Coors Field product, his numbers hold up on the road as well.

The Rox also have another legit NL MVP candidate in center fielder Charlie Blackmon. The 31-year old was an NL All-Star for the second time this year. He slashed .331/.399/.601, tying for the NL batting title. The long-bearded Blackmon bombed 37 homers, had 86 extra-base hits, drove in 104 runs, scored an NL-high 137 times, and stole 14 bases.

34-year old first baseman Mark Reynolds banged 30 home runs, reaching that 30-homer plateau for the first time in six years. He also provided 97 RBI. Shortstop Trevor Story added 24 homers and 82 RBI.

The Rockies’ second baseman, DJ LeMahieu, is one of the most underrated players in the game. The 29-year old made the NL All-Star team for the second time in three years this summer. He hit .310 with a .374 OBP and scored 95 runs.

Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy came over from the Texas Rangers in a trade deadline deal, adding yet another solid offensive weapon to the mix. Lucroy hit .310 with a .429 OBP in 46 games following the deal.

On the mound, Black is sending out 25-year old right-hander Jon Gray to start the Wildcard Game. Gray was the Rockies first round pick at third overall in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft.

I have a lot of positive emotions coming in here, and it leads me to think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Gray per Patrick Saunders at The Denver Post. “I don’t think it’s going to be a tight game for me. I don’t think I’m going to be feeling that nervous. I’m just going to go out there and control what I can. The results are the results. But the effort is going to be 100 percent for me.

Gray was sidelined by a stress fracture in his foot from mid-April through nearly all of June. He returned to go 10-4 over the final three months of the season, striking out 103 batters over 98 innings in that period. Should Gray falter at some point, Black would likely turn to a mix of his starters and regular relief corps.

Black’s top righty options on the mound would likely be German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela, Adam Ottavino, and Pat Neshek. From the left side it would mean Kyle Freeland, Chris Rusin, Jake McGee, Tyler Anderson, and Mike Dunn are the best bets to see action.

The regular closer is Greg Holland, a 31-year old right-hander who was one of baseball’s biggest comeback stories this season. He saved 41 games, allowing just 40 hits over 57.1 innings with a 70/26 K:BB ratio. It all added up to an NL All-Star season for Holland, who missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery.

The Rockies recipe for victory is to have their bats come out hot, putting pressure on the Dbacks offense to match them. Arizona is very capable of that, so I would see a Colorado win coming only via out-scoring the Dbacks in a high-scoring affair in which both pitching staffs are battered around the ballpark, with perhaps Holland finally shutting the home team down to secure the win.

THE MATCHUP AND PREDICTION

As NL West Division rivals, these two clubs are extremely familiar with one another. They met 19 times during the regular season, with Arizona taking 11 of the head-to-head matchups. 

Only the Dodgers had a better record at home than the Dbacks 52-29 record at Chase Field. However, the Rockies battled them to a 5-5 split of their 10 games in the desert this season.

We’ve spent a lot of hours breaking it all down,” Arizona GM Mike Hazen said on Tuesday per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. “But in the end, once 5:08 p.m. (WDT) hits tomorrow, it’s about executing. It’s about going out and playing a good brand of baseball that we have all year. It’s about going out there, making our pitches, making them work on their side of it. And that’s all there is to it it’s a baseball game. The more relaxed and freer we’re going to play tomorrow, the better chance we have for good results.

The forecast high is for 98 degrees today in Phoenix, and so the roof will be closed this evening, making this an indoor playoff game.

Greinke made five starts this year against Colorado. He allowed just 30 hits over 34.1 innings in those starts with an incredible 37/2 K:BB ratio. He won the last three of those outings, including a pair of dominant starts at home.

Gray made just three starts against Arizona, but two of those came in September. In those two more relevant outings he allowed 12 hits over 12 innings with a strong 16/3 K:BB ratio. On September 12, Gray struck out 10 Dbacks hitters over seven strong innings, leading the Rockies to a 4-2 win at Chase Field.

While that recent outstanding outing by Gray provides some hope for the Rockies faithful, I don’t see a repeat happening tonight. I do, however, see the 14-year veteran Greinke posting up a big game. He and the Dbacks bullpen should shut Colorado down enough for the bats to open it up at some point. I’m calling it 9-4 in favor of the Diamondbacks, who advance to Dodger Stadium on Friday.

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.

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.

MLB 2016 Predictions: NL Most Valuable Player

Our staff at TBOH has just released our predictions for the final standings in each division, as well as our postseason predictions, including the 2016 World Series winner. 
In addition, in my role as editor I have also released my own predictions for the Phillies in the coming season.
Our staff continued by releasing our predictions for some of MLB’s major award winners, including the Cy Young Award in each league, as well as the Rookie of the Year Awards.
We’ll wrap our predictions today by releasing our picks for the front-runners for American and National League Most Valuable Player, as well as our pick for the first manager to be fired this season in Major League Baseball.
A year ago, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals finally stayed healthy for a full season. 
The result was what has been anticipated since he was a teenager. Harper produced a .330/.460/.649 slash line, bashing 42 homers, driving in 99 runs, and scoring 118 times to become the unanimous National League Most Valuable Player.

Arizona Diamondbacks 1st baseman Paul Goldschmidt had a tremendous season of his own, one that would normally have seen him take the honors, or at least finish close in the voting. Instead, Goldy had to settle for a clear but distant runner-up finish.
A host of strong contenders also received solid support following those two in the 2015 NL MVP balloting, including 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, 2013 NL MVPAndrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a trio of Chicago Cubs in Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and young sluggers Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
In our staff voting here at TBOH for the 2016 NL Most Valuable Player, there was no clear favorite. 
Harper was the only player to receive two votes, but it’s hard to call that a consensus. He is akin to Trout over the American League: if he stays healthy, he will be a perennial contender for the honors.
Goldschmidt received one of our staffers vote. Both Bryant and Rizzo from the Cubs, as well as their new teammate, outfielder Jason Heyward, each received a vote as our NL MVP. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, the 2012 NL MVP, received a vote.
The final vote was a fairly obvious hometown choice, something that staff writer Alexis Girardo fully admitted when she cast her ballot for 3rd baseman Maikel Franco of the Phillies.
The 2016 National League Most Valuable Player race is probably Harper’s to lose. He has the ability, again, if healthy, to carry the Washington Nationals on his back to a postseason berth and on deep into October. 
Unlike Trout, he has a strong supporting cast around him, and that very well could be the scenario that plays out this year.