Tough left-handed pitchers are constantly a problem for the Colorado Rockies. They have no choice but to face the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito (recently and otherwise), Wade Miley (more recently), not to mention Ted Lilly, who is evil (even with the results against him this week). What’s more is that they often face them in ballparks that favor the pitcher. Having acknowledged all of that, the Rockies face an even tougher challenge this week as the Tampa Bay Rays roll into town. With the exception of the elite Kershaw, Matt Moore and David Price are simply on a different level, impossibly difficult to beat, the two best pitchers from the best pitching organization in all of baseball.
Start with this excerpt from Jeff Passan’s column about Moore:
After five starts this year, Moore’s ERA sits at 1.13, second in the American League, third in all of baseball. Over 32 innings, he has struck out 38 and allowed 13 hits. Opponents are hitting .121 off him. He has turned five major league lineups into the equivalent of a one through nine of nothing but pitchers.
Add in his 10.69 K/9, and his 100% LOB percentage (100% left on base!) and you have some crazy success early on. Oh, and if wins and losses are your thing, Moore is 5-0. Dominance only begins to tell the story. Depending on how the rest of the season shakes out, Moore will be as tough a pitcher as the Rockies see all season. Whether or not they can ding him at Coors Field and truly assert their home-field dominance will be a tough early test of whether the Rockies belong as contenders.
After that they face Cy Young award winner David Price, and the same one-liner applies: with the exception of Kershaw, Price is arguably tougher than any pitchers the Rockies will see. Price’s record and ERA tell the story of a pitcher who is struggling in the early going: 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA. But some of his other stats indicate that he has pitched better and should turn things around in short order. Consider his 8.29 K/9, his 35/9 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, and his 3.94 FIP. Additionally, his 3.08 xFIP indicates a pitcher whose results should seriously improve if he keeps pitching the way he has so far.
This weekend presents two games against two exceptional left-handed starting pitchers who can miss bats and carry their team. The Rockies need to show that their offense can be effective at home against elite starters. They need to do so by minimizing their strikeouts, keeping pressure on the usually-stellar Rays defense, and not giving away outs on the bases. The Rockies’ starters, even the dicey Jeff Francis, should be able to hold their own against a mediocre Tampa Bay offense. As such, the Rockies find themselves at risk to lose some rare low-scoring games at home.
If they can show that they truly are a smarter team that buys into manager Walt Weiss‘s core philosophies and does not beat itself, they can give themselves a chance. If they slip up, they will make Moore and Price look like their dominant selves.