Coming off two wins in a positive series against the Dodgers that was saturated in drama, the Colorado Rockies make their first trip to Miller Park of the season. The Rockies (6-6) are in the same boat as the Brewers after winning back-to-back games against the Padres. To preview the upcoming series, we quizzed Rox Pile staff writer Hayden Kane (follow him @hwkane!) on all things Rockies.
Friday- RHP Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 5.63) vs. RHP Shaun Marcum (1-1, 3.46)
Saturday- LHP Drew Pomeranz (0-1, 10.38) vs. LHP Chris Narveson (1-1, 7.00)
Sunday- RHP Jeremy GuthrieS (1-1, 7.79) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 4.58)
Reviewing the Brew: Michael Cuddyer has been the top producer for the Rockies this season. How much impact has he had in the middle of the lineup?
Rox Pile: Cuddyer has not only been the most productive bat in the middle of the order; he has been the best player on the team. The Rockies would not have been able to salvage their recent homestand if not for Cuddyer and Todd Helton, because Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are both still trying to get things going. Cuddyer has been the steadiest presence so far, consistently giving them quality situational at-bats. He is even tied for the team lead in stolen bases.
RtB: With the teams only squaring off in two or three series a year, some Brewers fans may not be familiar with all the Rockies. Who are some names we may not know much about but should keep a close eye on in this series?
RP: The player who might be generating the most buzz in the early going is actually a guy who is probably familiar to Brewers fans from his time in the NL Central: Tyler Colvin. In addition to him, you will see two of the most important prospects in the Rockies system during this series: catcher Wilin Rosario and starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz. Rosario brings a big, powerful bat, and the team has invested heavily in developing his defense so that they can see his bat in the big show. Pomeranz is the prize from last season’s Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Both are being asked to make meaningful contributions this season while also developing on the fly.
RtB: Offensively, Troy Tulowitzki’s been scuffling a bit at the plate in the early going. Is there any worry surrounding his start?
RP: The biggest worry about Tulowitzki right now is his defensive struggles. He has already equaled his total number of errors from last season with 6, including two multi-error games. His streakiness at the plate is normally something we are willing to live with, but right now the concern is that he might be letting his defensive issues leak over into issues at the plate.
RtB: The three probables for Colorado are RHP Jhoulys Chacin, LHP Drew Pomeranz, and RHP Jeremy Guthrie. What can we expect to see from these guys?
RP: The Rockies need Jhoulys Chacin to be an ace, right now, if the team is going to surprise anybody this season. He has struggled ever since his strong first half last season, in which he looked like a potential all star. If he locates his fastball, he can be filthy. If he doesn’t, the other team usually roughs him up. As I mentioned, Pomeranz is a huge name for the Rockies right now. He was dynamite in spring training, but struggled in his first start. His main problem that day was the ineffectiveness of his secondary pitches. We are still trying to figure out what to reasonably expect from him ourselves. Jeremy Guthrie was supposed to be a stabilizing presence, and while he has pitched deep into a couple of games, he certainly has not been fooling hitters. Rockies fans are hoping for a turnaround, but he has been imminently beatable in his first few starts. If he pitches the way he has so far in Milwaukee, you can expect the Brewers offense to get healthy off him.
RtB: How does, if at all, playing away from Coors Field affect both the pitchers and hitters for the Rox?
RP: The notion that hitters are leaving some home run hitting paradise when they leave Coors Field simply isn’t true in the post-humidor era. But there are other factors that make Coors very friendly to hitters, namely the great batter’s eye and the huge outfield gaps. Those advantages are reflected in some tilted home/road splits, but it has more to do with the other traits I listed and less with the thin, mile high air. The hitters have to adjust when they leave those advantages, and sometimes that means that the offense sputters in the first few games of a trip. I think the effect on the pitchers, albeit a less tangible one, is that they get a bit of a psychological boost knowing that they get to pitch in other parks that are less friendly to hitters.
RtB: From a Colorado standpoint, which Brewers slugger not named Ryan Braun scares you the most?
RP: For me it’s definitely Rickie Weeks, who just wears out Colorado pitching. I’m definitely scared of him based on his history against them, even if he has seen less of the starters this weekend. I’ve thought of him as a Rockies-killer for a while now, and it seems that the numbers bear that out.
RtB: Even at 38, Todd Helton is still going strong. How many years left of production does he have left in him?
RP: I think he has at least 2 or 3 more years left. I might not have felt that way a couple years ago, but Helton has finally embraced the fact that he needs to take more days off. Now that he understands that, he is cutting it loose at the plate and hitting like the days of old.
RtB: What has been Colorado’s biggest strength and their biggest weakness through the first two weeks?
RP: The biggest strength has been the bullpen. Whether they need to eat innings to bail out a bad start or they need to lock down a lead, they have been outstanding. That especially goes for Matt Belisle and Esmil Rogers, who have helped tremendously with their versatility. The only concern is that they have been overworked, which is something that probably needs to change sooner rather than later. The biggest weakness is the starting pitching, which ranks near the bottom in almost every category you can think of. The starters have struggled with command and have not pitched deep enough into games. With his historic victory aside, Jamie Moyer has been the most consistent pitcher, which ultimately is not going to work. Honorable mention for biggest weakness goes to their horrific defense thus far. It was supposed to be a strength, but they have booted it as much as any team in baseball and it has cost them more than one win.
RtB: Thanks for the time and, of course, Go Brewers!