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Rockies series preview: Return of the Moose

Will this be the last time Mike Moustakas plays at the K?

Colorado Rockies v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Next week will be the twelfth anniversary of Mike Moustakas’ Major League debut with the Royals. He was a much anticipated prospect - the former #2 overall pick and Baseball America had anointed him the #9 prospect in the game before the season. There would be some ups and downs early on, but by the Royals were making back-to-back runs through the post-season, he was an integral part of the team with a slick glove, a power bat at third, and a clubhouse leader who rallied the team when their backs were against the wall.

Now 34 years old, Moose is nearing the end of his career. He was let go by the Reds last winter with about $22 million left on his multi-year deal and signed on with the Rockies as a bench player. He has hit just .215/.294/.358 over the last three seasons combined, so you have to imagine this could be the last time we see Mike Moustakas play a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. With Lorenzo Cain officially retiring this year, and Eric Hosmer let go by the Cubs last month, many of our World Series heroes are exiting the baseball stage.

As for Moose’s team, the Rockies have endured four consecutive losing seasons and have seemed a bit rudderless since winning 91 games in 2018. Owner Dick Monfort complains about spending in baseball, but has a $172 million payroll. They traded expensive franchise player Nolan Arenado in a massive deal that hasn’t worked out for them, only to sign Kris Bryant to a long-term contract that hasn’t worked out for them. They’re not rebuilding, but they’re also not contending. The Rockies are stuck in baseball purgatory.

Colorado Rockies (24-34) vs. Kansas City Royals (17-39) from Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Rockies: 4.48 runs scored/game (16th in MLB), 5.55 runs allowed/game (29th)

Royals: 3.95 runs scored/game (25th in MLB), 5.20 runs allowed/game (27th)

The Rockies got off to a dreadful 8-20 start, but have been over .500 since then. The high altitude of Coors Field has been a terrific home advantage for them, but they are awful on the road and are fresh off getting swept in four games in Arizona. As you can imagine, getting away from Coors significantly deflates their bats. Rockies hitters are batting .285/.342/.461 at home and just .236/.299/.353 on the road.

Catcher Elias Díaz perhaps best exemplifies the home/road split - at home he’s hitting .374 and has smacked all six of his home runs there, while he’s hit just .247 on the road with a .296 slugging percentage. Ryan McMahon has a similar story - .295/.376/.558 at home, .219/.299/.400 on the road. Rockies hitters have the fifth-lowest walk rate and swing at more pitches than any other team. They have the fewest stolen bases in baseball with 20, with only rookie Brenton Doyle serving as any kind of threat to steal. Despite playing at Coors Field - which isn’t as much of a launching pad as you might think thanks to the humidor, but is still a home run park - they have the fifth-fewest home runs in baseball.

Rockies expected lineup and bench

Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
DH Charlie Blackmon (L) 211 5 0 .284 .365 .459 0.4
LF Jurickson Profar (S) 220 5 0 .238 .315 .389 -0.7
3B Ryan McMahon (L) 226 8 4 .255 .336 .475 1.0
C Elias Díaz (R) 190 6 0 .314 .368 .483 1.2
RF Randal Grichuk (R) 105 1 1 .351 .410 .489 0.5
2B Harold Castro (L) 117 0 0 .279 .293 .342 -0.4
1B Nolan Jones (L) 23 1 0 .318 .348 .545 0.1
CF Brenton Doyle (R) 95 4 8 .244 .284 .433 0.8
SS Ezequiel Tovar (S) 199 4 2 .241 .286 .396 0.7
C Austin Wynns (R) 27 0 1 .174 .259 .217 0.1
3B Mike Moustakas (L) 97 2 0 .232 .320 .366 -0.1
IF Elehuris Montero (R) 58 1 0 .236 .276 .345 -0.5
IF Alan Trejo (R) 108 0 3 .255 .280 .333 -0.3

If you think Royals pitching has been bad, the Rockies are one of only two teams that have been worse, by ERA (the A’s are the other). Rockies pitchers have the lowest strikeout rate and fourth-highest walk rate. No pitching staff induces fewer swings than the Rockies.

Kyle Freeland has the fifth-worst strikeout rate of any qualified starter, likely due to a fastball that has fallen to below 90 mph. He relies on his sinker, slider, and curve to get grounders, but still gave up three home runs in his last start against the Diamondbacks and is fifth in the league in home runs allowed. He has actually been a much worse pitcher on the road (5.40 ERA, .880 OPS against) than in Coors Field (3.38 ERA, .697 OPS against).

There are only two pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched that have a higher ERA than lefty Austin Gomber - Kansas City’s Jordan Lyles and Brady Singer. Gomber has the third-worst strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher and is third in the National League in home runs allowed. The Rockies picked Chase Anderson up off waivers a few weeks ago, and he has responded with three impressive starts so far. But he had a 6.81 ERA in 105 innings in the three years prior to this, and he has benefitted from a ridiculously low BABIP of .226 this year.

Expected pitching matchups

Friday, June 2 - 7:10 - CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Friday, June 2 - 7:10 - CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Chase Anderson 1.31 3.97 20.2 4.3 2.2 0.3
RHP Jordan Lyles 7.30 6.37 61.2 6.6 3.4 -0.4
Saturday, June 3 - 3:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
LHP Austin Gomber 7.00 6.14 54.0 5.7 3.7 -0.1
LHP Daniel Lynch 3.38 2.73 5.1 10.1 5.1 0.2
Sunday, June 4 - 1:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Kyle Freeland 4.22 4.98 64 6.1 2.4 0.7
RHP Brady Singer 7.12 4.89 54.1 8.1 3.8 0.3

The Rockies bullpen has been a full run better on the road than at home, but it’s still not good with a 4.77 ERA away from Coors Field. They have the fourth-highest walk rate of any bullpen. Missouri State grad Pierce Johnson has taken over closing duties and converted eight consecutive saves before blowing a lead last night in Arizona. However he has been very hittable - opponents are batting .298/.389/.564 against him this year. Daniel Bard has lost significant velocity on his fastball and has had major trouble finding the strike zone - and yet has allowed just one run this year. Veterans Brad Hand and Brett Suter have been very effective from the left side, but the Rockies have had trouble with depth overall.

Rockies bullpen

Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Pierce Johnson 6.85 5.39 22.1 12.1 5.6 -0.1
RHP Justin Lawrence 2.93 2.74 30.2 9.7 3.5 0.7
RHP Jake Bird 2.95 3.10 36.2 9.6 3.2 0.6
LHP Brent Suter 1.93 2.77 32.2 7.7 3.3 0.8
RHP Daniel Bard 0.57 5.21 15.2 6.3 6.3 0.0
LHP Brad Hand 3.54 2.01 20.1 12.4 3.5 0.7
RHP Matt Carasiti 7.36 3.84 7.1 4.9 4.9 0.0
RHP Peter Lambert 5.40 5.80 18.1 9.8 3.0 -0.2

The Rockies have an awful road record of 9-20, but the Royals are actually worse at home at 8-21. Royals batters are starting to come around, but the pitching continues to be erratic at best. Combined with the awful Rockies pitching staff, there could be quite a few runs scored this weekend. Maybe old friend Mike Moustakas can get one more swing at the K.


How will the Royals fare this series against the Rockies?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Royals sweep 3-0
    (3 votes)
  • 41%
    Royals take 2 of 3
    (35 votes)
  • 45%
    Rockies take 2 of 3
    (38 votes)
  • 9%
    Rockies sweep
    (8 votes)
84 votes total Vote Now