Dodgers head into Colorado for a two game set. Last year we expected these two teams to duke it out for 1st/2nd but instead they went at if for 3rd/4th.
Not many changes for the Rockies in 2011. They added some utility players, lost a key member of the rotation, lost their starting catcher, added a swing pitcher. Brad Hawpe was gone before the 2010 season ended and no Dodger fan shed a tear over that subtraction.
1st Base- As bad as some Dodger fans think James Loney is for the Dodgers at least he's not making this:
$19.1M 2011 salary and $4.6M 2012 buyout converted to $4.6M signing bonus in 2011 and $6M salary for 2011, with $13.1M deferred to 2014-2023 at 3% interest
While hitting like a SS in a PED free world. Todd Helton was once great, Todd Helton is now the weakest link among a weak class of Western Division 1st baseman.
2nd Base - Jose Lopez is currently the second baseman. He was once the Mariner SS of the future, converted to 2nd, then moved to 3rd, and is now back at 2nd for the Rockies. Jose Lopez and old Dodger super uber prospect Joel Guzman were both born on 11/24, and were both big time power infield prospects. At least Lopez carved out a niche for himself but he's basically Juan Uribe. In 2009 he had 67 extra base hits including 25 home runs. He also had a .303 OBP, and carries a lifetime OBP of .297 into Coors. Backing up Lopez is the capable Jonathan Herrera.
SS - Troy Tulowitzki is the billion dollar man who hit 15 of his 27 home run in Sept/Oct.
3rd Base - Ian Stewart is back and will probably start at least one of the games. Not sure if he will play against lefty Kershaw. If not utility extraordinaire Ty Wigginton will get the honors. Ty was one of only five players in 2010 who hit over 20 home runs but managed to have a slug% less then .420. Four times in his varied career has he hit over 20 home runs, between 2005 - 2008 he was a very useful player.
Player HR SLG 2B 3B RBI BA OBP OPS Pos Carlos Pena 28 .407 18 0 84 .196 .325 .732 *3/D Aaron Hill 26 .394 22 0 68 .205 .271 .665 *4/D Carlos Lee 24 .417 29 1 89 .246 .291 .708 *73/D Ty Wigginton 22 .415 29 1 76 .248 .312 .727 *345/D Garrett Jones 21 .414 34 1 86 .247 .306 .720 *39/D7
C - Chris Iannetta with Miguel Olivo gone it looks like Jim Tracy is going to have to play the OB machine. Every single year Chris has had at the minimum, a 100 point spread between his average and his OBP.
LF -Carlos Gonzalez had a season for the ages in 2010 leading the league in hits(197), batting average (.336), and total bases (351). Many Rockie fans think that will be the norm, while Dodger fans can remember thinking the same thing about Matt Kemp after 2009. I don't think he sniffs .330 again but the power is legit, quite the star the Rockies snagged for Holliday.
CF - Dextor Fowler struggled in 2010 but he has all the tools to be a pest for quite a while. Excellent speed (led the league in triples with 13), solid on base skills, modicum of power. Between Carlos and Dextor the Dodgers will be hard pressed to get a gapper to fall in LCF.
RF - Brad Hawpe is gone and that can only be a good thing. I don't care if they replaced him with Reggie Jackson, no one mashed the Dodgers like Hawpe. Luckily they only replaced him with Seth Smith and Ryan Spilboughs. Smith had a huge 2009 but his OPS dropped 100 points in 2010. We should see both of them in the two game series.
On the DL: Aaron Cook is the only one of note
Starting Pitching for our Series:
Game One - Jhoulys Chacin joined Ubaldo Jimenez to give the Rockies a potent 1 / 2 punch in 2010. The 23 year old delivered a remarkable season. In this century his season ranks as the fifth best using ERA+ as the measurement for pitchers 22 and under with at least 130 innings.
Rk Player ERA+ IP Year Age BB SO ERA BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ 1 Mark Prior 179 211.1 2003 22 50 245 2.43 .231 .283 .352 .635 68 2 Oliver Perez 145 196.0 2004 22 81 239 2.98 .207 .295 .359 .655 73 3 Clayton Kershaw 143 171.0 2009 21 91 185 2.79 .200 .306 .282 .588 63 4 Scott Kazmir 143 144.2 2006 22 52 163 3.24 .240 .305 .392 .697 80 5 Jhoulys Chacin 142 137.1 2010 22 61 138 3.28 .227 .319 .331 .650 70 6 Mark Buehrle 140 221.1 2001 22 48 126 3.29 .230 .279 .377 .656 68 7 Josh Johnson 140 157.0 2006 22 68 133 3.10 .236 .321 .368 .689 85 8 Trevor Cahill 139 196.2 2010 22 63 118 2.97 .220 .287 .332 .619 69 9 Carlos Zambrano 139 214.0 2003 22 94 168 3.11 .239 .326 .331 .657 76 10 Chad Billingsley 135 147.0 2007 22 64 141 3.31 .241 .322 .379 .701 84
Even though he's only been pitching for one year Dodger fans should already be very familiar with him. He faced the Dodgers six times last year winning three and losing three while posting a 2.87 ERA in 37 innings.
Game Two - Jason Hammel takes the mound for game two, and while you might think he's a weak link, I really like him. His peripherals are better then his production so some day he just might surprise everyone and be the pitcher some expect him to become. His biggest problem is a career OPS against of .855 when runners are on. So obviously the key is to get on base, something the Dodger lineup is not exactly built to do.
Bullpen: In 2010 the five key members of the bullpen all had an ERA+ of 100. Of those five all have returned except for old friend Joe Beimel. Hudson Street continues to close games but he's surrounded by top flight talent. Rafael Betancourt continues to be one of the best kept secrets in baseball. In 62 inning he walked only eight batters while fanning 89. That comes out to a 12.9 K/9 and 1.2 BB/rate. Matt Belisle threw 92 innings of 158 ERA+ ball helped in part by a K rate that jumped up from 6.4 to 8.9 while being almost as stingy as Betancourt when it comes to free passes. Wild is not what the Rockie righthanders are. Now helping get to Hudson will be hard throwing Felipe Paulino who came via Houston, one of the better trades of the past season. Paulino also suffers when hitters get on base but this guy is pure power with a 95 MPH fast ballball combined with his 87 MPH slider. That is all he has but on most nights it will be enough. Matt Reynolds looks to be the left hander in the bullpen so Andre and Loney don't have to much to worry about.
I still don't know how the Rockies were a 3rd place team last year. They have starting pitchers Ubaldo, Chacin, and De La Rosa, a bullpen that should keep runs off the board, two legit superstars, and a decent supporting cast.