With the way the Mets have hit the ball out of the park this year, you know the team has to be at least a little excited about a trip to Denver that will conclude the current 11-game west coast swing. There, New York will meet the Rockies, a team that has been mired in mediocrity for the past six years. What makes this season's 16-18 start special for Colorado, though, is the way Walt Weiss's team has struggled to win at home in Coors Field.
The Rockies are known for pounding opponents with relentless offense at home and then floundering during the other 81 games, but in 2016 they are 11-8 on the road and just 5-10 at home. A big reason for that has been the way the starting rotation has pitched in away games. We're used to Colorado pitchers improving their performance away from Coors Field, but often that's not enough to make up for the decrease in offense. The story tends to end differently, however, when you get outings like the one Jon Gray just laid on San Francisco.
On May 7, the rookie right-hander threw seven shutout innings at AT&T Park with just one hit allowed. The Rockies lost that game 2-1, but they prevailed the next day when Eddie Butler tossed six scoreless frames to lead Colorado to a 2-0 win over the Giants.
Both Gray and Butler will take the mound against the Mets this weekend, but both have been much stronger pitchers away from Coors Field this year. Gray, the third overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft, allowed a total of 11 runs during his first two home outings before bouncing back and shutting down both San Diego and San Francisco on the road. Despite the inconsistent results, Gray's 28 strikeouts in 21.2 innings are a great sign that he can become a rare star pitcher for the franchise that drafted him.
Butler, meanwhile, doesn't have the upside of Gray, but the strong ground ball rates he's posted in his big league starts give him the ability to help the Rockies while staff ace Jorge De La Rosa is on the shelf with a strained groin. To do that, he'll need to control his pitches better than he did last year, when Butler walked 42 batters and struck out just 44 in 79.1 innings. That kind of ratio is going to lead to doom no matter where one pitches, but the 25-year-old is off to a much better start in 2016 with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 14 innings.
The third Colorado starter that the Mets face this weekend will be Tyler Chatwood, the former Angels prospect who sat out all of last year due to Tommy John surgery. In his return to the mound this season, Chatwood is off to a great start with a 3.09 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in seven games. A big part of that is Chatwood's outstanding 53-percent ground ball rate, but like the other Rockies starters, his home/road splits are startling. After back-to-back scoreless outings at Arizona and San Diego, he was shelled for six runs in six innings at home in his most recent start against the Diamondbacks.
With the way these Colorado pitchers have been roughed up at Coors Field, the Mets are a serious threat to launch a home run party, especially since all three probable starters are right-handed. The Mets lead the National League with 51 home runs, although they have fewer runs scored per game than the next six teams on the list. A big reason for that is New York's horrible batting average with runners in scoring position, something that is bound to improve as the season wears on. When that happens, we'll hopefully see the team continue to put runs on the board, even if the ball doesn't fly out of the park as often.
This series, though, will be all about the home run ball, which is why Colorado's left-handed relief pitcher Boone Logan will be a big factor. Logan is tied for the team lead in pitching appearances with 15, in which he's racked up 12.1 innings and 15 strikeouts with four runs allowed. We know the Mets struggle against left-handed pitching, so expect Weiss to deploy Logan often during these three games. Colorado's other left-handed reliever is closer Jake McGee, who was brought in over the winter in a trade with Tampa Bay. He has a 4.97 ERA and 1.50 WHIP so far, but a lot of that is from one disastrous outing versus the Dodgers in April. During his other 12 appearances, McGee has nine saves with just two runs allowed.
|Date||Time||Television||Mets Probable Starter||Rockies Probable Starter|
|May 13, 2016||8:40 PM||SNY||Matt Harvey||Jon Gray|
|May 14, 2016||8:10 PM||WPIX, MLBN||Logan Verrett||Eddie Butler|
|May 15, 2016||4:10 PM||SNY||Jacob deGrom||Tyler Chatwood|
New York's outlook was a bit of a mystery for this series before we knew who would be taking Steven Matz's spot in the rotation on Saturday while the southpaw rests his sore elbow. Recently it's been confirmed that the spot starter will be Logan Verrett, who pitched brilliantly at Colorado during a similar situation last year. The other good news is that Matt Harvey is coming off of his strongest performance of the season in which he struck out 10 batters in San Diego, while Jacob deGrom just pitched seven strong innings at Chavez Ravine even though his strikeout rate continued to be a little worrisome.
No matter who the third member of the trio is this weekend, the New York starters will have their work cut out for them in Denver. That's because the Rockies already have a pair of sluggers with double-digit home runs. The first isn't much of a surprise, as Nolan Arenado saw 42 balls leave the park during his breakout 2015 campaign. The 25-year-old third baseman looks even more comfortable at the plate this year with 13 home runs, a 10-percent walk rate that is double last year's figure, and only 15 strikeouts in 150 plate appearances.
The other slugger is Trevor Story, who only found himself in the starting lineup on Opening Day because former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes is on paid administrative leave due to a domestic violence incident. It's safe to say that Story made the most of his opportunity when he hit seven home runs during the first week of the season. The rookie has only hit four home runs since then, and he's striking out in a third of his plate appearances, but the potential he's shown makes you wonder what made the Rockies accept a veteran like Reyes when they dealt Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto last summer.
Two other offensive threats the Mets might have to deal with are Mark Reynolds and Ryan Raburn. The latter is the only right-handed outfielder on Colorado's roster and has made the most of his playing time against left-handed starters this year. He's also a threat to pinch-hit late in games since the three starting Rockies outfielders are all left-handed.
Reynolds is having quite a start to the season by hitting .337/.392/.489, but most of that is thanks to a ridiculous .492 BABIP. That sexy on-base percentage is due to collapse if Reynolds continues to strike out more often than he did last year with Milwaukee, when he hit just .196/.287/.394 (albeit with a .218 BABIP). If Reynolds's hot bat doesn't stay hot, he's going to start to lose more playing time to first base platoon partner Ben Paulsen when there's a right-handed pitcher on the hill.
Prediction: Mets sweep.
Editor's Note: Win cash in your first daily fantasy baseball league or get your entry fee refunded! Offered in partnership with FanDuel. Here's the link.