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Series Eleven: Rockies at Marlins

If it seems like it wasn't that long ago that we got together with the Rockies' Dinger, it's because it wasn't.

The Rockies are in town this weekend, and hopefully they'll get all three scheduled games in. Even if they don't for some reason, at least it won't snow (or even worse - snow with rain mixed in - like it did in Denver last week).

Here are the expected matchups for the weekend:

Game 1 (tonight): Kennedy (1-3) vs. Willis (5-0)
Game 2 (tomorrow night): Chacon (1-1) vs. Beckett (4-2)
Game 3 (Sunday afternoon): Francis (1-1) vs. Leiter (1-2)

Today's Rockies - Marlins series preview, featuring Dinger is brought to you not only by Zombo - with Zombo, all things are possible - but also by Google Gulp. Pick up Google Gulp wherever you can.

: Hi, Dinger. Thanks for joining us again. Hopefully we'll get to see some baseball this weekend.

: Thanks for having me, Grover. I'm pretty sure we'll get games in this weekend. I just hope our guys are thawed out.

: Speaking of your guys, what's up with Todd Helton? I keep hearing he's going to get traded.

: Yeah - I keep hearing that too. Don't get the wrong idea though. If Helton gets traded it's not because the Rockies don't love him and it's not because he's not a great player. He is. If he keeps up like he has to start his career, he'll get strong consideration for the Hall of Fame, despite the influence of Coors Field on his stats.

The issue for the Rockies though is that Helton is due a lot of money - more than $100 million over the next six years. Since the Rockies are in the middle of such a significant rebuilding phase, Helton doesn't necessarily make too much sense. For one, he chews up a lot of the payroll. Plus, he could net a lot in terms of a trade.

: Where do you think he might end up?

: If I had to guess - and I'm not sold that he's moving anywhere - I'd say the Orioles or the Dodgers. If things continue to blow up in New York, maybe he could become a Yankee - but that would likely require a third team, as the Yanks probably don't have enough to give up to land him, plus I think they'd have to shed some salary too, considering how much they have invested at first base and DH.

: Well, let's get all the unpleasant stuff out of the way up front - what happened with the Denny Neagle "situation"?

: Ugh. I really don't want to talk about that. Actually, I'm probably not allowed to talk about it. So, go here and read about it.

: Wow - and I thought my dates were expensive. Sorry. I'm off on a tangent again. Back to the topic at hand... Actually, I'm kind of tired of pretending to care about the Rockies. I don't. They suck. Plus, we're the Marlins and for the first time in a long time we're not in first place. What's your scouting report on us?

: Well, first of all, we're not looking forward to the pitching we're going to see this weekend. Not only are Willis and Beckett throwing well - other than Beckett's last start - but they give you completely different looks.

Willis "only" throws in the low 90s, but he hides the ball so well in his delivery that he effectively throws much harder. His location so far this year has been excellent -

he's walked only 6 batters in five starts, compared to 25 strikeouts. That's a ratio of more than 4 Ks to every one walk. That's better than his career ratio of a little under 3 to 1. With Willis, it seems that his command is the issue. When he's locating his pitches, he's on. When he's giving guys free passes, it can work in the other team's favor. Since the Rockies are so young, I'm not convinced they'll be patient enough to induce walks out of Willis.

Beckett, on the other hand, doesn't need to rely on any deception. He just comes after you and throws hard. His last start against the Phillies - 2 innings, 5 runs, 3 walks - was an anomaly and I expect him to bounce back on Saturday night. Hopefully he won't take out all of his frustration on the Rockies though.

What's still interesting to me about Beckett is that he's just a little over .500 for his career. Granted, wins and losses can be overrated for a pitcher, but Beckett's only 30 - 28 career to date. To contrast that, in about 20 fewer career starts, Willis has 29 wins. Beckett's 4 - 2 mark this year is what puts him over .500. This will probably be the year that he reaches double digit wins for the first time - which is just amazing when you remember that he was the World Series MVP in 2003.

Offensively, it's tough to get a read on the Marlins. At a high level, this often gets lost because the Marlins have been winning, but the offense has underperformed. Or better said, a number of guys who were expected to be key contributors have been in slumps or haven't lived up to preseason expectations so far:

  • Juan Pierre has a .316 onbase percentage. He'll warm up eventually and get near .400. The question is just when.

  • Mike Lowell's slump has been the most pronounced and the most talked about. I'm really not sure what to make of it. There's not much that stands out from his stat line that gives you hope. But, he's been so good for so long - and isn't really old enough to be in decline yet - that we're fearful he'll break out this weekend.

  • I also expected more out of Alex Gonzalez, especially since it's a contract year for him - in that he's eligible for free agency for the first time after this season. While his batting hasn't been in form so far this year, what concerns me more is his defense. Gonzalez is regarded as a legitimate Gold Glove contender, but in the past week he's committed 3 errors and made a few other misplays that weren't scored as errors. Those are totally uncharacteristic.

  • Juan Encarnacion has played over his head, but that only means he's putting up "good" numbers. He hasn't been at an all-star level to start the year.

  • Carlos Delgado has been interesting. He's been quietly solid, but hasn't done anything spectacular yet. I'd guess a lot of that is due to him getting used to the National League, seeing new pitchers, and seeing new ballparks. As he gets comfortable - particularly with the Eastern division opponents that he'll see a lot - I expect him to break out. He's a guy that can carry the club for a week or a month at a time when he's hot.

  • Miguel Cabrera is proving to be the real deal. I know we don't have to tell you anything about him. We'll try to get him to chase this weekend, as that's probably his only weakness if he has one. So far this year he's been striking out more than three times for every one time he walks. Ideally you'd like to see that ratio closer to one-to-one, but when he's hitting .370 with an OBP of .400, it's hard to complain.
: Enough dude! Let's head out to the stadium, or at least to the parking lot, to start drinking.

: Sounds good!