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Posted at 11:00 AM EST
8:05 PM EST. In their brief history, the Rockies and Diamondbacks have squared off once in the playoffs, in the 2007 NLCS. Colorado swept Arizona in four games as part of a 21-1 run that started in mid-September in the regular season. This year, the Diamondbacks won the season series 11-8. Even though Arizona never had a shot at the NL West title, they were on a clear playoff path for most of the year. The Rockies faded somewhat in the second half but held off the Brewers for the second Wild Card and their first playoff berth since 2009.
The overall numbers for the Diamondbacks (eighth in runs scored) aren’t overlay impressive, but this fails to account for the late-season acquisition of J.D. Martinez. His bat added a potent weapon to an already solid middle-of-the-order. David Peralta and Katel Marte are not traditional top-of-the-order base-stealing threats, but the Diamondbacks are one of the smartest baserunning teams in the game. Although Paul Goldschmidt and Martinez get most of the attention, Arizona has a solid lineup from top to bottom. Unlike most pitchers, Greinke isn’t an automatic out.
In a year when the league home run record was shattered, you would expect the Rockies to lead the league in home runs. Instead they finished with a mere 192 home runs, good for 21st overall in the majors. The Rockies do employ some pure sluggers, but in 2017 their offense relied more on wearing opposing pitchers out with a barrage of singles and doubles. Much is made of the Rockies' radical home/road splits and with good reason, as their .862 OPS at Coors obliterated their subpar .703 OPS on the road. Ian Desmond and Carlos Gonzalez both had disappointing seasons, and while anything can happen in a one-game playoff, if seasonal trends hold this could put Colorado at a disadvantage.
Zack Greinke bounced back from a disappointing 2016 campaign with the Snakes and returned to the near-elite level he has shown in the past. Greinke has lost velocity since his heyday with the Royals, but has adjusted by throwing fewer fastballs and mixing in more off-speed pitches. The slider is Greinke’s most frequent non-fastball, but he also throws a mid-70s curve and a changeup as well. The Rockies faced Greinke five times in 2017, twice in Colorado and thrice in Arizona. Greinke went 2-1 with two no-decisions, tossing 34 1/3 innings with a 3.37 ERA, 37 strikeouts, and two walks. Yes indeed this dude can pitch but Colorado has seen him plenty and we’ll take out chances with Jonathan Gray at such a good price.
It was only Gray’s second full season, but don’t be fooled: He is one of better pitchers in the playoffs, and while his opponent is better on paper, this is hardly a one-sided mismatch. Gray throws a fastball in the mid-90s that he can dial up in the high 90s at times, but his bread-and-butter pitch is a slider that almost touches 90 mph and has a tight downward break that gives hitters fits. The self-professed avid ghost hunter has taken enough of a break from paranormal activity to overhaul his repertoire in recent seasons. He’s abandoned his changeup in favor of a mix of hard-biting 90 mph sliders and a rapidly progressing 80 mph curveball over the past two seasons. He’s still rocking the overpowering mid-90’s premium fastball velocity, but the ability to place alongside it with a pair of breaking balls that contain more funk than Bruno Mars has enabled him to blossom into one of the games’ most exciting young strikeout artists.
Over his final 17 starts, Gray posted a 3.58 ERA with 103 strikeouts and just 23 walks over 98 innings of work. What makes those numbers even more impressive is that he was snake bitten by a grossly inflated .344 BABIP during that span. The strikeout totals alone are enough to make us drool over this price but the fact that he’s harnessed his control, slashing his walk rate from 3.2 BB/9 in 2016 to just 2.4 BB/9 this season, is even more reason for optimism. Gray was one of just 13 starters (minimum 100 innings) to strike out over a batter per innings while issuing under two and a half walks per-nine.
In a one-game playoff the default position is to pick the team with the best starting pitcher, so the Diamondbacks get the edge with Greinke on the hill but it is the slightest of edges. Colorado is very capable of coming in here and winning one game in what we see as a 50/50 proposition. The market, however, doesn’t see it that way at all and gives the D-Backs a 65% chance of winning based on the odds. As value players, we have to lean Colorado because Jonathan Gray is too good and the Rocks offense is too dangerous to be spotted a price like this. Overlay.
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Colorado +150 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.00)