Something has to break when we hit Coors Field on Friday night. The Colorado Rockies used a three-home run outing from Nolan Arenado to get their groove back and cap a nasty four-game winning streak, but they play host to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who just got done sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers and own a five-game run of their own.
Conventional wisdom would say back the Rockies at home or target the Over here, but there could be a real argument aiding the Pirates. Colorado certainly is in a groove at the moment and is back home, where they’ve got an elite 29-18. However, Coors is no safe haven for any arm and the Rockies actually have an odd matchup that might not be so easy to exploit. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has an obstacle on the mound of their own, but gets a massive park shift and with an elite 8-2 run over their last 10 games, is a dangerous team to leave out in the cold.
The search is on for supreme value tonight and we have to wonder if we can nab it with the Pirates via a road upset:
Pittsburgh Pirates (+118) @ Colorado Rockies (-138) Total: 11.5
Trevor Williams (3-4, 4.57 ERA) vs. Jeff Hoffman (6-1, 4.33 ERA)
If we just give this matchup a knee-jerk reaction, it’s an easy call. The Rockies are back, they kill at home, they have the better offense on paper and they win in the pitching talent department in this showdown, too. It could very easily be a landslide win for the Rockies here, and we have to know that going in. However, we get some solid value with the Pirates as a road upset. Admittedly, I’d really prefer the upside to be even bigger (+118 is not staggering), but I love the way the Pirates are grinding out games and they’re starting to look like they actually have something here.
It’s possible Colorado initially overlooks Pittsburgh when this series gets rolling, while a closer look suggests there might be just enough evidence to talk us into a Pirates upset. Trevor Williams is not an elite arm, but he boasts a solid slider and can do a solid job at inducing soft contact. He’s making a living on forcing ground balls and managing games right now and while that’s much more difficult to do in a park like Coors Field, it’s obviously not the worst strategy against the Rockies.
Williams’ biggest issue is he doesn’t strike out enough batters regularly, but the Rockies could help him out a bit. Colorado ranks 11th for the most Ks against right-handed pitching in 2017, while they also tend to crush the ball more against southpaws. The Rockies are just 23rd in the majors in home runs against righties this year, which could be helped a bit by their home park, while we also should not they do own the league’s 4th best batting average against right-handed hurlers.
It’s a mixed bag for Williams, who naturally has worse numbers on the road away from the pitcher-friendly PNC Park. This is not a safe park or matchup for him by any means and he could get rocked here, but he also has the ability to induce soft contact and manage the game. If he can do that, he has a chance.
On the other side we have Jeff Hoffman, who is undoubtedly more talented than Williams, but obviously in a very similar predicament. Hoffman has proven he can make batters miss at the highest level, but he’s been rather sluggish at home, posting a nasty 6.44 ERA at Coors Field. His K rate and overall efficiency take a severe dip here, while we can’t really trust him based on his recent performances (22 runs allowed over his last 5 starts). He only had one good start during that stretch, but overall we’ve seen his strikeouts go down and his hard contact rise.
None of that is any good when you’re pitching in this park. The silver lining is Hoffman has an explosive offense backing him and the Pirates aren’t known for their power. The trouble is, they don’t have to be. Pittsburgh gets a ridiculous park shift and considering this is not an offense that strikes out a lot, Hoffman either needs to dazzle or hope the hard contact he’s been allowing doesn’t turn into a bunch of dingers.
As a whole, the Pirates are not scary against right-handed pitching. They rank just 23rd in efficiency and 27th in power. We need to pick our spots with a team like the Pirates, though. They still do have some guys who can mash the ball in Josh Bell, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen, and they seem to just now be gaining confidence. I note the risk involved with this pick, but I see some upside here with the Pirates being a sneaky upset pick. I wish the value was a bit better, but I’m still willing to back Pittsburgh in this spot.