Earlier this week, Marc Normandin of SB Nation wrote a commentary on the Ubaldo trade. In it, he laid out a somewhat compelling argument for why it was necessary for the Rockies to trade U. Basically, Normandin’s theory is that pitching in altitude inevitably leads to break down. The idea being that it’s harder for the body to recover this far above sea level and the additional wear and tear has caused the demise of many who have pitched for the Rockies. It’s an interesting thought, but his logic is flawed.
To begin with, as evidence to support his position, Normandin points to the fact that no Rockies pitcher has ever thrown three consecutive 200 inning seasons. There are some problems with using this line of thinking. For one, the Rockies have been traditionally terrible at drafting and developing pitchers and throwing 200 innings in three consecutive seasons is something only good pitchers can do. It’s a pretty tall task.
Since the Rockies began play in 1993, I would venture to guess there are more than a few franchises that have not had a pitcher throw 200 innings in three straight years. In the grand scheme of things, it is a very small sample size, and, in baseball and life, it’s important not to put too much stock in small sample sizes. Not only that, Ubaldo missed that milestone by just two innings, only reaching 198 in 2008. However, even this year when he missed most of the first month, he should still get very close to the 200 inning mark. Basically, in four years, U will have thrown close to 800 innings. So to say that it’s impossible to shoulder that kind of load is off-base.
However, more than anything, this position bugs me because it’s very short sighted. No Colorado pitcher has thrown 200 innings for three consecutive seasons, therefore it’s impossible to keep pitchers healthy in Colorado. Right now, there is insufficient evidence to back that up.
When I first moved to Denver, I couldn’t walk thirty yards without battling suffocation. It is definitely taxing on anyone that isn’t acclimated. But, as anyone that lives here knows, you adjust to the altitude. Things get easier. Now, I don’t feel like my exercise is any more difficult than when I used to do it at much lower elevations.
In addition, if this theory were true, it should apply to more than just pitchers. However, we haven’t seen that. Nobody is alleging that position players in Colorado can’t stay healthy. Also, if true, it should carry over into other sports. But, the Broncos, Nuggets, and Avs don’t seem to have any more injury trouble than the other teams in their leagues. Not only that, but this area is a haven for world class athletes looking for an advantage in training. If any of them ever thought that the altitude caused the body to break down, Boulder would see an exodus of Olympians.
Coors Field suffers from an undeserved reputation already. The last thing the Rockies need is this theory to gain traction. Not only would they not be able to sign free agent pitchers, but the draft would become even more trickier. How many fathers out there would balk at the idea of their son pitching in Coors ? If everyone starts thinking that Colorado pitchers will inevitably become injured, that will really put the Rockies behind the eight ball. Good thing it’s probably not true.
Despite the fact that I disagree with the theory, I still find it fascinating. What does everyone else think?