My ideal Rockies’ off-season is quite a bit different than what has taken place. I probably wouldn’t have signed Cuddyer, opting instead to keep Smith and find a right-handed platoon option – kind of like the A’s just did. Also, I wouldn’t have dumped Iannetta and Street. However, it doesn’t really matter what my ideal off-season entails because that’s far from reality.
DOD and company have decided that the team needed a character overhaul, and as a result, dumped a big chunk of the 2011 Opening Day lineup. All of these recent trades are troublesome for various reasons, but what’s most worrisome is that, even though they traded five starters, they may not have gotten a single starter back in return Undoubtedly, Huston Street has more value than a player to be named later. Next season, Iannetta will most likely have a much higher WAR than Tyler Chatwood. There is a decent chance that the Rox will wind up on the losing end of every single trade they made this off-season. However, as bad as these deals appear to be, the Seth Smith deal to Oakland might be the worst one of the group.
When this trade first went down, I tried to be positive about it. I actually tweeted that I liked it at first. But, as the day went on and I looked more and more into Outman and Moscoso, I began to hate it. Now, I think it could be disastrous, mostly because the organization ignored some major red flags that it should never ignore.
Last year, in Oakland, both Outman and Moscoso had ERA’s under 4.00. That’s great and all, but as we all know, pitching in Oakland is quite a bit different than pitching in Denver. Actually, they are pretty much polar opposites. As we’ve seen over the last decade, the most effective way to pitch in Coors is to get ground balls and strike out hitters. Each of those things neutralizes the hitters’ advantages in our home park. The two best pitchers in franchise history – Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez – were both great ground ball pitchers. Ubaldo was basically the perfect pitcher for Coors — lots of ground balls and lots of strikeouts. Jhoulys Chacin has recently found some success using the exact same model.
There is a blueprint for pitching successfully for the Rockies and the most troubling aspect of the Smith trade is that blueprint was completely ignored. You can’t find ground ball ratios for pitchers prior to 2002, but considering the humidor came along that year, it’s all we should probably focus on anyway. Since that time, five Rockies’ starters have thrown over 100 innings and had ground ball ratios below 40%. Denny Neagle in 2002 with 39.3%, Jeff Francis in 2005 with 37.7%, Shawn Chacon in 2003 with 36%, John Thomson in 2002 with 35.3%, and Jason Hirsch in 2007 with 30.2%. *** Those pitchers’ ERAs for each of those seasons: 5.26, 5.68, 4.60, 4.88, and 4.81. What’s worse is that each of those players’ FIP in these seasons pretty much matches their ERA. Basically, if you are pitching at Coors and only getting ground balls 40% of the time, you can expect your ERA to be around 5.00. It’s like clockwork.
This is the big glaring problem with Moscoso and Outman — both pitchers are big time fly ball pitchers. Last year, Moscoso gave up 14 homeruns in 128 innings. If he pitches that many innings for the Rockies and only gives up 14 homeruns, they will be extremely lucky. His HR/FB ratio was 6.2%. League average is around 10%. Without a doubt, Oakland was an enormous help to him in this department and you cannot expect the same thing to happen in Colorado. When facing Moscoso last year, hitters only hit the ball on the ground 26.8% of the time. He would’ve been the weakest Rockies’ ground ball starter since 2002, maybe even ever. Add to that the fact the he doesn’t miss many bats and it’s a recipe for disaster. 20+ home runs surrendered is a very likely outcome.
Outman gets a few more ground balls than Moscoso, but he is still below 40% for his career, and just like Moscoso, he doesn’t miss very many bats. Basically, there is nothing about either pitcher that should’ve made them desirable to the Rockies. Every single peripheral indicates that they will regress this year in Colorado.
The sad part is that both of these guys have a realistic shot at making some starts for the Rox. O’Dowd apparently has it in his head that Moscoso was Oakland’s second best starter last year, which is absolutely insane. But, even if they don’t crack the starting rotation, we will probably see both of them out of the pen next year. That won’t be a good thing either, as each represents a significant downgrade from Street.
The red flags on the two new additions from Oakland shouldn’t be new to DOD. He’s been here long enough to know the importance of the ground ball in Colorado. The return on Smith was basically nil. And so that should pretty much tell us everything we need to know about how the organization felt about Seth. Despite a fairly productive 2010 season, he was labeled as a problem, so much so that the Rox were willing to fork over $30M to replace him. Let’s just hope that the character upgrade is enough to make up for the disaster that will take place if either Moscoso or Outman cracks the Rockies’ starting rotation.
*** In 2002, the Rockies’ rotation was full of ill fits for Coors. Neagle and Thomson had two of the worst ground ball ratios ever in Colorado and Denny Stark was right behind them with 40%. Oh, and Mike Hampton gave up 24 jacks and walked about five hitters per every nine innings. They had a team ERA well over 5.00 and were arguably the worst staff in baseball that season.