The Rockies went 3 and 3 this past week behind strong pitching performances from Alex White and Christian Friedrich. Juan Nicasio landed on the DL after another poor start and the Rockies signed Jeff Francis, who will be the tenth different starting pitcher this year when he takes the mound on Saturday. Also, the MLB draft took place and was a painful reminder of just how incompetent the Rockies have been in drafting and developing players. This week, we discuss the Jeff Francis acquisition, the current starting rotation, and player drafting/development.
1. True or False? Signing Jeff Francis (last year: 6-16, 4.82 ERA, 1.437 WHIP) is a good move by the Rockies.
Brendan: True. The Rockies could use a veteran innings eater to take some pressure off the kids, and the one currently employed (Guthrie) is not doing his job. Francis’ career ERA (4.78) and WHIP (1.430) are consistent with his line from last year indicating that he can still perform in a similar manner to what we remember. He pitched 183 innings for the Royals and managed 16 quality starts (he had 19 in the miracle 2007 year), so his poor win-loss is likely an aberration. Additionally, Francis was once a young pitcher at Coors shouldering the expectations of a first round pick and he should have some valuable insight to share with the young guns. The Rockies have essentially exchanged Jamie Moyer for Jeff Francis, which I view as an upgrade. Continuing to develop the young players is the most important part of this disappointing year, but Francis will help.
Kevin: False, but not because Francis cannot help. It’s a sad state of affairs when this transaction improves the team. Pomeranz is doing well in Colorado Springs, and he deserves this spot as much as anyone. This move might be intended to provide “depth” for the rotation, given how much turnover there has been among the starters this year. The front office might be content letting Pomeranz work on his mechanics in the Springs and wait in the wings for the next starter to go down or flame out, which, of course, will be any day now.
Ned: True, but hardly inspiring. Compared to Jamie Moyer, Francis is a bright ray of hope. We know that he will get hit consistently. We can only hope that the fly balls generally stay in the park. Given how thoroughly shredded the starting pitching has been, the Rockies are very fortunate to have signed Jeff Francis. Look at it this way, he may not be Cliff Lee, but he beats the heck out of Guillermo Moscoso.
2. Are injuries or ineptitude more to blame for only one pitcher (Jeremy Guthrie) remaining from the opening day rotation?
Brendan: That is a chicken or the egg question, but I will go with ineptitude – and not just from the players. The entire opening day staff has been terrible: Pomeranz and Moyer were sent packing due to poor performance while Nicasio and Chacin found their way to the DL after struggling with command. The real culprit here is O’Dowd for failing to bring in even one arm that could last three months without missing significant time. Teams will always need to start more than just five guys during a season, but nine (soon to be ten) different starting pitchers before the All-Star break is terrible. Incompetence by the decision makers and poor performance by the players combined for this disaster.
Kevin: Injuries. If this staff hadn’t suffered any injuries or setbacks during the past 12 months, then it could actually be in a decent state. De La Rosa would not be recovering from Tommy John surgery. Juan Nicasio would have had another two months of MLB experience and a full offseason to progress. Alex White would have had all of last year to continue developing. Drew Pomeranz would not have had a couple of minor setbacks. If if if if if if . . . All of these injuries have played only a part in creating the mountain of ineptitude that is this year’s staff. There is still potential in this staff, you just won’t find it in the likes of Guthrie, Francis, or Outman.
Ned: It has been a perfect storm of injuries and ineptitude. Throw in inexperience, and you have the complete explanation for the failure of the rotation. The ineptitude, however, resides in the front office. After more than a decade of failed drafts, the GM picked up a pile of very mediocre pitchers this last offseason hoping that the team might find one or two keepers. The coaching staff is still sorting through that pile without success. Let’s get real—what quality of pitcher does DOD think he is going to receive in exchange for Seth Smith, for example? And did DOD ever ask himself why to Orioles were willing to part with their 2011 opening day starter if he is such a world beater? Injuries and inexperience are part of the game, and are excusable. The abject ineptitude of the front office is not excusable.
Brendan: A combination of the two, but mostly development. A third of all first round picks don’t even sniff the majors so scouting is important, but coaching up the talent makes the difference. Anyone can see a kid throw 95 mph or hit a ball 450 ft, but honing those abilities into major league quality skills is a different task. Being able to consistently repeat a delivery or swing is the key to sustained success, and too often the young players arrive on the big league stage unprepared for adversity and fall into bad habits. It is not as if the former first rounders have gone on to other clubs with tons of success (Stewart, Weathers, Reynolds) so identifying the talent is a problem too. The bottom line is that the entire process needs to improve and the Rockies as an organization need some semblance of accountability in the drafting/signing and development of players.
Kevin: The problem is strategy. What possessed the front office to draft an outfielder-turned-college closer (Casey Weathers) with the eighth pick of the 2007 draft? Two picks later, the Giants picked Madison Bumgarner. How about Greg Reynolds, drafted second overall in the 2006 draft? While the Rockies front-office was busy high-fiving after drafting a super-sweet AAAA pitcher, the Rays, Dodgers, and Giants were busy drafting MVP and Cy Young players (read: Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum). No wonder the ever-mediocre Giants dominate the Rockies. Now, there are tons of busts in the first round of the MLB draft, and the draft is largely based on luck, but these two picks really stand out. Why would you take a guy in the top 10 who is only a closer? Maybe someone can explain. With Reynolds, they went for a “signable” player who had good size but weak stuff, hoping that maybe the stuff would develop because they could get him into the system earlier. Ha. Joke’s on the Rockies.
Ned: Scouting, scouting, scouting. A major league team cannot make the drafting mistakes the Rockies have repeatedly and consistently made over the last twelve years, and have any realistic shot at success. Two weeks ago, we pointed out the embarrassing absence of top ten round Rockies’ draft picks on the active roster. Ironically, the signing of Jeff Francis adds a fourth top ten round draft choice (drafts between 2004 and 2010) to the active roster. On the development side, the Rockies coaches have had remarkable success in turning-around the careers of several current Rockies other teams were willing to discard, most notably Carlos Gonzales and Jorge De La Rosa. And players the Rockies have given-up on, such as Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker, have not had their careers resurrected by other teams’ coaches. The Rockies are not built on their drafts. Why is it that ownership cannot see this obvious failure of management? And if the owners do see it, why haven’t they taken corrective measures?
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
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