The Rockies had a disastrous week of interleague play, finishing the week at 0-6 and dropping their interleague record to a miserable 0-9 (all at home). Frustration is mounting and with the season already a lost cause the trade discussions are heating up. At the center of the problem is the starting pitching, which continues to be atrocious, and the quality start numbers are getting uglier and uglier: the Rockies have just 17 quality starts (28% of games) all season compared to the MLB average of 33 quality starts (53% of games). This week, we discuss trade assets, the status of the starting rotation going forward, and look for answers to the Rockies’ interleague struggles.
- Who should the Rockies try to move as the trade season begins?
Brendan: Scutaro and Betancourt. The most important thing for the Rockies is to retain the young talent. The young players are the only interesting thing about this team and trading any of the “core” (Tulo, CarGo, Dex, Rosario, even Pacheco) is a bad idea. The problem for the Rockies is that is about all of their trade assets. Helton is not going to waive his no trade clause to underperform for a contender. Guthrie’s performance and Cuddyer’s contract have made them untradeable. Scutaro has improved his play since taking over at short for Tulo and could be traded to a wannabe contender desperate for a middle infielder, like the Pirates (who start Barmes at SS). Betancourt has not had enough opportunities to remind the league that his low 90’s fastball is a blown save waiting to happen and teams are always looking for bullpen arms. Neither option will yield much in return, but Scutaro’s departure opens up playing time for Nelson and LeMahieu (and maybe even EY2), and Belisle could easily slide into the closer role.
Kevin: First of all, no one on this sad team should be untouchable. That being said, Cuddyer absolutely should be traded. He would make a nice DH or outfielder for a contending team in need of a right-handed bat. His contract might get in the way of a very valuable return, but unloading him and replacing him with a very comparable Tyler Colvin would at least free up money for the team (presumably to pursue some mediocre fly ball pitchers). Also, if the team decides to hold onto the core (CarGo, Tulo, Fowler), this team won’t be ready to compete for a championship for another two years at least, which means that Cuddyer will be about 35-years-old when this team is competitive again. His productive years will have been wasted on the current embarrassment. The team needs to clear up his salary and find a younger, cheaper right fielder – preferably one who can field some.
Ned: The temptation is to blow-up the team and start again. This would be a mistake. CarGo and Tulo are both young, and will form the nucleus of the team for the next ten years. While both would command huge hauls, are we really ready to go back to the rebuilding mode? This club lacks starting pitching, and you can’t trade top position players for top starting pitching. Consequently, you would only get prospects for both Tulo and CarGo. The guys who do have some trade value, and who are expendable, are Fowler, Pacheco, and Rosario. Fowler is the top piece of bait who should be worth several top prospects. Colvin could take over center. Pacheco also clearly has trade value which is rising daily, and Nelson is an ok replacement for him at third. A confused GM might actually confuse Wilin Rosario for an up-and-coming catcher, and give real value for him. If this is the case, the Rockies should trade him in a heartbeat. Rosario’s lack of receiving talent has directly and materially contributed to the pitching problems the Rockies have experienced. The guy must go. While Guthrie would have been a clear candidate for trade, he is now most assuredly viewed as damaged goods—the Rockies couldn’t get a can of corn for him.
2. Is there any reason to be optimistic about the pitching staff?
Brendan: I’m grasping at straws here, but yes. Not for this year, but going forward to 2013 the outlook actually is not as bleak as it currently appears. DLR comes back in 2013 and takes his place at the top of the rotation. Two of the first round three amigos (Pomeranz/White/Friedrich) play to their potential and take the #2 and #3 slots. Either Nicasio OR Chacin gets it together and takes #4. That leaves one spot to fill from the following: the remaining first round amigo/Nicasio/Chacin, an overhyped AA pitcher, a low end free agent (Cole Hamels is not walking through that door), or one of the current crap parade (Guthrie/Francis/Outman/Moscoso/Chatwood/Torres). I realize everything has to break right and I am assuming that there are no injuries, but the rotation is close to being at least below average (not putrid) and that would be a huge step up.
Kevin: Other than being eternally held hostage to the potential of Nicasio, Friedrich, White, Pomeranz, etc etc, there is no reason for optimism. The return of Hernandez will have a minimal affect on the staff. I guess one should be optimistic because it cannot get any worse than this (fingers crossed).
Ned: Not much. The return of Ramon Hernandez, which hopefully will come soon, will give the staff a boost. Rosario’s lack of ability as a receiver hamstrings the already struggling pitchers. Our pitchers are reluctant to put a slider in the dirt with men aboard, knowing the chances of Rosario handling the ball are about 75%. Consequently, the pitches become elevated, leading to the results we have seen. This guy’s receiving inadequacies are a killer for the struggling staff. Since the coaches must see what we see, why is Rosario getting so much playing time? My theory is that Tracy is showcasing his arm, bat, and speed for a trade. Although this season is clearly lost, we should see de la Rosa return in the second half. With a little luck, we may see one or more of the kids develop into reasonable starters. And if we get really lucky, Guthrie will have a successful therapy session with a sports psychologist, and get his head back on his shoulders—the guy is too good to be throwing batting practice pitches to the opposition.
3. The Rockies are 0-9 against the AL this year because _______________.
Brendan: The deeper lineups. Forgive the statistic jargon here, but it sums it up best. In the last 10 games against NL opponents, the Rockies have scored an average of 6.30 ± 4.97 (average ± standard deviation) runs compared to scoring 4.11 ± 2.71 runs against the AL. The averages look different, but the error (in an admittedly small sample size) makes the two statistically equivalent meaning that regardless of opponent the Rockies are scoring at a similar rate. As for runs allowed, it breaks down like this: the Rockies gave up 5.00 ± 2.79 runs vs. the NL and 8.22 ± 2.28 vs. the AL. That is a statistically significant difference showing that the Rockies are giving up more runs to the AL squads than the NL squads. Taken together, the Rockies’ inability to handle the deeper AL lineups will make for a very long road trip with stops in Detroit and Texas. Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Josh Hamilton will be fun to watch – just not for Rockies fans.
Kevin: Gee, let me think. Because the Rockies’ staff ERA is 5.42, good for dead last in major league baseball. It’s not easy to win when you consistently give up 7+ runs a game, which the staff has been doing lately. Also, the fielding has made things difficult. Rosario gets a lot of heat for his catching, and he probably deserves it. Twice in the finale against the A’s there were runners on first and second with one out. A jam certainly, but a manageable jam (assuming a good pitcher is on the mound, mind you). Then Rosario conveniently allows a pass ball, and suddenly the “one pitch and we’re out of it” jam turns into a crooked number jam. Little things like this at big moments cost ballgames. That being said, the best way to avoid this type of situation is never let the guys on base in the first place.
Ned: Because you can’t play only the Astros or the Cubs the entire season. It is easy to say that the AL is full of big boppers, but how does that explain the three losses to Oakland whose position players generally hit lighter than Mario Mendoza? Did everyone watch Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon’s two plate appearances Tuesday night? Both times, he hilariously tried to return to the dugout hoping he would be called out on strikes. Incredibly, Guthrie struggled to put him away both times (although he finally did). The reason the Rockies are 0-9 against the AL this year is because the Rockies, thanks to more than a decade of drafting failures, have no starting pitching. The Rockies must out-slug the opposition in order to win. Over the nine games with AL teams this season, the Rockies have scored an average of 4.1 runs a game, which is good output. Unfortunately, our crack pitching staff gave up an average of 8.2 runs per game over this same stretch. When you give up twice as many runs per game as you score, you will have trouble beating even the Cubs.
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
Got an idea for a future 3U3D discussion? Email us at BlakeStBulletin@gmail.com