**Due to a bad, bad, man (think Seinfeld) this has not been posted in a timely manner. (Which was written before Francis’ performance last night – see #2 below.) The editor apologizes, deeply, to the boys at The View from 132 for the delay. The editor will now find someway to punish himself…probably by watching the Rockies
The Rockies opened September by taking two of three from the Padres and then promptly dropping three of four to the Braves despite not allowing an earned run in their last three games. Although the Rockies’ September consists of playing out the schedule and maybe getting a look at some minor leaguers, around baseball there are many interesting story lines. Can the Orioles hold off the Yankees? Can the Pirates finish a season at .500? Will the Nationals really shut down Stephen Strasburg? Sadly for Rockies fans, the intrigue surrounding Colorado mainly concerns who is getting called up and whether the “paired pitching” strategy will be continued in 2013. This week, we compare the paired pitching strategy to the Strasburg innings limit, if Jeff Francis should be brought back for 2013, and which of the utility infielders is most valuable.
1. Which is crazier: the Rockies continuing the paired pitching experiment into 2013 or the Nationals shutting down a healthy Stephen Strasburg in the middle of a pennant race?
- Brendan: The Nationals shutting down Strasburg. As Rockies fans know all too well, magical seasons don’t happen very often. How often do you get a chance at the World Series? Absolutely everything has to go right for you over the course of 6 grueling months and even then it is still a crap shoot. If the Nationals were a fringe contender fighting for a wild card berth, then it would make more sense to me, but as the top team in the NL the decision strikes me as horribly arrogant. The Nationals owe it to all of the players on that team to do everything possible to win the title this year. The paired pitching thing the Rockies are doing is nuts too, but it is not impacting their ability to win a World Series. For all the talk of how paired pitching will prevent free agents from signing here, what about shutting down your healthy ace for the playoffs? That is a far worse message to be sending to your team and the rest of the league. The Rockies’ craziness is a desperate attempt to get better. The Nationals’ craziness is putting the individual ahead of the team: something I deem a far worse offense than trying a new pitching strategy.
- Kevin: They’re both super crazy. The Rockies are crazy because baseball is an extremely conservative sport where ideas are entrenched and things change at glacial speeds. But it’s easy for the Rockies to be crazy when they have nothing to lose. The Nats are in the middle of a pennant race, and Strasburg is a Cy Young candidate. The Nationals have everything to lose, and they find themselves in the situation of wanting to preserve a pitcher by not overworking him (e.g., Mark Prior, Ubaldo Jimenez (gasp!)) while also winning a World Series. It’s an incredibly difficult decision, and either way the Nats are crazy. The Rockies, on the other hand, have nothing to lose, which makes their decision much easier.
- Ned: Neither are crazy moves, but both are brave. Strasburg is rare talent who, after the Tommy John surgery, shows every indication of being a long-term staff ace. Washington simply can’t risk that potential. That being said, the Nats have several players having career years which is vaunting that team into the post season. Knowing how difficult it is to reach the playoffs, Nats’ management deserves applause for taking the long-term view by holding firm on the Strasburg shut-down decision. The Rockies’ four man rotation/paired pitching program has yielded good results. Unless and until the Rockies have five starters who can consistently and effectively go 6+ innings, they should not abandon the four man rotation.
- Brendan: I would love to see Jeff Francis in a Rockies uniform in 2013. The problem is does the rotation have the room? DLR, Chacin, Nicasio, Pomeranz, White, and Friedrich all will be competing for rotation spots (assuming everyone is healthy). And that does not even include Chatwood, Outman, Sanchez, and Moscoso. Jeff Francis is a valuable pitcher for the Rockies: he is a steady veteran who will go out and compete for 5-6 innings every time he takes the ball – a perfect fit for the paired pitching strategy. Furthermore, he is the ideal mentor for the first round three amigos: he knows all about being a young pitcher for the Rockies and the challenges that they face. It boils down to should a mediocre Francis take away starts from the kids? Through the lens of the current cynicism of 2012, the answer is no, they need to be given a chance to develop regardless of wins and losses. However, every spring all teams think believe they have a shot and Francis probably gives the Rockies a better chance to win out of the gate in 2013.
- Kevin: No. God bless Jeff Francis. I love that he’s Canadian, studied physics, and played a key role on the 2007 National League Champions. He just doesn’t have a future with this club. The team won’t be good for another year or two, and the Rockies need to focus on playing young players who could have a future with the organization. Between Nicasio, Pomeranz, Chacin, DLR, Friedrich, White, Chatwood, and Jonathan Sanchez, this team has plenty of mediocre arms, so it really doesn’t need to pay for one more. Bringing Francis back will only impede the development of younger players.
- Ned: Without a doubt. Jeff Francis has been an integral part of the mild resurgence the Rockies have experienced since August 1. When acquired in June, he quickly brought some measure of stability to the chaotic pitching situation. He is a smart, mature pitcher who seems to have a settling influence on the staff. He will not be the team’s ace next year, but Francis is a nice 3 or 4. And most importantly, he is not even remotely intimidated by pitching at Coors.
- Brendan: I have to go with Chris Nelson. I like all three of these players and they all bring different things to the table. Pacheco is a line drive machine, but does not lift the ball and is a defensive liability. LeMahieu is slick fielding, but does not have a very high ceiling with the bat. Nelson falls somewhere in between: adequate defense, swings the bat ok and has a little pop. When it comes to OPS, Pacheco leads with an adequate .772, Nelson comes in just behind at .755, and LeMahieu is a distant third at .676. As a utility player, I like that Nelson can play all the infield positions and does not make you cringe when the ball is hit to him. It is the defense that gives Nelson the edge over Pacheco. Taken together, the Rockies are in a good place when it comes to utility (back up) infielders, but still do not have a viable starting third baseman.
- Kevin: Truth be told, none of them are very valuable. None of these players will be worth one win above a replacement player by the end of the season. Their WAR stats are: Nelson (0.0), LeMahieu (0.4), and Pacheco (0.6). Although Pacheco is the most valuable in terms of WAR, he really should not be a starter on the Rockies in the future. His defense at third is still bad, although his defense at first is decent. His bat, despite the shiny batting average, is league average because his lack of both slugging and walks drags him down. The nice thing about Pacheco is that he can give you a solid bat off the bench, and he can play first, third, and catcher if need be.
- Ned: This is a very difficult question. All three have had nice years offensively. LeMahieu is excellent at second, and is reputedly a good third baseman. Nelson is excellent at third, and plays second competently. Pacheco can play at third or first, and fill in at catcher. The problem is that his defense isn’t as good as the defense of Nelson or LeMahieu. However, the kid is a hitter. Although hitting at a plus .300 clip, his inside-out swing limits his power. On balance, Nelson is the keeper if only one player can be retained. However, the Rockies best utility player is the human wrecking ball, EY, Jr.
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
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