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October 4, 2010

Kiss'Em Goodbye

Colorado Rockies

by John Perrotto, Kevin Goldstein and ESPN Insider

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Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade -- whether in September (or before), the League Division Series, League Championship Series or World Series. It combines a broad overview of this season from Buster Olney, a take from Baseball Prospectus, a look toward an immediate 2011 move courtesy of Rumor Central and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview. You can find all the teams on one page by going here.

Now, it's time to kiss the Colorado Rockies goodbye.

The overview

Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd will have a difficult task putting his finger on exactly what happened with his team, because beyond the inevitable wave of injuries that every team deals with, Colorado just did not get consistent play beyond core stars Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Todd Helton's OPS dropped 175 points, Chris Iannetta could never get going offensively, and even before Aaron Cook suffered a season-ending shin fracture, he had a terrible season. The Rockies' year really played out in a manner similar to that of the St. Louis Cardinals, with inexplicable valleys that made no sense when measured against the perceived talent level.

Tulowitzki, though, had the greatest September since Babe Ruth, Gonzalez developed into an MVP candidate, and Jimenez was the game's best pitcher for about half of the year. The Rockies also got strong performances from relievers Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt, and Colorado should go into next year feeling good about its bullpen corps.

Going forward, Jimenez provides a nice anchor for the Rockies' rotation, but if they don't re-sign Jorge De La Rosa—and even if they do—they are very much in need of another No. 2-type starting pitcher (or better). In recent years, the Rockies saw another team in their division, the Arizona Diamondbacks, wait and wait for a core of young players to get better, and the improvement never really came as expected. The Rockies have the same challenge, the same kind of decisions, as they wait to see if Dexter Fowler, Ian Stewart, Seth Smith and others evolve. O'Dowd is highly regarded among his peers for being smart and decisive, and it will be interesting to see if he considers moving some of his young talent in an effort to land another frontline starting pitcher. —Buster Olney, ESPN Insider

Baseball Prospectus' take

What went right: Tulowitzki left little doubt who is the best shortstop in the game as he had a phenomenal September that left him with a .313 TAv. Gonzalez (.341 TAv) emerged as the game's likely next superstar after being traded by Arizona and Oakland. The Rockies again used Coors Field to its utmost advantage—perhaps even fiddling around with the baseballs in the humidor—by going 52-29 at home and leading the National League in runs scored with an average of 4.89 a game.

What went wrong: The Rockies, seemingly on their way to making a late charge to the postseason for the third time in four years, completely fell apart in the season's final two weeks and went 1-5 on their final homestand. No one in the rotation stepped forward and had a good season beyond Jimenez, who provided seven wins more than a replacement-level pitcher, according to the Baseball Prospectus metric Support-Neutral Value Above Replacement (SNLVAR). Next on the list was left-hander De La Rosa, with 2.7 victories added.

The key number: 15/40. Tulowitzki's home run and RBI totals in September. Sheesh.

What won't happen again: Jimenez doesn't figure to be 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA at the All-Star break like he was this year. While the right-hander is very talented, he pitched well above his peripherals in the first half of the season and that created unrealistic expectations for the second half. —John Perrotto, Baseball Prospectus

Rumor Central: 2011 options

Another big bat: The buzz in Denver has Colorado targeting catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez as a free agent. If V-Mart is too expensive, the attention could turn to Baltimore's Ty Wigginton, who thrived at Camden Yards and would do just fine at Coors Field, another hitter-friendly park. Wigginton could be part of a platoon at first base to get some time off for the oft-injured Helton. Oakland's Conor Jackson could be on the radar, since the club no longer views Smith as an outfielder who can play every day.

The battery: The Rockies may be saying goodbye to a good chunk of their starting staff. De La Rosa is set to become a free agent and the team is likely to balk at a $7.5 million option for Jeff Francis. Cook is guaranteed close to $10 million next season and the Rox may look to trade the former All-Star. Catcher Miguel Olivo could test the free-agent waters, but he has stated his desire to stay in Colorado. The Rockies would be in an awkward situation after signing Iannetta to a three-year, $8.35 million deal before the season. It's unlikely both backstops would be back, so the Rockies might have to deal the underperforming Iannetta at a discount. If not, the Rockies would have a backup catcher earning more than their starter. —Doug Mittler, ESPN Insider

Organizational future

After wasting time this year with Clint Barmes and Jonathan Herrera at second base, it might be finally time to give Chris Nelson a real shot at the job. The ninth overall pick in the 2004 draft, Nelson's minor league career is best defined by the two I-letter words—injuries and inconsistency—but the 25-year-old is a compact athletic with a solid approach and gap power that should fit well in Coors Field. His .313/.376/.492 line at Triple-A Colorado Spring is inflated much like the big-league park, but even with adjustments, he represents a significant upgrade. —Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Colorado Rockies

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Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Chica... (10/04)
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