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February 25, 2008

Team Health Reports

Colorado Rockies

by Will Carroll

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The Facts
Head Trainer: Keith Dugger
Player Days Lost, 2007: 704
Dollars Lost, 2007: $6.3 million
Three-Year Rank: 16

If there's one word that describes the Rockies medical fortunes over the last five seasons, all under the watchful eye of Head Athletic Trainer Keith Dugger, it would be this: Boring. The Rockies are simply boring, never the best under any stat, but far from the worst. It's unclear if being consistently mediocre is an accomplishment, but it's not as capricious as trying to pair up talent and luck in the way that helps some teams make an unexpected run. No, this is just a matter of the same medical results being paired up with better talent rather than any secret formula.

Going forward, keeping their younger pitchers healthy--especially Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales--will be a challenge as they try to compete in the NL West. There's enough pitching depth on the roster for them to be smart about their usage of that pair in particular, but "depth" is not the same as "talent." The Rockies' success will also make it hard for them to be as patient in the year after last season's pennant. Do you think fans will really remember that it wasn't until the last few weeks of the season that the team was even considered a contender?

There's no reason to think that the consistency and mediocrity shown by the Rockies in this component of team-building will change. They're bringing back a virtually identical roster and have kept the same philosophies and personnel on the medical side as well. While they might never be in contention for a Dick Martin Award, they might just take another run or two at the NL Pennant with this team. There's no question of which is a better goal.

The Big Question
The bloggers at Purple Row provided the lineups, but didn't give me a big question. That allowed me to ask a NL West FOT (Front Office Type) for a question about the Rox, and he asks: "Jeff Francis looks like a workhorse, but also went deep into the playoffs. Is there anything that can be learned from his development?"

Francis is an interesting case, since he's from Canada, but never showing the problems of any delayed development that is suddenly accelerated by the pressure of the pro game. His workload isn't that much of a problem either, since he's well past the injury nexus; he can handle the 215 innings he put up in 2007. The extra work of the playoffs that's a bit worrying, but here's a problem, though: the system doesn't recognize that the Rockies blew through the playoffs in the near-minimum, which meant throwing only 16 extra innings for their ace. He's still a bit more risky this season, but not as risky as the system thinks. So the answer is that Francis appears to be unique, and logical, reasonable handling certainly didn't hurt.

C Yorvit Torrealba Yellow light: Torrealba came on as a regular as the season progressed, so he caught a reasonable final total of 112 games. His shoulder has always been problematic, so keeping him near that mark despite his streak-induced heroism would be the smart play in a lot of regards. The yellow rating is right on the edge of red here (what I normally call a "high yellow") and goes up rapidly if his workload gets any heavier.

1B Todd Helton Green light

2B Jayson Nix Green light

SS Troy Tulowitzki Green light: If Tulowitzki's health problems of 2005 were truly fluky--and it looks as if they were--then I'd once again compare him to Derek Jeter. I'm truly perplexed that Tulowitzki's hero doesn't show up on his PECOTA comparables, but that really has no impact on this rating.

3B Garrett Atkins Green light

RF Brad Hawpe Green light

CF Willy Taveras Red light: Taveras healed slowly and his absence proved irrelevant to the team's fortunes. That sort of depth will make it possible for them to shunt him aside quickly if his leg injuries turn out to be chronic. At only 26, we have to hope that he's not on a rapid downslope, but I think that he is.

LF Matt Holliday Yellow light: Holliday plays like the football player he might have been had he chosen that career path. He's a very low yellow (almost green) based largely on that style, because he's exactly the type of player to do something like run into a wall.

SP Jeff Francis Yellow light: See today's Big Question, above.

SP Aaron Cook Red light: Cook overcame arterial surgery to come back, then fought back from an oblique strain to help in the playoffs. The system doesn't like the lack of strikeouts, because it interprets that as a low margin for error.

SP Ubaldo Jimenez Red light: He's not as young as most think, so his late-innings fade is probably something that will stick around. As a result, if he's used correctly, he's likely to be really good, but the term "workhorse" is probably never going to be used to describe him.

SP Jason Hirsh Red light: Hirsh was at least a bit healthier and a lot cheaper than Jason Jennings was last year. He had a couple of fluky leg injuries that helped take some of his prospective workload off of him. He'll now need to prove that he can take 30 starts and the big innings increase that goes with it, but at 26, it's now or never for him anyway.

SP Kip Wells Yellow light: Wells is just the type of guy who should have thrived under Dave Duncan. He didn't, but was an innings-muncher in a rotation that needed stability. He's a back-end guy in a rotation who will once again be counted on to take the ball every fifth day and let the defense help him. If you think of him as a placeholder for Franklin Morales (who would get a Red light, if he were to take 25 or more starts), it's not a bad thing.

CL Manny Corpas Yellow light: He's not just been good, but dominant, and in the ways you'd want from a young reliever. It's just that he hasn't proven he can stay healthy for a full season in the role, but I'd expect him to do so under Clint Hurdle.

RP Brian Fuentes Yellow light: Fuentes' mid-season meltdown looked bad, but assuming it was "only" a lat injury and that it can be kept from going chronic, he's still got the same stuff that made him an effective closer.

Lineups courtesy SportsBlogs Nation.

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