Colorado Rockies: The Rockies just have to be a regular team to win. No, wait. They need sluggers. No, no, hang on. Athletes. They need athletic outfielders. No, pitching. Sinkerballers. Or, wait: kids. Yeah, how about playing rookies? We’ll take a bunch of young players and they’ll mature in Colorado. Starting this year. Or next year.
Sure, the Rockies remake themselves more often than the high-school kid who shows up each September with a different wardrobe, catchphrase and favorite band. But whether the current youth movement in Colorado represents a true change in organizational philosophy, a roster du jour, or a reactionary necessity–there are 13 rookies on the 25-man roster, but they have nine guys on the DL right now–isn’t quite clear yet. Fortunately, they have a well-regarded collection of rookies, young players and prospects to build around, making it less likely that we can snicker at the newest New Direction. Here are a few brief notes on the kids:
- Matt Holliday was a 2004 Rookie of the Year candidate who had noteworthy and oft-cited home/road splits last season. He isn’t faring much better outside of Coors Field this year:
AB AVG OBP SLG 2005, Home 107 .355 .395 .570 2004, Home 204 .338 .406 .603 2005, Away 89 .213 .283 .281 2004, Away 196 .240 .287 .367
Has anyone ever looked closely at the Rockies farm system? Conventional wisdom states that players will play worse on the road than they do at home once they put on a Rockies uniform. But how do players developed within the Colorado system fare against players who cut their teeth elsewhere? In other words, the Coors Field hangover might actually refer to something that comes sooner in their histories: the residual effects of having missed a significant chunk of “true” development time due to the natural advantage that all hitters have when playing in an environment like Denver (or Colorado Springs).
Investigating this fully requires more attention than can be given in this space, but as a rhetorical exercise, we certainly can think out loud about it. Since the Rockies organization is still fairly young, it might be too problematic to conduct such a study. But at a certain point, one has to wonder: how have they only developed one noteworthy hitter in the best hitting environments in the game? Perhaps that should be scrutinized a little more than it has been.
- As soon as we theorize that Holliday might be symptomatic of a larger phenomenon, here comes Brad Hawpe to screw it up. Hawpe was, at one time, a first-base prospect. Since the Rockies have Todd Helton at first, Hawpe was “asked” to learn the outfield. Here’s a challenge–see if you can spot Hawpe’s season in Triple-A Colorado Springs among his career:
Year ISO 2000 .234 2001 .231 2002 .235 2003 .225 2004 .327 2004 .133 2005 .157
OK, it wasn’t much of a challenge. Hawpe absolutely mashed the ball in 345 ABs during 2004. But Hawpe also has a rather curious home/road split this year:
Home .241/.308/.410 Away .329/.391/.500
Hawpe has a sizeable difference in his “Coors platoon.” But it isn’t likely to be indicative of any inability to hit in Coors:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO Home 28 83 8 20 1 2 3 19 34 8 18 Away 27 76 9 25 4 0 3 11 38 9 18
With so few ABs in both instances, we’re still dealing with big leaps when/if he goes 0-4 or 3-4. The performance on the road isn’t meaningful, ultimately. It’s possible that he’s “pressing” at home, or trying to pull everything, or distracted by an attractive woman in the front row, but it’s more likely that he’s hit just three or four more balls squarely while on the road. We’ll see what the line looks like in August.
- Clint Barmes was hitting .323/.365/.507 in 244 PA before breaking his collarbone, and his .354 VORPr was by far the best among Rockies regulars. The Coors inflation of his counting stats was expected, but this was a bit surprising:
Performance AB AVG OBP SLG VORP PECOTA weighted mean 318 .272 .315 .424 5.6 2005 actual 225 .329 .371 .516 20.1
His prorated 2005 actual season has him post a 54.5 VORP, almost ten times the value of his weighted mean projection. One BP writer predicted him to be Rookie of the Year (with teammate Jeff Francis coming in second), and he was most likely on his way to that honor. He still leads all rookie position players in VORP. With the technically ineligible Joe Mauer his closest competition on that last, it doesn’t look like Barmes will surrender his spot any time soon.
- Cory Sullivan got off to a hot start, and served as a great early example of the successful NRI. He’s been on a downward spiral since then, though:
Month AB AVG/OBP/SLG April 27 .407/.467/.593 May 53 .245/.268/.321 June 28 .321/.321/.321
He hasn’t hit an extra-base hit since May 20th, a home run in Pittsburgh. Since that time, he’s effectively been a singles-hitting outfielder, even in Coors Field. Considering that Coors turns pitchers into singles-hitting outfielders, this isn’t a good sign for his future, grittiness and work ethic notwithstanding.
Texas Rangers: Ryan Drese, this year’s opening day starter for the
Texas Rangers, was designated for assignment last week and eventually
claimed by the Washington Nationals. The attempt to slip Drese to the
minors is unsurprising when you consider his stat line this year.
YEAR GS IP ERA RA H/9 HR/9 SO/9 BB/9 BAA BABIP 2005 13 69.2 6.46 6.72 12.4 0.7 2.6 3.1 .344 .345
Passing the ball every fifth day to a hurler with a 6.46 ERA was not an
option for a team that sits only a couple games out of first place.
Some of Drese’s problems were due to bad luck (among the 160 MLB
starters with at least five games started, Drese ranks ninth in worst
BABIP). All the same, it’s still hard to avoid getting tattooed when
you’re averaging just 2.58 strikeouts per nine. The Rangers signed
Drese to a two-year, $1.825-million deal this past off-season,
but did they have reason to expect all that much from him?
YEAR GS IP ERA RA H/9 HR/9 SO/9 BB/9 BAA BABIP 2002 26 137.1 6.55 6.82 11.5 1.0 6.7 4.1 .317 .368 2003 8 46.0 6.85 8.22 11.9 1.6 5.1 4.7 .314 .331 2004 33 207.2 4.20 4.51 10.1 0.7 4.2 2.5 .285 .309 2005 13 69.2 6.46 6.72 12.4 0.7 2.6 3.1 .334 .345
Which of those years is unlike the others? Obviously this year’s
strikeout rate is at an all-time low, but Drese’s career is pretty
unimpressive in every year but 2004. In fact, against his career
numbers, that .345 BABIP from this year doesn’t look all that
abnormal. Actually, it’s his 2004 career year rate of .309 (which is
still above average) that looks like a lucky year.
In the Rangers’ defense, $1.825 million is a rather small sum
to pay for two years from a possible rotation mainstay. It’s not
chump change, but the alternatives were also undesirable: 1) dump
your best pitcher from 2004 because you think the career year was a
fluke, 2) try to secure a one-year contract and hope that he’s good
enough to earn the money but not so good that you get hosed in
arbitration in 2006. In that context the deal makes sense, but when
you consider the Rangers’ rotation needs the deal becomes even more
Consider the Rangers’ starters’ raw stats:
Year IP ERA H/9 HR/9 SO/9 BB/9 P/GS WHIP 2001 926 6.00 11.1 1.38 5.88 3.58 96 1.63 2002 931 5.26 9.69 1.19 5.73 3.90 97 1.51 2003 832 6.24 10.6 1.59 5.77 3.72 88 1.59 2004 901 5.16 10.4 1.33 5.28 3.27 93 1.51
Drese’s breakout year also coincided with the best year the Rangers’
staff has had in ages.
Rangers' Starters Year ERA Rank_in_AL* #_of_Starters** ERA_Qualifiers*** 2002 5.26 12th 12 1 (Kenny Rogers) 2003 6.24 14th 16 1 (John Thompson) 2004 5.16 5th 17 2 (Rogers, Drese) * Rank of ERA vs. other AL staffs ** # of starters used to get to 162 GS *** # of starters who accumulated at least 162 IP
Not only was 2004 a breakout year for the Rangers in terms of ERA and
the rank of the staff ERA vs. the rest of the AL, but it was also a
record year for the team in terms of the number of starters they ran
through. Because of injuries and ineffectiveness the Rangers were
forced to rely on 17 (!!) starters to get through 162 games. This was
just one year removed from the 2003 season in which they had to use
16 starters, and had only one player qualify for the ERA title. The
Rangers have had trouble finding effective starters, but they’d had a
harder time getting anyone to stay healthy and throw a decent game
every fifth day.
In 2004 they found in Ryan Drese someone who pitched quite well and
was also able to take his turn every time it came around (33 games
started in 2004). In that context it is completely defensible for
General Manager John Hart, and his lieutenant AGM Jon Daniels, to
ignore the long history of ineffectiveness and sign Drese up for a
moderate two-year deal.
For what it’s worth, this year the Rangers have used just six
starters, and that sixth was needed only after Drese was dismissed. It’s
too early to pop the champagne, but the Rangers are on pace to have
their most consistent starting staff in years.