Monday, July 03, 2006

Mile High Mystery

by SonDog

In honor of legendary, Hall of Fame ESPN baseball writer Peter Gammons, who is in ICU in a hospital in an unknown location, I would like to briefly discuss the Colorado Rockies.

To many, the Rockies are still an unknown team. That being said, I would LOVE it if the San Francisco Giants followed the current model of the Rockies as far as player development.

Earlier this season, after watching the Rockies at Spring Training in Tucson, AZ, I was a little harsh on the guys from the Mile High city. However, after 1/2 of the season, and after attending 7 Rockies games in person, I have to admit (and this may come as no great surprise) that I was wrong. In fact, I have never been more wronger.

Many Giants fans have cried for youth this season. I'm a firm believer that the current Giants roster, with an average age of 73, is simply too old to sustain a season-long run to prosperity in the National League. Do I think the Giants can look like a great team on any given night? Yes. Do I think these old farts will look great consistently come October? No.

The Rockies' top-three starters are home-grown pitchers. In fact, the team is currently tied for third.. Yes, THIRD... in the National League in ERA. We've all heard a lot about the humidor at Coors Field. In fact, A's manager Ken Macha claimed that baseball should investigate this mysterious device. While the humidor may indeed be making a difference, there is no doubt that the Rockies' pitching staff as a whole is light-years ahead of previous models. The team's development of several sinker/slider pitchers with thick skin has had a greater effect than any humidor.

Aaron Cook, Jason Jennings and Jeff Francis can pitch. Colorado suddenly looks smart not to trade Jennings at last year's trade deadline (the Giants were rumored to be interested).

In the bullpen, Jose Mesa is on some sort of performance enhancing drug (or crack), but Brian Fuentes and Ramon Ramirez have been lights-out.

The lineup is solid. Although, I have a few thoughts about Todd Helton (who I suspect was on the juice, no doubt about it - although I have absolutely no factual data or hard evidence of any sort to substantiate that ridiculous claim) He has regressed to the norm. If you look at his career stats, he hasn't had a 100-rbi season since 2003. My inside sources also tell me that he is one of the biggest booze hounds in baseball (again, I have absolutely no factual data or hard evidence of any sort to substantiate that ridiculous claim). It appears unlikely that Helton will ever hit like he did in the early part of the decade.

In addition to Helton, the Rockies have developed a pretty powerful lineup comprised of primarily home-grown players. All-Star Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe and Garret Atkins have been outstanding. Some feel that these players numbers are inflated due to Coors Field, but that seems absolutely contradictory to the feeling that the Rockies' pitching success is due to the humidor and the fact that Coors Field is not as much of a hitting paradise any longer. In fact, Of Brad Hawpe's 15 homers, 10 have come on the road. In fact, Hawpe's numbers on the road (.342 BA, 32 RBI) absolutely dwarf his numbers at Coors (.265 BA, 14 RBI) Of Holliday's 15 homers, only 8 have come at Coors.

Clint Barmes isn't hitting at all this year, but he eventually should be a solid utility middle-infielder in the Jose Vizcaino mold. That being said, he is simply holding the fort for Troy Tulowitzki, who from all accounts is a star in training. Also on the horizon is 3B Ian Stewart, who looked like the best hitter on the team in Spring Training. Stewart has had a rough season to this point in Tulsa (AA), but he still has the potential to be the best home-grown player of the bunch.

Can the Rockies win the NL West this year? I don't think so. Their inexperience in pennant race situations is bound to catch up with them. That being said, they now have a solid nucleus from which to work with and (if they re-sign these players, a la GM Daniel J. O'Dowd's history with the Cleveland Indians) they will likely be a team to beat in the NL West for years.

1 comment:

sondog said...

Buster Olney's blog on espn.com today discusses the Rockies. It is a pretty good read.