Rockies Hang Stars Out to Dry

Given that Troy Tulowitzki missed about a full month worth of playing time due to injury this season, the fact that he’s played himself into MVP consideration is quite remarkable. His teammate, Carlos Gonzalez, has consistently put up huge numbers all season long, and as a result he has also been part of the MVP discussion for much of the season and, for a time, he even staked a claim at a triple crown. These two form the base of the Colorado Rockies lineup, and both have been playing above and beyond expectations this September. Tulowitzki has a tremendous .324/.380/.820 line in September so far, good for a .501 wOBA, and Gonzalez barely trails him, hitting .393/.454/.626 this month. Despite this ridiculous performance from the leaders of the team, the Rockies have only gone 14-13 this month, failing to capitalize on struggles from the Padres (12-15) and Braves (13-14) while allowing the Giants (17-8) to completely take charge of the NL West.

Part of the failing here is the pitching. Rockies relievers have a 5.08 ERA this month, and although a 4.35 FIP suggests some poor luck, that’s still well below the NL reliever average (they do have a 3.35 xFIP, but keeping the ball in the yard is such a massive part of relieving that I’m loath to credit the unit for this). Huston Street has been solid (+1.1 WPA, 1.93 ERA, 1.87 FIP), and Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle have performed well too. However, the back end of the bullpen has been miserable. The primary offender is recently acquired Manny Delcarmen, whose -0.6 WPA in September is the worst out of the Rockies pen, and neither his 7.36 ERA nor his 5.13 FIP look any better. Overall, the Rockies bullpen has a +0.40 WPA – a number that looks good, but since the average reliever is better than the average pitcher, that number actually comes out to about .3 wins worse than the average bullpen. The rotation hasn’t been great either, as all the good from Jhoulys Chacin (1.78 ERA, 3.63 FIP) has been more than undone by terrible performances from Jeff Francis (8.38 ERA, 7.95 FIP) and Jason Hammel (6.41 ERA, 4.93 FIP). Those two combine for a -1.04 WPA on the month, and the unit as a whole checks it at a meager -0.41 WPA.

The pitching wasn’t good, but one might expect that a Rockies offense powered by the September explosions from Gonzalez and Tulowitzki would be able to overcome those efforts. Indeed, the offense as a unit has a .351 wOBA and was 20 runs above average – a good mark, but when we look deeper, many Rockies players missed opportunities to turn a good month into a special one. Without Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, the rest of the Rockies only posted a .312 wOBA and, with park adjustments, that comes out to a full 12 runs below average (roughly 2 runs below average without pitchers hitting). The primary offenders here are Eric Young Jr. (74 PA, .259 wOBA, -4 wRAA) and Miguel Olivo (72 PA, .273 wOBA, -3 wRAA). Melvin Mora and Ryan Spilborghs did put together solid months, but all together, the team simply couldn’t support the red-hot stars of the team.

Between the two of them, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez were nearly 32 runs above average in the course of only a full month. It’s impossible to ask a pair of players to contribute more to a team. However, the failings all around – from the starting rotation, the bullpen, and the rest of the lineup – were just too much for the Rockies to make another historic run. Now, instead of playing meaningful baseball and competing for a playoff spot this weekend, they will toil for nothing while the Padres, Giants, and Braves race for the final two playoff spots.

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24 Responses to “Rockies Hang Stars Out to Dry”

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  1. D4P says:

    Kinda surprising that the Rockies’ pitching staff is 2nd in the MLB in team WAR.

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    • hjrrockies says:

      I think that it’s a great testament to the team they built there. Hardest place to pitch, and they have found players that can handle the altitude. Interestingly enough, their rotation is essentially tied for the best in baseball with the White Sox. They (save for Jimenez) don’t put up huge numbers, but what they do compared to the park they pitch in is incredible.

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    • Zach says:

      Run environment adjustments do wonders for them. But yeah, they’ve pitched well.

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  2. LondonStatto says:

    The average reliever is better than the average pitcher (and hence better than the average starter)?

    Wow. There goes the received wisdom that relievers are pitchers who aren’t good enough to be major league starters.

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    • phoenix says:

      well yes sometimes thats true. sometimes its because of injury worry that a pitcher is in the bullpen instead of starting because the team fears he will get injured if pitching more than 100 innings or more than 40 pitches at a time. but the main reason that bullpen pitchers are better than starters is that they can throw at 100% for an inning without worrying about saving something for another 5 or 6. thats why when you put a starter in the bullpen, his fastball velocity rises by a good 2-3mph. also because they only pitch an inning or two, they dont have to face the lineup a second time around the order. meaning that batters dont get a second chance after adjusting to the new pitcher, and certainly not a third time around, which starters do. because of their increased innings, starters contribute much more to the overall “average pitcher” than relievers do, which drags that average rating down. so yes, relievers generally have above average stats out of the bullpen compared to the average pitcher. but that doesnt meant that they are actually a “better” pitcher than a starter.

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    • Jack Moore says:

      I suppose that might be poorly worded. What I mean is the average reliever gets better results than the average starter. That’s due to only having to face the order once, being able to gas it, and stuff like that.

      That’s why pitchers are typically a run (or so) better in the bullpen than in the rotation.

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  3. Kirsh says:

    I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I’m assuming all Rockies pitchers who pitch at Coors for an extended period of time have lower xFIP than actual FIP, right? The way the ball flies out of there, pure FIP doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of how you’re actually pitching, but it sure as hell matters to the results.

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  4. Jason B says:

    Required reading for the guy who was ripping Tulo last week for “not showing up in the biggest games when they really count” or some such misguided claptrap. Tulo (141 OPS+) was clearly not the problem, nor has he been the problem all year. Nor was Street (129 ERA+) the issue, an ugly outing last week notwithstanding. The shortcomings fall squarely on the shoulders of Helton (90 OPS+), Hawpe (96), Cook (91 ERA+), Francis (94), et al.

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  5. Trebecois says:

    Really kind of amazing they were in it at all with Tulowitski, EY2, Cook, Francis, De la Rosa, Street and Hammel having extended periods on the DL. The the two surest thing veteran hitters(Hawpe, Helton) disappear, Fowler, Iannetta, Smith, and Stewart fail to take a step forward and with no major acquisitions.

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  6. Chris says:

    This seems to happen every year for a short stretch.

    The rest of the Rockies lineup seems to get complacent about their production leaving it up to one or two studs to carry the team. Earlier this year it was Olivo and CarGo, now it’s CarGo and Tulo. Eventually the rest of the team steps up and helps out and the stars get righted and the offensive production of the team has been outrageous. But you can’t rely on one or two guys to carry an entire offense, it isn’t basketball.

    I’m still not sure why the Rockies went out to get Dotel and Delcarmen. Neither one is that impressive in my opinion and Delcarmen was acquired at too high of a price (Dotel trade is for PTBNL, so we don’t know how badly the Dodgers will try to fleece us).

    A few things need to happen for them next year. First, get a RH bat for 1B and platoon him with Helton. Helton has been awful this year and can’t be relied on any more. Giambi while able to occasionally spell Helton at 1B is another lefty and so that limits his usefulness on a team full of lefties (they were much better than last year’s team though) and Mora while I love the guy and hope we keep him as a utility INF type, wont cut it.

    Second, let Francis walk off in free agency. I love the guy, but he’s too much of a risk right now and we need to make room for guys like Chacin to come up and get a roster spot full time. DLR is another option to let go, but frankly, I think he might have more upside and less risk than Francis right now, and while Rogers deserves a shot at the rotation out of spring training he’s still a question mark.

    Next, figure out what you’re doing with Barmes and Iannetta. Barmes could be a solid RH bat and slick glove to spell the middle INF while Mora spells the corners. Iannetta needs to put up or shut up next year and the Rockies need to give him an extended look regardless as to who the “backup” is or how bad Iannetta is playing. Having two righties catching is when they both have power, but that can really limit you if one is the big right handed bat that you signed in free agency. You just don’t pinch hit your extra catcher as a rule of thumb, find another guy.

    Finally, I love Don Baylor, but seriously, these guys can’t hit a lick outside of Coors Field (Tulo not included). I don’t know if they’re not coachable (a reason Hurdle had to go?) or if they’re just stubborn as mules, but we need a guy that can get these guys to adjust their approaches outside of Coors Field. If that means firing Baylor (I would hope offering him a job elsewhere in the organization as opposed to out right firing him, the Rockies owe him better than that) I don’t know, but something has to give. The team has to hit better on the road. Not only for the sake of it’s own record, but because Gonzalez and the rest of the team doesn’t get any credit for what it is able to do because of the park factors of Coors.

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  7. Adam says:

    Obviously the pitching is horrible. You can’t rely on Belisle, Betancourt and Street to clean up everything each game. The starters are terrible. Jimenez and De La Rosa are the only solid starters. For some reason they get losses when these guys pitch because the Rockies don’t score more than 1 run in the games these two pitch. Chacin looks pretty good too, especially for a young guy. The Rockies need to unload Francis, Hammel, and Cook (i don’t know why anyone would want him). These guys suck. I went to several games a week this year, and these 3 pitchers, when not injured, would only pitch at the most, 5 innings per game. They stink. They always had to be picked up by the Rockies hitters each time they pitched. Also, when you have to use Belisle, Betancourt and Street for extended innings each night to mop up the crappy pitching from these three pitchers, your pen dies out quickly.
    The other thing: get rid of Barmes and Iannetta. Barmes never plays anymore because of Young and Herrera. There is no need to keep a guy that hits under .250 at Coors field on the team when you have 2 young guys that hit better and can lead off in the lineup too. With Iannetta, what kind of a team wants a backup catcher that earns more money than the starter? Sounds pretty stupid to keep him. The other thing that needs to happen, is just cut Morales and Corpas because nobody will want to trade for those two guys.
    With Todd Helton, he is great in the field but has turned into a liability at the plate. There is talk to get Atkins back, but this would be dumb to do. Why not make a run for someone like Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez? They cost a lot of money. Getting rid of Aaron Cook would free up a lot of money to pay someone like these first basemen.
    This all sounds like a lot of trades and things, but something needs to happen. The Rockies fall just a little short each year. Something needs to happen.

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    • BlackOps says:

      Jason Hammel is actually a good/great pitcher. His last two seasons have been exactly identical. Go look at his numbers, it’s actually crazy how consistent he’s been.
      Barmes is terrible and should not have been playing this entire season.
      Iannetta > Olivo.
      Morales has years left, I’m pretty sure Corpas does too. No reason to dump them.

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    • Chris says:

      Chacin > DLR, both for the future and in this season. Esmil Rogers could be a solid #3 pitcher. Let Francis walk (I hate to see him go), debate long and hard on DLR, keep Hammel and trade Cook. Cook when healthy is a strong back of the rotation pitcher. Not to mention that in the 2nd half Ubaldo was not a strong pitcher, he was down right awful at times.

      This notion that everyone in our pitching staff outside of Ubaldo and DLR were terrible is ill conceived at best.

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  8. Ryan says:

    Hammel has been great for the Rockies, but he’s unfortunately been pitching through a “dead arm” since August. I couldn’t ask any more from a 3 or 4 starter.

    I’d love to see a healthy De La Rosa back, but he’s going to be in demand on the open market. A 96 mph fastball w/a plus slider and change-up from the left side are going to demand more money than he’s worth to the Rockies.

    This offseason needs a veteran starter…and Victor Martinez. Make it happen, DOD.

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  9. How will they go to make a complete team, Helton i think is key.

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  10. Jason Hammel is actually a good/great pitcher. His last two seasons have been exactly identical. Go look at his numbers, it’s actually crazy how consistent he’s been.

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  11. Basically, I’ve tried this game on a number of different machines and it still doesn’t work for me. It’s the only one of Petri’s game I’ve had any problem with.

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  12. You have made some excellent points there. Used to do they’re certified inside subject and barely found any specific info other websites, but great in order to be here, seriously, thanks.

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