Season in Review: Colorado Rockies

A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.

Number Twenty one: Colorado Rockies

What befell the Rockies this year? A legitimately good team in 2007, the 2008 version of the Rockies saw their position players regress heavily on both offense and in the field. Where they scored 860 runs last season, they scored just 747 this year, though BaseRuns does credit them with 766 (good for 14th in the league). And while they limited opponents to just 758 runs in 2007, that figure jumped to 822 this season, though again BaseRuns has them a bit better at 792 allowed (23rd in the league).

Regressors at the plate included Troy Tulowitzki, who suffered through some injury problems this season and whose absence also hurt Colorado’s middle infield defense. Todd Helton had an unlucky year concerning his BABIP as it dropped roughly 40 points despite a similar line drive rate from 2007. Matt Holliday, though he had a good year, did take a step back from his 2007 peak.

There was some good news as the Rockies finally saw some actual major league production out of Chris Iannetta, which helps their future prospects look a little brighter. However, if they do hope to rebound on offense, they’re going to have to stop giving reams of at bats to players like Willy Taveras.

Beyond the plate though there was also an aforementioned defensive problem. Whereas the Rockies boasted a perfectly fine defense in 2007, it was built exclusively on the backs of their middle infield, that is Kazuo Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo, as previously stated, had some injury problems this season which kept him out about 60 games and limited his effectiveness to an extent while he was playing as well. Kaz Matsui went to Houston, who saw their defense improve, and was replaced in Colorado by Clint Barmes and Jeff Baker, a pair of poor substitutes glove-wise.

Of course it wasn’t just the hitting and the fielding, there was also the pitching that went south. Though the fact of the matter is that the 2007 Rockies didn’t boast that great of a staff, even after giving them credit for Coors Field. The rotation was fine and all with Jeff Francis and company, but the bullpen was inconsequential at best. This season saw the departure of such luminaries like Tom Martin and Ramon Ortiz and a return to form from Brian Fuentes which resulted in a significant leap forward for the pen.

They needed it though as the rotation took a step backwards. Gone was Josh Fogg but Greg Reynolds stepped into his big shoes of terrible and made them bigger. Francis regressed and Taylor Buchholz was shifted to the pen. They did see a nice uptick from Ubaldo Jimenez, but he wasn’t enough to counterbalance all the negatives on his own.

The Rockies are said to be shopping Holliday and possibly others around and they have almost surely lost Fuentes to free agency. Given all that, there’s little chance that 2009 sees a return to prominence for them and how long it takes for them to climb back into the NL West depends a bit on their return on Holliday and a lot on just how bad the rest of the division remains in the near future.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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