Also, C) I may have a job with the
Yes, well. Onwards and upwards. Due to the fact that I haven't watched the
Who's Gone? All-time wins leader Jason Jennings (yes, well, it's the
Who's Here? Jeff Francis, a young Canadian lefty hailed as the future ace after a decent-to-solid season (13-11, 4.16, 117 K, which was nonetheless a marked improvement, ERA-wise, after he posted a 5.68 figure in '05). Aaron Cook, two years removed from potentially life-threatening blood clots in both lungs, figures to back him up in the #2 slot; he pitched well last year but received low run support for a slightly misleading 9-15 final record. Other than those two, things are less settled. Josh Fogg, whose last name can also be spelled B-A-D-D, figures to be sucking up the #4 or #5 job, while Jason Hirsh may attempt to make a name for himself. Skinny soft-tossing sidewinder Byun-Hyung Kim, somewhat removed from his status as 2001 World Series trivia question answer, will probably be in the running as well, despite an 8-12 record and a 5.57 ERA. He has awful peripherals all around, but somehow managed to pitch well on the occasions in which I was personally in attendance. Never fear, though, if I was an ameliorating effect on terrible pitchers, Jose Mesa wouldn't have appeared, which he did far too frequently for anyone's peace of mind.
Brian Lawrence, ex-Padres righty signed for a song after an injury-ruined 2006, may also try to compete. Seeing as he was 7-15 with a 4.83 ERA in his last full Major League season, I'm not thrilled, but alas, this is the type of players that the
In the meantime, let us take a look at the probable starting five for the purple and black's latest incarnation.
- Jeff Francis (with Jennings out of the picture, the weight of expectation falls on young Francis, optimistically called 'Franchise' by some in the Rockies blogosphere. I think it's much too early to be applying such cornerstone cappers to pitchers who have only ever won 2 more than they've lost - albeit ones with only three full MLB seasons under their belts. Francis did lower his ERA substantially last year, which again could be due to the humidor, and showed flashes of brilliance, such as one-hitting my beloved Cards through eight innings, but it remains to be seen if being hailed as an ace will substantially change his gameplan. This is
- Aaron Cook (sidelined in the middle of '05 by dangerous blood clots in both lungs, Cook possesses a sweet success-against-all-odds story and was the recipient of the Tony Conigliaro Award for his efforts to get back in the game. Cook pitches with reasonable competence, which is, sadly, the most you can ever really expect from a
-Byung-Hyun Kim (Home ERA: 5.79. Road: 6.75. Grass : 5.63. Turf: 13.50. Day: 0.00. Night: 9.53. Doesn't really sound like a guy you'd want pitching in any situation, does it? Kim's sole saving grace being that he held righties to a .192 average, he nonetheless figures to be occupying a slot for at least part of the season. So... let me get this straight... if we pitch him only during the day... against righties.... at home.... then he'll win 20+ games, the Cy Young, and the MVP. The humidor is, evidently, remaining, but I don’t think that that will help Kim all that much. He may get the Ryan Franklin Neck Strain watching hitters blast homers.
- Rodrigo Lopez (the definition of serial suckitude, Lopez's end results were - not pretty. 5.90 ERA, 9-18 record... yikes. Unfortunately, he will probably be shouldering a substantial amount of innings in the rotation, and there have even been murmurings about him stepping it up to be the Number One guy. Yes, we truly have fallen into a sad state of affairs... yet whatever wise leadership dear Rodrigo could provide would strictly be of the veteran variety - aka how to last a long time in the big leagues, with bad stats, without even being left-handed - as Francis is otherwise looked to as the number one in regards to his stuff).
- Jason Hirsh (you're going to be hearing it a lot - he's big. It'll be the "6-foot-8 righty this" and the "6'8" hurler that." Hirsh, in addition to his height, weighs 250 pounds, both of which beg the question a) what was his mother eating when pregnant with him? and b) who can you possibly choose to bring along as a sidekick in event of a bar fight? Richie Sexson, possibly. I must admit that I know very little about Hirsh, except that he was acquired in the
- Josh Fogg (unfortunately so. Fogg, or Badd, as he could more accurately be called, just isn't that good. Or is that goodd? Somehow, he managed to end up with a better record than Cook - 11-9 - but he also posted a more accurate 5.49 ERA, which was reflective of his pitching. The only place Fogg was slightly useful was on turf, but unfortunately, every other peripheral is screaming negative VORP. If you're a totally geeky sabermetrician, you'll get it; otherwise, in layman's terms, he's bad. 5/6 innings and 4/5 runs is Fogg's game, which will hardly improve and may get worse).
Also possible, as mentioned, Brian Lawrence could make a run for the rotation if healthy; same with Taylor Buchholz. The five mentioned above appear to be the front-runners. It's never easy rotationally in
Best-Case Scenario: Francis continues to mature as a pitcher and puts up, if not exactly a Cy-worthy line, then one better than has been seen in Colorado for quite some time, lowering his ERA into the high threes and racking up more Ks with better use of his fastball to compliment his offspeed repertoire, so hitters don't sit on him quite so much. Cook gets some run support and wins more than he loses, while Hirsh proves to be the same pitcher at the MLB level than he is at the minor-league level.
Worst-Case Scenario: Everyone gets sandblasted more acutely than usual.
It's important to mention that the
That said... I have very little complimentary to say about the state of the bullpen.
- Brian Fuentes (the only Rockie bullpen man with a stake to being, yes, good, Fuentes was an All-Star last year, and not only because they had to choose one from every team. With a 3-4 record, 3.44 ERA, and 30 saves against 73 K, Fuentes was quite solidly competent last year and did well in his tour of duty as the
- Jeremy Affeldt (acquired from the Royals ... yes, the Royals, as if they ever set the bar for baseball excellence, posted a 4-2 record and 6.91 ERA in half a season for the Rockies last year. Sadly, it won't get better, as Affeldt scuffled through the Royals' rotation and bullpen before being considerately removed to
- Manny Corpas (the bullpen's only legitimate claimant to being a firethrower, Corpas can touch the high-90s with his fastball and looked unhittable at times last year. He balanced it with the expected number of debacles from a member of the
- Tom Martin (I could go on about possible competence, decent ability if used only in very, very controlled situations, unavoidable necessity, and would have a spot on the roster even if he had a third head since he's left-handed, but decided to be pithy: Will generally suck).
- Ramon Ramirez (another no-name bullpen part, who will be used in assorted situations in which Clint Hurdle is trying to stall for time by making pitching changes, not that said pitcher will help in any capacity generally related to winning a baseball game. For those cold
- LaTroy Hawkins (he was bad for the Twins, Cubs, Giants, and Orioles, and now, by golly, he's bad for the
- Ryan Speier (you're waiting for me to bust out another joke here, and I wish I could oblige, but Speier was actually okay last year, if 10 ER in 24 IP for a 3.65 ERA is okay. It's possible he could be less terrible than the others, which is like asking a lake to be a little less wet than the ocean, I understand, but you can't have everything. Another big guy, at 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds. What is it with the
Best-Case Scenario: Fuentes continues to thrive as a closer and avoids the riotously terrible patch that he struggled with last year. Everyone else posts ERAs in the low fours and don't blow more than 12 games between them.
Worst-Case Scenario: Nobody, including Fuentes, has an ERA under 5 and once ballgames are past the fifth or sixth inning, they become a holy nightmare for the Rox and the Coors Field faithful. (Believe or not, there are some people who care passionately about the team and come to see them. Although I'm not quite at this stage, I must admit that they're definitely growing on me).
EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that the humidor is being kept after all – the MLB rules require all baseballs to be stored in regulated environments and the Rox, because of it, were already in compliance. Therefore, I am adjusting the pitchers' numbers – and the team’s overall record – accordingly.
The Nonexpert Nostradamus Predicts:
Jeff Francis, LHP, 15-10, 4.05 ERA, 201 IP, 135 K, 32 starts
Aaron Cook, RHP, 15-12, 4.12 ERA, 215 IP, 95 K, 32 starts
Byung-Hyun Kim, RHP, 7-10, 4.78 ERA, 144 IP, 125 K, 25 starts
Rodrigo Lopez, RHP, 8-14, 5.31 ERA, 170 IP, 101 K, 24 starts
Josh Fogg, RHP, 10-15, 5.24 ERA, 165 IP, 85 K, 30 starts
Jason Hirsh, RHP, 7-4, 4.05 ERA, 93 IP, 56 K, 10 starts
Brian Lawrence, RHP, 3-2, 4.90 ERA, 70 IP, 28 K, 5 starts
Taylor Buchholz, RHP, 3-4, 4.65 ERA, 75 IP, 32 K, 4 starts
Brian Fuentes, LHP, 4-2, 3.15 ERA, 31 SV/37 SVO
Jeremy Affeldt, RHP, 1-1, 6.04 ERA, 1 SV/3 SVO
Manny Corpas, RHP, 3-2, 3.34 ERA, 2 SV/3 SVO
Ramon Ramirez, RHP, 2-2, 4.55 ERA, 1 SV/1 SVO
Tom Martin, LHP, 2-3, 5.64 ERA, 0 SV/o SVO
LaTroy Hawkins, 1-1, 4.77 ERA, 2 SV/ 5 SVO
Hoooooly crow, that is not the most beautiful bullpen I’ve ever seen. The starters – read: Francis and Cook) could continue to improve, but I’m leery of that back end. As for the bullpen, it’s, well, the
Projected Lineup (by position)
1B Todd Helton (coming off an off-year where he hit only 15 HR despite driving in 81, Helton posted the lowest average for a full season - .302, which is actually bad when you consider that he's tops in terms of career average among all active players, with a .333 mark. Yeah, yeah, there were all the unpleasant whispers about losing chemical enhancement, but Todd is 33 (34 in August) and even the best players must decline. That said, he was also struggling with a nasty stomach bug last year, for which he was briefly hospitalized, and admitted that he came back too early. If he's healthy, look for his numbers to tick back upwards).
2B Jamey Carroll/Kazuo Matsui (Carroll was a beast at Coors Field last year, posting a .371 average in Denver, but suffered when the team went on the road, dropping drastically to .219. It seemed as if he was constantly on base whenever he was playing the A's or the Cards, which was probably why I noticed - we nicknamed him the '
SS Troy Tulowitzki/Clint Barmes (Barmes started off boiling-hot in '05, hitting close to .400, but got injured in the well-publicized event of falling down the stairs while carrying deer meat, and wasn't the same afterwards. He had far, far too many ABs in 2006, as Clint the Second, better known as Hurdle, refused to believe that the 27-year-old was no longer very good with the bat. As in, most replacement-level players should be easily able to outstrip the woeful .220 mark that Barmes ended up with. Tulowitzki, considered the Rox's shortstop of the future, is a 22-year-old former Cal State-Long Beach standout, but Hurdle, being Hurdle, has announced that he'll give Barmes a shot to get his job back, which means that he'll probably still be clogging up ABs that Tulo could be taking).
3B Garrett Atkins (as a note completely unrelated to his hitting, my mother commented that when they announced Atkins over the PA system, his name sounded like 'Pterodactyl.' Yes, well, the Flying Dinosaur has proven himself to be a very legit major-league hitter, racking up a near-MVP-caliber line of .329/29/120. His slugging percentage was also .556, and he hit almost equally well on the road as at home - .316 vs. .346 - one of the few Rockies who's exempt from whatever screwy combination they're using with the humidor. Atkins is also a beast when it comes to runners in scoring position, registering .341 with ducks on the pond. In short, a very good young hitter who should only improve).
RF Brad Hawpe/Jeff Baker (Hawpe is also a legit power threat, but his long swing can sometimes throw him off-balance and makes his K total higher than it otherwise might have been. .293/22/84 is nothing to sneeze at, and Hawpe has a cannon of a left arm that cuts down countless daring runners that try to stretch a single into a double and a double into a triple. If he could shorten up and compact his swing a bit, and increase his peripheral numbers - .255 with runners on and .232 against lefties - he could be another true heavy-hitter. Baker is another late-season call-up who hit .368 in limited duty and may see more action if Hawpe continues to struggle vs. lefties).
CF Willy Taveras/Cory Sullivan/Ryan Spilborghs/Jeff Salazar (quite frankly, the
LF Matt Holliday (the only Rockies outfielder that has his position locked down with clamps is Holliday, who turned into an absolute beast last year at age 26 and should keep it up this year at 27, traditionally the best year for a ballplayer. Holliday posted a .326/34/114 final line in 2006, despite scuffling a bit away from Coors, where he hit .280. That's by no means bad, but it doesn't exactly compare to the rampaging .371 average he amassed in
C Yorvit Torrealba/Chris Iannetta/Javy Lopez (he of the odd name, Yorvit will be challenged by yet another youngster, Iannetta, another "Rockie of the future" who will be fighting him for the starting spot. Torrealba, the veteran, figures to see more time, but Iannetta will undoubtedly be in there, sooner rather than later if Torrealba tanks. In Yorvit's favor, he does hit .370 with runners in scoring position and two outs, so he's good for late-inning clutch situations. Javy Lopez, acquired during the winter, hasn't had a decent season in a while, but it's quite possible he'll see a significant amount of games from behind the plate. Another position where there isn't a clear-cut front-runner, as the two veterans may see the majority of time, but expect Iannetta in the mix somewhere).
Best-Case Scenario: Atkins, Holliday, and Hawpe continue to blossom, backed up by a healthy Todd Helton, while youngsters Salazar, Baker, and Iannetta are impressive and manage to establish themselves as incumbents. The
Worst-Case Scenario: Helton can't recover and continues to decline, while Atkins and Holliday take steps backwards and Hawpe can't cut down on his spotty clutch numbers. The youngsters get overwhelmed and the veterans are underwhelming. The bats can't make up the holes dug by the arms and
The Nonexpert Nostradamus Predicts:
Todd Helton, L/L, 1B: .318 AVG, 21 HR, 90 RBI, .430 OBP, .490 SLG, .920 OPS
Jamey Carroll, R/R, 2B: .301 AVG, 2 HR, 27 RBI, .363 OBP, .390 SLG, .753 OPS
Kazuo Matsui, S/R, 2B: .262 AVG, 3 HR, 30 RBI, .327 OBP, .436 SLG, .763 OPS
Clint Barmes, R/R, SS: .237 AVG, 7 HR, 27 RBI, .270 OBP, .330 SLG, .600 OPS
Troy Tulowitzki, R/R, SS: .282 AVG, 8 HR, 45 RBI, .330 OBP, .340 SLG, .670 OPS
Garrett Atkins, R/R, 3B: .331 AVG, 33 HR, 130 RBI, .400 OBP, .567 SLG, .967 OPS
Brad Hawpe, L/L, RF: .301 AVG, 27 HR, 95 RBI, .399 OBP, .530 SLG, .929 OPS
Jeff Baker, R/R, RF: .312 AVG, 14 HR, 46 RBI, .385 OBP, .477 SLG, .862 OPS
Ryan Spilborghs, R/R, RF/CF: .270 AVG, 5 HR, 25 RBI, .330 OBP, .415 SLG, .745 OPS
Cory Sullivan, L/L, CF: .272 AVG, 3 HR, 31 RBI, .317 OBP, .375 SLG, .692 OPS
Willy Taveras, R/R, CF: .260 AVG, 1 HR, 17 RBI, .314 OBP, .323 SLG, .637 OPS
Jeff Salazar, L/L, CF: .293 AVG, 9 HR, 56 RBI, .378 OBP, .433 SLG, .811 OPS
Matt Holliday, R/R, LF: .339 AVG, 38 HR, 125 RBI, .390 OBP, .600 SLG, .960 OPS
Yorvit Torrealba, R/R, C: .250 AVG, 6 HR, 44 RBI, .299 OBP, .405 SLG, .704 OPS
Javy Lopez, R/R, C: .244 AVG, 7 HR, 39 RBI, .301 OBP, .364 SLG, .665 OPS
Chris Iannetta, R/R, C: .270 AVG, 8 HR, 50 RBI, .375 OBP, .387 SLG, .762 OPS
Now this is an offense. I might venture to say that out of the Cards, A's, and Rockies, the
The other reason the
The Giants stayed old, but signed Barry Zito in the process, leaving their rotation as Zito/Matt Morris/Noah Lowry/Matt Cain/Russ Ortiz, which is possibly decent but could also possibly get shelled. Of course, they have the Bonds three-ring circus still going on, which is the main focus of an old, slow, boring, uninspired team that I don't really like - I watched them play the
Pitching was the name of the game for the rest of the West, as the Dodgers added Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf, the D-backs have Cy Young winner Webb and Randy Johnson, and the Padres added Greg Maddux. The latter also added second baseman Marcus from the Braves to fill out the Brothers Giles, as older brother Brian was already on the team. Some people are tabbing the Dodgers as the favorite based on their pitching, but the fact is that nobody has a solid claim to this division. The Dodgers and Padres ended up in a deadlock record-wise last year, with the Padres winning the West by dint of their head-to-head record against the Boys in Blue - 13-5. Everyone else - Giants, D-backs, and
How I envision things shaping up (but in this division, I could very easily be wrong on every single slot). Because of the humidor, I’m going to bump up the
1. Dodgers, 86-76
2. Padres, 85-77
3. Giants, 82-80
5. Diamondbacks, 75-87
That concludes the in-depth previews, ladies and gents. More baseball to come soon, along with some Spring Training photos off Yahoo! and no doubt one or two more interesting little nuggets that my baseball-starved psyche can mine.