Monday, April 25, 2011

Power Rankings Explained: How Good Are the Rockies, Really?

By Bill

Earlier today (and last week), The Common Man put up a post explaining more fully the pithy comments he made for the three AL teams not represented by other SweetSpot bloggers for this week's power rankings.

Well, I wrote the comments for the four unspoken-for NL teams -- the Marlins, Pirates, Diamondbacks and Rockies -- and I'm not going to be doing that. I don't think I have all that much to say about one week for each of these teams (especially since I'll be finding something to say about them again two weeks from now). But if I have something worth saying, I'll say it here.

Today I do want to talk about the Rockies. We write these comments but don't vote on the rankings, so I didn't know (though perhaps it's not surprising given their 14-7 overall record) that the Rox, after a 2-4 week in which they lost series to both the Giants and Marlins, would drop from the #1 spot on the list only down to #3. While my final takeaway in the comment was that "they're in good shape," I don't think they're in number three in baseball shape, and there's a good chance they're headed toward something more like 12 or 13. Here's why.

First, their offense depends heavily on one player who isn't going to keep up his current pace, and probably isn't as good as it's looked. Troy Tulowitzki is amazing, but probably won't finish the year hitting .330, OBPing .430 or slugging over .700. They're also getting better-than-expected contributions from Todd Helton and second baseman Jonathan Herrera. On the other hand, last year's triple crown candidate Carlos Gonzalez has been awful, at .228/.284/.304. He'll almost certainly get better, but I don't think he's anywhere near the player he looked like last season, and I'd expect the falloffs from those other three to exceed the gain in CarGo's production.

Either way, though, the Rockies' offense still isn't that great. They've scored the third most runs in the National League, but the team's wRC+ is just 90, OPS+ just 86; they play in what is still the most hitter-friendly park in baseball, and they might also be benefiting from some of those famous "timely hits" that they can't expect will continue to fall at just the right times.

I'd be even a bit more concerned about the pitching. It's been legitimately good -- fourth in the NL in both FIP and xFIP -- even with ace Ubaldo Jimenez getting knocked around to the tune of a 6.75 ERA and 5.61 FIP through his first four starts. Can it last, though? Jorge de la Rosa has never been nearly as good in the majors as he has been so far in '11. Jhoulys Chacin entered 2011 as a very promising starter, but had been getting it done in the majors with K rates above 9; so far this season, his strikeout rate is just 6.00 per nine, but he's walking fewer and coaxing more grounders than he ever has before. It might just be a flukish four starts, and if the strikeouts don't come back, he could be in some trouble. Jason Hammel and Esmil Rogers probably just aren't very good. Obviously, getting Jimenez back to his 2010 form would be a total game-changer here. So far, he's striking out fewer and allowing more fly balls (and many, many more home runs) this year than last, which by itself sounds fixable, but then you notice that his average fastball velocity is down more than four miles an hour from last year.

Again, I think this is a good team, all in all. But Rockies fans just shouldn't get too comfortable in that #3 slot.


Anonymous said...

Ur effin retarded... Maybe these good young prospects are finally panning out. And to say they are influenced by hitter-friendly Coors Field is absurd, considering theyre scoring more runs on the road than they are at home. You obviously have no idea what you're talking about when it comes to the Rockies so do us all a favor and shuttup. Thanks.

Bill said...

I won't get into all the non-factual reasons you should be embarrassed by this comment, Anonymous, but I'll just address the one argument you DID kind of try to make:

"And to say they are influenced by hitter-friendly Coors Field is absurd, considering theyre scoring more runs on the road than they are at home."

Never mind that 21 games is a crazily tiny sample for data like that, especially when what you're using it to support flies in the face of years and years of data all confirming that Coors is a really easy park to hit in. What makes this even dumber is that you're technically sort of right, they've scored six more total runs on the road than at home...but in one extra game and seventy-two more plate appearances (since they haven't always had to bat in the ninth at home, but always do on the road). Their batting average and slugging percentage are considerably higher on the road, and the OBP is lower by two points. Per full game (27 outs), they're averaging 5.19 runs at home compared to 4.83 on the road. So, no, they're scoring more runs at home than on the road (and we KNOW they're significantly helped by their home park anyway, but just in case you wanted really-small-sample-size backup for what everyone should already know).

So next time you're about to anonymously assault someone and his knowledge of a subject on the internet, maybe ask yourself, "do I have one single tiny clue what I'm talking about, or am I going to end up sounding like a complete and utter moron?" I'm guessing the answer will almost always be the latter, and you'll save yourself a lot of time and energy.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Early on their home/road splits were neutral. Now they are starting to struggle on the road. You're right that CarGo isn't helping. I thought last year was rather fluky with his BABIP and perhaps this year, he will be a .280/.350/.470 kind of player.

The pitching definitely needs to be there.

Coop said...

Happens again, Rockies gettin no credit form someone who "knows something." How can you say that the rockies will slip further, they have started this season without their ace, key players like Gonzales, Ianetta been battling illness and injury, yet you see the team on the decline. Can the rockies for once get some credit, when the team is finally healthy with Cargo Ianetta, Jimenez this team has potential to win 100 games. Mark my words, and talk to me in October.

mark said...

I think the Rockies have a good shot at the playoffs either way. Cargo will get his swing back, Herrera and Fowler will continue to be productive, Helton has found a nice groove. Smith looks like he has also found his swing. Ubaldo will come back and be a productive ace, all players have slumps. Hammel has a winning record with the Rockies. Jorge is pitching great too. To cross them out this early I think is a mistake.

mark said...

And yes Coors Field is a hitters ball park. That means its just as easy for the opposition to hit the ball too. Lets also not forget about the humidor that all the balls come out of before play, it has been proven to decrease home runs and long hits. Coors field is also a giant ball park too. So you do have to hit it further then other ball parks, but I guess that could equal more hits dropping.