I want to start off my second State of the Rockies with a little tidbit of info gleaned from BaseballAmerica.com.
Not a great week for the local nine. Last week's writing had the Rockies in the throes of a nine game roady, which they completed with a 1-2 effort in Phoenix, 3-6 overall. They proceeded to come home to play the Giants and Jeff Francis, my annointed ace of the staff, got hammered fresh off his five game suspension by MLB.
Admittedly, game 2 against Barry's Boys had me frusterated as well and I turned the TV off in disgust. On top of that, I fell asleep during the news and almost missed the mythical creature we call Yorvit. My wife, bless her heart, woke me up in time to watch Torrealba knock in the game winner and my spirits were high.
I was in a chipper mood because I was going to take in my first game of the regular season the very next day and I was going to be pissed if I had to go fresh off a sweep to the lowly Giants.
Which brings me back to Yorvit. He has such a cool first name that he needs to be addressed or discussed as simply "Yorvit", especially by us Homers. Now, I'm normally not big on players like Yorvit. Yorvit is in the middle of his transformation into the classic Veteran Backup Catcher, or VBC for short. VBCs typically are decent to above average defenders with very little to offer at the plate. They almost never take a walk and generally contribute very little to a team's W-L record. They stick around forever and play for 6-10 different teams, move on to become managers where they can continue to carry on the legacy of supporting future generations of VBCs. It's an interesting phenomonon that I originally read about at Baseball Prospectus - highly recommended reading but you have to have a subscription and be crazy about numbers.
Anyway - Yorvit continued to tear it up Wednesday night and drove in two more runs to get the Rox moving toward a 7-2 win. Cooler still, my wife and I overheard a character drinking heavily with his buddy say "Who the hell is this guy?!?! Why do we have so many new dudes on the roster every year, I hate this team!", which continues to inspire my faith in the current Rockies fan base. Other than that, a wonderful night for baseball and a solid win over the very talented Dodgers. It came at a cost, though, and we're going to lose Rodrigo Lopez for awhile with arm trouble.
As promised, here is my Homer Breakdown as a preview to 2007 starting this week with starting pitching. NOTE: My brain operates in a nebulous zone somewhere between being completely subjective, slightly analytical, and, as always, steadfastly homerific. Enjoy!:
The rotation, in my humble opinion, stood a chance to regress a little this year. For the most part, the Rox were fantastically healthy for 2006 and received career years from Francis, Jason Jennings, and Aaron Cook. Not bad.
This year, you replace Jennings with Lopez and add the talented Jason Hirsh to the staff with Josh Fogg receiving the coveted 5th-starter role for the second year in a row.
Aaron Cook - the team's ace, my number 2. Great sinker, starting to realize that you need to strike out more batters than his usual 3-4/nine innings and is starting to mix in the 4-seamer a bit more. Cook was very hard luck last year and I expect a 15-8 type year with another sub-4.00 ERA. Very solid pitcher and one of my all-time favs.
Jeff Francis - my ace. Jeffrey had a very low "BA against with balls put into play", meaning that anytime a hitter actually put the ball into play by not walking or striking out, what was the outcome. Voros McCracken did some groundbreaking work on this subject a few years back, and if your a major seam-head, surely you're aware. I won't bore people with too many details, but essentially it was discovered that a pitcher has almost no control over what happens to the ball once it's put into play. If a player has a year, like Francis last year, where a lot of those balls turn into outs, it is likely not going to repeat itself. Meaning Francis may have a more difficult year this year. Stll, though, he misses a lot of bats and works deep into games. If he cuts the walks down again, I'm going to expect a similar year as last year. Keeping things on par, I'm predicting another 15-8 type season with a sub-4.00 ERA, just like with Cookie.
Rodrigo Lopez - MLB's leader in losses a year ago, Rodrigo is poised to take Jennings spot in the rotation. I find it amusing that people in the local media always point out that Lopez took the opening day start for the O's 3 of the last 4 years, but usually don't mention that he has never been much more than an innings eater that keeps the ball down and led the AL with 18 L's last season. These same people like to point out that the Rockies let their all-time winningest pitcher, Jason Jennings, go to Houston via trade but never mention he's the all-time losingest pitcher in franchise history, as well. I saw Lopez pitch in person down in Arizona in March and he was brutal, touched up for 7 runs in 2 innings. But it would be tough to argue that he hasn't been the best pitcher early in the year this year for us. Despite the injury, I think you can expect 160-180 innings from Lopez this year with a 4.50ish ERA and a record of 10-12.
Jason Hirsh - I'm a HUGE Jason Hirsh fan, even after the inexplicable double steal executed against him the other night in L.A. As I told many of my non-believing friends and my wife, I would have traded Jennings straight up for Hirsh and some NL execs agreed with me. Hirsh is big, throws hard and has a nasty change. Hirsh is going to be the big surprise this year. 12-6, 3.50 ERA, 140 K's in 185 innings, and in the running for Rookie of the Year.
Josh Fogg - I think it's one hell of an accomplishment to be the "worst" starter on a team 2 years in a row. "Worst" is a crappy word and is kind of a mis-nomer, but you know what I mean. I like Fogg and thought his sideburns were cool last year, but as I mentioned earlier, Fogg won the 5th-starter job again this spring and will hold down that job for a second year in a row. For a team like the Rox and a pitcher like Fogg, that's quite a change from seasons past. I predict identical numbers as last year. 11-9, 180 innings, and a 5.00+ ERA.
Adding all of that up, that puts the unofficial contribution by the starting pitchers to the final record for the Rockies at 63-43. Not bad. Right in line with my prediction of a 86-76 season.
We'll see you next week right here at Colorado Homers for another State of the Rockies. Tell all of your friends.