Colorado Rockies season preview: Young guys, really old guys and two stars
Yeah, the Colorado Rockies don't have an "elite starting pitcher." They don't have a "guy who has played third base in the majors before." They don't have a "reliable fourth outfielder." You know what the Rockies do have? A bunch of old guys! Also, they have some youngins' they're relying on and two legitimate stars. The Rockies' official slogan for the 2012 season, which gets underway on the road versus the Houston Astros later today, is "The Year of the Fan," but it should be "The Good, the Old and the Green."
Under the "Good" umbrella are sub-categories. In the "Guaranteed to be good unless they get injured category" fall Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, who are both in what should be their hitting-the-shit-out-of-the-baseball primes at 27 and 26, respectively.
Tulo finished in the top eight in National League MVP voting in each of the last three seasons, and if you don't think he's the best defensive shortstop in the league, we have a hastily fashioned prison shank with your kidney's name on it.
CarGo got off to a slow start last year and battled nagging injuries, yet he still put up solid numbers. The addition of free agent Michael Cuddyer in right field will allow Gonzalez to play almost exclusively in left field rather than all three outfield positions like he did last year, when he went crashing into walls in center. Fangraphs has all sorts of nerdy and scientific projections which you can dig deep into, or you can just know they're pretty much all projecting Badass for CarGo.
Unfortunately, those are the only two players the Rockies have in the "Guaranteed to be good" category. But they do have several others under the "Probably good" heading.
Source Carlos Gonzalez is looking to regain his 2010 form.
In addition to solidifying the outfield, Cuddyer provides a solid bat and veteran steadiness. He was an All-Star for the Minnesota Twins last year and could see a nice bump in his production hitting at altitude. And while it might seem like fans are ready to give up on Dexter Fowler, he's still only 26-years-old, and despite being sent down to triple-A last year and even exploring the idea of giving up switch-hitting, he went .288/.381/.498 in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage after the All-Star break.
Fowler has reportedly been practicing with veteran Todd Helton to add a leg-kick to his swing for more consistent timing. (If you want to have any optimism about Fowler, do not look at his spring training numbers, because they are equally comical and horrifying.) He's also been working on his first-step quickness so he can steal more bases -- you know, like a fast lead-off hitter should.
Here's the main problem for the Rockies season, besides the tons of old guys thing: They have only one pitcher who falls into the "Probably good," category. And to say that Jeremy Guthrie will probably be good depends on a fairly liberal definition.
He comes to Colorado after losing seventeen games in two of his last three season in Baltimore. Guthrie posted a 1.34 WHIP (Walks and hits per inning pitched) last year, while the best pitchers in the league are at one or below. He also struck out about five batters per nine innings -- one per inning is a stellar rate.
Coloradorockies.com Jeremy Guthrie, here to eat some innings.
But Guthrie has thrown 200 or more innings in each of the last three seasons, and in two of the last three years he's posted a WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which measures a player's value in wins above a replacement level player, over four -- a borderline All-Star number. Eating up tons of innings has huge value for the Rockies because altitude tends to turn pitchers into limp-armed rag dolls over time. Also, constantly pitching against the Yankees and Red Sox lineups was like Guthrie picking a fight with a biker gang. In contrast, going against the Giants and Padres lineups will be like picking on the chess club.
The good news from the pitching staff? The Rockies can label almost their entire bullpen as "Probably good." Closer Rafael Betancourt was dominant after taking over the closer role last year, striking batters out at a rate of ten per nine innings. Young lefty setup man Rex Brothers throws pure fire and in his 48 games last year he struck out thirteen batters per nine innings.
Matt Belisle is simply reliable and the rest of the bullpen is stocked with guys like Esmil Rodgers, who has the stuff to be a starter but has never found the consistency needed.
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