Tag Archives: Rockies

Incontrovertible Evidence the Rockies Gave Bad Humidor Balls to Opponents

If you haven’t heard by now, the whole league melted down after a member of the San Francisco Giants accused the Rockies of giving non-humidor balls to opponents for pitching while giving humidor-cured balls to their own pitching staff. It’s a little dubious since the umpire is the one that throws the balls to the pitcher, but whatever. MLB decided they’ll rule the roost and have an unbiased overseer of the balls hand them to the umpires ever game.

Well it turns out the Rockies did this! Here’s the proof!

Add that up with the Dodgers eliminating the Rockies today and it’s been a tough week for Colorado.

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Trading Ethier: Where Would He Land?

This is gonna sound incredibly lame, but a rumor by Peter Gammons was confirmed by Ben Maller that the Dodgers may put Andre Ethier out on the open trade market to see what he could bring back. So if you’re counting, one guy said one thing that maybe the Dodgers might want to trade a player before the trade deadline. Perhaps.

Ethier signed a 2-year/$15 mil contract in the off-season to buy out his arb. 2 and 3 years–Ethier has a fourth arbitration year in 2012–and not many players are going that cheap in baseball right now.

Ned Colletti gets a lot of flack for being dumb, and unfairly so. He’s made some very good deals in the past off-seasons–getting Manny Ramirez for spare parts–even though he’s been burned on one bad one.

While moving Ethier would be horribly unpopular, it might be the right move. Ethier’s value is at its peak and he’s 28 years old. He’s hitting well against left-handed pitchers, too, and that production may not continue next year. He was never expected to be this good and for that we’re all grateful. But that also means the chances of him repeating this production for the rest of his career are pretty slim. Very few baseball players beat the scouting reports to have an above-average career and many, many baseball players lost their groove after the age of 30. So why not see what you can get?

The Dodgers right now have two corner OF minor leaguers who make intriguing options for 2011 and Andrew Lambo specifically could see a late-season call-up if the Dodgers are out of it. Lambo’s ceiling appears to be Ethier’s production, so there’s not a lot of hope in that, but

With no further ado, here’s where Ethier could land:

Chicago White Sox: White Sox currently have a .360 wOBA coming out of right field and rumor has it they’re hot on Adam Dunn, even though Nats GM Mike Rizzo is asking a lot (Hudson AND Viciedo are the rumors). White Sox GM Kenny Williams and Colletti have a good relationship and made a trade during the off-season, so maybe they go back to that well.

New York Mets: The Mets surprisingly have the worst wOBA out of the position out of all major league teams, despite being in the hunt for the NL East title. Ethier would be a huge offensive upgrade. The Mets also have some intriguing prospects in Jenrry Mejia and Ike Davis.

Atlanta Braves: The Braves would be the only team to move Ethier to a different part of the field, and they’d probably move him to left with All-Star teammate Jason Heyward fielding right. Left field has been abysmal for the Braves, fielding six different players in the position and Ethier would be such a great improvement that it’d be worthwhile for both teams. Heyward and Ethier would be an impressive duo and the Braves have some good starting pitching pieces they could send the Dodgers way (Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran, for two, though it’s unknown how much their production is affected by the Braves’ extreme pitchers parks in the minors). It’s certainly intriguing what can come of a trade between these two teams.

Anaheim Angels or Oakland A’s: I can’t ultimately see either team trading for Ethier, but there’s an outside chance that the Angels forego the usual decent-defense-decent-offense plan and the A’s try to plug him in at DH. The Angels don’t have a lot to offer unless they’re willing to give up Mike Trout. But the A’s have a few interesting parts, like Michael Taylor or Jemele Weeks. This’d be weird, though, since the A’s are further out of the AL West than the Dodgers are out of the NL West.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays like team-friendly contracts and Ethier has one. He makes a little less than what Pat Burrell made and could be a decent fit for the DH spot. But knowing the Rays’ management, they’d look down on his defense and his LHP/RHP splits and decide to look elsewhere.

Within the Division: The Giants, Padres and Rockies could all use some OF offense and the Dodgers could provide it at a premium cost. Ethier’s shown he can put up some awesome numbers in the heavy-pitchers division, so it’s worth looking into.

Edit: An earlier draft of this article said the deal reached between Andre Ethier and the Dodgers this past off-season, a two-year deal worth $15 mil, bought out Ethier’s arbitration years. It bought out Ethier’s year 2 and 3 arbitration years, but because Ethier was a Super 2, he has a fourth arbitration year in 2012.

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Uh oh, I’ve seen this before.

When Jim Tracy was the manager of the Dodgers (2001-2006), I had respect for him.  Sure, he had his faults, but he always played the best players on the team at their positions.  He started Dave Roberts over an aging Marquis Grissom; he gave a lot of time to Adrian Beltre; he plugged in Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis in the middle even though they were well below-average offensively (it turns out it was a great decision because of both players’ defense; Cora and Izturis both had three-year positive UZR/150s in their time as Dodgers).

Yes.  Some complained about his over-use of match-ups and other things, but those were minor. Overall, he was a very good manager except for one big thing.

Tracy abused starting pitchers.  Kind of a lot.

In 2002, Odalis Perez had a magnificent season: 222 innings pitched, 76 runs allowed (74 ER and a 3.00 ERA, in case you’re wondering), 155 Ks to 38 BBs and a 3.45 xFIP.  He had a 4.08 K/BB ratio and a 1.54 BB/9 ratio.  All in all, it was a tremendous year.

But it was also 100 innings more than he had pitched the previous year.

Understand that I’m not in favor of throwing any pitcher to the wolves.  But when you have a young, talented pitcher with great years ahead of him, you have to make sure he’s going to be great later on down the road. One brilliant year is not better than ten years of dominance.

His 2002 season was slightly flukish thanks to a low BABIP, but he was never able to be better than average again.  He pitched 3,000 pitches that year.  The following years, this is how he did:

2003: 185 IP / 3.35 xFIP / 3.07 K/BB / ~2800 pitches
2004: 196 IP / 3.76 xFIP / 2.91 K/BB / ~2800 pitches
2005: 108 IP / 3.93 xFIP / 2.64 K/BB / ~1600 pitches
2006: 126 IP / 4.29 xFIP / 2.61 K/BB / ~2100 pitches
2007: 137 IP / 5.20 xFIP / 1.28 K/BB / ~2300 pitches
2008: 158 IP / 4.30 xFIP / 2.16 K/BB / ~2700 pitches

You can see from his pitch type, too, that he averaged a heater in the 90s and lost a mile per hour the next year and almost year after that until he retired at the age of 31.

Odalis wasn’t the only example of Tracy’s labor abuse, either.  Kevin Brown, in 2003, pitched 3,200 pitches after pitching a little more than 1,000 the year before and retired in 2005 after two more lackluster years.  In 2006, Tracy’s first year as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, he made young gun Zach Duke throw 214 innings after 84 in the majors (and 100 in the minors) the year prior.  There were a few times when Tracy was responsible with a pitcher, but more often than not, he didn’t seem to show the care that he should have.

But that’s behind Tracy.  Now we’re in 2010. Tracy is the manager of the Colorado Rockies.  And the Rockies have a young ace named Ubaldo Jimenez.

I’ve had a crush on Ubaldo for a while, since I first interviewed him in 2006.  He’s a sweet man, gargantuanly tall, with an incredible fastball and some very, very good secondary stuff.  I really wish he was signed as a Dodger.

In 2009, he jumped from 3,350 pitches in 34 starts (99 pitches per game) to 3,570 pitches in 33 starts (108).  A pretty big jump, but within reasonable limits.

So far in 2010, Ubaldo Jimenez has thrown 456 pitches in four starts.  That’s an average of 115.5 pitches per game.

This is something to worry about.  Let’s say Tracy keeps up this pace, puts the Uballer on the mound for 115 pitches per appearance. No pitcher has thrown that many pitches per game started since pitch counts were first recorded in 2002.  Livan Hernandez was the closest at 114.5 (he broke the 4,000 pitch barrier) in 2005, his age 30 season.  Likewise, Randy Johnson hit 114 per game in his age 38 season.

Hernandez was never the same and Randy barely topped 100 innings the next year.

Last year, Ubaldo averaged 108 pitches per game.  Other players that pitched more than 108 pitches per game and then never returned to that year’s level of production/spent the next years in the hospital: Mark Prior, Jason Schmidt, Woody Williams, Bronson Arroyo, Russ Ortiz. Joel Piniero and Javier Vazquez also broke the 108 plane. Though they both had fantastic 2009 seasons, they both accomplished the 108 marks in 2003.  That’s five years of their careers down the drain.

The jury is still out on Justin Verlander, Carlos Zambrano and Tim Lincecum, though I guess things are looking good for Verlander and Lincecum.

If you want to point to something that’s encouraging, well, the pitchers who seem to have the best rate of recovery on that list have tremendous fastballs: Randy Johnson, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum.  Though Verlander and Tiny Tim have only recently accomplished the feats, they’ve also been very good in their time.  Ubaldo has the fastest fastball in the majors.

A couple of nights ago, Ubaldo pitched a heck of a game through seven innings and had reached about 110 or so pitches.  And then he was brought back in. There’s no sense to be made of a decision like that. The Rockies have a good shot at the division this year, but their target years are probably 2011 to 2015.  The Giants probably won’t contend until they get some hitting, the Dodgers’ farm system is depleted and their on-field talent is worse–and will be worse–than the Rockies’ for the foreseeable future, the D-backs have some talent, but not enough and the Pads are out at least until 2013.  Why are you bending Ubaldo to see if he can break?  Yes, you want those innings.  If you can get 250 innings of 3.00 xFIP, you’d want that more than 200 innings of 3.00 xFIP and 50 innings of 5.00 xFIP.  But at what point does that cost too much?

I hope Ubaldo’s career isn’t at risk here.

[Edit] — Fangraphs only had pitch counts going back to 2002, I figured that was when pitch counts first became a sortable stat.  Turns out B-R has pitch counts going back to 2000.  And, funnily enough, Livan Hernandez and Randy Johnson still top the list, although in different years.  Here’s the correct top of the list for most pitches per apperance:

Randy Johnson, 2001: 116.7
Livan Hernandez, 2000: 116.0
Randy Johnson, 2000: 114.9

So correction: Ubaldo would be third-highest of all-time.

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Enough with the Dodgers sky is falling stuff

In the wake of the horrific divorce proceedings, there are a few sky-is-falling baseball fans who think the Dodgers are boned for 2010.

At Purple Row, one of the writers speculated the Dodgers will suffer regressions and the Rockies may overtake the NL West title. The writer argues that with Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf gone (with their 3 wins each) and the Dodgers filling those spots with slightly above replacement player level fill-ins, the team loses three wins–which would put the Dodgers (95 wins last season) and Rockies (92) at about even.

What the argument conveniently ignores is the Dodgers were four games below their pythagorean 99-win season.  This was with underproduction from Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley and James Loney.  If you counter with Andre Ethier’s overproductive season and cut his production to a modest .272/.360/.500 line with 20 home runs (this being the combination of the most modest parts of his past two seasons), his wRC+ is still in the ballpark of over 130.

The Rockies were a pythag 90-win team last year.

So yes, the Dodgers lost about six wins and replaced them with two or three from Jamie Carroll in full time and one or zero from whatever replacement rag arm fills up Wolf’s spot.  That still puts them, at minimum, four wins above the Rockies.

I’m not saying it’s impossible the Rockies win the division over the Dodgers, just that it’s not likely.

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