Sunday Rockpile: To slug, or not to slug...

Just one link this morning, but it's a good one. Patrick Saunders frames a debate about the importance of having one true slugger in the lineup and questions if the Rockies can be competitive in 2009 without one. While I mentioned this as a weakness of the team a little over a week ago, I'm actually more in the camp that there's not a real necessity for that big bat for the Rockies to be competitive. I think I have an issue in that Saunders focuses too much on the importance of having one big plus to the lineup and not enough on the idea that it's incredibly bad to have big negative out factories like Willy Taveras, Yorvit Torrealba and Jayson Nix (Tulo and Atkins for chunks of last year, too) cancelling those plus guys out. The other thing Saunders neglects is that there's a theory of slugger relativity. All other things being equal, if team A has a 40 HR superstar slugger playing in left field and a light hitting 5 HR speedster in center, are they better off than team B that can count on 25 HR's out of center and 20 out of left? Arizona won the division in 2007 in part because of their superior power up the middle. The 2009 Rockies are going to be more like the D-backs in this respect than a more traditionally built team that has its power on the corners.

Marcel projected ISO in 2009:

AZ:

  • Snyder .187
  • Lopez  .112
  • Drew .184
  • Young .200
  • Avg: .170

CO:

  • Iannetta .192
  • Barmes .151
  • Tulo .162
  • Spilly .159
  • Avg: .166

LA:

  • Martin .146
  • DeWitt .139
  • Hu .142 (this seems high to me)
  • Andruw .180
  • Avg: .151

SD:

  • Hundley .141
  • Antonelli .151
  • Rodriguez .095
  • Gerut .180
  • Avg: .142

SF:

  • Molina .155
  • Frandsen .131
  • Renteria .132
  • Rowand .162
  • Avg .145

Right now, projections for our likely starters would indicate that the team's going to score around 810 runs in 2009. In order to get much more than that we're going to have to have a couple of players outperform expectations, but there's ample opportunity for this to happen (Ryan Spilborghs or Chris Iannetta just need to hit like they did in 2008 to outperform their projections, for instance). Even so, if the team scores 810 and holds opponents to 758 (like the Rockies did in 2007), you'd be expecting about 86 wins, which is plenty  to be competitive in the NL West. If we score 810 and allow 822 (like the Rockies did last year), the team would be just under .500, which is still competitive in the NL West. That's the beauty of having a division like ours, at least for now.

Still, this may not always be the case, and in the next couple of seasons the division should get better. For the Rockies to regularly score north of 850 runs in a season, which is probably what it will take to maintain competitiveness in 2010, they will have to have a couple of players elevate themselves to that premiere level. This is another issue I have with the Saunders piece, and a lot of the most negative reaction to the Holliday trade, in that it seems to assume that these superstar sluggers are some Highlander-like immortals that wander around from team to team but are neither created nor destroyed. Of couse, this isn't true. Two years ago at this time, nobody would have had Matt Holliday or Josh Hamilton in that category, but all it's taken is a couple of seasons of living up to their potential for each to establish their big bat credentials. It's a good thing then, that there's no shortage of candidates on the Rockies right now with similar potential: Chris Iannetta is very close to being a premium bat regardless of position. Ian Stewart and Troy Tulowitzki have the talent to do so, as do Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez. 2009 is going to go a long way in establishing who's for real and who's not in this regard.

I said there would be just one link today, but while researching the post I stumbled on Marc Hulet's post from FanGraphs which praises the Rockies middle infield depth.

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