Thursday Rockpile: Jason Giambi imparting hitting wisdom, Troy Tulowitzki, 2010 MVP?

I kind of glanced over the Brad Hawpe stories yesterday, and was about to do it again this morning, such as Thomas Harding's piece at the official site. I'm not entirely sure how to approach these, as I can't tell how much of this kind of press is for the player's benefit (no, you're not getting traded, Brad, we really do appreciate you) and how much of it is for the fans (no, Brad's not getting traded, we really do appreciate him). I know some Purple Row writers, namely Jeff (Jabberwocky) are in favor of trading Hawpe, personally I'm against it if there isn't a currently comparable player returning given the Rockies competition and the small margin of error we have in our projected win range. If the price of competing now is a lesser return for Hawpe later, then so be it, I'm willing to pay that.

On to another current Purple Row debate: I know there has been some chatter about the benefits of Dex vs CarGo batting first in the comments, but I've been saying that it's pretty clear that Jim Tracy prefers Carlos Gonzalez in the lead-off slot. Just to get it straight from the source, Harding talked to the manager and got a response that includes quite a few of Tracy's patented rhetorical questions. Again, the only part of the lineup that we can't completely discern is how he envisions the back with Stewart, Iannetta and Barmes.

Jason Giambi was apparently signed in part for his ability to be a player mentor to the Rockies young hitters:

"He had an invaluable effect on our club beyond anything I even imagined," O'Dowd said Wednesday. "He really helped teach our younger players what it means to slow the game down."

Despite O'Dowd's turn of phrase in the first part of that statement, there probably is some way to calculate what value the Rockies feel Giambi's non-game impact will be in 2010. Eric Young Jr.  figured to be about a .75 to 1.25 win player with the Rockies in a more versatile role than what Giambi will provide. Giambi projects to be worth from about half a win over replacement to the lower end of the EY2 range. Given the difference, it seems the Rockies are valuing Giambi's mentorship role as about half a marginal win over a replacement player, which probably doesn't seem like much, but that's worth around $2.25 million on the MLB free agent market. He's given a lot of credit in the piece for helping our shortstop, but I particularly hope he's able to work some of that magic with our third baseman in 2010.

Troy Tulowitzki will be missing camp for a week to grieve for a death of a close family member.

Troy Renck had a blog post about Tulowitzki being a possible contender for the NL's MVP award. I'll break down how the early favorites stack up and what's going for and against Tulo after the jump.

 

For what it's worth, according to fans who have made projections at FanGraphs, they currently expect Tulo to be the NL's sixth most valuable player in WAR:

 

  1. Chase Utley 8.0
  2. Albert Pujols 7.9
  3. Hanley Ramirez 7.5
  4. Ryan Zimmerman 6.5
  5. David Wright 6.4
  6. Troy Tulowitzki 6.0

 

We can also look at these top six according to their CHONE projections:

 

  1. Ramirez 7.3
  2. Pujols 7.2
  3. Tulowitzki 6.3
  4. Utley 6.1
  5. Wright 5.2
  6. Zimmerman 5.0

 

What's in Troy's favor:

 

  • His projected value is close enough to the top that it's easily conceivable that he could wind up 2010's most valuable player by the numbers.
  • Ramirez, Zimmerman and Wright are on teams that project to have more difficulty making the playoffs than the other three, and MVP voters gravitate toward the playoff teams.
  • Chase Utley's 600 at bats and 12.8 runs worth of defense projections seem a bit optimistic. 
  • FanGraphs readers have a history of underestimating Tulo, note that he's the only player of the six superstars to have a fan projection for 2010 that's lower than what CHONE's neutral spreadsheet suggests.
  • Pujols won last year, and some voters might subconsciously hold that against him.
  • Tulo plays in Coors Field, which is still a hitter's park, and will help him put up the kind of numbers that traditional MVP voters would like.
  • Tulowitzki has been a leader of a playoff team two of the last three seasons, if he leads the Rockies to another playoff appearance (especially if it's a division title), he'd have given all MVP voters a third positive exposure, which should cement him as a known superstar. His first All-Star appearance (suggesting a strong first half for once) would also certainly help 

 

What's not in his favor:

 

  • Shortstop gets credit for being a premium position, but MVP voters seem to dig the long ball. Of the last 20 league MVP's (the last ten years, AL and NL) only three have been shortstops while 12 have gone to first baseman or outfielders. Second base and third have two each, and Joe Mauer's win last year was a rarity for a catcher (Pudge Rodriguez in 1999 and Thurman Munson in 1976 were the last two catcher MVPs).
  • In a popularity vote like this, perception will typically trump the statistical data. If fans league-wide are underestimating Tulo relative to the other contenders, we can assume voting reporters are as well.
  • Tulowitzki plays in the NL West, with most games coming too late to watch regularly for many Eastern voters, and in Colorado, which has a limited media reach.
  • Tulowitzki plays in Coors Field, and voters savvy enough to know that it skews numbers for hitters, but not savvy enough to look deeper into how much, might discount him too much.
  • Utley and Ramirez might get some extra sympathy votes if it's a close call given that they've been sort of shortchanged in the MVP vote the last few years. It could be a situation where some voters feel they're due while Tulo still has to pay his dues.
  • Larry Walker won an MVP with the Rockies, and both Dante Bichette and Matt Holliday came in second place, so voters are willing to look seriously at Rockies players. I think it's very possible that Tulo can be the second Rockies player to actually earn the award, particularly if the Cardinals or Phillies stumble and Utley or Pujols have down seasons or are injured. I would probably put Tulo's odds as fourth best preseason, with Pujols the favorite, followed by Utley and Ramirez.
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