CHONE vs. The Rockies: The final installment

This week in Counting Rocks, we will finally finish our discussion regarding the 2010 CHONE projections for the Rockies. Now, we're already a couple weeks into the season, so now more than ever we're ready to throw projections out, seeing how by the end of April, it will have been do-or-die time for a several players on the team. For some of the players, like Aaron Cook, we still need to be looking at the projections, because barring injury, I sincerely doubt he'll lose a rotation slot. For guys like Smith and apparently Hammel, they are going to be more prone to taking a demotion to the pen, especially with the potential of Francis returning and taking one of their spots. A major question to ask that we don't have an answer for is how committed they are to Francis' potential to returning to the rotation. Is he guaranteed a rotation slot based on his team leaditude and because he has had success in the past? Is the team willing to put him as the swingman coming out of the pen? Will he work in AAA until a spot opens? Frankly, I hope that Francis forces the team's hand before someone else forces them to activate him.

As it stands, Ubaldo's rotation spot is secure. Obviously. Jorge De La Rosa will retain his spot, based on a huge 2009 and an amazing 1st start. Aaron Cook will retain his spot based on past success, longevity, and honestly, barring absurd drop-off or extensive injury problems. The 4-6 spots are very much in the air, as we look over the course of the season. For now, Hammel's rotation slot is his to lose. Smith's slot might be in the most jeopardy, given the nature of his promotion to the majors as well as his promotion to the rotation. However, if Smith continues to be "effective" and Hammel continues to be a hit parade, we could see Francis usurping Hammel - or even Rogers or Chacin doing the same thing.

Moving on to the projections. We are going to look at Jeff Francis, Jason Hammel, and Esmil Rogers to round out our projections discussion. The following caveats should be mentioned. Hammel is the only player whose projection might really be meaningful. The reason I say that is because Hammel has several seasons in the majors, and while a lot of that was juggled between the rotation and the bullpen, especially in Tampa, its still MLB data to build off of. Rogers has essentially no MLB playing time to build off of, so that will also be a tricky projection. Francis' projection will be tougher to really move forward with, as he didn't pitch at all in 2009, and 2008 was more or less a waste of a season thanks to injury. Amusingly enough, Francis doesn't even have a CHONE projection for 2010, so we'll be using ZIPS in lieu of CHONE. So let's dive in.

Jason Hammel took a lot of steps with his 2009 season, and actually outranked all but 2 MLB #5 starters and was the best among #4's. Along with being an excellent back-end starter, Hammel also set the single-season franchise mark for K/BB ratio. Jason Hammel's 2009 showed the following numbers: 34G, 30GS, 10-8, 4.33 ERA, 176.2IP, 1.39 WHIP, 3.71 FIP, 3.81 xFIP, 6.78K9, 2.14 BB9, 0.87 HR9.

 Now, just looking at the numbers from Hammel's 2009, the one that leaps out at me is that 2.14 BB9. The reason this pops out is that first of all it's really really good. The second reason is that it's about half of what he'd done the prior 3 seasons. Hammel's 2009 showed a 16% increase in his strikes-to-balls ratio (which Rox Girl pointed out in offseason discussion), having posted just above a 1.53 strikes-to-balls ratio, and a 1.77 ratio in 2009. The standard issue SABR analysis will say that everyone regresses to the mean, so just based on that, we'd probably see a decrease in the strikes, increase in the balls, and more than likely more walks.

 CHONE agrees, but not nearly to the extent that I expected. CHONE sees 2010 unfolding as follows for Jason Hammel: 27GS, 8-9, 157IP, 4.70 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 4.24 FIP, 6.48 K9, 2.87 BB9, and 1.03 HR9.

 Honestly, I just don't disagree with anything I see there. Hammel puts a decent number of balls into play, so that'll boost that WHIP (and it's not even that far off of what we saw in 2009), and everything else is just regressing to mean a little bit. I could see his ERA closer to 4.50 than 4.7, and that's based on the defense behind him, but a lot of Hammel's success will have to come in an area that we don't see in the projections: The big inning. We've seen it at least once this season already this season, and we saw it many a time last season. One inning gets out of control, a misplay, a sneaky single, any sort of mishap, and suddenly the inning just won't end. Hammel will be able to help himself in a big way by keeping his head in what he's doing, in limiting damage, and getting out of ugly situations.

Next in line is Jeff Francis. As I said above, CHONE hasn't presented a projection for him. So in lieu of CHONE, we'll substitute ZIPS, courtesy of Baseball Think Factory, in its place. Francis' 2009 was obviously lost to injury, and 2008 was shady as it stands. It's kind of hard to make a solid projection based on that, as mentioned above, but ZIPS undertakes the task.

In 2010, ZIPS is projecting the following production: 21GS, 7-7, 130.2IP, 1.40 WHIP, 4.48 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 6.06 K9, 2.76 BB9, and 1.03 HR9. Essentially, ZIPS has taken his career line and more or less regressed the rate numbers a bit, park adjusted the HR, and taken his relative fragility into account for his workload.

Now, as boring as this might sound, I can't really disagree with any of it. I think it's somewhat bullish, given the complete unknown that Francis is anymore, but like I say: When in doubt, refer to career averages.

So as short as that was, we'll move to our final pitcher and final player in the CHONE breakdowns: Esmil Rogers.

Now, we saw one start from Esmil in 2009, during which he made it 4 innings v San Diego, struck out 3, walked 2, and allowed 2 runs. He was touching mid 90s with his fastball, then went to his curve, and lightly mixed in a changeup. The mix looks to be about the same in what we saw of his 4IP from the bullpen, mostly fastball/curve with a taste of changeup. He struck out 5, walked 2, and allowed 1 run. Obviously these aren't exactly confident sample sizes.

What CHONE has done is project Rogers if he were to be a "full time" starter. CHONE sees the following 2010 from Rogers, if he were to be a rotation fixture: 25GS, 6-9, 141IP, 5.43 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 5.00 FIP, 6.45 K9, 4.02 BB9, and 1.28 HR9. Not exactly ace numbers. Esmil's minor league career produced the following numbers: 4.06 FIP, 6.79 K9, 2.99 BB9, and 0.59 HR9.

I'm somewhat concerned about the leap in HR9 projected by CHONE, as well as the increase in BB9. Obviously, MLB players will be far more patient than MiLB players, so that's going to be an adjustment. The reason this confuses me a bit is simply because they're calling for a comparable K9 to his minor league career. Maybe it's just rookie adjustment or whatever. Frankly, as much as I do feel Esmil has some decent stuff, I don't really see CHONE's projections to be that far off base for Rogers. I'm also firmly of the opinion that he should start adjusting to the bullpen sooner than later, as he's going to have to compete with Jhoulys Chacin and Christian Friedrich in the near future, and being a converted SS, he's already behind the curve a bit.

So by now, we're all sick of projections. I know that I'm sick of projections. Enough projections already. My final reactions to CHONE can be kind of summed up in this: Everybody is going to regress. I can't really think of a better way to put it than that. I'm sure everything is adjusted for park and stuff, so that'll change a few of the numbers, and there's the thought that projections just can't figure out young players or breakout seasons, but all things considered, the CHONE projections on our entire team aren't bad at all. I'd like to see all of our guys work that much harder and beat said projections, but I suppose we'll have to see which truth holds truer: the "any given day" concept, or "everyone regresses to the mean".

So with that, we will conclude our exploration of the 2010 CHONE projections of the Colorado Rockies. I'm your host, Andrew Martin, and keep watching the skies!

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