Wednesday Rockpile: Say Goodbye to Mediocrity

It's now June 2nd, and the baseball season is over a third over. Let that sink in for a moment.

With their Clint Barmes-fueled extra-inning win last night, the Rockies rose four games above .500 for the first time this season, moving them three games back from the Padres from the division lead. It was a very gratifying win for the Rockies, one that had it slipped away would have stung a little bit. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Rockies have a 42% probability of making the playoffs. Which is way lower than the playoff probability I give them, which is 100%. No pressure or anything Rockies.

Mark my words: the Rockies will not drop below the .500 mark again this season. Not going to happen. Oh, and my guarantee of a NL West title still stands.

And now for some news and opinion:

Tell me if you've heard this one before: Huston Street is projected to come back soon. We're talking mid-June soon. Forgive me if I don't trust Street's body, which has already had three setbacks this year when it appeared he was close to joining the team, just yet. Also in the article are notes on Jorge De La Rosa and Franklin Morales.

Speaking of Morales, the power lefty will be activated off the DL in time for tonight's game. To make room, RHP Esmil Rogers will be sent down and made a part of the AAA rotation. Morales seems to have been stretched out into a long-man in AAA--a role that I believe suits Morales well. I mean, he's still a pitcher with high-leverage situation stuff, so any way the Rockies can get him into the already excellent bullpen is fine with me. I'm a proponent of having the most talented MLB-ready arms on hand, and Morales certainly qualifies.

As for Esmil, the Rockies apparently still see Rogers' future with the team in the rotation--and that's the safe way to handle an asset. I believe that the Rockies won't have room for Rogers in the rotation long-term given the crop of talent currently in place and on the way. Ultimately though, whether Rogers ends up as a late innings reliever, long man, or back-end rotation piece, it maximizes his potential trade value to keep him as a starter.

A final thought about pitching while I'm on the subject. Can the Rockies' pitching staff possibly sustain their major league-leading (and it isn't even close) pitching WAR? My answer is yes, because while the bullpen has largely been unsustainably spectacular (24.8 runs above replacement, 2nd in MLB) to prop up the staff's value, the Rockies' starting rotation, which has been pretty good too (58.1 RAR, 4th in MLB), has been ravaged by injuries. By that token, with the return of De La Rosa, Street, and Buchholz the staff's overall performance will improve.

More after the jump...

The recent demotion of Dexter Fowler in favor of Jonathan Herrera has left the Rockies with a new roster dynamic. First of all, as long as Herrera remains on the team Melvin Mora's time at second will be greatly reduced. And there was much rejoicing. Jim Tracy told Troy Renck that Herrera was going to play some, but hopefully his playing time will be limited to Omar Quintanilla levels.

Far more interesting is the new platoon between Seth Smith and Ryan Spilborghs in left field. Smith is on the record as being excited about it and so am I. So long as Brad Hawpe continues to hit well, this is the best use of the Rockies' current outfield talent given the need for Fowler to get some more work in on his lefty swing.

Smith getting more playing time means that stat nerds are rejoicing. ATF already linked to a Beyond the Boxscore article in yesterday's Rockpile lauding Smith's hitting and fielding prowess, and later yesterday BtB added some more Smith love. In a series projecting the most valuable 50 players in MLB over the next five years, Smith and Chris Iannetta made the cut (at numbers 49 and 44 respectively). That's pretty awesome, especially considering that players like Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ubaldo Jimenez will likely also be on the list--giving the Rockies at least 10% of the most valuable players in MLB going forward.

Finally, Todd Helton is showing some frustration about his prolonged power outage. According to Jim Armstrong, Helton is confident that he will return to his raking ways, but I'm just not so sure that he will. He's still getting on base at a .379 clip, but the expectations that come with hitting in the three hole and playing at a power position are much higher. Helton's performance has merited placement in the seven hole this year, not the three hole or even the five hole. I mean, the Rockies have only 15 RBIs from the three hole this year, four less than the nine hole.

I'd like to see Helton (and Gonzalez) moved down in the order. My ideal batting order would be:

Smith/Spilborghs
Gonzalez
Tulowitzki
Hawpe
Stewart
Iannetta/Olivo
Helton
Barmes
Pitcher

According to Tracy though, Helton's singles bat isn't moving from the three hole anytime soon:

"I just feel very strongly that if we're going to get Todd Helton going, he's hitting right where he needs to hit to give him every opportunity to get himself untracked," Tracy said. "You can't move this guy around and afford the opposition to think to themselves, 'Can we pitch around him here? Do we not even have to bother with him?'"

Hopefully Helton will prove me wrong and Tracy right, but I'm not holding my breath.

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