First Trimester Report Cards

The Rockies are 28-25, meaning that tomorrow's game marks the end of the first third of the 2010 season exactly.  It is kind of a tipping point for evaluation.  We are at the point where small sample sizes can still reign and confound us (Carlos Silva and Livan Hernandez?!), yet we are fast approaching the halfway point, where what players have done to this point is significant to their season ending stats.

Here on this offday, I have decided to hand out grades to every Rockie to this point.  Feel free to attack, rip apart, argue or agree.  The grades are partially given in relation to fulfilled expectations for the individual player, though overall production was a factor as well.  Essentially, those with A's went above and beyond what anyone could have expected.  Those with F's have completely failed to fulfill their role and are liabilities.  Those with C's have performed as expected or...heck..you know how grades work.  Without further ado...

 

Ubaldo Jimenez - α∞+: No, that grade doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but neither does Ubaldo's stat line. I just know that a pitcher who has allowed fewer runs in his first eleven starts than any pitcher in baseball history deserves more than an A++.  He is on pace to be a 9.0 WAR pitcher on Fangraphs, or 11.4 WAR pitcher according to Baseball-Reference.

Miguel Olivo - A+: Olivo leads all MLB catchers (with 120+ PA) in wOBA, OPS, SLG%, runners caught stealing, triples, overall Fangraphs WAR, batting WAR and defensive WAR.  In fact, his 7.0 runs above replacement is well over double his nearest competition (Y. Molina) and he trails only Yadier for most stolen bases among catchers.  

Matt Belisle - A+:  Belisle has exceeded everyone's expectations (well, almost) in vaulting from long reliever to shutdown reliever.  Belisle is third in MLB in reliever strikeouts, 10th in WAR and 19th in FIP, all while sporting a standard strand rate and BABIP.  Plus, he has the highest wOBA on the Rockies.  I told you so.

Joe Beimel - A:  Beimel allowed a solo home run in his first appearance and has tossed 18 scoreless innings since.  This from a lefty reliever who was still on the scrap heap come mid-March.  I think I'll take it.

Jhoulys Chacin - A:  The 22-year-old has done more than we could have ever expected to this point, keeping the Rockies in just about every game he pitches.  His performance has been crucial to keeping forward momentum through injuries, and though he's met some adversity of late, he is still second on the team in Pitching WAR, for what it is worth.

Manuel Corpas - A: Much has been written here about the validity of Corpas' ERA and whether he can sustain it.  But given the expectations at the beginning of the season, Manuel has been very impressive, especially considering the number of innings he has thrown.

Troy Tulowitzki - A-: Considering the stat lines we are used to seeing from Tulo at this time of year, 2010 is a resounding success.  His home run swing has come to life in the past couple weeks.

Jorge de la Rosa - B+:  Before getting injured, de la Rosa was posting career highs in ERA, FIP, xFIP, ground ball rate and strikeout rate.  He also had the highest walk rate since 2006.

Carlos Gonzalez - B+:  CarGo has done more than enough to prove 2009 was no fluke, which is fine by me a third of the way through.  He still needs to walk more and he hasn't taken the step to star yet, but notice the respect he's getting from opposing dugouts.

Seth Smith - B+:  The Unicorn Master is having a bizarrely awesome season.  He has a booming .267 ISO, a stout .366 wOBA and one of the lowest strikeout rates on the team.  And yet....he has a worse OBP than Dexter Fowler.  That would be due to the miniscule .245 BABIP, incomprehensible given he is posting lower groundball and flyball rates than last year.  I honestly have no idea what to expect from Smith.

Jeff Francis - B:  After his last two outings, his ERA is on a steady increase and he may not be a viable starter for the whole season, but given what we know about labrum surgeries and seeing Brandon Webb struggling to get to a practice mound, the mere fact that Francis has been an asset is incredible.

Brad Hawpe - B-:  At this point, we know what to expect from Hawpe.  Streakiness but overall good numbers.   He has done what he has been asked to do, but not a whole lot more.

Ian StewartB-:  After a scalding hot start, Ian Stewart has fell off quite a bit.  He's still an asset, but he isn't producing as much as we'd hoped.  Most Rockies fans predicted Stewart to be the breakout hitter this season, and frankly, he's been teasing us all season long as he has done is whole career.

Matt Daley - C+:  It hasn't been a rebirth of Daley's surprising rookie year in 2009, but it hasn't been the disappointing sophomore slump many predicted either. 

Randy Flores - C+: His ERA is creeping up and he has started to get hit hard, but for the last guy into the bullpen, he has done far better than anyone could have expected.  Still, if trends continue, he may be opening a spot for Matt Reynolds.

Jason HammelC: A 6.09 ERA is not acceptable.  Hammel has had a penchant for large innings, though strikeout, walk, stranded runner and batted ball rates suggest Hammel will lower that ERA quickly.  As long as he quits losing his mind once per game.

Esmil RogersC:  We got pretty much what we expected out of Rogers, a rookie with above average stuff.  At times, he was lights out.  Other times, he had great difficulty getting outs.   

Paul Phillips - C:  What a good guy to have hanging around the organization.  Solid all around and was not a huge liability offensively when Iannetta was demoted.

Rafael Betancourt - C-: He may have the highest ERA on the staff, but he also has the 2nd best FIP and xFIP among relievers.  Why?  He has the best strikeout rate and walk rate, leading to closer-like 7.67 K/BB, a number he hasn't reached since his fantastic 2007 in Cleveland.  He has been grooving too many pitches and has gotten burned with line drives, but I still suspect his .455 BABIP to come down.  Still, you can't be the setup guy with the worst ERA on staff and get a C.  

Aaron Cook - C-:  Cookie has been alarmingly inconsistent, allowing one run in three starts but five runs in four others.  He is walking more batters than he ever has in his career, and I expected more from him.  

Eric Young, Jr. - C-:  EY actually posted a near-league-average batting line while with the parent club, but his atrocious outfield defense has dropped him to below a replacement player.  If played at his natural position, he could be an asset.

Jason GiambiD+: After struggling significantly to start the year, the Giambino has quietly pushed his wOBA to .349, higher than Ian Stewart and comfortably above league average.  In fact, Giambi's OBP is just two points behind Olivo for the team lead.  It's pretty hard to complain about that, although it would be nice if his pinch-hitting prowess returned.  But given the roster flexibility straitjacket he brings to the table, I feel I can be picky about his bat. 

Todd Helton - D:  It isn't as if that .379 OBP isn't useful, but he's hitting in the 3-hole and has a slugging percentage almost as bad as Dexter Fowler.  That just isn't getting it done, and it's not what we want to see from a guy we just extend through 2013.  Fortunately, his defense is still elite, but I'm starting to worry what we will have in Todd in a year or two.

Ryan Spilborghs - D: Spilly has just four hits against southpaws this season - not a good sign when you are the only right-handed outfielder on the team.  Thus, he's having a hard-time filling the role he's in of spelling Hawpe/Cargo/Smith against lefties.  He will likely never return to his 2008 form, when he had the third highest wOBA on the team, but a .309 wOBA for an Opening Day fifth outfielder isn't too disappointing.

Huston Street - D: Come on, man.  Quit hurting yourself when you're trying to get healthy.

Dexter Fowler - D: We've talked about Dex ad naseum, but it's obvious Fowler has suffered an immense sophomore slump.  His defense looks to have improved, but after Jim Tracy said he would be getting 500+ PA this spring, he's instead touring the Pacific Coast League. That left-handed swing has to improve, and quickly.

Greg Smith - D-: How funny - with the colon added,  that D- looks a lot like the face of Rockies fans when Smith took the mound.  As a sixth starter who missed all of last season, we couldn't have expected too much, but he was actually below replacement level, thanks in large part to a dismaying lack of control.  He had his Hammel-type window to stick, and with de la Rosa returning and Chacin/Rogers knocking on the door, he may have lost his only opportunity.

Franklin Morales - F+  I know, that grade doesn't exist, but it still fits.  Morales was supposed to bridge the time that Huston Street was out as closer.  Instead, he buckle under the higher expectations, pitching below replacement level as a closer and walking almost seven per nine innings.  He still strikes out enough to be more than useful, but he gets a poor grade for falling well short of hopes and expectations.

Chris Iannetta - F: No Rockie has a lower BABIP than Iannetta, but he really did that to himself.  He has the lowest line drive rate and highest fly ball rate.  That equates to a lot of outs.  Throw in the team's highest strikeout rate and you obviously have a messed up approach.  That's why CDI found himself in AAA after eight games.  It was good to see him get a solid line drive single last night, but if that doesn't continue, the Rockies may just exercise Olivo's option next year and make Iannetta the backup for at least two years of his new three year contract.

Melvin Mora F:  It might not seem fair to give a guy a failing grade for wielding a slightly below league average bat off the bench.  But Mora was signed first and foremost to provide defensive flexibility to Jim Tracy, and being a complete butcher at second base has hamstrung the roster to the point Dan O'Dowd and Jim Tracy have both acknowledged it publicly.  In completely failing to fill his most important job thus far, Mora gets the F.

Clint Barmes - F: I really thought Barmes might have developed an improved swing this season, but he has been almost as bad with the bat as he was in 2006.  Moreover, his usually flawless defense has taken a huge hit via the eye and stat sheet test.  Barmes has the worst UZR at 2B of any Rockie at any position.  The Rockies can deal with a weak bat in the eight-hole, but the glove needs to come around.

 

There you have it.  Also, by perusing the comments of this thread, in addition to my picks of Hammel and Belisle, Rowbots picked the following to have surprisingly good seasons:  Greg Smith (x2), Dexter (x2), Jorge de la Rosa (x2), Mora, Garner, Morales, Rogers, Helton, Nelson, Buchholz, Young and Quintanilla.  That's a painful list there so far.  

For the record, here is the distribution of grades:

 

 α∞+ 1
  A 6
  B 6
  C 8
  D 6
  F 4
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