Wednesday Rockpile: New York's Not My Home

The Rockies simply do not like playing in New York. Ubaldo Jimenez's tough-luck 1-0 loss last night to the Mets dropped Colorado to 21-50 all-time against the Mets in New York, their worst showing in any NL city. In other words, against the NY Mets in NY the Rockies have been a below-replacement level team (.296).  Even worse than that, they are only 4-21 since 2002 in the Big Apple. Hence why this series made me so nervous.

About the only positive we can take away from the loss (besides the fact that Ubaldo looked pretty sharp) was that it allowed Troy Renck to squeeze in a gratuitous Escape from New York reference into his recap. If only Snake Plissken could help the Rockies muster some offense against Jonathon Niese and Johan Santana to come back win the series.

Is the Physicist worth keeping?

Renck also writes about the Jeff Francis club option situation. It certainly is an interesting dilemma for Dan O'Dowd and company. Francis has a lot of history with the club, but is he worth $7.5 million next year, especially considering his injury history? Well yes, if you believe Fangraphs. Francis has already accumulated 2.1 WAR in 86.2 IP for the Rockies in 2010, worth about $8.3 million this season to the team.

Two points about Fangraphs dollar-win valuation methods, which I've written about previously at length in Purple Row Academy (when I was a responsible blogger and got you weekly articles):

1) Different teams play at different win-valuation levels. For instance, a marginal win in the AL East is going to be much more expensive than in the NL Central due to the teams and markets involved in those divisions. The economics are different for each team, and for the Rockies I'd wager that the average marginal win acquired in free agency for a NL West mid-market team is worth closer to $3 million than $4.5 million.

So that means that the Rockies should decline the option, right? Not so fast, because:

2) All wins are not equal in value. Specifically, wins for teams on the margins of contending are worth much more than an average win -- up to $6 million per win. See my article on MLB payroll efficiency for more. 

Most teams win at least 60 games (and almost all win at least 48), many at least hitting the 70-80 win level. What is expensive is moving a team from the 80 win level to the 90 win level--the position the Rockies will find themselves in this offseason. Could Francis put them over the top? The answer, especially if Jorge De La Rosa bolts in free agency, is yes.

Francis is a left-handed, slightly above league-average starting pitcher who has experience pitching at Coors Field. He would be filling out the back end of a very good Colorado rotation and is much better than a typical 5th starter, who is often replacement-level. The difference between Francis and Esmil Rogers could be around 2 marginal wins, or about $12 million in value. 

In this particular situation, the club should pick up Francis' 2011 option barring injury or extreme ineffectiveness to close this season. Either that, or they should renegotiate a multi-year deal with the Canadian lefty. Colorado will have a little payroll flexibility next season and not too many parts to replace.

Other News

As Russ noted in the Pebble Report, the Rockies have signed 15th round pick C Will Swanner to an above-slot $490,000 deal. ITR's Steve Foster has more details about Swanner. This may mean that Swanner was given money from Kyle Parker's proposed baseball-only deal. We'll see how Swanner fits into the Rockies' swollen catching prospect ranks. He's three years younger than Rosario, so best-case scenario has him arriving in the big leagues right when Colorado needs another catcher.

In the notes of Renck's Francis column is that Rogers will make another start for the Rockies on Saturday against the Brewers and that Aaron Cook will head to AA Tulsa for rehab.

Playoff Odds Update

The Rockies are most likely to reach 82-85 wins this season according to this great site. Playoffs are in the cards only 2.6% of the time there and 11% at BP. I can work with that. The Rockies have 50 games left, during which they likely need to go at least 34-16 (92 wins) to fight their way into the playoffs. Not impossible, but Colorado hasn't really had any stretches like that so far this year.

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