Tuesday Rockpile: Quiet Studs - Jorge de la Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin

Rockies fans have been dwelling on the negative of late. It is hard not to. Colorado is currently 3.5 games out in the division, less than five weeks after this glowing piece by Dave Cameron was published. Instead, the Rockies have won just two of their last nine series. They might even fall below .500 today. Ubaldo Jimenez still hasn't won a game, Troy Tulowitzki has just nine singles in the last month, and Carlos Gonzalez' on base percentage is in the neighborhood of Angel Sanchez, Jack Hannahan and Ben Francisco

Dreary times.

Just don't let the very encouraging season starts of today's doubleheader's starters Jorge de la Rosa (5-2, 3.34) and Jhoulys Chacin (5-2, 2.70) go unnoticed. The #2 and #3 starters in the rotation, who are both under control through at least 2013, have been quietly excellent in 2011. Both have allowed 2 or less ER in 5 of their 9 starts, gone at least five innings in every start and have a 50 game score or better in 15 of 18 combined starts.

Or maybe we could clear it up a little. Fangraphs has started using ERA-, essentially the same as ERA+ in that it is ERA park-adjusted and league-adjusted and set to a 100 scale, except lower numbers are better (A 90 ERA- is an adjusted ERA 10% better than average, etc). Chacin clocks in at 66, 8th in the NL. Jorge de la Rosa is currently at 81, 14th in the NL.

Only eight NL teams have even one pitcher with a better ERA- than de la Rosa, who is second on the Rockies' staff. Very quietly, the duo put up dominant games and yet miss out on the headlines.

Chacin has been solid since his callup from the minor leagues. Of course, de la Rosa has taken a much different path. Suddenly, something clicked with de la Rosa with the Rockies. David Pinto at Baseball Analytics recently showed what. After struggling for most of his career with extra base hits, de la Rosa started using his change-up more and more effectively to keep hitters off balance. If you take a gander at DLR's pitch Fangraphs pitch values (wCH), one immediately sees his change-up rise from a very poor pitch in Kansas City to an exceptional one in Colorado.

How exceptional? How about 2nd in Major League Baseball so far in 2011, just a hair behind Felix Hernandez and a half dozen leaps in front of 3rd place Shawn Marcum. As he has increased the use of the pitch, he has increased his success.

If the two can maintain production anywhere in the neighborhood of their current rate and the true Ubaldo Jimenez does stand up, Colorado's theoretical playoff rotation could keep them in any playoff series. Now...about getting to the playoffs. Two wins in one day would be a good start.

LOTS of links after the jump.

Links

Rockies scratching heads over streaks - The Denver Post Troy Renck writes that the Rockies don't know why they can't get going. That could be a bad thing, as it is tough to fix what you can't diagnose. Or it could be a good thing, that nothing largely has changed from the hot start and the bounces will soon turn a shade of purple.

Rockies Inbox: Sorting through recent struggles | ColoradoRockies.com: News Thomas Harding opines with much verbosity about the team's issues in his latest mailbag.

Rockies' Tracy considers changes at leadoff - The Denver Post Both Renck and Harding have joined forces in labeling Dexter Fowler as "miscast" as a leadoff hitter despite great baserunning speed and on base percentage. Both have supported the idea of moving him down in the line-up to improve the leadoff spot, but with the exception of possibly Jonathan Herrera, any other player would be more miscast at the leadoff spot due to lesser OBP.

Rockies look for spot for pitcher Cook - The Denver Post Aaron Cook is eligible to come off the disabled list on May 30. He will almost certainly join the rotation, and despite Clayton Mortensen's solid efforts thus far, he is the only candidate to get the axe. Chacin, de la Rosa and Hammel have all been very good this season, and Ubaldo isn't going anywhere. If they demoted Chacin last season despite good results, you can bet Mortensen will get the same treatment.

Brewers' Marcum Named NL Player of the Week - WBAY-TV Green Bay-Fox Cities-Northeast Wisconsin News - Yeah, half of that is thanks to his start against the Rockies Saturday.

Living off the Long Ball: Team Runs and Home Runs, 2011 - Beyond the Box Score Must click link of the day. The Rockies offense is built around the long ball, which tends to make an offense extremely streaky. But if the home run rates hold (or even improve with CarGo and Tulo), any progress made in manifacturing runs otherwise will greatly improve the offense.

Sky Sox's Young awaits his jump to Rockies | ramsey, young, rockies - RAMSEY - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO David Ramsey caught up with Young Jr, who appears to know his situation - the Rockies could use his bat and stolen bases, if only he could play a position well.

 

And Even More Links

Series Preview #17: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies - AZ Snake Pit Zavada's Moustache wrote up the series preview, expecting a split of the four game series.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About UZR But Were Afraid to Ask - Beyond the Box Score Dave Gershman provides a primer for UZR, the most popular (loosely defined) defensive metric available.

Baseball Prospectus | Divide and Conquer, NL West: When All Else Fails, Try a Prospect from the '90s Geoff Young breaks down the NL West before and after San Francisco's 14-4 run, in which they have outscored opponents by a total of nine runs. Before that run, the Rockies were 17-9 (May 2). Since then - just 6-13, and yet they've scored the second most runs in the NL West in that span (76), behind the Padres' 78.

Ultimate Base Running (UBR) | FanGraphs Baseball Baseball Prospectus has had EqBRR as a base-running metric for a while. Now Fangraphs is joining the fun. There has been much hand-wringing about the Rockies' on the base-paths, and EqBRR supports that, with the Rockies 28th in MLB. It will be interesting to see what UBR thinks long-term, because right now, UBR says the Rockies are above average, 12th best at baserunning in MLB. Even more eye-opening are the individual player scores. Thetop rated Rockies' base-runners are Dexter Fowler and Chris Iannetta.

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