Tuesday Rockpile: Month May Kill Season if Criminally Unlucky Cargo/Tulo Can't Fire Up

Bad Luck Bros.

You have to hand it to the Rockies - no other team in recent memory can lose as creatively as Colorado. Jim Tracy's club managed to rap out 14 hits last night, including four in a row at one point, and the only run they scored was on a Ty Wigginton home run. The loss clinched 20 losses in May, the fourth-worst month in franchise history and the worst month for the Rockies since May 2005, before Troy Tulowitzki was even drafted.

The disappointing season for the Rockies has often been tied to the struggles of the O's - not Baltimore, but Tulo, Cargo and Ubaldo. But don't blame Cargo for this May: his wRC+ this month is 152. Troy Tulowitzki has struggled to a 61 wRC+ this month, but his "struggles" are truly unique. In 115 May plate appearances, Tulo has struck out just seven times. Slumps don't persist with that type of contact.

The duo's fairly pedestrian production in 2011 (Cargo - 108 wRC+, Tulo - 107 wRC+) is certainly holding back the Rockies' offense, but here's the shocker:

  • Carlos Gonzalez has a career-best 20.4% strikeout rate and 9.2% walk rate.  Both are better than league average. (20.6/8.5)
  • Troy Tulowitzki has a career-best 8.0% strikeout rate and his second best career walk rate at 9.8%. Again, both are better than league average.
Of all the players in MLB, only 49 have qualified in PA and posted an above average walk and strikeout rate thus far. Despite boasting power, the Rockies duo are in the lower 30th percentile of those 49 in wRC+. only fifteen have a lower wRC+ than the Rockies' duo. Each of those fifteen have low SLG/ISO, with none hitting more than 6 HR, making Ben Francisco being the biggest "slugger" of the bunch. Cargo and Tulo are truly in unique company...with themselves...sluggers who put the ball in play often, with poor results
The two Rockies' sluggers have struggled in 2011...to a degree. Both have career low-line drive rates. Carlos Gonzalez is rolling over on a lot of ground balls. But here is the important graphic:

BABIP xBABIP
Carlos Gonzalez 0.286 0.330
Troy Tulowitzki 0.224 0.322

Neither are legitimately hitting as well as they were in 2010. Parts of their game have been bad, but for the most part, both have been criminally unlucky. Even Carlos Gonzalez, who hasn't been bitten by the BABIP bug as much has seen his BABIP drop 100 points despite a drop in xBABIP of just 19 points from last year. What does this mean?

Eventually, balls will start finding holes off the bats of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. In the case of CarGo, it has already started to happen. When it does, the Rockies' offense will be much less pathetic. Make no mistake - it will happen eventually. The only question is whether it would be too late to save the season. Thankfully, the Rockies are just 4.5 games behind in a weak division.

Off-topic

Links

Young's success forces Rockies coach Tracy to sit Herrera - The Denver Post EY2 has stepped in and done fairly well in the leadoff role for four consecutive games, hitting .316 and stealing two bases. The result has been just two starts for Jonathan Herrera in the last seven games, who has hit just .247/.281/.318 in May. Jim Tracy calls it a permanent move at second base, and Jonathan Herrera is okay with it. Perhaps that is because Young has yet to draw a walk or hit an extra base hit, and sooner or later, Herrera might look like the superior option once again if Young's peripherals persist.

Krieger: Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez a victim of velocity - The Denver Post The lost velocity for Ubaldo is a complete mystery. Bob Apodaca has no clue where it went. Ubaldo swears he's physically 100%. For a pitcher who lives on velocity, it is most perplexing. Apodaca's unsubstantiated working theory is that Ubaldo tried to take the "next step" as a pitcher, becoming more economical with his pitches by stressing better control and command. Insodoing, his velocity dropped. Is it true? Is all Ubaldo needs to do is throw harder and carefree? Who the hell knows.

Nicasio to start Friday; Cook gets another rehab start | Inside the Colorado Rockies It's not Juan and Done for the Rockies' rookie. In taming the National League's best offense for seven innings, Nicasio will take his 0.00 ERA to San Francisco on Friday to face the Giants.

Dodgers' courtroom drama "discomforting" to Tracy - The Denver Post Not too surprising of a reaction here for the former Dodgers' skipper.

Beyond the Box Score Power Rankings: Week 9 - Beyond the Box Score The Rockies fall to 12th of 30 teams in the BtB Power Rankings. That they are still above the league median in a stats-based matrix of a power rankings suggest they are indeed getting results less than not only their talent level, but their overall performance.

Baseball Prospectus | Divide and Conquer, NL West: Streaking Snakes and Get-Well Cards I'm not the only one who writes an NL West Report. Granted, you have to pay for a BPro membership to read Geoff Young's, but have at it.

xWHIP and eFIP - The Hardball Times - Ever wonder why there has been an xBABIP for hitters to judge luck on batted balls, but not for pitchers? Hitters tend to "earn" higher/lower BABIPs much more than pitchers, but there is a bit of skill in limiting line drives, home runs, and solid contact. The Hardball Times is now bringing you a toy. The same site that developed xBABIP a couple years ago now have an xWHIP calculator, to calculate the expected WHIP a pitcher would have based on the batted balls they allow. It can identify hard luck and good luck pitchers more than strictly BABIP, considering some pitchers actually earn their BABIP that strays from the mean. In the interest of drawing this Rockies related, Jhoulys Chacin has been one of the luckier pitchers in MLB in terms of xWHIP and its associated eFIP (expected FIP). 

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