2011 Rockies Player Review: Chris Iannetta

In 2011, the onus was on Chris Iannetta to improve. It was on Iannetta to rebound from his miserable 2010 and prove to the Rockies' brass that he was, indeed, the guy they had been hoping he was for such a long time.

So far in Iannetta's career, he's been a completely mixed bag. He's been awful, and he's been a top-10 catcher. He's been productive, and he's been completely unemotional. He's been a low-average strikeout compiler, and he's been an on-base machine. When compared to his catching contemporaries, he's been the most polarizing character in Lord knows how long in Rockies history.

2010 was nearly the worst season of Iannetta's 5-year tenure with the Rockies. He batted .197/.318/.383, showing declining power, an inexcusably low batting average, and poor fielding (This is coming from someone who eschews AVG as a good batting metric - an AVG that bad is going to nuke your OBP and SLG). Certainly not what the Rockies wanted to see after inking their homegrown catcher to a 3-year contract.

In 2011, Iannetta was essentially handed the starting job. GM Dan O'Dowd forced Jim Tracy's hand by trading away Miguel Olivo and trading FOR Jose Morales, a catcher there to complement Iannetta and not to compete with him. Things seemed hunky dory for those in the Iannetta camp.

A major criticism of the 2011 season was Jim Tracy's curious use of backup catchers and his seeming disrespect for Chris Iannetta. We saw Eliezer Alfonzo bat cleanup for Pete's sake. Well, frustrating as his lineup decisions typically are, a lot of managers bat their catchers 8th regularly, and while it seemed that Iannetta's regular 2-days-off-in-a-row down the stretch were unjust and idiotic, it's worth noting that Iannetta did appear in a career-high 112G, 426PA over the 2011 season.

It's tough to say whether Iannetta's 2011 was the improvement that the team wanted or not. On one hand, Iannetta posted a career-high BB% (16.4%), a career-low K% (20.9%), and jumped his batting average about 40 points to get himself back into that range where it still doesn't look good, but you'll grit your teeth and deal with it. His .370 OBP and 3.3 fWAR were the 2nd highest in his career, 2nd to his 2008 breakout, and his wRC+ sat at a pleasant 108 (indicating that he was 8% better than the league average bat) (if you follow rWAR, 2.6 as compared to 2.8 in 2008). He looked more confident behind the plate, and even had a moment of complete, unexpected fire. While he was never going to be the high-contact hitter prone to inexplicable hot streaks like, say Yorvit Torrealba, he did answer a lot of the critics in at least returning to his own "expected" level of production.

Back in November, 2011, it was announced that Iannetta was traded to the Angels in exchange for Tyler Chatwood. It would seem that despite the positives in 2011, the organization deemed Iannetta's production expendable. With Wilin Rosario in the wings, the Rockies had a guy who has been demoted to AAA twice since his major league debut, has the low-average-high-power batting profile that the organization has been moving away from, has seen a steady decline in ISO since 2008, and is part of the "class" of players who have been tied to the organization's disappointments working against you. It would seem the clock ran out on Iannetta's upside.

Personally speaking, I'm not going to miss Iannetta. Which, if you've read me for awhile, you'll know that I've pretty much chained myself to Iannetta despite the forest being leveled around me. While I'm still firmly of the opinion that he is a good catcher and generally underrated by traditional methods of baseball thinking, I'm just sick of trying to find reasons to get upset over my favorite player. Grousing about Tracy's oddball lineups and the accolades Chris Iannetta wasn't getting me anywhere, it just... it started to wear on me after awhile. I mean, this guy started fights around Purple Row large enough to get people banned. Wilin Rosario may not blossom like we hope and Ramon Hernandez may have sold the farm for his last 2 seasons with the Reds, and that may start its share of arguments, but none so vehement as those about Chris Iannetta.

Was I right about him? Meh, I don't know. Were They right about him? Sure, why not. It doesn't matter anymore.

Final Grade: B-. Good season, right about where we needed him to be, so he beats out the C. But it clearly wasn't good enough to make him an indispensable part of the team.

2012: Iannetta's 2013 option is cancelled since he's been traded to Anaheim. He'll compete for playing time against Hank Conger and Bobby Wilson under the watchful eye of Mike Scioscia... and teammates Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson.

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