Monday Rockpile: Colorado's Injury Excuse

Doug Pensinger

One of the prominent excuses we've been hearing from the front office, the media, and fans for Colorado's terrible 2012 season has been injuries. While injuries did impact the Rockies more than just about any MLB team, Colorado would still have been in the cellar of the NL West without them.

The Colorado Rockies had a lot of injuries in 2012 -- their 25 DL trips for 1,283 days were among the most in the league. Even worse, the players that were lost were among their best -- Troy Tulowitzki, Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and other major contributors were all out for a very extended period of time. Much of what we've heard from the front office about the 2013 team going forward has been about this topic -- how the 2013 team has a lot of talent, and if it is healthy, the Rockies will be in contention.

Here's the problem with that assertion: if the Rockies had been injury-free last year, they still probably would have finished in the cellar of the NL West. After all, they finished 12 games behind San Diego in 4th, 18 games below .500, and 24 games out of a playoff spot. That's a lot of ground to be made up simply with injuries.

Baseball Prospectus took a shot at quantifying the effect of injuries on the teams in the NL West this year, taking into account time missed and the players who missed it. Colorado rated worst in the division in WARP lost with 5.87, with Tulo's injury accounting for over 40% of that. While I might quibble with the amount of lost wins attributed to pitching injuries (Chacin is only -.59 WARP, De La Rosa at -.37 WARP), it's the most scientific look at the impact of injuries on the Rockies that I've seen yet -- and the impact was nowhere close to 12 games.

The Rockies were terrible in 2012 due to a confluence of factors -- they had a myriad of young pitchers who adjusted very poorly to a tough hitting environment, they relied on a bunch of scrap-heap type pitchers to fill in the gaps when starters failed to give the team good length, the defense was execrable, the offense hit very poorly on the road, and yes, they had quite a few injuries to key players.

The point is that perfect health in 2013 will not be the panacea that brings the team back to contention. Better health should be expected to a degree, which is why I will be surprised if Colorado is below 70 wins next year. However, for the Rockies to make the leap into even 80 win territory, an improvement by the team's talented young players (including a regression up to the mean by the starting pitching) will have a greater impact than any health bounce.

No, injuries aren't the reason Colorado was bad in 2012 (and likely will be bad in 2013). They're just the most convenient excuse.

Manager Search Update

The great unknown manager candidate, Matt Williams, will interview a second time for the job today. Williams already has experience as a base coach at the MLB level, plus he is currently the manager of an Arizona Fall League team. He's another guy that would garner respect simply for his playing career, though his impact on the porous defense and beleaguered pitching staff would be less clear.

Los Links!

SI has their NL West hot stove preview -- basically, Colorado isn't expected (or advised) to do much.

The price tag for Josh Hamilton is reportedly $175 million -- but never fear Rockies fans, a CBS writer thinks that Hamilton will come to the Rockies because God told him to.

Chris Lund of the Hardball Times tries to reconcile old school and new school baseball fans.

Finally, Fox Sports Ohio had a long and candid interview with Indians GM Mark Shapiro a little while ago. Among the nuggets gleaned from this fascinating interview was the fact that Shapiro placed the value of a win on the free agent market at $9 million and his thoughts on mid-market payrolls.

Off-Topic.

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