Death By Underachievement

Through 40 games, the 2012 Rockies have been an abomination. They now sit at 15-25, ten games under .500, and are on pace to finish a disgraceful 61-101 – A mark that would easily be the worst in franchise history falling six games short of the dreadful 67-95 record both the 1993 expansion team and 2005 complete rebuild team posted.

Now here’s where things get a bit complicated. While the Rockies deserve their current record and have absolutely played like a team that’s on its way to 101 losses, their true talent level is much, much better than this – And that’s exactly why I find the play of this team so infuriating. Yes, the young inexperienced pitching staff is by far the biggest problem and any Rockie fans who didn’t expect some serious growing pains in that department this season were fooling themselves. However, that fact shouldn’t mask the atrocious showing and blatant underachievement by both the offense and defense in the first quarter of the season. Even with the shortcomings on the mound, I still believed the Rockies true talent level was 80+ wins coming into the season with the other pieces they had in place – And I stand by that now.

Last night I was roaming around Baseball Reference amazed at just how putrid some of the numbers were for certain Rockie players this season. Some offensively, some defensively, some both. After I had all I could take, I made the following chart.

The first column is the list players who have at least 40 plate appearances for the Rockies this season. (Basically the 12 position players who’ve had the largest impact on the Rockies record so far.)

The second column is the current rWAR (Baseball Reference WAR) these players have posted a quarter of the way into the season with the total production of these 12 players (or in this case negative production) listed at the bottom of the chart.

The third column is what each player’s rWAR will be at the end of the season if they continue to play exactly the way they have through the first quarter of the season. (Nobody should actually expect this, but this is what it would take for the Rockies to finish at the 61-101 pace they are currently riding)

The fourth column is the average rWAR each player has posted over the last three seasons. It is there to give us an idea of the type of production we should have reasonably expected to see in the third column going into the season (More on that in a moment). (The X’s next to Wilin Rosario, Tyler Colvin, Jordan Pacheco, Jonathan Herrera, and Chris Nelson are there because they do not have enough playing time going into 2012 to use an rWAR projection over the last three seasons. When adding up the bottom total, these players were counted as 0.


I think the last column provides a decent snapshot of what we should have expected coming in, but even I’ll acknowledge that the 18.2 WAR number is a little bit high – So I’ll go through the players who have a number there and make a few adjustments. (Feel free to agree or disagree with them in the comments)

NOTE: The following is not meant to be an exact science of projections. Instead it is designed to be a list of reasonable expectations that Rockie fans should have had for these key pieces of their roster going into the season that will hopefully shine light on a larger point.

Todd Helton: That 1.8 number honestly seems a little high to me. Not that I don’t think Todd can get there (he can), but I just didn’t think the Rockies needed to expect it with his limited playing time, age, and lost production for being a first basemen. Let’s put Helton down for 1.0 WAR

Dexter Fowler: He’s a tough guy to get a read on, but 1.7 WAR would have been a very reasonable expectation with room for him to exceed the projection (He can still so this too).

Carlos Gonzalez: 3.9 is more than fair for him. I probably would have been tempted to push this to about a 4.5 before the season since his limited playing time in 2009 is pulling the total down, but again, in this exercise I’m being conservative so we’ll just round it up to an even 4.0.

Marco Scutaro: While a great acquisition by Dan O’Dowd, nobody should have expected 3.4 WAR out of Scutaro. I’ll slice the production in half and say 1.7 WAR would be reasonable.

Troy Tulowitzki: The most painful part of the season for me so far. Tulo’s so much better than what he’s shown us and while he often gets off to slow starts with the bat, he did it with the glove this year as well which complicates the problem. 5.9 WAR was a reasonable expectation of him going into the season (he’s just made himself that good of a player), but now that he’s been below average with both the bat and the glove for 40 games, it’s going to take one incredible finish (even for him) to get near that number.

Michael Cuddyer: Another huge disappointment so far. 1.4 is hardly a lot to ask from a guy who you just handed $31.5 million to.

Ramon Hernandez: Another hard guy to judge, much of that is because of his age and playing time but 0.4 WAR doesn’t seem outrageous. I’ll even cut this in half do to his age though and put down 0.2.

Now since the other five guys on this list didn’t have sufficient playing time to come up with a solid projection going into the season, lets again be conservative and say that we expected all five of them to post a -0.5 rWAR going into the season. Some might be better, some might be worse, but as an average from the group I don’t think we should have expected anything worse than that.

That would have left you with the following expectations for these 12 players going into the season.


Take a look at that chart. Do any of those projections seem unreasonable to you?

If not, now look at the money number at the bottom of the chart; 13.4. It’s exactly 24 wins higher that the -9.6 rWAR these 12 players are currently on pace to post. So if these 12 Rockies are currently on pace to post a -9.6 rWAR and the team is on pace to win 61 games, it’s very difficult not to think that if these 12 players were on pace to post the projected 13.4 rWAR, then the team would be on pace to win about 85 games right now. I’m fully aware that these things don’t translate exactly to wins and that I’m simplifying things but this certainly can provide a ballpark figure and I would argue that it goes a long way into illustrating that a huge part of this team’s problem is underachievement and not just poor pitching.


The Good News: I do expect the Rockies to start playing better. The underachievement we’ve seen from this bunch so far is beyond unacceptable and almost has to turn around.

The Bad News: The 2012 Rockies have already done exactly what they couldn’t afford to do at any point this season, much less out of the gate – And that of course was torpedo the season through underachievement. Yes the pitching is bad, really, really bad. Nobody expected it to be good. It’s still the number one problem on this team and I can live with that for now because that's part of what this team is going through right now to get better in the future. What I can’t take however is the fact that there was enough talent on this roster both offensively and defensively coming into the season to keep the team playing meaningful baseball well into the summer. Thanks to underachievement though, that dream is dead before Memorial Day.

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).

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