Friday Rockpile: Josh Roenicke, Unsung Hero; Jeff Francis, Returning Hero

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 13: Starting pitcher Jeff Francis #26 of the Colorado Rockies delivers against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on September 13 2010 in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

On June 2, 2011, Josh Roenicke was waived by the Toronto Blue Jays to open up a spot on their 40-man roster to make room for 3B prospect Brett Lawrie. The Rockies, intrigued by Roenicke's strong fastball, put in a claim on Roenicke. After 30 solid innings with the AAA Sky Sox, Roenicke was recalled to the Majors and has not looked back since.

At one point, Jose Roenicke was looked at by scouts to be a guy who could hit his ceiling as a MLB closer. While he did spend a decent amount of his time in the Reds' organization as a closer, his MLB career to date has yet to suggest that he's game for that kind of leverage.

Given Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, and eventually Rex Brothers represent the current and future (at least near future) of the high-leverage bullpen innings for the Rockies, Roenicke would have to drastically improve his game to even sniff the closer's role. The good news for Rockies fans is that while Roenicke hasn't exactly bled the requisite icewater to consistently pitch the 9th, he HAS provided invaluable work in mopup roles, basically taking a bullet for Belisle and Betancourt when games go south.

Thus far in the 2012 season, Roenicke has pitched 34 innings over 25 outings. 7 of those outings were 2 innings or longer. 10 of them were over an inning long. In only 2 outings this season has Roenicke allowed more than 1 run - 3 apiece in those two - and those are half of the outings during which Roenicke has been charged with an earned run.

Truly impressive is Roenicke's 2.14 ERA, good for a 214 ERA+, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Far less impressive, however, is Roenicke's strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is hovering just a hair above 1, meaning that he's walking about as many guys as he's striking out. These numbers are obviously very concerning when you factor in the .250 BABIP, 81.1% of his baserunners being left on base, the 25% line-drive rate, and the FIP nearly double his ERA. Roenicke's due for some serious regression, but he's also deserving of some praise.

But fear not, Josh, help is on the way!

Jeff Francis back with Colorado Rockies; likely to pitch Saturday - The Denver Post

Like it or not, the Rockies have acquired another soft-tossing Lefty Veteran. The good thing about Francis is that his gimmick isn't setting AARP records, but rather being part of the 3-way tie for 2nd in single-season Pitching Wins with 17, the starter in Game 1 of the Rockies' only World Series appearance, and one of the more successful 1st round picks in franchise history. While his numbers never really turned into proper "Ace" numbers, Francis was a flat-out good pitcher for Colorado - one of the best we've had.

Off Topic

Is this welcoming back of Francis overly sentimental and clearly biased? Absolutely. The major cry AGAINST bringing in Jeff Francis is pretty much the same as it was against bringing in Jamie Moyer: Why not just give those innings to Tyler Chatwood, Drew Pomeranz, Guillermo Moscoso, or whatever pitcher is next in line? Well, we discuss this a bit on the podcast this morning, but the fact is that Pomeranz and Chatwood aren't showing themselves to be much more than 5 inning pitchers at this point. (Note: that doesn't mean they're going to REMAIN 5-inning pitchers, but that's where they are right now.)

Nobody's guaranteeing 7 innings a start out of the Physicist, but letting Pomeranz and Chatwood continue to fine tune in AAA isn't going to hurt the 2012 chances any more than Jeff Francis would, and there's less pressure on them right now if they know that the MLB club is at least staying somewhat afloat without their contributions.

Further down in that Denver Post story, Patrick Saunders gets a quote from Jim Tracy regarding Jeremy Guthrie:

"We are going to move forward with Jeremy Guthrie," Tracy said. "I still feel very strongly about it. We need Jeremy Guthrie, there is no getting around that. We will get to where we need to be."

I rarely say this, but I can't agree more fully with Jim Tracy. Yes, I feel dirty right now.

At this point in the season, unless somebody is willing to take on the remaining $5M+ of Guthrie's contract without expecting another prospect to soften the blow, it would behoove the Rockies to try and get Guthrie back to form. Perhaps that could mean some work in the bullpen with Jim Wright. It worked with Jason Hammel, why not try it again with Guthrie? The point is that a fixed Jeremy Guthrie could help the Rockies win a few more games, or it could at least provide value in trade come the deadline.

So to summarize today's Rockpile:

1. Hats off to you, Josh Roenicke!

2. Welcome back, Jeff Francis!

3. Yo, Guthrie... figure it out already.

Pitching!

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