In case you missed it, the Colorado Rockies lost 98 games last season while finishing 6th overall in runs, 6th in OBP, and 4th in slugging. They also came in 2nd in batting average, which sabremetricians who watched the Rockies would tell you was like leading the NFL in 2 yard rushes. According to baseball-reference.com, they also led the NL in OPS and Total Bases, leaving their frustrating but manageable strike-out totals as the only glaring offensive flaw (12th). And yet, last season was historically bad. Embarrassingly bad. And even at times (for all non-rox fans)entertainingly bad.
It doesn’t take an expert to identify the problem. Flip the ledger to the side of the game when "their" guys are in the dugout and "our" guys are on the field, and you are met by a string of 30th place ranks (ERA, Quality Starts, WHIP, BAA, etc, etc.) Sit next to someone who isn’t a rabid purple pinstripe loyalist during a random game from last season and you won’t have to wait long for the first "how come we have 8 and are still losing?" remark. The fault, dear Brutus, lies not with our bats, but with our balls… specifically, delivering them effectively to home plate.
The reasons for the terrible pitching are far too many to name, have been discussed ad nausea, and doing so again would likely send many a lover of mountain baseball into a pen-in-my-eye style gouging frenzy. Instead, let us discuss what should be done from where we are. It is also important to remember that the GM’s office can’t draft a clean bill of health for JDLR, Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, Tulo, Cargo (or anyone else for that matter.) Nor can they sign Road Consistency to a big-time free agent contract. So what to do? It seems to me the Rockies have three basic paths to choose from:
The Kitchen Sink (The Current Path)
The Draft and the Free Agent (The Historical Path)
The Trade Route (The Uncharted, Dangerous Path)
The Kitchen Sink
By my count, there are at least 10 pitchers who could reasonably see time in the rotation next season, not even counting a few newcomers and a few possible rookie debuts. There are intriguing young arms that have shown promise at times and been maddening the rest of the times (Chacin,Pomeranz,etc,) a few potential consistency givers, innings eaters, non-imploders (Francis, Volstad,) and a few guys who could be anything from the ace of the future to a total bust/done (Nicasio,JDLR.) Management’s plans seems to be to hope that some combination of these best case scenarios works out so that the Rockies actually end up with a serviceable rotation of 5 guys that can contribute, even implementing the "piggy-back" method from last season if they must.
Best case scenario: Chacin and JDLR return to health and form, becoming the steady top of the rotation. Two pitchers from the group of Pomeranz, Nicasio, Chatwood, Friederich, and Cabrera, take the next step to fill in the next two spots and Francis/Volstad/Player X (maybe a new addition like Derek Lowe/Carl Pavano or a rookie like Tyler Matzek) battle it out for the fifth rotation spot.
Worst Case Scenario: JDLR and Chacin remain as ineffective and/or hurt as they have been the last few seasons, the young guys turn out to be mostly inconsistent and continue to show flashes of brilliance in between implosions that lose games in the first 4 innings. We end up with and endless parade of pitchers coming in and out of the rotation and Jeff Francis again finishes the year as our least ineffective pitcher.
The Draft And The Free Agent
Any lifelong Rockies fanatic has heard on more than a handful of occasions that the Mile High crew cannot sign big-name free agent pitchers. They don’t want to pitch here, they cost too much money, oh and "Hampton" and "Neagle" have become two of the dirtiest words in the Denverites lexicon. The draft, (and to a greater extent the Latin-American program) may seem to be the smartest way to deal with these issues. It could easily be argued that the best pitchers in franchise history came from this method. Unfortunately, it could also be argued that the best pitchers in franchise history were flashes in the pan (Ubaldo) or never truly dominant (Cook, Francis.) Also, while the comfort of knowing that you control the pitcher can be nice, controlling the rights to a bust doesn’t do any good.
Best case scenario: The Rockies young arms really begin to develop under a more umbrella-like approach from management. Humidors are implemented in every park for every affiliate, as well as an organizational guiding philosophy which aids a broad approach to signing the occasional cagey veteran for middle-salary figures while filling the farm system with enough young arms that eventually they will find someone who can pitch here.
Worst case scenario: Each attempt to sign a veteran/innings eater/stabilizer turns into a Jeremy Guthrie type situation. The Rockies continue to miss on draft picks and we wait for years looking for the next great homegrown talent only to find ourselves again disappointed in bust after bust.
The Trade Route
So why not make a trade? Maybe not now, maybe not even this year. But why have they not done this? The Rockies have had a slew of great talent over the years, almost none of it on the mound. The only way to force someone to come here that we already know is good without having to pay them waaaay too much, is to trade for them. Would Nolan Arenado and pieces net Matt Garza? What about Dexter Fowler? Aren’t these (and countless others) at least worthy of consideration for a team that led the league in runs last year but still almost lost 100 games? Other than Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales, the Rockies should have no players off limits to a trade for the right pitcher.
Best case scenario: The Rockies trade some of their best position prospects to obtain some legitimate MLB level pitching and put themselves in position to contend during Tulo and Cargo’s prime’s.
Worst case scenario: We sell off our best talent and still end up with pitchers who flame out, get hurt, or simply can’t pitch at Coors Field, prompting management to finally give up and start having fan try-out days.
Got a favorite trade scenario to fix the Rox rotation?
Looks like we won’t have to face the bleak possibility of not having Johnny Herrera for morale, he got inked.