FanPost

Thursday Rockpile: Return of Chacin, De La Rosa Can Stabilize Rotation

Thearon W. Henderson

Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row.

Aside from perhaps Troy Tulowitzki's groin injury, no injuries hurt the 2012 Rockies more than Jhoulys Chacin's shoulder injury and Jorge de la Rosa's extended recovery from Tommy John surgery.

The pair were expected to, along with Jeremy Guthrie (we're not even going to discuss Guthrie's Chernobyl-esque performance in a Rockies uniform here, that's a different Rockpile for a different day), anchor the team's rotation with young arms and journeymen filling out the fourth and fifth spots, but they combined to make just 17 starts and pitch just 79 2/3 innings.

By comparison, they combined for 259 and 253 innings in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Their absence essentially handed 175 innings to the likes of Christian Friedrich, Alex White and Josh Outman, guys who weren't talented enough or weren't ready to be MLB starting pitchers.

Consider this, despite a 2012 that was lackluster by his standards Chacin still led Rockies starters with an ERA+ of 108. In fact, he was the only Rockies starter that ERA+ considered better than average, with Drew Pomeranz the closest to the mark with an ERA+ of 97. This despite the fact that Chacin was fairly obviously battling an injury in his first five starts in which he went 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA. He went 3-2 with a 2.84 ERA after his return from the shoulder inflammation that sidelined him for three and a half months.

Chacin proceeded his solid but injury-marred 2012 with two very good seasons in 2010 and 2011, his first two full seasons in MLB. He posted sub-4.00 ERAs in both seasons, his 3.28 and 3.62 ERAs in those years were two of the top five single season marks in franchise history, with solid peripheral stats.

It would be futile to attempt to evaluate de la Rosa based on his 2012 performance, as he only made three starts and pitched just 10 2/3 innings after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing 16 months. However, what we saw from de la Rosa in 2011 was brilliant. He built on a solid 2010 in his 10 starts, compiling a 5-2 record with a 3.51 ERA and 3.36 FIP, walking just 22 and striking out 52 in 59 innings of work. He looked to be turning into the ace we signed him to be prior to the 2011 season.

Also, don't forget de la Rosa's contributions to the 2009 and 2010 Rockies, teams that both had winning records. His performance in the final four months of the 2009 season were crucial in making the playoffs, and his absence in the NLDS significantly affected the team's chances of advancing past the Phillies.

The point is that if Chacin and de la Rosa had been able to pitch the 200-250 innings the team likely expected them to in 2012, things would probably have been significantly different. Would they have put the 2012 Rockies in the playoffs? No. Would they have made them a .500 team? Probably not. Would they have made the difference between being simply below-average and being the worst team in franchise history? Absolutely.

What does this mean for 2013? It means that the Rockies will, barring an injury in Spring Training, have two reliable, quality pitchers at the top of their rotation that they simply did not have last season. For me, there wasn't really anyone in the rotation, save for Chacin late in the season, that I felt really good about taking the ball on a given day. In 2013 the Rockies will have two of them in de la Rosa and Chacin, and frankly I like Pomeranz to step up and be a solid No. 3 in the 2013 rotation. Yes, he was inconsistent last year, but unless they're Stephen Strasburg that's what rookie pitchers are.

If those three can be reliable, average-or-better starters in 2013, the outlook for the Rockies rotation begins to brighten a bit, especially when the ages of Chacin and Pomeranz are considered.

I also thing the two-year deal the Rockies gave Chacin this week was a sneaky shrewd move on the club's part. They get an extra year out of him when he's likely at his lowest value while not putting the club at much risk if he fails to perform.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger best sums up my feelings about Chacin and de la Rosa for 2013, when an Arsenal player returns from an injury, especially during a transfer window, Wenger likes to say that said player is "like a new signing." The return of a healthy Chacin and de la Rosa is like adding two quality free agent pitchers, because they're guys the Rockies just didn't have in 2012, and it will be a welcome sight to see them back on the mound this season.

LINKS:

Not much Rockies-related news in the last 24 hours, but Purple Row's own Greg Stanwood tweeted, via @rockiesroster, that the Rockies have signed Ryan Garko and Greg Golson to minor league deals.

Troy Renck says that the Rockies are yet to reach an agreement with Dexter Fowler on a contract to avoid arbitration.

OFF-TOPIC.

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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