As a franchise, the Rockies stand at a precarious point. With a talented core and young, budding talent, the Rockies could become the next Pirates. Alternatively, however, we could end up with our fourth straight 87+ loss season, and begin a run, well, like the Pirates. Purple Row as a community seems to embrace both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum, while eschewing the more likely middle path. As illogical as this seems, if any franchise was going to be either entirely positive or entirely negative, it'd be the Rockies. This being the reality, I was inspired to do a piece predicting 10 factors that would contribute to the ultimate positive and ultimate negative season. This could alternatively be called the SDCat prediction vs. the RMW prediction. Without further ado, I present to you
1. O'Dowd and the boys figured it out.
In the past year, Dan O'Dowd and his team (Wiley, Geivett, Monfort) have developed a strategy to compete in Coors throughout the organization (specifically pitching). The Rockies streamlined pitching in the organization, focusing primarily on low strikes, creating weak contact and low walk rates (which I endorsed here), which produced among the best pitching results we've ever seen throughout the organization. In this scenario, DOD's success continues, which leads to...
2. Jhoulys De La Chatwood wasn't a mirage
This is the biggest key to the Rockies 2014 success. The Rockies top 3 were among the most valuable (park weighted) SP trios in the league. For a Rockies playoff team, this is not only beneficial, but vital. All three guys seemed almost as poised for failure as they were for success pre-2013, so their continued success would be huge for the Rockies.
3. Tulo plays 140+ Games.
Troy "Tulo" "Brittle" "Lead Legs" Tulowitzki is the heart and soul of the Rockies. He is the face of the franchise, leader in the WAR column, and dominates the payroll. He has produced at a high level almost every year since his arrival in the big leagues, and our W-L with him as opposed to without him is strikingly different. He must stay healthy for the Rockies to compete, that's all there is to it. Whether that can be done, remains to be seen. As my username makes clear, I certainly hope he makes it happen.
4. Wilton Lopez's season was a mirage
A pretty simple scenario, Lopez lowers his BABIP back to career norms, and when combined with an ERA .5 points higher than his FIP, Lopez returns to the player we hoped he'd be, stabilizing our bullpen.
5. The youngun's progress keeps going
The Rockies, despite how it often felt, had a lot of really positive improvements on the team. DJLM, Arenado, Brothers, Blackmon, and Dickerson all had somewhat of a breakout year. If these guys can continue to build on that, and become complimentary pieces, the Rockies will be better off.
6. Walt Weiss improves as a manager.
One of the biggest gripes many had about the Rockies this season (Hi CCR) was the managing style of Walt Weiss. Weiss was poor strategically, both in lineup construction and in game management, as well as over reliant on the bunt. Though Renck insisted the players had faith in him, Weiss rarely came out to rally the players, proving more mild mannered than Jim Tracy (which is nearly impossible). As a rookie manager, Weiss may well improve, which could help the 2014 Rockies, though we have no idea to what extent.
7. We receive a Chatwood-like surprise.
Raise your hand if you thought Chatwood was going to pitch like an all star in 2013. Put it down now, you liar. No one saw Chatwood's brilliant season coming, though in retrospect it wasn't unlikely. The Rockies would be greatly helped if they could get a repeat of this performance in 2014. Leading candidates include Bettis, Pomeranz, Anderson, and Matzek. Everyone knows the Rockies need a 4th/5th starter, and one of these guys stepping up would get us half way there.
8. Dan O'Dowd acquires MLB help.
Name 5 effective pieces MLB pieces Dan O'Dowd has added during his tenure. Make sure there are at least two that came from trades (cannot have been prospects or reclamation projects when acquired). Correct answers should look like:
I may be missing some (ummm Aaron Miles, I guess?) but this list features 80 games of an average 2B, 2 relievers, and 2 aging Right Fielders. O'Dowd has never been willing to part with prospects in a trade, and his FA track record is spotty. For the Rockies to contend, they need an impact player or two. Judging by DOD's history however, that seems unlikely. This year it'll be different this year though, it's only 14 O'Dowd led off-seasons without impact MLB acquisitions that makes us think we'll come away with nothing. Wait, this is supposed to be the positive side...
9. Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray are for real
There, that's positive. These two are the gems of the Rockies farm system. They are the signed, rookie Mickey Mantle card's among the hundreds of useless 80's and 70's baseball cards (Sidenote: I love getting family friends' old baseball cards). These two have the potential to be legitimate cases, especially in the case of Jonathan Gray. Even Butler, the lesser of the two, did this to the #3 prospect in baseball. Combining these two with Jhoulys de la Chatwood..../wipes off drool.
10. The rest of the farm (i.e. Dahl and Story) show they're better than middle of the pack.
Almost more important to the franchise than their 2014 record is the development of the farm system. The Rockies rely on their farm for most of their impact, and continued improvement could help signify a championship window in 2015-2017, and help make the Rockies model viable long term.
HM: New Broadcasters, New Mascot, and a hitting coach that helps on the road.
I tried not to use reversed scenarios, but some had to be included. If you are easily depressed, already grumpy, RMW, or anyone opposed to negativity, don't read the following. Just put on your purple tinted goggles and carry on.
1. Dan O'Dowd didn''t figure out anything
In the opposite of the #1 for a positive season, O'Dowd's new theories fail epically. His ideas prove to be either a fluke success or a gimmick, and Monfort's never ending loyalty proves to be his biggest flaw, as O'Dowd continues being one of the longest tenured GM's in baseball, even though he remain's significantly below average.
2. Chatwood was a mirage.
Ah, regression. Chatwood was an entirely different pitcher in 2013 than the rest of his career. And while there are
Ryan Vogelsong's, or Jeff Locke's, most people eventually regress back towards their average. Chatwood has a nice story though (former top prospect, young, rushed minor league career), and there's always Cliff Lee as a success story!
3. Wilin can't cut it at catcher defensively.
This one has always been a distinct possibility, in fact, the Rockies tried him out at first base this year. And while Wilin improved drastically in 2013 behind the plate, new metrics suggest that catcher defense may be more valuable than we thought, hurting Wilin's value.
4. Dex is all he'll ever be, 20% brilliant, 40% mediocre, 40% awful.
In 2013, Dex had only one month with a WrC+ within 15 points of 100 (meaning he was only near average once), and this was in September, with all of 15 at bats. While his baserunning and defensive value can be debated, Dex may well be the player he is now. A sufficient starter throughout the season as a whole, but almost always a driving force or major drag on the offense.
5. Ladies and Gentleman, your 2006, I mean, 2014 Rockies!
This scenario is the one where the Rockies old band keeps getting together for their reunion tour. In this nightmare of a reality, we rock a team with Torrealba, Hawpe, Barmes, Atkins, and Spilly in the lineup, along with Jennings, Francis, Cook, Corpas, and Fuentes. Wait, how is this a nightmare? Bring it on universe!
6. Arenado's defense was an aberration.
This is another scary thought we refuse to let work its way into our collective conscious. In 2013 Nolan Arenado was the best 3B in Range Factor, and was the third best INF in DWAR (behind Machado and Simmons). Before 2013 he was viewed as average at best, likely a future first baseman, and had only recently graduated from being considered Miguel Cabrera level bad. In this alternate universe 2013 Nolan Arenado reverts back to his old ways, and muh of his value is gone.
7. No more help arrives.
The Rockies' model is centered on the development of talent on the farm, and the lack of impact from the 06-08 drafts partially caused this run of suckitude in the first place. If 1st round picks such as Matzek, Parker, and Anderson don't make impacts, and others (Pomeranz et al) don't step up in their wake, then it will be
difficult impossible to compete any time soon.
8. No more help arrives.
No, this wasn't a typo. This scenario is not a lack of help from the farm, but rather a refusal from O'Dowd to acquire outside help. A common theme throughout Rockies history, O'Dowd doesn't add any impact talent in this scenario, instead going after the Carlos Peña's and Ted Lilly's of the world.
9. Cuddy is really 2012 Cuddy
Cuddyer is not getting any younger, and in his 11 year career, he had never hit over .300 in the bigs before 2013. He never had an WrC+ over 124 before throwing up a 140 at age 34. I hate to say it, but everyone's favorite magician would be extraordinarily lucky to repeat his 2013 campaign.
10. Road games continue to be an enigma
The Rockies have always been good at home, that's no secret. The Rockies were 23 games below .500 on the road, and to really be competitive with that away record the Rockies would need to go around 62-19 at home, which is completely implausible. This Road losing trend has been around for years, and needs to be righted for the Rockies to compete.
HM: Injury Plague, Brothers' regression
In truth I feel we'll end up in between on all of these. The only extremes I really feel are true is that Cuddyer isn't real, and that Butler/Gray are. I know none of these were in great depth, but a high-schooler only has so much time, and I just wanted to get my possibilities out there to be RIRFed. Enjoy, and go Rockies! Also, feel free to add on your own in the comments, or argue mine if you so desire (just know I don't really believe most).