FanPost

A Blast from Rockies Past Part I: Todd and the Toddlers (2003-2006)

As many of you know, I am among the youngest members here on the Row. That being said, I have followed the team avidly every year for as long as I can remember. I went in phases of fandom, from no knowledge other than the stars (97-03), to some knowledge of the team, but only to a Woody Paige level (03-06), to Avid fandom (07-09), to the point where have never met someone (in person that is, you all match or surpass me) who knows more about the Rockies than I do. So, with that being said, I’ve always been curious about bigger picture Rockies knowledge. Some of you may remember the Fanpost I did looking at pitching in Coors Field (worth the read IMO). This time, I decided not to use stats, but instead to look at the team from a different, more long term perspective. Getting the idea from spending too much time working on World History and AP Human Geography, I wanted to go back and look at a look at the evolution of the franchise from where I began really following it a decade ago. I figure, one of O'Dowds strengths is having built an altitude team into a contender in the past. So, if he is operating partially based on what he learned, we should try to learn something from it as well. So, as this post will be rather unwieldy regardless, might as well get down to it:


2003 Rockies (74-88), 4th Place:

Batting:

Pos Age G PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
C Charles Johnson 31 108 414 20 61 .230 .320 .455 .775 88
1B Todd Helton* 29 160 703 33 117 .358 .458 .630 1.088 165
2B Ronnie Belliard 28 116 505 8 50 .277 .351 .409 .760 87
SS Juan Uribe 23 87 343 10 33 .253 .297 .427 .724 76
3B Chris Stynes 30 138 502 11 73 .255 .335 .413 .748 83
LF Jay Payton 30 157 658 28 89 .302 .354 .512 .865 110
CF Preston Wilson 28 155 661 36 141 .282 .343 .537 .880 113
RF Larry Walker* 36 143 564 16 79 .284 .422 .476 .898 121
SS Jose Hernandez 33 69 286 8 27 .237 .308 .362 .670 65
3B Greg Norton# 30 114 197 6 31 .263 .325 .447 .772 88


Following what was (apparently), a big offseason trade, this lineup had gone through a bit of an overhaul. Despite being an all star just two years prior, Johnson showed little promise at the catcher spot. Other Spots of worry included stopgap Beliard at second base, FA pickup Stynes at third, and bench options Hernandez (traded midseason) and Norton. Young SS Juan Uribe was also horrid at the plate. Happily for the rockies however, major players such as Walker and Helton were solid, and Wilson and Payton proved solid contributors.

Pitching:

Pos Age W L ERA GS SV IP ERA+ WHIP
SP Jason Jennings 24 12 13 5.11 32 0 181.1 97 1.654
SP Darren Oliver* 32 13 11 5.04 32 0 180.1 99 1.453
SP Shawn Chacon 25 11 8 4.60 23 0 137.0 108 1.328
SP Denny Stark 28 3 3 5.83 13 0 78.2 86 1.665
CL Jose Jimenez 29 2 10 5.22 7 20 101.2 95 1.662
RP Brian Fuentes* 27 3 3 2.75 0 4 75.1 182 1.301
RP Justin Speier 29 3 1 4.05 0 9 73.1 123 1.309
RP Steve Reed 38 5 3 3.27 0 0 63.1 153 1.342
RP Javier Lopez* 25 4 1 3.70 0 1 58.1 135 1.200
Aaron Cook 24 4 6 6.02 16 0 124.0 83 1.750
Scott Elarton 27 4 4 6.27 10 0 51.2 80 1.800
Chin-hui Tsao 22 3 3 6.02 8 0 43.1 83 1.569
Denny Neagle* 34 2 4 7.90 7 0 35.1 64 1.670

A bad year for the staff overall, The few bright spots came out of the pen, as Fuentes, Lopez, and Reed all were solid. Chacon additionally showed real potential from the rotation.

Review: A pretty bad season was not historically bad, as the team was buoyed by solid pen work and a great season by Helton. Characteristically of the times, the team was more than solid offensively, with guys like Preston Wilson playing big roles, while struggling from the mound.

Outlook: The team had answers for a lot of their problems, the rotation was anchored by Jennings and Chacon, with guys like Chin Hui Tsao, Aaron Cook, Jason Young, and Jeff Francis, all providing hope for the future. The team was still not a contender, but it wasnt awful, and had hope going forward.

2004 Rockies (68-94), 4th Place:

Offseason: The Rockies were busy that offseason, changing a ton. Speier, a promising reliever, was dealt for starter Joe Kennedy (RIP). Uribe, after a down year, was dealt for Aaron Miles, who would take Belliard's spot. Castilla was brought back in lieu of Stynes, and Royce Claytons was signed to fill Uribe's hole at short. Signing Jeromy Burnitz made up for Jay Payton departing to San Diego, and Shawn Estes was also brought in to anchor the rotation.

Batting:

Pos Age G PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
C Charles Johnson 32 109 362 13 47 .236 .350 .430 .780 91
1B Todd Helton* 30 154 683 32 96 .347 .469 .620 1.088 165
2B Aaron Miles 27 134 566 6 47 .293 .329 .368 .697 72
SS Royce Clayton 34 146 652 8 54 .279 .338 .397 .735 80
3B Vinny Castilla 36 148 648 35 131 .271 .332 .535 .867 109
LF Matt Holliday 24 121 439 14 57 .290 .349 .488 .837 103
CF Preston Wilson 29 58 222 6 29 .248 .315 .391 .706 73
RF Jeromy Burnitz* 35 150 606 37 110 .283 .356 .559 .916 121
2B Luis Gonzalez 25 102 351 12 40 .292 .330 .469 .799 94
UT Mark Sweeney* 34 122 215 9 40 .266 .377 .508 .885 116
RF Larry Walker* 37 38 138 6 20 .324 .464 .630 1.093 166

Another solid year from a hitting perspective, as Helton once again went bonkers (Tangent!: must admit, my knowledge of Helton is shaped by his late 2000's performance, which I remember so much better, really never knew he was this good.) Holliday performed admirably in his rookie season, and Vinny's comeback was by all means a solid one. Burnitz performed better than could've been expected, and made up some for Walker being dealt mid year (the thought still chokes me up). Wilson regressed immensely in an injury plagued year, and the two new up-the-middle infielders performed no better than their predecessors.

Pitching:

Pos Age W L ERA GS SV IP ERA+ WHIP
SP Shawn Estes* 31 15 8 5.84 34 0 202.0 84 1.624
SP Jason Jennings 25 11 12 5.51 33 0 201.0 89 1.701
SP Joe Kennedy* 25 9 7 3.66 27 0 162.1 135 1.417
SP Aaron Cook 25 6 4 4.28 16 0 96.2 115 1.562
SP Jamey Wright 29 2 3 4.12 14 0 78.2 120 1.614
CL Shawn Chacon 26 1 9 7.11 0 35 63.1 70 1.942
RP Steve Reed 39 3 8 3.68 0 0 66.0 134 1.348
RP Tim Harikkala 32 6 6 4.74 0 0 62.2 104 1.245
RP Brian Fuentes* 28 2 4 5.64 0 0 44.2 88 1.455
RP Javier Lopez* 26 1 2 7.52 0 0 40.2 66 1.746
Jeff Fassero* 41 3 8 5.51 12 0 111.0 89 1.622
Jeff Francis* 23 3 2 5.15 7 0 36.2 96 1.500


Despite the addition of Estes and Kennedy, the rotation still underperformed in 2004. Estes and Jennings struggled in the role of workhorse, while midseason acquisition Jamey Wright, along with younger pitchers Kennedy and Cook, performed better than expected. The bullpen regressed mightily, as only Reed maintained his 2003 level of pitching. Chacon also proved a disaster in the bullpen, and taught me how worthless wins were, as he managed to earn one against the Tigers, despite blowing a hard won lead. Needless to say, this seemed egregious to my seven year sense of fairness.

Review: This team was worse than its predecessor, though it had a similar feel to it.
Outlook: This team was far from contending. Most of the pitching help (in the form of Cook and Francis) had already arrived to little avail, while the rest, (like Tsao, Stark and Young) looked unlikely to arrive, or were too far away (like Jimenez and Morrillo). On the hitting side of the ball, The Rox had some talent as usual, but the team still had some huge holes to fill (and hoped JD Closser, Barmes, Atkins, Hawpe, and Cory Sullivan, could do so.)

2005 Rockies (67-95), 5th Place:

Offseason: Traded away Charles Johnson for Byung Hyun Kim, planning to replace him with JD Closser, but signed Ardoin for backup just in case. Burnitz and Estes were not retained, nor was Steve Reed. Castilla and Clayton were let go as well to make room for Garrett Atkins and Clint Barmes respectively.

Batting:

Pos Age G PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
C Danny Ardoin 30 80 248 6 22 .229 .320 .362 .681 71
1B Todd Helton* 31 144 626 20 79 .320 .445 .534 .979 144
2B Aaron Miles# 28 99 347 2 28 .281 .306 .355 .661 65
SS Clint Barmes 26 81 377 10 46 .289 .330 .434 .764 90
3B Garrett Atkins 25 138 573 13 89 .287 .347 .426 .773 93
LF Matt Holliday 25 125 526 19 87 .307 .361 .505 .866 114
CF Cory Sullivan* 25 139 424 4 30 .294 .343 .386 .729 83
RF Brad Hawpe* 26 101 351 9 47 .262 .350 .403 .754 89
2B Luis Gonzalez 26 128 442 9 44 .292 .333 .421 .753 87

Helton was once again the brightest spot on the roster, though Matt Holliday improved on his solid 2004. Miles and Barmes still were lacking offensively (though Barmes had the best year of a MI up until this point). Atkins, Hawpe and Sullivan all performed at a mediocre level, though each creating hope for the future. Closser started the season, but was so bad he was replaced by Ardoin for the rest of the year, who was better even with his 71 OPS+.

Pitching:

Pos Age W L ERA GS SV IP ERA+ WHIP
SP Jeff Francis* 24 14 12 5.68 33 0 183.2 84 1.623
SP Jamey Wright 30 8 16 5.46 27 0 171.1 88 1.646
SP Byung-Hyun Kim 26 5 12 4.86 22 0 148.0 98 1.534
SP Jason Jennings 26 6 9 5.02 20 0 122.0 96 1.574
SP Joe Kennedy* 26 4 8 7.04 16 0 92.0 68 1.870
SP Aaron Cook 26 7 2 3.67 13 0 83.1 131 1.404
CL Brian Fuentes* 29 2 5 2.91 0 31 74.1 165 1.251
RP Jose Acevedo 27 2 4 6.47 5 1 64.0 74 1.594
RP Marcos Carvajal 20 0 2 5.09 0 0 53.0 94 1.377
RP David Cortes 31 2 0 4.10 0 2 52.2 117 1.139
RP Mike DeJean 34 2 3 3.19 0 0 36.2 151 1.036
Shawn Chacon 27 1 7 4.09 12 0 72.2 117 1.445

Only Aaron Cook maintained the level of success that the young guns had in 2004. Byung-Hyun Kim was serviceable in his one year stint, and Jennings was finally seeming to settle into decent mediocrity. The bullpen was bad, other than Brian Fuentes, who was incredible.

Review: The team gave up on the not-so-young-anymore group of Wilson, Chacon ,and Kennedy. It was another really bad year, and even the offense wasn't as prolific.

Outlook: The team was bad, but the long term solutions looked like they were starting to take their places. A strong farm system had developed, and Holliday, Barmes, Hawpe, Atkins, Francis, and Cook had all already assumed positions in the bigs.

2006 Rockies (76-86), 4th Place:

Offseason: The Rockies acquired a few new stopgaps, getting Jamey Carroll from Washington, Yorvit Torrealba from Seattle, and signed Josh Fogg and Jose Mesa.

Batting:

Pos Age G PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
C Yorvit Torrealba 27 65 241 7 43 .247 .293 .439 .732 78
1B Todd Helton* 32 145 649 15 81 .302 .404 .476 .880 118
2B Jamey Carroll 32 136 534 5 36 .300 .377 .404 .781 94
SS Clint Barmes 27 131 535 7 56 .220 .264 .335 .598 47
3B Garrett Atkins 26 157 695 29 120 .329 .409 .556 .965 136
LF Matt Holliday 26 155 667 34 114 .326 .387 .586 .973 137
CF Cory Sullivan* 26 126 443 2 30 .267 .321 .402 .722 78
RF Brad Hawpe* 27 150 575 22 84 .293 .383 .515 .898 120
CF Choo Freeman 26 88 191 2 18 .237 .298 .341 .639 58
OF Ryan Spilborghs 26 67 186 4 21 .287 .337 .431 .768 89
C JD Closser 26 32 112 2 11 .196 .288 .309 .598 49

The production was more spread out through the lineup this time. Helton was reduced to an All-Star, instead of a demigod. Atkins, Holliday, and Hawpe all stepped up to pick up the slack, and proved they were roles in the offense going forward. Carroll had the best year of any MI in this stretch, but was still below average. Cory Sullivan failed to build on a semisolid 2005, and neither Freeman nor Spilly did much either. Torrealba and an awful JD Closser rounded out an atrocious middle of the lineup.

Pitching:

Pos Age W L ERA GS SV IP ERA+ WHIP
SP Aaron Cook 27 9 15 4.23 32 0 212.2 116 1.397
SP Jason Jennings 27 9 13 3.78 32 0 212.0 130 1.373
SP Jeff Francis* 25 13 11 4.16 32 0 199.0 118 1.286
SP Josh Fogg 29 11 9 5.49 31 0 172.0 89 1.547
SP Byung-Hyun Kim 27 8 12 5.57 27 0 155.0 88 1.548
CL Brian Fuentes* 30 3 4 3.44 0 30 65.1 143 1.163
RP Jose Mesa 40 1 5 3.86 0 1 72.1 128 1.507
RP Ramon Ramirez 24 4 3 3.46 0 0 67.2 142 1.256
RP Tom Martin* 36 2 0 5.07 0 0 60.1 97 1.442
RP Ray King* 32 1 4 4.43 0 1 44.2 111 1.701
Manuel Corpas 23 1 2 3.62 0 0 32.1 137 1.361

The pitching staff finally showed some real improvement. Cook, Jennings,, and Francis all looked like keepers in the rotation. Fogg and Kim, the veteran place holders, did not perform very well. The bullpen finally returned to being solid, as Fuentes, Mesa, Corpas, and Ramirez solidified the late innings.

Review: The team finally showed some solid players other than Helton, and saw an increase in wins for their efforts. Both on the staff and in the lineup, much more solid play was spread throughout.

Outlook: This team, for the first time in a long time, had real long term solutions in numerous places, both offensively and on the staff. While successful non-Helton players had briefed from 2003-2005, 2006 was the first time the homegrown guys showed they could be pieces on a contending team.

Conclusions

4-Year Summary: I grouped these three seasons together as they had a very similar feel to them, all in the heart of the Todd and Toddler era, characterized by spurts of promise, but marred by abysmal pitching and absolutly apalling play up the middle. Improvement was made overall however, as 3B looked to become a strongpoint rather than a hole, and the pitching core showed more hope in 2005-06 than in years past, though the record remained abysmal and Todd was showing signs of regression.

Team Strategy Overview: Lead by O'Dowd and Hurdle, this era had clear patterns throughout, with a blatant plan. After signing Todd long term, this team had no plans to compete in the near future and was content to let the young guys develop while trotting out one year, stopgap veterans as seat warmers. By 2005-06, the process was coming to a close, as the number of 30+ veterans who had no place in the team's future had dwindled far below their original levels.

Impact on the future: This era was the transition from the teams that had no impact on modern day Rockies fans to the playoff teams we all remember (except for maybe Nick). With so many opportunities for youngsters to audition, the Rockies unearthed gems such as Holliday, Hawpe, Atkins, Francis, and Cook. While that core was useful, the era also featured many failed prospects, as mentioning Choo Freeman and Chin Hui Tsao might make some of you older fans cringe. While not a fun time to be a Rockies fan, these years of relative futility were the building blocks of a very solid four year run.

What I took from this excersize: While not all that in depth, it certainly provided me with an overview to compare to today. An incredibly striking resemblance to the 2011-2012 Teams emerged in my mind. 2012 looked an awful lot like 2004 reenactment. I envision 2004 Helton role filled by the Tulo/Cargo combo. Holliday was Dexter Fowler, Jeff Francis served as Shawn Estes, Micheal Cuddyer as a multi-year Jeromy Burnitz, Raffy played the role of Steve Reed, and Scutaro was Aaron Miles. I'd compare all the young pitchers, but who's to say whether Nicasio is Chacon, or Aaron Cook. Either way, it provides some context to view the upcoming season. Rosario, Rutledge, Nolan, and the pitchers get the meaningless reps this year instead of 2005's Closser, Barmes, and Atkins. That team had more young pitching, a better system, but lacked the proven MLB hitters and bullpen the 2013 Rockies possess. Anywho, this is not meant to condemn us to a 95+ loss season, nor our upcoming pick in the top 5 to Greg Reynolds (maybe we should avoid the college guy from Stanford though). It should be used to think about our timeframe for winning, as well as to learn from our past efforts at contention. Also of note, the 2005 Rockies traded multiple pieces of that team that were youngish and possibly part of the long term plan, but not essential because of MiLB depth. So Colvin, Nelson, Nicasio might wanna put forth their best efforts.

That's it for Part One! If there's any interest, a Part Two involving The Competitive Years and how we were successful could be done as well, or I could skip to the past few years and see if any the stats support the similarities that I see between the teams. Additionally, I would love to hear some of your actual memories, as I have little in the way of perspective on these years. Let me know if I missed/messed up something, as it's fairly likely. Sorry for the length, I hope you all enjoy it, and that it creates some solid talk.

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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