Jordan Lyles, Franklin Morales already improve Rockies' starting rotation

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's early, but it isn't too early to say that the bottom of the Colorado Rockies rotation is no longer absurdly abysmal.

Jordan Lyles and Franklin Morales have already been better in 2014 than anything the Rockies got from players with their job description in 2013.

Last week I linked to this Patrick Saunders article about the early payoffs of the Dexter Fowler trade. I also made a snarky remark about how the "nobody saw this coming" talk surrounding the trade irked me a bit since. Many of you know I went through a great deal of trouble this offseason defending this move and the Rockies in general.

I would also like to clearly not overstate my case. I am not declaring this trade a win for the Rockies. The only declaration I've made was marking the Ubaldo Jimenez trade a loss last winter -- four years after it happened.

I own a calendar. I know how early in the season we are. But I am ready to make one declaration: the Colorado Rockies, in one offseason, dramatically improved their starting pitching for an incredibly low price.

Last year, we at Purple Row introduced you to Jhoulys de la Chatwood, the Rockies' three-headed monster that was the only reason the team won any games in 2013. The top three were christened as such because they stood so blatantly apart from their peers in the starting rotation.

But the three-headed beast atop Mt. Rox was often thwarted by an evil, seven-headed hydra called Jeffchad McManship Pomgarloswalt.

The Rockies' record with Jeff Francis, Chad Bettis, Colin McHugh, Jeff Manship, Drew Pomeranz, Jon Garland, and Roy Oswalt on the mound in 2013 was 12-38.

Frankie Lyles, on the other hand, has led the Rockies to a 7-5 record so far in 2014. This includes Lyles' excellent outing on Wednesday in which the Rockies lost despite him not really giving up any runs (error should have been called on Arenado).

That's right, the Rockies have already won only five fewer games than they did all of last season from the pitchers in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. And it's May 2.

Also consider (and I know quality starts aren't a perfect stat) that Jeffchad McManship Pomgarloswalt posted only nine quality starts over a full season. Frankie Lyles already has six. And Brett Anderson has another two.

With only one month in the books, this trio needs to pick up only two more quality starts to beat last year's hydra of frustration.

That is a massive upgrade in terms of giving your team a chance to win ballgames.

Rk Pos W L ERA GS IP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
5 SP Jeff Francis* 3 5 6.27 12 70.1 71 4.54 1.607 11.4 1.5 3.1 8.1 2.63
6 SP Jon Garland 4 6 5.82 12 68 76 4.93 1.588 11.3 1.2 3 4.2 1.39
13 Chad Bettis 1 3 5.64 8 44.2 79 4.93 1.679 11.1 1.2 4 6 1.5
16 Roy Oswalt 0 6 8.63 6 32.1 52 3.08 1.794 13.6 0.8 2.5 9.5 3.78
17 Jeff Manship 0 5 7.04 4 30.2 63 5.59 1.598 10.9 1.8 3.5 5.3 1.5
19 Drew Pomeranz* 0 4 6.23 4 21.2 72 6.46 2.031 10.4 1.7 7.9 7.9 1
20 Collin McHugh 0 3 9.95 4 19 45 5.26 1.842 15.6 1.9 0.9 3.8 4
Team Totals 74 88 4.44 162 1436 100 3.96 1.436 9.7 0.9 3.2 6.7 2.06

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
Generated 5/1/2014.

Rk Pos W L ERA GS IP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
1 SP Jordan Lyles 3 0 2.7 6 36.2 154 3.7 1.064 7.4 0.5 2.2 4.7 2.11
3 SP Franklin Morales* 3 1 4.4 5 30.2 94 5.02 1.435 9.4 1.5 3.5 6.8 1.92
6 SP Brett Anderson* 0 2 3.6 3 15 117 4.33 1.4 9.6 0.6 3 3 1

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
Generated 5/1/2014.

There is plenty of season left for these numbers to balance out, but those wins aren't coming off the board. One of the things that often gets lost in all the analysis is that every win and every loss counts the same, regardless of what is sustainable and projectable and what isn't.

And all of this is without mentioning that -- in the words of Dante Hicks (ed. note: Adrian Gonzalez's less talented twin!) from Kevin Smith's View Askew films -- "they weren't even supposed to be here today!"

Neither Morales nor Lyles was slated to be in the rotation with a fully healthy roster and they are already closing in on the number of Rockies wins accumulated by the guys who were being counted on last season. So the numbers from the fourth and fifth spots could improve even if Lyles and Morales completely implode from this point on.

Each has already been worth more value than any single member of Jeffchad McManship Pomgarloswalt nightmare, and this time around, the Rockies have much better reinforcements waiting in the wings in more seasoned versions of Tyler Matzek, Jon Gray, and Eddie Butler should Lyles and/or Morales falter -- or more likely in the case of the latter, get moved to the bullpen.

Should the injury gods stop playing whack-a-starter with the Rockies' rotation, Frankie Lyles could be replaced late in the season regardless of performance up to that point.

When coupled with the litany of options the Rockies have considering they are really the sixth and seventh guys in the rotation -- and the Rockies have two prospects in the top 20 according to John Sickels (Jon Gray up to nine!) - gives me great confidence to say that the biggest issue of 2013 (pitching depth) won't be anywhere near as problematic in 2014.

Regardless of what the offensive guys accomplish (which has also been quite a bit so far), the last two spots in the rotation no longer constitute a black hole of automatic loss proportions, and the team has landed a gut-punch in the early rounds of the "who won the offseason" boxing match.

If you are of the opinion that the Rockies were a good team last season that was decimated by lack of depth and injuries, then the off season moves of trading two players for four (Fowler and Jonathan Herrera for Lyles, Morales, Brandon Barnes and Chris Martin) and then using the money saved to sign Justin Morneau and Boone Logan should be looking good right about now.

How each player performs over the next few seasons will determine whether the individual transactions were worth it or not, but it cannot be argued that the Rockies' offseason moves have been key to the excellent position in which they find themselves after the first month of 2014.

The Rockies are better with Frankie Lyles than they were with Jeffchad McManship Pomgarloswalt already. How much better off remains to be seen, but better than 2013 is already in the rear-view mirror.

I don't care what the record is. At this point last season the Rockies were skating on an easy schedule and a healthy team. The Rox have had neither thus far and instead of looking to McHugh should things go wrong, we are looking to Eddie Butler.

Instead of hoping that Francis doesn't give up eight, we are waiting in anticipation at what Jordan Lyles (who is 23 years old) will do his next time out.

Instead of praying that Oswalt has enough in his tank that he might stop giving up a home run an inning, we are praying that Morales can get out of the fifth and not walk too many guys.

And instead of hoping beyond hope that the top of the rotation stays healthy, because after them it's a joke, we are waiting for the return of the top of the rotation while the other guys hold down the fort on the way to a 16-13 start.

It's early, but it isn't too early to say that the bottom of the Colorado Rockies rotation is no longer abysmal.

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