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High Fence, Low Fence

With yesterday's double-dip sweep of the Marlins, our Colorado Rockies have won three straight series and seven of their last nine contests. Why? Is this current team that much better than the one that started the year, or is this just a fluke of scheduling where we are loaded with weaker competition at the moment? Did the trades that Dan O'Dowd make result in the turnaround, or was it just a matter of key players like Matt Holliday, Dustan Mohr and JD Closser breaking out of slumps? These are the questions that currently haunt us at Purple Row and so I have come up with a new bi-weekly feature I hope to have (Tuesdays and either Fridays or Saturdays depending on my schedule) where I take a look at an issue facing the Rox which has divergent streams of opinion, try and break down both sides a bit and ask for my readers to weigh in on one side or the other and just see where the discussion goes from there.

So today, the question is what gives with our current winning ways? Not that I mind, but are they by nature (the cyclical nature of players seasons having several of ours emerging from slumps at once) Or nurture (Dan O'Dowd making the moves to build a better team)?

Rockies as a product of the natural cycle of things:

  1. JD Closser, Dustan Mohr and Matt Holliday breaking out of slumps. We knew going into the all-star break that Closser and Mohr weren't the same hitters that they had been in seasons past and that we should have been able to expect more from them at the plate than what they were producing. Matt Holliday meanwhile seemed to be a victim of Coors Field disease to a somewhat unbelievable extent, given that he wasn't nearly so bad on the road last year. So the three of them have started hitting and the offense has gotten into gear. Dan O'Dowd's doing? Hardly, unless you count hiring the hitting coaches who finally clicked with these guys, but that's hard to justify.

    Take Mohr for instance, at the time fellow Rockies blogger Mark at TGTB&TB wrote this article, Mohr's Value Over Replacement-level Players, or VORP, at Baseball Prospectus stood at -4.8 which would have placed him near the very bottom of the majors at the time in value provided to the team (the negative figure means he actually sucks value away, like rust on a car, or Desi Relaford). It's taken him a month (Mark's article was written July 9) but Mohr has finally cracked into positive territory at 0.2. Similar rises have been seen by JD Closser (5.2) and Holliday (17.2) and the resulting surge in our offense would have allowed us wins in these past two weeks if we had kept all the players we traded away.

  2. Ryan Shealy has fitted in relatively smoothly into Helton's spot in the lineup. The only thing O'Dowd can take credit for here was not trading the slugging prospect away.
  3. The pitching is relying mostly on smoke and mirrors right now, when it falls apart absent the reliable presence of Kennedy and Chacon -a hometown favorite who sold tickets- the fall will be hard. Check out BK's numbers yesterday: he walked as many as he struck out, and gave up some hits. Fact is, he was lucky.
Some counterpoints for nurture:
  1. Omar Quintanilla's acquisition and ascension to short allowed us to slough off Relaford and move Gonzalez to second (thereby sitting Miles) Bigbie's acquisition gave us more incentive not to play Cory Sullivan and the removal of those vacuums on our run production has been the real catalyst. With Gonzalez in particular constantly getting on base near the top of the lineup, and without the automatic outs usually associated with the last three or four slots, Holliday, Atkins and yes, even Dustan Mohr are getting qulaity pitches to hit. Plus our improved team defense on the middle of the infield with Q! has been a boon to our sinkerball pitchers.
  2. Removing the bad attitude of Shawn Chacon has seemingly infused new life into the rest of the Rockies staff, and it appears that the cavalier attitudes he and Jay Witasick complained about in the Rockies clubhouse left with them. The bad contract swap of Byung Hyun Kim for Charles Johnson (plus Chris Narveson) has turned out to be a godsend in that Kim has pitched as effectively as Chacon and longer into games in fact, and allowed us to say sayonnara with few if any regrets.
  3. The team is cheap and more flexible now, if we wanted to sign, let's say a Ramon Hernandez (who's been well above average at his position the last three years) at catcher to a one year rental deal while we waited for Chris Ianetta, our financial position is much improved. Alright, I know that's a pipe dream that Hernandez would go for that, but hey, Pudge parlayed his one year deal with the Marlins into a big payout from Detroit, and what team has a better history of boosting salary stats than the Rockies?
Anyway, there are more arguments on either side of course, and the answers are probably somewhere closer to the middle, but that's what this discussion thread is for!