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Improving our odds.

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Alright, so assuming after being swept by the Mets our delusions of postseason glory, well more like postseason attendance have gone out the window, I thought it might be good to take a look at what's gone on this season. I will start by giving each of the Rockies position players a rank based on their VORP at Baseball Prospectus, for the division, league and MLB on the whole.

1B: Todd Helton
NL West Rank: 2 (Nomar Garciaparra)
NL Rank: 7 (Albert Pujols)
MLB Rank (1B or DH): 15 (Travis Hafner)
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: very low

This is really a fascinating debate over a non-issue in the Rockies fan community. Todd Helton won't be traded, at least not until 2008. This isn't sentimentality speaking, it has nothing to do with what's best for the team, it's just that the only way Helton gets moved is if 1) he agrees to be moved and I don't see any reason why he would this season or next, and 2) the Rockies absorb about 90% of his remaining salary. Now in 2008, the story might be different because Helton should be riding pine in favor of Koshansky or Atkins, and that situation won't be agreeable to him.

2B: Jamey Carroll
NL West Rank: 5 (Ray Durham - 41%)
NL Rank: 12 (Chase Utley - 28%)
MLB Rank: 18 (Chase Utley)
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: low

Carroll's bottom of the division rank kind of surprised me, so I cross checked at Hardball Times to see what Win Shares gives him, and according to that, he's right in the same range of Durham, Barfield, Kent and Hudson with 12, but still, I would have thought we were doing better here. The other stats don't lie, though, and Carroll's performance is merely adequate and doesn't make us better than our divisional foes. The percentages I put represent how far away he is from catching up to the leaders, kind of like a fundraising thermometer. You can see we've still got some ways to go. With this position and third and short, the Dodgers' mid-season makeover won't be adequately represented, so the real distance behind the best in the divison might be even more than this measure indicates.

SS: Clint Barmes
NL West Rank: The bottom
NL Rank: Second worst.
MLB Rank: Also second worst.
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: high

As you scroll through the pages of Baseball Prospectus' VORP rankings, I get this eerie sense that I am heading into uncharted territory and once I reach Mark Sweeney, who with 0.0 VORP is the prototypical "replacement player" I realize that I've embarked on a Dante-esque descent into the levels of offensive ineptitude I wish never to visit again. Right around #612 on the twenty-first page you hit the Giants' Randy Winn, who begs you not to continue, for it is dark down below, and nobody should know those torments. A couple of pages later you see why he would know as you pass his teammate Pedro Feliz at #717. Surely no player destined to have over 500 AB's in 2006 could be lower than this, I think, but Jeff Francouer at #766 begs to differ. I continue. Scrubs and fallen regulars moan as I pass by. Preston Wilson sits at #802. Luis A Gonzalez at #831, Bobby Crosby at #852. "Make it stop, spirit, do not show me who is lower than this," I say, but the pages continue to turn. Neifi Perez #891, Kaz Matsui at #904, and then at #916 I see our starting shortstop.

It is easier to measure who's worse than Clint Barmes at the plate this season than who's better. Ronny Cedeno, is the MLB's worst shortstop at the plate by just a smidgen and he plays for the Cubs. Antonio and Tomas Perez are unrelated except in futility. Yadier Molina, Vinny Castilla, Brad Ausmus, Abraham Nunez and finally, Rondell White. That's it. Eight out of nine hundred twenty-four players to make a plate appearance this season have proven to be more pathetic at the plate than Clint Barmes.

It won't be a very high bar to reach when looking for improvement at this position in 2007, despite the praise for runs saved due to Barmes' D.

3B:  Garrett Atkins
NL West Rank: 1
NL Rank: 6 (Miguel Cabrera)
MLB Rank: 8
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: low

Garrett gets by in the division and stacks up as playoff worthy (top eight) when considering MLB on the whole, but he's in the second tier in the National League, not quite up to the level of Cabrera, Rolen, C Jones, Wright and Sanchez. Statistically, I don't know if he's capable of performing at that next level, so for a while I think we should be content with good to very good here and not mess with it.

Catcher: Yorvit Torrealba/Danny Ardoin
NL West Rank: 5 (Bard/Piazza)
NL Rank: (Brian McCann)
MLB Rank: (Joe Mauer)
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: medium

The Eliezer Alfonzo/Todd Greene duo in San Fran comes close to our level and Yorvit's turnaround might bring us near them, but there's still a considerable gap before the Piazza/Bard duo is approached. I'm excited about Chris Iannetta's prospects, so don't get me wrong, but I'm also a pragmatist and understand that the fix might not be as easy as putting him in every other day. Then again, it might be just that easy. I think the six months between the end of the season and the end of Spring Training next season will be more revealing about this position than any other, including shortstop.

RF: Brad Hawpe
NL West Rank: 1
NL Rank: 2 (Bobby Abreu)
MLB Rank: 7 (Jermaine Dye)
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: medium

That's another surprise. After Abreu got traded out of the league by the Phillies, our own Brad Hawpe took over for the most VORP for rightfielders currently in the NL, although he still hasn't matched the total Abreu racked up with the Phils and the NL West rank is kind of deceiving because his per game average would be lower than JD Drew's and Carlos Quentin's. Looking at other stats like Runs Created puts him middle of the pack, behind Drew and Brian Giles among others. Still, I would consider Hawpe's bat capable of improvement next season, but his window in that regard won't last long. Hawpe's performance with runners on has been a frustration to management and fans alike, and the stats indicate he's been bad in this regard, ranking last in the Hardball Times' clutch rankings for NL right fielders, and other measures of skill with runners on such as Baseball Prospectus' OBI are similarly unkind. This, to me, seems like a solvable puzzle.

CF: Cory Sullivan
NL West Rank: 4 (Mike Cameron)
NL Rank: 16 (Carlos Beltran)
MLB Rank: 28 (Beltran)
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: low

This position is sort of depressing. Beltran signed in 2005 with the Mets through 2011, which just happens to be the same year Todd Helton's contract runs through. Helton is going to make more than Beltran. Beltran's going to contribute more wins than Helton. A lot more. Sullivan's drawn the attention of other teams, if only we had an alternative solution ourselves, he'd be a very tradeable commodity.

LF: Matt Holliday
NL West Rank: 1
NL Rank: 3 (Alfonso Soriano)
MLB Rank: 4 (Manny Ramirez)
Likelihood of 2007 improvement: Medium

I really don't know if Holliday's peaked yet, despite his well rounded performance this season. Plus, he helps gove the Rockies the best looking outfield in the National League. Who'd want to break that up? Not me.