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Lawrence of Gen R-abia

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According to Pittsburgh sources yesterday morning, Brian Lawrence is leaning to becoming a Rockie by sometime this week. The Pirates have upped their offer, but apparently the attraction to pitch with the Rockies is pretty strong. It's been pointed out to me by an unnamed source that he wouldn't enter the rotation right away, but be put on the DL to begin the season and then enter a month or two in, after a stint in extended Spring Training to fully rebuild his strength.

I actually am quite happy with this situation, to have a fresh arm come in mid-season would provide the team a boost right when needed, and would give the Rockies a flexible, evolving rotation that as long as it's used correctly could maximize the outcome we could expect from the question marks that hamper the starting five after you get past Cook and Francis. The evolution could take on several forms, but what initially could be a little ugly at the bottom:

Cook
Francis
Lopez
Hirsh
Kim/Fogg

could yet turn into a butterfly by the end of the season with Lawrence and talented rookies vying for spots as the season progresses. Unfortunatley depth is meaningless if there aren't quality performances to back it up, but I think when you look at the overall talent level of the pitchers involved, it's not as dire a situation as the Fogg plus Kim combo makes it look.

Assuming we get Lawrence, the overall talent of the rotation takes a marked step forward from what we had to begin last season, even without Jennings. My main problem is with the uncertainty of a few key figures here at the beginning, but I'm growing increasingly comfortable and confident with how the season as a whole should trend. Depsite my initial reservations about Rodrigo Lopez, there has been plenty to come out over the last few days to suggest that his addition could be an actual coup. My counterpart at Fake Teams has pointed me to an article by Alan Schwartz in the New York Times which finds that the effect of changing to the NL from the AL is larger than I thought:

Theoretically, a pitcher's E.R.A.+ should not be affected much by a change in leagues. But switching circuits still seems to make a substantial difference in how a pitcher performs.

Of the 29 pitchers moving to the N.L. from the A.L., their E.R.A.+ figures increased to 110 (10 percent above league average) from 97 (just below average). This smaller shift than in E.R.A. is nonetheless more significant: It indicates that starters of equal caliber are more successful in the less suffocating National League.

You can read the entire article here.

For a pitcher with a career ERA+ of 91 like Lopez, we could expect him to become just above league average, or precisely what a third starter should be just by benefitting from the change in leagues. Lawrence, on the other hand, won't benefit by coming to Coors from San Diego, but with a career ERA+ of 96, he slots as a more typical fourth starter than Josh Fogg (89). Kim, should be better than Fogg as well, but last season was one more underachievement in a string of them since he left Arizona.

So by  June, we could have a rotation of:

Cook
Francis
Lopez
Lawrence
Hirsh or Kim

and I feel a lot better about that. With Ubaldo Jimenez and Oscar Rivera around in case Lopez struggles again or Lawrence is unable to recover. Last season, when we needed to look to alternatives for Fogg and Kim, there wasn't really an in house option ready. I think I've underrated our 2007 starting five, and I'm sure I won't be the only one to do that. Our opponents have glitz and big names on their side, but we should have a solid one through five, and depth in the sixth and seventh slots as well.