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Friday Morning Rockpile:

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That's okay, we don't need no stinkin' THT readers on our bandwagon.

One of my once favorite baseball sites, The Hardball Times, has seriously crossed a line with David Gassko's heavy handed Five Questions preview of the Rockies, and needs some come-uppance.  Some big time come-uppance, but they'll get at the end of the year. Of the five questions Gassko answers regarding the Rockies, the last three contain somewhat useful answers, but the first two, besides being wrong, set a tone for the piece that seeks to destroy any hope you might have for the coming season as a Rockies fan. That aggression can not stand. I mean, that threadbare rug of hope really brought our room together.

It should be obvious, but just in case you are wondering where Gassko gets it wrong on the first two questions, let me spell it out.

Question one plays into a typical Internet trope regarding the Rockies, that the team, and O'Dowd in particular, change directions at a whim and are on their seventh plan in his eight years or some other such nonsense. This argument is five years old, and still based on moves in the early tenure of O'Dowd as he tried to salvage the last vestiges of a sinking ship of mediocrity that he inherited and subsequently wrecked. Since then (we're talking about 2003-2004 offseason here) every move has been made with an eye toward 2007 or 2008 as when the Rockies would re-emerge with an organization built from the ground up as perennial contenders. Any talk of failed plans within that timeframe ignores the stated intentions of those in charge of the team and should be dismissed out of hand. By taking this tack in his first response, Gassko enters a slippery slope where his credibility can already be put to question.

Now, I said the team would re-emerge in the 2007 season. Are we there? I don't know, but we're quite a bit damn closer than Gassko wants to admit Plus, in a division that still doesn't have a clear favorite, it's foolish to take this team so much for granted. That leads to the next question:

Are the prospects ready?

Gassko makes his next mistake at this point, by taking some statistics at face value that probably should be questioned more strenuously. First, in the matter of Tulo and Iannetta's defense:

According to Baseball Prospectus, which tracks minor league defense, neither shortstop Troy Tulowitzki nor catcher Chris Iannetta is a good fielder. Both, however, are supposed to carry big sticks. According to THT's 2007 Projections, Tulowitzki is projected to be 1.70 wins above replacement (WAR) per 150 games, and Iannetta is projected for 1.67 WAR per 130 (about a full season for a catcher).

The numbers from THT show both players coming in as below average for their positions. Gassko doesn't state this, but BP's PECOTA -off the same defensive stats- forecasts each to be closer to an average defender in 2007, which is why it gives both WAR's of over 4.0. That difference alone is over five wins. Personally, I think both systems are woefully undercutting Iannetta's value, particularly in regards to OBP, which they have coming in around .350-.358 for the season. Most of this under-forecast comes from weighing his 93 games during the 2005 season too heavily, but I won't fault Gassko for not seeing this as he's not the only one to miss.

And then Gassko says this:

What's worse is that beyond Iannetta and Tulowitzki, the Rockies don't really have any great prospects on the horizon. Ian Stewart gets a lot of hype after posting .992 OPS in Single-A in 2004, but his OPS in Double-A last year was just .796, and he needs a good season this year to keep his top-prospect label. Stewart is still just 22 (well, he will be April 5), so he still has some time to develop, but right now, I see no reason for the Rockies to count on him.

Fie. I can see, when these words come back to bite him, how he will be able to use linguistic tricks to squirrel some sense of being right on this: "I said they didn't really have any great prospects," or something similar. But Baker, Jimenez, Herrera, Fowler, Nelson Koshansky, Smith, once again Reynolds, and yes Morales (who he dismisses in the next paragraph) just begin the haunting list of players who are in the Rockies system who will have value in the Major Leagues. At this point, I don't care if the other three answers have the secrets to everlasting life, because Gassko's blind commentary has lost me, and if you're wise, you'll shut the rest out too.