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Monday Morning Rockpile:

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Luis Vizcaino's injury last week, and Jose Capellan's slow return from his seems to be exposing a strength of the Rockies that I don't think shows up at all in the projections, that is, our bullpen is a lot better and deeper than advertised. A big part of this is Taylor Buchholz, who's looking more and more like a safe bet to outperform what the spreadsheets have for him. PECOTA has Taylor coming in with a 5.03 ERA, THT says 4.69. Heltonfan at FanHome says a 3.73 pERC which I believe translates into a better ERA than the aforementioned, so my guess is that he's (as is typical) probably going to be closest. I think Taylor's looking capable of outperforming all of these, however, and I'm hoping -and sort of expecting, actually- for the sake of the team that he winds up with more IP than Vizcaino.

So the Rockies have the very good, possibly great, in Corpas, the pretty good in Fuentes and Buchholz, and the serviceable in Herges to start the season. We'd need more than that, though, so it's encouraging to see Ramon Ramirez and Micah Bowie also looking sharp this Spring. Let me just be frank, however, in that I don't completely trust Bowie's performance yet, but I'm beginning to see signs of him being an effective left handed specialist as long as his arm's attached. I think Bowie's strong performance was a big part of the reason the Rockies felt comfortable cutting Sean Thompson to allow him to seek opportunities elsewhere.

As for our starters, I really don't know if the club expected to break camp with Franklin Morales in one of the five slots, but thanks to injuries and the underwhelming performances of some of our depth-signings, it's looking more likely that will be the case after all. While Aaron Cook looks to be on a safe timetable to return for the start of the season, the same can't be said of Jason Hirsh, which right now makes it look like the opening one through four will be Francis, Cook, Jimenez, Morales and one of the trio of Wells, Towers or Redman. At the moment, I can't endorse any of them, but as I have said, Wells so far earns a vote of no confidence from my camp.

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When it comes to beating certain opponents the team sees often in the course of a season, it helps to have multiple weapons to use against them. For the Rockies, this means having multiple guys who can beat each of the division's eighty-eight aces. So there aren't really eighty-eight, but you get my point. Last season, for example, the Rockies had three Brandon Webb slayers regularly in the lineup against him in Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe and Kazuo Matsui. This went a long way in helping us have a "crypto-Satanic hold over" him, much to the frustration of D-backs fans. Who's going to step up and replace Matsui in this regard? I don't know, as right handed batters, Jeff Baker or Jayson Nix probably won't qualify. Willy T does as well against Webb as any right-handed batter, better over his career than Atkins and Holliday (Matt turned a corner against Webb last year) in fact, so the usual play of replacing him with a left handed bat won't work, either. Maybe this is the reason the Rockies are looking at Scott Podsednik. Otherwise, I think my plan would involve playing Chris Iannetta (career .666 OPS vs. Webb) over Yorvit Torrealba (.425) but it looks like we may otherwise have to expect to not do as well vs the D-backs ace in 2008. It's my hope that we make up for it by doing quite a bit better against some of the junk-ballers we struggled against last season.

Some of the career OPS of our other ace (and #2) killers:

Brandon Webb

Brad Hawpe 1.233
Todd Helton .992
Scott Podsednik 1.467

Dan Haren

Scott Podsednik 1.445
Marcus Giles 2.000

Is this the reason we got these two guys? No other Rockies have more than five plate appearances against Haren.

Jake Peavy

Todd Helton 1.118
Matt Holliday 1.078
Brad Hawpe 1.224
Yorvit Torrealba 1.154
Cory Sullivan 1.105
Seth Smith 4.000 ;)

I suspect Peavy hates starting against the Rockies.

Chris Young

Garrett Atkins 1.101

On the other hand, Chris Young probably wonders what the big deal is. We need to do a lot better against the Pods' #2 this year.

Greg Maddux

Matt Holliday 1.185
Garrett Atkins 1.208
Vinny Castilla 1.057

I wonder if Vinny imparted some wisdom to Garrett about hitting the master craftsman.

Matt Cain

Garrett Atkins 1.030
Yorvit Torrealba 1.015
Marcus Giles? 1.049

Interesting factoid, Greg Maddux has three times as many hits off of Cain as Brad Hawpe does. Okay, so Maddux has only three singles, and Brad just one to go along with nine walks against Cain. Hawpe's got a .071 batting average but a .435 OBP against the Giants ace.

Barry Zito

none

Zito actually looked worthy of his contract against the Rockies last season, too bad for San Francisco the same wasn't true against the rest of the League. Matt Holliday had two HR against him last May 12, but otherwise managed just one single in Zito's other starts against the Rockies. Brad Hawpe had gone zero for seven against Zito before homering off him last August 27.

Tim Lincecum

Todd Helton 2.400
Brad Hawpe 1.100
Yorvit Torrealba 1.334
Garrett Atkins 1.000
Omar Quintanilla 1.000

Obviously Lincecum hasn't had a lot of opportunity to prove himself a real ace, but Giants fans certainly think of him in those terms. These initial results would point to him having some difficulty against left handed hitters.

Brad Penny

Matt Holliday 1.097
Garrett Atkins .970

We don't typically do well against Penny, either. Helton and Sullivan do okay against him, but Brad Hawpe just can't figure him out and Tulo does horribly against the Dodgers ace, but more on that in just a bit.

Derek Lowe

Brad Hawpe 1.437
Matt Holliday 1.386
Marcus Giles 1.214
Todd Helton .932

For what it's worth, Matsui also would have been included here.

Chad Billingsley

Matt Holliday 1.285
Todd Helton 1.007
Brad Hawpe .944
Yorvit Torrealba 1.881

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I was discouraged in this exercise by how infrequently Tulo popped up as one of our better hitters against the division's best. So I'm going to break it down some more for him.

Troy Tulowitzki's OPS against the NL West's starting pitchers:

Arizona

Webb .508 (21 PA)
Haren ?
Johnson .000 (2 PA)
Davis .533 (12 PA)
Owings .500 (2 PA)

Yuck.

Los Angeles

Penny .166 (12 PA)
Lowe .641 (13 PA)
Billingsly .522 (10 PA)
Kuroda ?
Schmidt 1.000 (2 PA)

That's not really better.

San Diego
Peavy 1.067 (10 PA)
Young .425  (10 PA)
Maddux .445 (14 PA)
Prior ?
Wolf ?

San Francisco

Cain .422 (19 PA)
Zito .573 (11 PA)
Lincecum .000 (6 PA)
Lowry 1.115 (15 PA)
Correia .522 (10 PA

These performances really need to turn around this season. The elite pitchers that Tulo's done well against are Beckett, Peavy and Smoltz which is a nice start, but he's done pretty badly against the rest. If Tulo can do better against the division's starters, it will certainly help to keep us in contention this season.