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Friday Rockpile:

I alluded to the SBN launch of Driveline Mechanics last week when discussing Max Scherzer, but apparently we can make it official now. While it's a fantastic blog, let's hope that we never see Rockies pitchers discussed over there, as it seems to be more often than not a bad thing if they're bringing somebody up. San Fran's freakboy Timmy was a noted exception, so sorry Matt Garza that you are not.

So, speaking of pitchers, 2009's stable looks more, well, stable everyday. Except for Livan nights. Those we still need to figure out something else to do with next season, but JDLR is succeeding where he and numerous others failed early in the year. It's a streak that's unmatched in his career, but it's backed by both statistical indicators and his scouting reports as being outside the realm of flukedom traversed by others in our inglorious past. Here let me just illustrate using some basic numbers everybody knows. Each of these are strong second half performances over the last few years for Rockies starters:

  • Denny Stark 2002: 7-3; 4.48 ERA, 33/40 BB/K, 71 H, 84.1 IP
  • Joe Kennedy 2004: 4-3;  3.19 ERA, 28/40 BB/K, 63 H, 62 IP. Rest in peace, Joe.
  • Sunny Kim 2005: 5-1; 5.10 ERA, 14/42 BB/K, 70 H (9 HR), 60 IP.
  • Jason Jennings 2006:  3.93 ERA, 41/52 BB/K, 84 H, 89.1 IP
  • Franklin Morales 2007: 3-2, 3.43 ERA, 14/26 BB/K, 34 H, 39.1 IP
  • Jorge de la Rosa 2008: 3-2, 3.68 ERA, 22/38 BB/K, 31 H, 36.2 IP

So what stands out? First of all, JDLR is the only one of the above pitchers to display signs of having an "out" pitch, which shows up with him having more K's than IP. This is a big deal and it helps with the next category we should pick up. The low numbers of hits allowed has to be more closely scrutinized, but doing so gives another indication that JDLR isn't just faking it. Stark's BABIP allowed in the second half of 2002 was .195, which is crazy insane lucky. Jason Jennings in 2006? .280, which isn't so far out of the realm of possibility, but with a career BABIP of .314, you can see that he too was getting a bit of help in keeping the hit count low. JDLR's BABIP after the All-Star break in 2008 is .315, which means there's not a lot of added luck to his line right now, that's a very good thing if we're talking about what we should look to expect in the future.

My next concern would be strength of contact, though, and here is where I'm seeing some considerable luck into JDLR's performance. How much could be crucial in determining how high we should get our hopes up. Since the ASB, De La Rosa has allowed just a .328 slugging percentage, while over his career that number has averaged .462. We can assume that his real skill with this number should be higher, but should we just assume that he's going to be giving the same number of bombs and doubles that he had before this 2008 run? The data can't be clear that he has taken a career step forward, there's just not going to be enough of it in two months no matter how you slice it. However, if he has taken such a step, it would stand that his improvement in sugging percentage allowed isn't completely artificial. I'm not completely sure where to go with this, from here. I know JDLR's not quite as good as he appears right now, but I also know that he's a lot closer to being as good than guys we've had in the past who have had similar late runs. The bottom line, I think the Rockies may breathe a sigh of relief that the Ramon Ramirez trade didn't turn out to be a disaster, and let's hope next season it proves to be much better than that.