With Tulo starting to hit, Iannetta starting, our lineup is currently fine for the National League, our bullpen currently fine for the NL. The one glaring and obvious team weakness lies in three fifths of the starting rotation. By breaking down what it's taken teams to get quality starting help this July, namely the deals the Cubs, Brewers and Phillies have made, you can see that the decision of O'Dowd's to not get a starter boils down to large long term bets on two specific players, Ian Stewart and Dexter Fowler.
Stewart, in particular, seems to have been the key figure in keeping the Rockies from buying in 2008. For this point, it's helpful to go back to the offseason and look also at the Matt Garza/Delmon Young and Edinson Volquez/Josh Hamilton trades where it becomes clear that the best way to get a quality young cost controlled starter is to offer a quality young cost controlled power bat in return. It's become clear that nobody was offering starters of the caliber that O'Dowd's looking for (and should be looking for) in exchange for a reliever, no matter how good they are.
So unless O'Dowd plans on hunting up a similar trade to the Minnesota/Tampa Bay or Cincinnati/Texas deals by using Stewart this winter, it seems that the team is putting him into 2009's lineup in pencil already. Fowler might be in that category as well. In this case the wager made on Thursday was that a starting eight that included Dex and Stew in 2009 trumps the starting five getting rid of them would have brought. Looking at the numbers bears this out. Stewart this season, with a 138 OPS+ (compared to 105) and superior defense is already outperforming Atkins at third base. He'd be a downgrade offensively from Matt Holliday in left field, but not by much if he improves at the palte next season. Fowler, for his part, should be a better option than Taveras or Podsednik or Spilly by next April if he isn't already, but certainly by mid-summer at the latest.
So what we're left with is that the lot is basically cast here that the rotation problem and the extra parts we have are two distinct issues that are going to have to be solved separately if we want to put the best possible team on the field. Unless you're wearing a Pirates cap, you don't want us to give up Franklin Morales for Ian Snell when we all know that Morales could and should be better than Snell over the long haul. Nobody should want to give up Stewart for Duchsherer or Fowler for Washburn when Stewart and Fowler should be playing everyday in 2009 versus the once ever five day contribution those two starting pitchers will bring and the mediocrity that they'd bring at that.
So what O'Dowd ends up doing is kicking around the tires on guys like Livan Hernandez, somebody who's obviously not ideal, clearly only a National League bottom of the rotation starter at best (for more of that discussion check out Pioneer Skies diary on the right) but who might nonetheless be better than options we are currently using.
With fifteen strikeouts racked up in their loss yesterday, the Rockies continue a disturbing trend on offense. For the week they have 62 K's in 275 PA's as a team (22.5%,) compared to a season average of 18.6% and a NL average of 17.9%. Strikeouts by themselves aren't necessarily a bad thing, so long as there is a corresponding increase in other offensive categories, in fact, they could indicate either more patience or power and you should see a higher OBP or SLG, but we aren't exactly seeing that. What's actually happening is that the Rockies are striking out more, but also getting a little luckier with their balls hit into play so their overall offensive stats are basically the same. The problem is that once the luck with BABIP fades, the increasing lack of contact will take the team's offensive numbers down quickly.