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Sunday Rockpile: Corpas Cranking, Rockies Starters better than you think

Troy Renck at the Denver Post catches up with Manny Corpas, who has been working hard to come back from last season's let down with the club. The erstwhile closer for the Rockies lost his job thanks in part, he feels, to poor conditioning during the offseason. To remedy that, Corpas is undertaking a more serious approach to his workouts and diet this winter, which will hopefully bring about good results. Unfortunately, whispers of better conditioning for players, whether it's losing weight or adding pounds of muscle, are one of those signs that like budding crocus flowers herald the coming of Spring, but don't always translate into actual improvement once the season starts. There are exceptions, Ubaldo Jimenez seemingly used 15 added pounds of muscle to avoid getting hit by the Verducci Effect last season, so maybe Corpas' shedding weight to get in better shape will bring about a similarly happy result this year. 

Mark Knudson writes that Troy Tulowitzki has to step up into a leadership role with the Rockies if they hope to compete this year, I can't say that he's wrong. Without Matt Holliday, the Rockies can't afford too many letdowns around the diamond, but one position they certainly can't afford it at all would be at shortstop. While Tulo doesn't have to be an all-world class superstar, he does have to be a solid contributor at least in the ballpark of Stephen Drew and Raffy Furcal if the Rockies expect a return to their winning ways.

Because Coors Field is still a very hitting friendly environment, I don't know if people fully understand how valuable the Rockies starters are. If you are hoping to become an enlightened fan, rather than just another "Woody Paige", you would be wise to take some time at FanGraphs' pitching Leaderboards which now include win values for pitchers. From these you could gain insights such as the fact that Aaron Cook was just as valuable as Johan Santana last season, and that Jimenez and Chad Billingsley were near equals as well. The fact is, the Rockies starters only seem weak in comparison because the NL West is loaded with starting pitching, and our starters have to pitch half their games in Coors Field, while the rest do not. In 2008, the division had four teams with at least two starters among the 20 most valuable in the NL, and the Dodgers and D-backs each had three. The Brewers were the only other NL squad to put two starters in the top 20. There is some logical disconnect here if you think about that. Half of the NL's 20 most valuable starters were pitching in its worst division, so I have to wonder if the West's weak lineups are skewing the numbers more than is accounted for, but the point seems to remain that the division's weakness in 2008 had little to do with the quality of its starters.

So where exactly would this put the Rockies rotation in 2009 relative to the rest of the NL? Cook and Jimenez return, but will they prove as valuable? I really don't know if I'd bet against them both being in the top 20 again, both are talented and underrated by most baseball fans. I've probably got more I'll want to say on this, but Rockies pitching in 2009 should prove once again to be an overlooked strength of the team.