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Breaking Down the Rotation - #4 - Jorge De La Rosa

The Rockies' pitching staff has always been problematic at best. There have been bright spots and dark blotches, but in recent years, we've seen pitching get better and better. Is it an effect of the Humidor? Is Bob Apodaca the next Leo Mazzone? Is our farm program just doing that much better at churning out Major League caliber pitchers? Whatever it is, the pitching staff was something special last season, despite the team's overall poor performance. Who is on the docket for the 2009 season is what Counting Rocks is exploring leading up to March.

Continuing the series on the Rockies 2009 rotation (as I see it) will be our number 4 pitcher:

Jorge De La Rosa

#29 / Pitcher / Colorado Rockies





Apr 05, 1981

You could dub De La Rosa's 2008 as the Tale of Two Pitchers.

JDLR, yet another trade recipient of Dan O'Dowd's, came to Colorado near the end of Spring, 2008, in exchange for relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez. He began the season in AAA with Omaha Royals, and then made his first appearance in Colorado against the LA Dodgers. He went 4.0 innings, struck out 4, walked 3, and gave up 9 earned runs. Boy, great trade, Dan.

He did cool down a bit from that line, posting the following 1st half numbers:

14 11 7.26 60 24 9

Find out more after the jump.

It was a pretty poor showing, but there was a lot more to take out of his performance than simply the numbers on the statline.

9.47 3.79 2.5 1.63 1.42 .359 10.89

Just looking at these numbers, JDLR's peripherals look downright impressive. Slightly-below-average control, downright Elite strikeout rates.

Seriously though, look at these numbers. His BABIP suggests he’s getting unlucky, and explains away his H/9, but he’s striking out a third of the outs he’s getting. He’s clearly leaving the ball up, as evidenced by his HR/9, but his control is suggesting that he’s doing a passably good job of controlling baserunners. Who is this guy?

Now let’s take a look at his numbers in the 2nd half.

14 12 3.08 68 38 4

What happened? This can’t possibly be the same guy as the first half. Better ERA, fewer dingers, he’s looking downright solid. This is a guy you want on your pitching staff!

Just to reinforce this, let’s take a look at his peripherals:

8.38 4.68 1.79 1.33 0.49 .288 7.27

….. What?

His K rate decreased, he got wilder, but he got LUCKY on balls in play! He did, however, keep the ball in the park well. Seriously, who is this guy?

To try and explain DLR, we almost do need to treat him as 2 different pitchers: 1st half DLR, and 2nd half DLR.

For his career, 1st half DLR is confident. He comes out and goes right at hitters. He tends to be a bit wild, but he isn't afraid to pitch to anyone. Problem is, 1st half DLR tends to leave the ball up. He walks a bunch of guys, but he also gives up more hits and home runs. 1st half DLR tends to have better K rates, better BB rates, worse H and HR rates, and a higher ERA to show for it as well. Because FIP only looks at K, BB, HR, it tends to like 1st half DLR more than 2nd half DLR. xERA, however, takes hits into account, and it knows that he is leaving the ball up. xERA prefers 2nd half DLR to 1st, but it frowns on both of them.

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 H/9 ERA FIP xERA
7.67 4.32 1.14 10.73 6.20 4.55 5.60

2nd half DLR is a much different pitcher than 1st half DLR. 1st half DLR got shelled a bit, and 2nd half DLR learned his lesson from this. In response, 2nd half DLR is hesitant to go right into the zone at hitters. He tends to pitch around them more, as evidenced by lower K rates and higher BB rates. In doing this, however, he also decreases the number of hits, and by extension, the number of HRs he's giving up. He makes fewer mistakes in terms of leaving a ball up, but he misses his spots a lot. FIP doesn't like the lower Ks and the higher BBs, but xERA appreciates the fewer hits and homers given up.

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 H/9 ERA FIP xERA
6.68 5.65 1.03 8.98 4.76 5.12 4.88

Well, we have an idea on how to profile JDLR now. Rough 1st half pitcher, meeker - but better - 2nd half pitcher. The next question we have to ask is how much will he actually be pitching?

RoxGirl brought this up as part of a discussion thread based around either the CHONE or Bill James projections. Can we expect 170 innings out of DLR? 150? 130? 246? IS JORGE DE LA ROSA THE NEXT SANDY KOUFAX?!

Just plugging the numbers through the same system I've been using for most of his counting stats, it's a weighted average of his past 3 seasons. The reason it's tricky to just use this method is that over the past 3 seasons, he's split time between the pen and the rotation. His career high for innings pitched, incidentally, was last season, with 152 (split between Omaha and Colorado). Can we count on him to build on that in 2009? I'm not entirely sure we can. Removing the innings coming out of the pen, DLR averaged 5.1 IP per start, and he also averaged 92 pitches per start. It's not as if they're keeping him on a Joba Chamberlain style leash here. He's a wild pitcher, he's not gonna get as much bang for his buck as Aaron Cook will.

Based on his numbers in 2008, then, let's try and forecast what he might do in 2009. If he stays healthy, which isn't a given (he missed a decent amount of time in both 2006 and 2007 with various injuries), we could probably slate him for 25 starts. I'd like to push that as high as 30, but his lack of stamina as a starter makes me think he may get some time off to come out of the pen again. Were I running the team, I'd try and get him out there for a full 30 starts.

The 3 projection systems are all taking a different stance on DLR's workload this upcoming season.

Bill James sees him pitching 29G, 24GS, but has him also pitching 23 more innings than this season. That's only 2 more games, 1 more start than 2008, and yet it's a 23 inning gap. It's not totally outlandish to see him gaining an inning/start, especially if he builds on his groundballing tendencies he started to show this season (2008 saw a 5% jump in GB% as compared to 2006 and 2007), but if he doesn't start reigning in the control a bit, I'm not too confident in James' 153IP projection for 2009.

CHONE has DLR making 22 starts for Colorado, and I'm wondering if they're weighing in his elbow problems from 2007. CHONE is calling for a mere 108IP from DLR this season. Were he to keep up his 5.1IP/start, that would put him at 117.1IP for 22 starts, so apparently they're seeing a further disappointment in durability.

Marcel simply ran the numbers like I did for most the other pitchers, just weighed his past 3 seasons, and came up with 130IP with no suggestions/considerations as to how many games or starts DLR would be making.

Just weighting the past seasons' IP performances, we come up with 125IP for DLR by my numbers. If we account for AAA IP as well, we're up to 138, and 26 starts. If we disregard his 2006 numbers (as more than half of his appearances came from the pen), and just weigh 2007 and 2008, we end up with 147 IP. He probably lost 3-4 starts last season based on the time he spent in the bullpen. I'd love to simply say it puts him directly at 30 starts over a full MLB season, I really would. I'd be saying it with zero confidence, however.

DLR is young still, he'll be 28 this season, so it's not out of line to hope he can rein in the control a bit. As evidenced by the average pitch count listed earlier, it's not as if he's stuck at 75 pitches per outing or anything like that. If he can rein in some control in 09, that 92-100 pitches might stretch further into the 6th, or into the 7th. 6 innings is all we need out of a starter anyhow, as we have a very decent bullpen this season, downright GOOD even.

Based on all the above, I'll step out and above the other 3 projections, and suggest that DLR is going to pitch 163 innings this season. Call it 2 more starts, call it more longevity on the starts he already gets, but I'm going to stand with 163IP. My concerns with James' 153IP projection are even more magnified here.

Bill James 29 24 7 10 153 124 78 1.59 1.12 7.29 4.59 1.61 .326 4.75
CHONE 22 22 6 6 108 92 48 1.92 1.17 7.67 4.00 1.49 .318 4.63
Marcel 9 9 130 110 59 1.86 1.11 7.62 4.08 1.49 .317 4.51
RMN 29 29 11 9 163 142 77 1.84 1.30 7.84 4.23 1.53 .323 4.83 5.03

To conclude, DLR has a nice arsenal of pitches, and the ability to use them all to get punchouts. We saw an increase in his GB%, which is obviously a benefit with our IF defense. However, he does seem to lose an element of his control as the season progresses, but he also does a better job of keeping the ball in the park. DLR seems to be a mixed bag, but honestly, with the sheer upside he could show, he's definitely a plus to this team. I seem to be the most optimistic about his K rate in 2009, and right in line with his control, but my concern with the other projections is they, similar to Greg Smith, aren't considering the change in environment from a pitcher-friendly Kaufman to Coors Field. I won't mess around with splitting up the dingers, because (according to Hit Tracker) all but 1 of them were considered "Plenty" or "No Doubt", so we're pretty sure he left them up, etc.

If DLR can work on reining in his control, keeping the ball low, and working for that groundball, I can see him having a downright successful season.