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Wednesday Rockpile: Panic, Braves fans, Panic.

Alright, I told biondino in yesterday's Rockpile that I'd have a post about Todd Helton, the Hall of Fame and what we should look for with the remainder of his career today, and I think I still will, it just won't be in the Rockpile. Instead, look for that later this afternoon.

Since I'm such a kind hearted soul and know some Braves fans must be fretting something awful fierce right now with the news that Jair Jurrjens is undergoing an MRI on a sore right shoulder, I thought I'd give them some words of encouragement and point out all the great seasons of MLB pitchers who had shoulder MRI's during the Spring the last couple of seasons:

Let's start by looking at the 2009 seasons of Boof Bonser, Damaso Marte, Edwar Ramirez and John Parrish... 

err, scratch that.., don't look, it's not pretty. Not a good start so far...

How about those of Jeff Francis, Greg Smith and Eric Gagne? Remember where we were in late January with Francis last season? Uhm... Brandon Webb?

What about the 2008 season of Kelvim Escobar?

Eww, no, that's not quite what I had in mind, either. Seriously, if somebody can point to a pitcher whose shoulder pain was serious enough to get a MRI during or just before Spring Training but still wind up with an effective season the last few years, let me know, because I can't. 

For Braves fans, the closest to anecdotal good news for you would be someone like the Angels Joe Saunders, who experienced shoulder "discomfort" and soreness in early Spring last season before going on to win 16 games. Saunders' discomfort, however, didn't seem strong enough to warrant the team asking him to get an MRI. So yeah, panic, Braves fans, panic.

One of the things that irked me toward the end of the 2009 season would be seemingly intelligent fans of the Braves ignoring the Rockies case for having the best rotation in the league. Part of why it was such a peeve was clearly my own homerism, but really not acknowledging the Rockies pitching at all in the conversation is foolish. And it's not like I've seen Rockies fans do the same thing. Despite FanGraphs' WAR and other park neutralizing stats showing us as ahead of Atlanta, the two teams were so close that I could see an argument (wrong as I may believe it is) for the Braves being slightly ahead, however, many Braves fans couldn't even acknowledge that there was another team even remotely close to them.

So yeah, schadenfreude. Anyway, fans expect Jurrjens to be a four win pitcher in 2010. There's a drop from him to either Kris Medlen or Jo-Jo Reyes and then potentially an additional drop from Medlen (who projected as the Braves best reliever) to whomever winds up replacing him in the bullpen. Conservatively, it looks to me like you'd be looking at around a two to two and a half win above replacement swing in aggregate were Jurrjens to be lost for the season. That's a huge deal for an NL contender, and good news for whoever will be winding up in second place to the Rockies in the NL West this season as far as the wild card race is concerned.

Okay.., okay.., let's acknowledge that there may be a chance that the Rockies are in second in the West again this year, and it could therefore potentially be good news for us as well.

At any rate, Jurrjens should also be a cautionary tale for all fans heading into Spring. Don't take a front office's word that certain procedures are just precautionary or that certain pains are nothing and what everybody goes through. An MRI sounds pretty tame, they're just looking, right? But my point here is that at this time of year it seems to be a pretty blatant warning flag given the history of players that have had it done in recent springs. If we get a similar report about a Rockies pitcher, I'd be worried.

More links after the jump:

Francis' recovery is still on target, as Troy Renck talks to him and others about his prep work in the Dominican the last couple of weeks.

Eric Young Jr's chances of making the team out of Spring Training are slim without an injury to somebody else on the roster, but the second baseman/utility player remains upbeat. Also noted is that Eric Gagne's tryout in front of Jim Tracy and Dan O'Dowd was "pedestrian", and the right hander remains a "longshot" to join the Rockies. I'm not sure if that's in reference to his joining the organization at all on a minor league contract or just him cracking the major league roster. The latter is obviously true as he'd probably fall behind Juan Rincon, Matt Reynolds, possibly Taylor Buchholz, Casey Weathers and others slated for AAA or extended Spring on the depth chart, so maybe the former is true as well.

BTW, correct my math if it's wrong here: The Dodgers pwned the Rockies at the beginning of last season. The Rockies have a left hand heavy lineup. For the beginning of 2010, the Dodgers have replaced Randy Wolf in the rotation vs Vicente Padilla. Randy Wolf is a left hander. Vicente Padilla has awful splits against left handed hitters... alright, you can probably see from here where I'm going with that.

Former Rockies pitcher Jason Marquis has an amusing quote in this article:

"I don't know why we can't shoot for the stars," Marquis said. "Why do you want to limit yourself to 81 wins? Why do I want to limit myself to 15 wins? If I'm taking the ball 34 times, I should win 34 times. We are going to step on the field 162 times -- we should win 162 times."

You know, sometimes the optimism of Spring smells like flowers to me, sometimes it smells like something else entirely.

I think I've been successfully convincing at least one computer about how great the Rockies are. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA based depth charts started out with the Rockies at 80-82 and in fourth place in the division when they initially came out about a month ago. Currently the team's at 88-74 and in first by four games. At this rate, we might be a 100 win team by the time the season starts.