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Wednesday Rockpile: Troy Tulowitzki tells all; Vinny Castilla still has it; Jeff Weaver re-signs with Los Angeles

The Denver Post has a big feature about the Rockies star shortstop today. It's a good read about where Troy Tulowitzki sees himself as he and the Rockies enter a new phase of their development simultaneously. Tulo really is analogous to the team itself anymore, which would sort of make him the definition of a franchise player. A companion piece provides some outside perspective on the shortstop.


Troy Renck blogged about Vinny Castilla's big game for Mexico in the Caribbean World Series, the game happily became the subject du jour of yesterday's Rockpile after the Ghostbusters and Lost discussions so I was able to keep updated on his exploits here. Renck also notes that the Rockies missed out on signing Kevin Gregg, who went to Toronto, and while I know some fans are pleased with this, adding him to our bullpen mix would have added some depth and flexibility and further closed the relief pitching gap we have with the Dodgers.

Much like the Orlando Cabrera situation, Gregg was a player that was getting undervalued after one very bad season following three above average years. The one bad season probably coincided with an overuse of his slider (he threw it nearly 30% of the time in 2009 after averaging just under 20% the three seasons prior to that). The Rockies were wanting him to pitch in an undefined set-up role, probably the seventh inning or perhaps later against weaker parts of the lineup in tied contests. The Rockies will go back to relying on their Belisle/Morales/Daley group to take care of this unless another option becomes available.


Jack Moore at FanGraphs takes a look at the Melvin Mora signing. This post is notable for its well reasoned defense of Clint Barmes.


The Dodgers were able to bulk up their own minor league pitching depth by re-signing Jeff Weaver. Despite this, as PF, errr, Andrew (the other Andrew?) alluded to in yesterday's Rockpile, the outgoing talent still outweighs the incoming talent for Los Angeles in 2010. Jon Weisman, of Dodger Thoughts (now part of ESPNLos Angeles) suggests that LA shouldn't worry given that their competition hasn't added much either. He cites the 1974/1975 off-season as a historical reference, but I find it kind of interesting that he tries seeing a parallel between the current version of the Dodgers and the Reds then rather than seeing the similarities that this Dodgers team has to that 1974 LA squad and that the competition (namely the Rockies) has to that Reds team.

Dilution of talent between 30 squads and the enormous financial advantage of the Yankees/Red Sox makes putting together another Big Red Machine virtually impossible, but as I've written frequently this off season, the Rockies are in a similar position this winter of getting rewarded if the rest of the league or division stagnates, which, as Weisman points out, is pretty much what happened (save for Arizona, which I'll probably have to delve deeper into tomorrow). 

My big assertions for the 2010 season with regard to the Dodgers are:


1. Their outfield isn't as good as they think. This, I think, is a big similarity to that historical reference Weisman brings up. In 1974, Dodger fans were probably counting on similar OF production from Jimmy Wynn and Willie Crawford in 1975, and further progress from the young Bill Buckner going into his age 25 season. Instead, all three regressed. This winter, we're seeing the same sort of presumptions. I really think Matt Kemp's a fantastic player, and we likely haven't seen the best from him, but I'm not convinced that best will be coming in 2010 nor that his season will be better than 2009.

The expectations for Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez seem even more outlandish. Self professed Dodger fans expect Ethier to be a four plus win player over replacement according to the FanGraphs projections, essentially repeating his career year from 2009 with better defense. Same boat for Ramirez, just under 600 PA's and 4.4 wins of value. Add that to the 6.2 wins from Kemp, and the Dodger fans that have taken time to read FanGraphs, log in and project some 2010 stats, meaning these are some of your more well read and stat savvy fans to begin with, see their starting outfield being worth just under 15 wins (14.8, to be exact). Alright, just to put where I'm at on paper before the season, I see their three starting outfielders hitting less than 70 HR in aggregate and being between 10 and 11 wins in value.

2. They aren't going to be as lucky with pitching as they were in 2009. I guess this could be subtitled "their bullpen isn't as good as they think, either." Which, unlike my outfield claim, I'm not really certain about. This could be one of those assertions you can come back and laugh at me for after the season. The fact is that bullpens as complete units tend to be fairly fluid in value as these collections of pitchers not good enough to be starters float around the mean. The Dodgers, however, for the last three seasons have been in the top three in bullpen FIP, or consistently good while other teams have been moving up and down the list. Their fans, perhaps with some good reason, have come to accept pitching superiority as absolute fact.

The reason why I'm dubious of this is I run into an issue when I try and objectively measure their pitching staff compared to everybody else's, namely the Giants and Rockies. The Dodgers have their solid arms, sure, Broxton's great, but so do those other teams. And the bottom of the Dodgers bullpen just doesn't seem that much more talented than the bottom of any other pen. My guess is that LA finally falls back in this category in 2010, but given the recent history, I could see why people wouldn't believe me on this.

3. They aren't going to be as good against Colorado as they were in 2009. The Rockies handed the Dodgers the 2009 NL West crown in April and May last year. If the teams somehow managed a .500 record against each other, which is kind of what one would expect in an 18 game season series between two 90-ish win teams, the Rockies would have been 97-65, the Dodgers 90-72. It didn't happen that way, though, LA beat us badly and therefore laid their rightful claim on the division title. That said, last season's LA/COL series results are hardly predictive for 2010. I don't see the same mismatch this season, and the series results should be pretty close to even.

To sum up, I think the Dodgers are in for a letdown in 2010. They just didn't do enough this off-season to address the talent attrition they're facing. And, as long as Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis are both as healthy as reports suggest, I think the Rockies and D-backs both finish ahead of them this year.