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Thursday Rockpile: Pitching is failing the Rockies, not defense

The FanGraphs team stat pages can be revealing at times. For instance, taking a look at the pitch values for hitters page shows that while the Rockies do alright against all types of fastballs and are  in the middle of the pack when it comes to facing curves and change-ups, the team is second worst in the majors (to Pittsburgh) when it comes to facing sliders. Isolating the problem further shows that the bulk of this issue comes from the team's catchers and outfielders, with Miguel Olivo being the low rung, nearly three runs below average (third worst in the majors overall) thus far. Not to single out Olivo too much, as Chris Iannetta hasn't been much better, and Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler have both been well below average against the pitch.

"Everything I threw was right down the middle of the plate. You can't pitch like that."

Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt, via Troy Renck of the Denver Post

On the flip side, the change-up has been the most effective weapon for Rockies pitchers thus far, as they lead the majors in value of that pitch (Greg Smith, Jorge De La Rosa and Ubaldo Jimenez rank in the top 11 in the MLB with it), while the stats would suggest that the team's curve-balls haven't had their desired effect that often.

A little more disconcerting is a closer inspection of the fastball values, which at the team level hide their issues thanks to Jimenez's awesomeness. Smith needs his change to work because his FB has been the second least effective heater in the majors thus far, while Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel both have fastballs that are well off of average. So that's probably a Captain Obvious alert for everybody that's been watching the team, but sometimes it's good to check around and see if maybe our tunnel vision with the Rox has left us with a false impression of the team's relative value in a category.

Case in point, with two more errors last night, team defense could definitely be tightened up, but now that we are starting to get actual usable data, we see that it's not nearly the issue it's made out to be, as the team on the whole has been fifth best in the majors according to UZR thus far. The Rockies make their mistakes, but apparently they make enough of the more challenging plays to make up for it. I went out to Great American Ballpark last night to watch the Dodgers/Reds game, and at least from my perspective, the Dodgers are deserving of their league worst UZR rank, it was a very sloppy game for both sides, but additionally, there just seemed to be more holes to hit through against LA than there were last year.

I do have to reluctantly admit that LA's offense doesn't look nearly as overrated as I claimed it was during the offseason. With a .350 team BABIP, they're clearly on an unsustainable run in that department right now, but still pretty solid. Let's hope Manny loses his drive quickly this season.

I don't mean to imply the errors are a total non-issue, the Rockies could probably have a couple more wins, a couple fewer losses if they tightened up and became a truly excellent defensive team, I think I've just come to the conclusion that there are bigger problems to harp on right now if we're looking for reasons for the 7-8 start, chief among them, starting pitching.


The Denver Post has a nifty feature on the role U-ball's mother plays in his life.

The Rockies rested Ian Stewart for the first time this season last night, and Jim Tracy will give Troy Tulowitzki a break soon. Jim, next time please give me more advanced warning for either of these players so I can make the appropriate adjustments to my fantasy team, thanks.

Jason Giambi's working as a secondary hitting instructor, even if he himself isn't hitting. Articles like this are typical of the propaganda you get when a player's not living up to expectations, but Giambi really did seem to get signed with his skills as a hitting guru in mind and his .143 BABIP definitely falls into an unsustainable category. Giambi's also not as big an issue as some fans make it seem.