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Wednesday Rockpile: Rockies Offense is a Little Schizophrenic, Iannetta Thoughts

Warning: this mini-diatribe was written by a man running on three hours of sleep.

At the end of play last night, the Rockies owned the second best run differential (+30) in the NL behind only the Giants (+34), who have allowed only 56 runs this year. This great differential leads to a Pythagorean record for the Rockies of 13-8, two games better than their 11-10 mark.

So why are the Rockies playing below their Pythagorean projection so far this year? It's partially because Colorado's run differential was built on the strength almost entirely of a few blowouts. The Rockies are 5-1 in games decided by 5 or more runs and have a total differential of +34 in those games (48-14). This means that in their other 15 games the Rockies have been outscored 64-60 (that's four runs per game on offense). Heck, in games when Ubaldo Jimenez, beast that he is, isn't on the hill the Rockies, the team is 6-10 with a +9 differential.

In other words, when the Rockies' offense isn't getting cheap tacos for fans along the Front Range, they aren't getting it done. Four of those five blowout wins occurred at Coors Field, where Colorado is +29 on the season opposed to only +1 on the road. Is 21 games a small sample size? Sure, but it's one-eighth of the season. The Rockies' average scoring of 5.1 runs per game is great--I just wish that they would do it with more consistency on the road.

Ultimately, none of this (no, not even the rash of injuries the Rockies have encountered) changes my guarantee of the Rockies winning the West this year. It would just be nice if they put together a nice win streak to catch the Padres (!!!) and Giants over this critical 12 game in-division series.

Patrick Saunders takes a good news/bad news approach to the Rockies thus far. His bottom line: the Rockies are still fine, especially since the Dodgers have scuffled coming out of the gates.

Troy Renck has a mailbag in which he answers questions about Dexter Fowler's switch-hitting, the DH, and cut fastballs among others. The Dex bunting question in particular makes the sabermetrician in me uneasy.

In terms of the near future, Jhoulys Chacin will indeed be the starter on Sunday against Johnathan Sanchez and the Giants and Jim Tracy is excited about it.

ITR's Steve Foster reports that Greg Reynolds was placed on the 60 day DL as expected to open up a 40 man roster slot for Juan Rincon, but the surprising move was that the Rockies DFA'd Alberto Alburquerque to open up a spot for Paul Phillips. Alburquerque, who had been acquired from the Cubs for Jeff Baker last year, will now need to pass through waivers to stay in the system.

It's a curious move to say the least, and one that I don't like one bit, especially considering that a player like Jeff Francis or Huston Street could likely have been moved to the 60 day DL quite easily and not put a pitching prospect at risk of being lost to another team.

Thoughts and reactions about Chris Iannetta's demotion after the jump.

Several folks weighed in on Iannetta's demotion to AAA:

Iannetta himself was surprised at the demotion. Given the small sample size of 34 PAs, I don't blame him. Here's Iannetta on the demotion:

"I didn't see it coming," Iannetta told The Denver Post today. "A lot has been said about the mental side of it and I have been hearing a lot about that, but I think that's overblown. I felt fine at the plate. I hadn't lost my confidence."

Iannetta goes on to say that:

"I was questioning why I wasn't getting any hits, but it was only a few at-bats. I actually had a good conversation (Sunday) with (Jason) Giambi and he made a suggestion that I tried and it felt really good,"

I guess he'll get to try that suggestion out for Colorado Springs soon.

Meanwhile, Jim Tracy's take:

"Chris Iannetta at times looks very confused as an offensive player," Tracy said. "I see uncertainty in his body language. I see uncertainty in his decision-making process at a time when the pitcher's getting ready to throw a baseball to him and he has to make a decision."

He went on to talk about a couple of technical issues:

"I see a guy who's working below the ball," Tracy said. "Instead of working down through the ball, he's spending quite a bit of time below the ball and up through it.

"If all that's going on, I don't think you're going to have an opportunity to really solve all of that by hitting off of one of our staff members five out of seven days a week and getting two chances a week to play. I don't think we're going to get it fixed. We needed to be proactive and get him in an arena to give him a chance to fix what's ailing him."

For whatever reason, and it has been discussed here ad nauseum, Iannetta and Tracy seem to be on completely different pages. Tracy would be doing Iannetta a service by giving him a consistent chance to work out his issues at the major league level instead of unnecessarily mixing up his 40 man roster situation.

I think that Iannetta would figure it out sooner rather than later at the major league level if he were given regular playing time, but since Tracy is content to jerk Iannetta's playing time around ride the hot hand of Miguel Olivo, that wasn't going to happen. In that sense it is good that Iannetta will be at AAA. In every other sense this move is a heinous mis-use of small sample sizes and a move that will only serve to hurt the Rockies' 2010 performance.

Yes, Olivo is locked in right now and Iannetta is struggling--but Iannetta has had EIGHT FREAKING GAMES to prove himself, only once even starting two games in a row. The way the Rockies have handled this situation is flat stupid.

Jack Moore at FanGraphs is on the same wavelength as I am about this decision. Here's the money quote:

It shouldn’t take long for Iannetta to make it clear that he belongs in the major league and for Olivo to demonstrate that he belongs on the bench. Iannetta should especially thrive at Colorado Springs, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in professional baseball. When Iannetta comes back and starts put up numbers like his career .349 wOBA, people will likely claim that the minor league stint helped him get his head right. In reality, it will simply be hits falling in for Iannetta where they weren’t before.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Rob Neyer chimes in:

Some players -- not all, but some -- aren't at their best when wondering about their place. Aside from the three-year contract -- and yes, we have to acknowledge that $8.35 million is a lot of money, even after taxes -- if you were running the Rockies and you were trying to screw Iannetta up, isn't this roughly how you would do it?

Um...yes. Unfortunately, that's what I feel like the Rockies are doing to Iannetta--inexplicably screwing up a good thing, a gift of a patient all-around talented catcher.

And Iannetta's place as the most divisive figure on the Rockies remains intact.