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Thursday Rockpile: What the smart analysts aren't saying about the Rockies (but should be)

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So before yesterday's blowout of the Reds,  Carlos Gonzalez and his quest for a triple crown began to draw some serious media scrutiny:



These are some serious heavyweights of the Internet baseball reporting world, representing both old school and new school media. While all bring up good points, there are also some common themes to the articles:

  1. that Carlos Gonzalez is a very good player.
  2. that he has some big home/road splits that might justifiably keep him from getting the MVP (pending the rest of the regular season).
  3. that Rockies fans in the comment sections have a serious chip on their shoulders.

The last point stems from years of being denied attention by the mainstream (rightfully, when we had a bad team) and a sense that the Rockies somehow simply aren't getting fair recognition now that they're a good team. You'll note that Rockies fans in these comments seem to be split, whether it's Pony (use that nickname, Posnanski) or Ubaldo that's getting the shaft. The real answer is that it's neither.

Where these analysts really are being negligent and doing a disservice to baseball fans is by refusing to publicly acknowledge a point that has become clear in the last two years:

The Rockies have the most valuable pitching staff in the major leagues.

Unfortunately, there's no award for this, no recognition beyond what the media is willing to dish out, and that's where the negligence comes in. While we've seen said media extolling how fierce the Yankees lineup is, seen them note how several of the low payroll contenders are using top of the MLB defense to fuel their runs, seen them show how the White Sox and Braves (and just this morning, the Twins) are using their collective staffs to fuel their playoff hopes, nobody's come out and said what the advanced metrics are showing.

And this is a problem. Why? Because in the absence of a reasoned voice explaining why the Rockies are having so much success, we're seeing more and more tinfoil humidor conspiracies spring up (side note: read this fascinating article about the reduction of HR's that a humidor creates and why it might have a bigger impact on the D-backs than it does the Rockies.) The masses outside Colorado seem to know that something's missing from the equation:

  • Carlos Gonzalez + X = Rockies home field advantage

This is how they're filling it in:

  • Carlos Gonzalez + cheating = Rockies home field advantage.

If somebody that they trust would just help them out a little, this is how they should be filling that gap:

  • Carlos Gonzalez + BAMF pitching staff = Rockies home field advantage
  • BAMF pitching staff - Carlos Gonzalez = Rockies road disadvantage

As the sweep over San Diego at PETCO last week showed, when the Rockies have both Gonzalez and their pitching on the road, they're just as potent. Instead, unfortunately, we don't get that. We get articles like this, from FanGraphs' Joe Pawlikowski that state that for the Rockies to make it to the playoffs:

...they're dependent on a lot of lucky breaks. Jhoulys Chacin will have to make a few more starts like his six-inning, two-run performance last night. Aaron Cook needs to finish strong after a generally poor season. Carlos Gonzalez will have to continue his mashing taters. Essentially, multiple players will have to get hot at the same time and sustain that production for a few weeks. 

Notice how the implication is that Chacin, who has been pitching all season at a more effective rate than any rookie starter not named Strasburg (more effective per inning than Latos, even, who's not a rookie) will have to be "lucky" to win out this year. Notice how Aaron Cook's "generally poor season" is almost on a par in FanGraphs value with that of Jair Jurrjens (1.7 WAR to 1.5) who some writer told us was back to form in July. Cook is more valuable than any other NL team's fifth best starter, heck, he is more valuable than all but three NL teams' (Braves, Astros, Giants) fourth best starters.

So if we had an Internet media with the guts to trust what the numbers are telling us and say "The Rockies have the best pitching staff in the National League, and the most valuable staff in the majors," there probably wouldn't be as much an issue with them telling us that Carlos Gonzalez isn't carrying the Rockies right now as much as it appears, as much as Joey Votto carries the Reds. The reason Rockies fans have this chip on their shoulders is because there's a clear double standard that writers use to devalue our team, and it's making us defensive as we have to combat the nutjobs that think there's this grand cover-up of some shenanigans in a humidor in LoDo.

What's rotten, though, isn't coming from Denver or Denmark, it's coming from the denizens of the media.


The bad news from last night is that Votto broke Cook's leg. Even though the fracture is relatively minor, this could never be considered a good thing, but because the Rockies pitching staff is so deep, and the most valuable in the majors, Jeff Francis and Esmil Rogers are both ready to assist.