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Tuesday Rockpile: Midseason Report Cards - Pitchers

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This guy is the only reliever I gave an A to, even though the bullpen as a whole has been solid most of the season.
This guy is the only reliever I gave an A to, even though the bullpen as a whole has been solid most of the season.

Andrew Martin handed out grades for the Rockies' hitters thus far in 2011 in yesterday's rockpile.  Today, I'll finish what he started by handing out grades to the pitching staff.  As a reminder, grades are handed out based on individual pre-season expectations of each player, not raw performance.  Raw performance grades can be found here.  So meeting expectations gets a "C." Those who have done better than expected are higher than a C and vice versa. Got it?  Good.

 

Rotation

Ubaldo Jimenez  -  Expected to carry the load of deep rotation as an ace and once again threaten 20 wins, The Chief fell apart spectacularly, losing velocity, control, his home run prevention ability, durability and generally all confidence.  It was difficult to watch as a Rockies fan, and I imagine demoralizing for the players not having a guy trusted to bring home a W - indeed, Colorado lost 8 of his first 9 starts.  With a few hiccups, he has gotten a bit back on track, with just 15 ER in 53.1 IP (2.53 ERA) in eight starts since the beginning of June.  He had 50 K's and just 11 BB's in that span.  He is on pace for a decent 4-4.5 fWAR season, but that is from an ace, and his March-May really put the Rockies behind the 8-ball.  Grade:  D+

Jorge de la Rosa - The lefty got a nice contract in the off-season and rewarded the Rockies with a career year in practically every possible way.  Colorado lost four of his ten starts, but he allowed 3 ER or less in all four of those losses.  His 3.51 ERA was 71 points lower than his career best, set last year, and his FIP was even lower.  Jorge had Tommy John surgery last month, and his injury has absolutely killed the rotation.  Grade:  A

Jhoulys Chacin - I wrote in the offseason that it would be very difficult to know what to expect out of Chacin this year.  With de la Rosa injured and Jimenez' fall from grace, the youngest man on the roster pitched like an ace for most of the first half, with a reasonable argument for an All-Star spot.  A couple very poor outings June 27 and July 5 knocked him off the path a bit, but he's still pitched like a very solid #2 pitcher.  Not bad for a 23 year old with just 22 career starts coming in.  Grade:  A 

Jason HammelAfter two ridiculously similar seasons, we thought we knew what we were getting from Mr. Hammel.  Instead, he has been a completely different guy, and a wildly inconsistent one at that..  He opened the season with a 3.23 ERA in April, as the Rockies won 4 of his 5 starts.  Colorado then lost his next 8 starts, 10 of his last 13.  He has seen his K rate plummet, his BB rate skyrocket and his home run rate increase, leading to the 16th worst FIP in MLB.  I'm a Jason Hammel guy, but even with tempered expectations for a 4th starter, he has disappointed.  Grade:  D

Aaron Cook - Roughly 95% of Rockies fans will tell you today they knew Aaron Cook had no business being in the rotation this season.  Every one of them is wrong.  Cook's two starts last September are easily ignored after a brutal 2011 so far, but the franchise leader in wins won his last two starts after returning from the DL.  When Joey Votto sent him to the DL again after a liner off his leg, Cook was stymieing a very good Reds line-up at Coors Field.  With expectations still low for a declining, oft-injured vet, Cook has still had a very poor season.  He missed two months due to injury, then won his season debut, allowing three runs and walking four at Petco Park.  The Rockies would lose his next five starts, with Cook getting pummeled in three of them.  Grade:  D

Esmil Rogers - Taking Cook's place initially in the rotation was Mr. Rogers, who teased Rockies fans with a truly dominant outing in his first start.  Rogers actually won his three road starts before landing on the DL, but he had his offense to thank for two of them.  At Coors Field?  How about 12 ER in 4 innings?  10 hits, 4 walks, and just 3 K's?  It's tough to have expectations for a guy who had 9 career starts and an ERA near 6.00 coming into the season, but after his initial start, Rogers was a disaster.  While we had hopes for better, there wasn't a lot to go on to expect a whole lot better.  Grade:  C-

Bullpen

Huston Street - Most closer have an extreme personality - Huston Street does not, but he makes up for it with extreme results. Did you realize Street is 5th among all MLB relievers in strikeouts per walk (2nd among closers)? That is exactly what you want from a closer. He has converted a save in 26 of 28 chances. Yet his home run rate is among the worst in MLB. So what do we make of him? Is he the 2009 reliever, one of the best in the game? The 2010 closer, who was injured half the time and shaky otherwise? Or the 2011 version, who has allowed baserunners and home runs, but has done his job (saved games) at an elite rate? I'll say two things: after allowing 5 HR in 8 appearances in mid-May, he has avoided the longball for 19 straight appearances, and given the "who knows?" expectations, I'm incredibly satisfied with Street's performance. Grade - B.

Rafael Betancourt - He was the most underrated setup man in the league before the season, but the human rain delay has slowed this year. He's already walked 7 men (after 8 all last year), and he has been very flat in select performances. Perhaps from fatigue, his fastball lacks velocity at times, and he has been hittable, with the home run rate staying high. He still K/BB's quite well, but he has lost his setup role at times. Most of the time, he's that dominant setup man. Sometimes, he's a sitting duck. Grade - C-.

Matt Lindstrom - The former closer in Houston and Miami lost his closer role with both clubs, thanks to relying too heavily on his fastball and walking too many people. After acquiring him for two fringe prospects (at best), expectations were low. The right-hander has used his change-up and slider more, tossing that vaunted fastball less than every before, and he is having a career year as a result. His BB rate and FIP are the best of his career, making him the best pleasant surprise on the Rockies' pitching staff. Grade - A.

Matt Reynolds - What exactly did we expect from the rookie lefty? He had a fantastic minor league career and 2010 cameo, but he was hit hard in Spring Training, enough to wonder if he could stick. He has had a few hiccups of late, but by and large, he has been one of the best left-handed relievers in MLB. No complaints here. Grade - B+.

Matt Belisle - The right-hander came from nowhere to have a career year last season, finishing as one of the more valuable relievers in MLB. He was tabbed universally as a candidate for regression, due to fatigue from a lot of work in 2010, simple regression, and better scouting reports on the new Belisle. He has indeed regressed pretty much across the board, but not egregiously so. He still ranks among the MLB leaders in K/BB among relievers (16th), so he's done just fine. Grade - C.

Franklin Morales - F-Mo was pretty much a lame duck on the roster from the start unless he made a magical transformation. He was expected to likely be gone by the All-Star Break, and he was, for a player to be named later or cash. He was improved in 14 appearances, but overall, pretty "meh." He has a 3.00 ERA and 2.25 FIP in seven appearances with Boston. Grade - C.

Felipe Paulino - There wasn't very lofty expectations for the flamethrower, and he didn't have many chances (18) to prove anything one way or another. But Paulino crashed and burned as enormously as any Rockies pitcher in recent memory, giving up the winning run in the opponent's last at-bat in four of his last seven appearances, including three straight. That stretch in early May was at the beginning of the Rockies freefall, and he got the axe for it. Grade - F.


Depth

Greg Reynolds - After his terrible 2008, repeated injury problems and largely mediocre spring, the former 2nd overall pick didn't give fans much to be optimistic about. He won his last start, when he allowed 5 ER, and allowed 2 ER in each of his other starts. He hasn't been special or even good, but he has given the Rockies as much as, if not more, than they could have reasonably expected. Grade - B.

Juan Nicasio - He wasn't even supposed to be in the majors until September (maybe), but injuries and a breakout in AA brought him to the majors. He's been dominant more than he's been terrible, and he has held his own, performing at the level of a legitimate MLB fifth starter. He still needs work, but he's been quite the surprise, even with very mediocre big league stats. Grade - A.

Clayton Mortensen - Acquired this offseason specifically to be rotational depth and/or a long reliever, he has filled in fairly well. Grade - C.

Alan Johnson - The minor league vet got one start, and it went pretty much as expected. He was shelled, but he kept the game close, and the Rockies won. Grade - C.

Rex Brothers - The rookie has had significant walk issues, but he's struck out 16 men in his first 12 big league innings and has a 3.00 ERA. Not exceptional overall, but still quite good. Grade - B.

Eric Stults - I wanted Stults nowhere near a Rockies uniform. He has allowed two solo home runs in three appearances, but he hasn't walked anyone yet. Decent enough I suppose. Grade - C+.

Matt Daley - He was with the club for less than two weeks, but he did a fine job of quieting his "Daley for Closer" supporters. His SSS ERA of 10.50 was a good three runs higher than any other Rockies' reliever. Even Paulino. Grade - F.

Bruce Billings - The right-hander got hit around a bit in his MLB debut, his only appearance with the Rockies. Five hits and a wild pitch in two innings (with no K's) wasn't great, but the expectations were low at least. He has a 7.36 ERA and 5.17 FIP in Oakland's AAA Sacramento after being traded for Mark Ellis. Grade - C-.

Edgmer Escalona - He has pitched in only one game, throwing a scoreless inning. Grade - C+.

 

Overall grade: D. The staff ranks 10th in fWAR, with the rotation coming in at 19th and bullpen at 8th. I expected the pitching staff to carry this team - it has, but not as well as hoped. I would put 95% of that on the rotation, as the big five in the pen have been pretty much as good as we could have reasonably hoped. Jimenez' early woes really hurt the team, and the string of fifth starters replacing Jorge de la Rosa after his injury have been shaky. Jason Hammel's control has disappeared, and Aaron Cook hasn't shown the flashes of revival he has last season. The staff overall has been good, but it still has not performed as well as expected, or as well as it has needed to.

 

 

Links

Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki an All-Star Game starter - The Denver Post.  Troy Renck features the Tulo on the morning of his first start in the All-Star Game for the National League, the Rockies' first by a hitter since Matt Holliday.  Of course, there is a Cal Ripken Jr. reference.

Offensive Players of the Week | MiLB.com News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball  The Rockies placed two prospects on the offensive players of the week in the minor leagues - Low-A Asheville's OF Corey Dickerson (#15 PuRP) and Rookie Casper's C Will Swanner (#17 PuRP).  Swanner gives the Casper Ghosts back-to-back honors, after SS Rosell Herrera was honored last week.

 

K% Change | FanGraphs Baseball   VERY IMPORTANT for those of you that look up statistics.  Fangraphs' K% has been changed from K/AB to K/PA.  The K% for all players will drop around 2%, but for guys like Iannetta, Fowler or Adam Dunn, it might drop significantly.

The Best (And Worst) Hitters At Making Pitchers Work - Beyond the Box Score  Speaking of which, the Rockies placed a guy in a tie for third, behind Jose Bautista and Bobby Abreu, in "Pitcher Fatigue Factor," a measure of pitches seen per out made.  Note, that's not per plate appearance, as working a six pitch walk is better than a seven pitch strikeout in terms of making the pitcher throw more pitches.  Also....you were absolutely right in who you though the Rockie was...unless you thought it was Todd Helton.