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Wednesday Rockpile: The 2012 Rockies Rotation -- Do Young Guns Have Enough Bullets?

When I read that the Rockies didn't have the money in their budget for Kevin Millwood, I thought to myself two things. One was, they offered Kevin Millwood a million guaranteed plus another million in incentives on a major league contract and he turned it down? The other was, we're counting on a rotation full of players that have yet to reach their 30th birthday to throw a bunch of innings this year (until Jorge De La Rosa comes back).

With it looking increasingly likely that Juan Nicasio will be ready to pitch in MLB this spring, I see Colorado's 2012 Opening Day rotation shaking out like this: Jhoulys Chacin (24), Nicasio (25), Jason Hammel (29), Kevin Slowey (27), and Drew Pomeranz (23). Waiting in the wings are Alex White (23), Tyler Chatwood (22), Chad Bettis (turns 23 in April), and Esmil Rogers (26). That's a pretty nice young group of arms Colorado has assembled.

The big test of 2012 will be if those young arms can consistently pitch at least six innings in their starts. As has been quoted on this blog previously, in 2011 nobody threw for 200 innings on this team -- and 2 of the top 5 guys on that innings pitched leaderboard aren't with the team in 2012. That's going to put a lot of strain on the bullpen, so it would be nice if a couple of young guns develop into horses this season.

Chacin threw only 22 more innings in 2011 than he did in 2010 (counting the minors), but 194 innings is a lot for a 23 year-old in this day and age. Nicasio broke his freaking neck last year after throwing only 128 innings, though he threw 177 in 2010. Hammel has 3 seasons between 170 and 180 IP in the last 3 years, so he's a pretty safe bet to do so again. Slowey has two seasons of 150+ MLB innings, and both were immediately followed by seasons with less than 100 IP -- according to that pattern he's due for a good 2012. Pomeranz threw only 119 innings in his first professional season over 4 levels -- I doubt that the Rockies push him too far past that level this year. Of the fringe rotation candidates, Chatwood threw 158 innings last year, Rogers has thrown over 150 just once, White threw 150 in 2010, and Bettis tossed the most innings (169.2) last season.

The point to all this is that it seems pretty likely to me that, even if the Rockies do have a relatively healthy pitching year in 2012, they will probably be relying pretty heavily on their bullpen for 3+ innings per game. My hope is that the pitching staff at least pitches effectively in the innings that they do give the Rockies. In my eyes, getting a healthy and effective De La Rosa back early in 2012 will be the key for the Rockies in making a playoff push.

Thomas Harding wrote yesterday about Hammel's late season improvement (1.80 ERA, 3.28 FIP in 20 September innings), and mentions that he has lots of room for growth to build off of that effectiveness. When the most veteran starter in the rotation has that being said about him, you know that there's a lot of uncertainty in Colorado's rotation. Let's hope for better fortune in 2012.

Larry Walker Can't Get No Respect

It's completely unsurprising, and yet I am incredibly disappointed about the results of the Hall of Fame voting. Larry Walker got more votes than last year (up 2.6% to 22.9% of the total), but it should be noted that this was the weakest rookie class in a long time, so if he had a true chance of enshrinement by the writers, he should have gotten a pretty big bump up in voting. Instead, Fred McGriff got more votes than Walker, who placed 9th overall.

Even internet writers with sabermetric leanings aren't all on the bandwagon. While Beyond the Boxscore elected Walker with ease to their mock Hall, the Hardball Times' staff only mentioned Walker on 30% of ballots.

Brandon Warne at Fangraphs has a pretty comprehensive look at Walker's HOF candidacy, but it makes me wonder why nobody (myself included) was making these arguments all over the blogosphere two months ago when it could have actually influenced the electorate to look more closely at Walker.

In addition to all that Larry Walker stuff, only 56.2% of voters wrote down Jeff Bagwell's name -- a player who would be an upper echelon HOF player the minute he was elected -- while 66.7% voted for Jack Morris, a player who would challenge Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter as the least qualified inductees of the modern era. In all 573 ballots were cast by the writers, with only 2921 votes (that's a mere 5.1 players listed per ballot). My position is that there are plenty of players currently not in the Hall whose inclusion would make the Hall stronger, so to only write down 5 names per ballot (10 writers voted for nobody) is mystifying to me.