It wasn't supposed to be like this. Sure, Colorado entered 2012 with the stink of 2011 all over them, but there were signs of hope. They were even a chic pick to contend for one of those newfangled wild card spots. Of course, much of what could go wrong did in 2012, as Colorado treated winning as an anathema.
As we enter the 2012-2013 off-season, manager and coaches cut adrift (by their own volition or not), it's tough to see a happy ending for this club in 2013. I can't remember an off-season with this little hope for success since...maybe 2005 or 2006. One thing is for certain -- I won't be guaranteeing any Colorado triumphs in 2013.
It is obvious that Colorado has a huge need for pitching, but it is equally clear that the front office hasn't figured out how to help the talented young pitchers (like Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Tyler Chatwood, etc.) that we have on hand become more effective at Coors. Furthermore, it's tough to see any help coming Colorado's way in 2013 from the minors beyond the players who have already started multiple games in 2012 (maybe Chad Bettis?). Nor is there a lot of hope for any pitcher of much worth (read, better than Colorado's internal options) coming to the team via free agency. Colorado has plenty of back end pitchers, the problem is at the top of the rotation.
That pretty much leaves acquiring a pitching asset (or assets) during the off-season. The most valuable trade chip Colorado is likely to consider parting with is Dexter Fowler, who could net the Rockies an established mid-rotation starter or emerging young pitcher with top of rotation potential.
Here's the problem I have with trading for pitching -- the uncertainty inherent with any pitching prospect (or just any pitcher, actually) is magnified in Coors Field's unfriendly confines. An established innings-eater like Jeremy Guthrie struggled mightily in Colorado, then went to Kansas City and pitched extremely well. It's unclear if a two win pitcher in a normal park is going produce anything near that value in Coors.
For instance, James Shields has been a four win pitcher for Tampa Bay each of the last two years (per fWAR) -- but if the Rockies acquired him for Fowler (not saying that Tampa would say yes, but they'd have to think about it given the costs involved), the probability of him being a four win pitcher with half of his starts coming at Coors is certainly less than it would be if he were placed in a more friendly environment.
Then again, Coors' permissive run environment means that the value of a run allowed (or scored) in the park is lower than it is in another ballpark, evening out some of that performance disadvantage for pitchers. Still, when you add in the (as of yet unproven) theory that altitude is just harder on pitchers' arms due to the extra effort needed to be effective at altitude, the risks of trading above average hitting assets for the more volatile pitcher equivalent might not be a gamble that's worth making.
What do you think?
Hiring of Mark Wiley as director of pitching operations might, as Troy Renck notes, help establish Colorado's pitching identity. It could help with the development of players in the lower minors like Tyler Matzek or...um, crap, the Rockies don't have a lot of pitchers with MLB stuff in the low minors. Well, at least Wiley might be able to help the crop of pitchers who rotated through Coors with varying degrees of success in 2012.
As Renck says, Colorado needs tough-minded pitchers at Coors who can throw strikes. If Wiley can improve the approach of the MLB crew, we could see some nice regression towards mediocre. At Coors Field, mediocre pitching is all you really need.
Dave Krieger has two articles of interest. In one, he talks with John Smoltz about pitching in Coors Field and how it's just a different monster. Smoltz articulates the difficulties extremely well, well worth a read.
Secondly, Krieger writes about the future of Eric Young Jr. EY2 was a great story prior to getting hurt in August -- is he a MLB-caliber hitter and outfielder?
Jeff Zimmerman at Fangraphs uses Wilin Rosario as an example of using plate discipline statistics to estimate a player's BB and K rate.
Speaking of Rosario, he rated dead last (116th) in Matt Klaassen's ranking of catcher defense. He rated positively on throwing runners out and fielding errors, but was far and away the worst at pitch blocking and was slightly negative in throwing errors. Ramon Hernandez was 90th, Wil Nieves was 44th, Jordan Pacheco was 85th, and Chris Iannetta was 20th.