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Thursday Rockpile: Rockies rotation hoping for strength in numbers

Rockies co-owner and CEO Dick Monfort gave an interview with CBS4 on Monday, and in it, as well as talking about the building the Rockies revenue to increase the team payroll, he expressed some hope

"We've got numbers. You'd rather have maybe that ace," Monfort said. "I think Chacin can take a step forward, (Drew) Pomeranz has got a big upside, (Juan) Nicasio is going to come back and be alright, Jason Hammel; we've got a lot of good arms and now we've just got to find two or three or four guys who will really take a step forward."

Mark Kiszla, err.. my alleged alter-ego Russ Oates, has somehow come to the conclusion that this equates to hoping for a miracle on Monfort's part:

Two? Three? Four? Take a step forward? Seems like that's going to take a miracle. Might as well try to get Tim Tebow to play for the Rockies while these big steps forward attempt to emerge.

Which is disappointing in its hyperbole and inaccuracy regarding Monfort's position. Just as your odds of winning prizes would eventually tilt from slim to favorable if you bought enough bingo cards at the local parlor, Monfort and the Rockies see their work on the rotation as an exercise in building their odds through diversification. How far fetched of an idea is this? If the team was looking for four number ones, then sure, it's not going to happen more than two or three times out of a million, but Monfort is not saying that the Rockies need three or four starters to become aces, he wants three or four to improve to a point where the rotation itself on the whole becomes an asset rather than the 2011 it was last season.

How out of the question would that be to find up to four starting pitchers that can go from the level they pitched at in 2011, to a more effective state with their skills? To answer, I'm actually going to try and break down the Rockies starters into sub-categories in order of the likelihood that a step forward could occur.

First of all, the Rockies have several MLB ready starters on the "right" side of the development curve, those at ages where we would expect them to still be capable of improvement and at ages where it seems likely that this would happen.

Young pitchers with the tools to be better than they were (6):

  • Tyler Chatwood 22
  • Alex White 22
  • Drew Pomeranz 22
  • Jhoulys Chacin 23
  • Juan Nicasio 24
  • Esmil Rogers 25

Sometimes young pitchers will reach their effective MLB peaks early, see Clayton Kershaw, who while still young isn't likely to get any better than what he already is (the good news for the Dodgers is that he's likely to be about as good for a long time.) In the case of the above six Rockies starters, the same can't be said. All six have clear room for growth. This bodes well right off the bat for Monfort's "two or three or four" taking a step forward standard.

Off Topic

Another class of starting pitcher that's often capable of taking a step forward would be slightly more mature LHP's with room to grow in control/command, which the Rockies happen to have one of,

Left handed pitchers with BB rates that could be improved:

  • Josh Outman 27

A bit less likely to take a step forward than the players with MLB experience would be the prodigious minor league phenom that takes little or no time to adjust to the majors on entry. In this category, the Rockies have a handful of possible rotation parts:

True Prospects:

  • Christian Friedrich 24
  • Edwar Cabrera 24
  • Chad Bettis 23
  • Tyler Matzek 21

And then there's the somewhat more mythical "learned a cutter" or "learned how to pitch not throw" or "in the best shape of my life" category, which the Rockies also have a pair of:

Learned a cutter:

  • Guillermo Moscoso 29

Learned how to pitch, not throw:

  • Jason Hammel 29

Finally, the Rockies have one more potential lurching forward step up their sleeve:

Reanimated corpse of Jamie Moyer:

  • Jamie Moyer 49

Would it really be that miraculous to expect two significant steps forward out of this group? No, far from it. I would think that expecting two pitchers to improve significantly enough to "really take a step forward" should be seen as a strong likelihood. Three? Still not close to miraculous. Given that the majority of Rockies starters fall in the most likely category of starters to improve, the odds I'll pull out of my behind are still a bit better than 50/50. Four? Okay, here is where I think we might veer into "unlikely" from likely, but unlikely is still a far cry from Dick Monfort praying for a miracle.