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Tuesday Rockpile: On Grading Dan O'Dowd and Rockies Pitching

Matt Belisle can pitch at Coors Field just fine.  What is his secret?
Matt Belisle can pitch at Coors Field just fine. What is his secret?

It is never as easy to accurately evaluate front office performance. As Jeff Sullivan wrote for Lookout Landing, there are so many variables we never see, decisions with an unknown level of actual influence from the GM, etc. Yet we postulate and evaluate endlessly, as we are fans.

With an large enough sample size, however, much of that unknown noise dissipates. Dan O'Dowd is now in his 13th year as Rockies GM, and while the Monforts show no desire to move on from O'Dowd, the last decade plus reveals two glaring problems. The Rockies have not figured out the formula to pitch at Coors Field, and the Rockies have not drafted well of late.

These are major issues, made only more confusing in that three years ago, it seemed as if both aspects of team-building were decently sound.

Pitching at Coors Field

I don't have the answer and neither do you. And neither does CJ Wilson. It's just not that simple. Maybe Rockies pitchers need to throw fastballs less. Maybe they need to train in Colorado in the offseason. Maybe the need to all throw sinkers. Maybe maybe maybe. It's a difficult problem that begets no envy from me towards the front office, but the magnitude of the issue after a long tenure is quite disconcerting.

Dave Krieger had the bright idea to speak with Matt Belisle, whose career took off when he came to Coors Field. Clearly, he knows the answer, at least in his own personal case. This absolute must-read has Belisle outlining the many mental and physical alterations he makes with his delivery at Coors and on the road. Clearly, the bulldog can handle the extra variables in his head, which is not necessarily a possibility for some. At any rate, it is understandable why the Rockies may want to keep Belisle out of trade talks.

Draft History

The Rockies won the pennant in 2007 with a largely home-grown roster. Indeed, there was a major contributor on the roster from each of the first six drafts of Dan O'Dowd's tenure, from 2000-05. Since then, Rockies drafts have produced a total (not average) of 1.0 rWAR. Matt Reynolds is responsible for 2.0 rWAR of that.

Below is a table with the Rockies' draft history from 2000-2010. Players drafted by the Rockies that went unsigned and reached the majors elsewhere were eliminated. Players drafted by the Rockies that signed and reached the majors elsewhere were included.


For whatever reason, the Rockies' drafts since 2004 (excluding Troy Tulowitzki) have yielded less than Jim Miller's career. The 2009 and 2010 drafts will be important, if not for the Monforts view of their FO, then for baseball's. Baseball America ranked each of those drafts as #1 in the NL following the draft, and both are developing well, for now.

The 2009 class has top organizational prospect Nolan Arenado, Tulsa Drillers home-run-record-holder Tim Wheeler, 2011 California League MVP Kent Matthes, and top pick Tyler Matzek. Reliever Coty Woods was recently promoted to AAA and could be an asset.

The 2010 class got its first big leaguer last week with Josh Rutledge. While first-rounder Kyle Parker hasn't lit the world on fire, he's 11-for-14 in his last three and is nearing the golden slash ratio in Modesto with a .312/.418/.489. That draft group also includes 2011 California League Pitcher of the Year Chad Bettis, and arguably the three biggest breakout prospects in the system in Corey Dickerson, Will Swanner and Christian Bergman.

There may not be much tangible hope for the Rockies to figure out pitching in their home park, but the 2009 and 2010 drafts will be critical in turning around damage done in previous years. No pressure Josh.

Here's an Off-Topic Thread. Please use it or get banned for the day.

Colorado Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio hit with more bad luck - The Denver Post Poor Nicasio. Despite a very acceptable 99 ERA+ in his career, he will enter 2013 as a 26.5 year old with 24 starts in 10 months of an MLB career due to freak injuries.

Irregular heartbeat sidelines Rockies infielder Chris Nelson - The Denver Post Poor Nelson. He's having his best MLB season by far, then gets knocked out by this. Josh Rutledge may now have more to say about Nelson's future than his bat.

Rockies Mailbag: Michael Cuddyer figures in Colorado plans, not trade - The Denver Post - The Rockies won't trade Michael Cuddyer, which is a valid question. Nor will they trade Tulo, which is not.

The Aha Moment | The Cub Reporter (TCR) | A Chicago Cubs Blog The Cubs think they've identified a wrist problem that may have been bothering Ian Stewart for years. I'm not sure if that explains his unwillingness to swing the bat in the first place, but it will be interesting to see if Stewart shows any improvement next season.