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Tuesday Rockpile: Todd Helton - Bench Player?

This swing....resulted in a hit.
This swing....resulted in a hit.

Todd Helton is riding off into the sunset. That's what his batting average would have you believe, and that's what two writers at the Denver Post wrote about in this morning's paper. If true, it offers a convenient way to get the Rockies' three solid-hitting outfielders into the lineup with their expensive free agent one, all at the same time.

Troy Renck wrote that Jason Giambi is likely to be traded, which seems about as strange as a Helton trade, and Dan O'Dowd has promised Michael Cuddyer isn't going anywhere. Helton himself wants to stay in Colorado, and that may mean the bench.

The signs of Helton's declining ability that Renck cites are present, yet not a slam dunk case. His strikeout rate is the lowest it has been since 2009, his walks are at career levels, his contact rate is at career levels, and his line drive rate is higher than every year since 2003, with the exception of last year. His ISO (a measure of power) is as good or better than every season since 2005. He's even seeing fewer fastballs than each of the last ten years save 2011, which one would not expect for a hitter with declining bat speed. The only difference in his results, really, is fewer singles.

It must be noted, however, that Helton's production has slowed down some since Opening Day. After a nearly All-Star level April, he disappeared in May. He had a strong first half of June, then fell off past that. The back has acted up, the hip has acted up, and those impressive rates above are likely to regress as the season slogs on.

Jason Giambi had been the protection for Helton in terms of getting him rest days, but Giambi is sporting the second-worst batting line of his 17-year career. It isn't a question of whether Todd Helton is an everyday player - he has not been for a couple seasons now. The question is how often to rest him.

I don't believe Helton's abilities have abandoned him, but as long as he's aching it makes sense to give him days off. It would make the most sense to do it at Coors Field, as his 96 road wRC+ trails only Wilin Rosario, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki on the team.

Off Topic

Jeremy Guthrie returning to Rockies' rotation, which will stay at four - The Denver Post Yesterday it was announced Jeremy Guthrie was going to start Wednesday, giving Christian Friedrich an extra day to recover from a minor injury. That gave the Rockies five starting pitchers in the next five games. Due to the Alex White-to-Edwar-Cabrera-to-Drew-Pomeranz roster moves last week, the Rockies had five starting pitchers over their last five games leading into Monday. That means, of course, that Colorado has abandoned the four man rotation. Except it doesn't. It's still there, apparently. The four man. Or seven man. Or six. Just not five. Definitely not five.

Baseball Prospectus | Bizball: How Much Salary Can You Allocate to One Player and Be Competitive? Maury Brown has a good piece that's important for fans of small-to-mid-market teams to read.

VANDERBEEK: Intentional balks not the best way to end game - Modesto Nuts - This story just keeps getting more and more bizarre. The Modesto Nuts beat the Stockton Ports in 18 innings on June 23, with first-baseman Jared Clark pitching 3 shutout innings for the win. Stockton's manager was inexplicably on vacation, so the Athletics' roving hitting instructor filled in over the weekend. Afraid of hurting his own position player on the mound, he ordered three intentional balks to assist in ending the game. His reward was being banned from the California League for a year. As he was an interim manager, I'm guessing this was a prime opportunity for California League president Charlie Blaney to make an example out of Todd Steverson without really penalizing his organization.