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Rock Mining Week 23: Strengths and weaknesses of the 2013 Rockies

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A look at how the Rockies team stands up by position to the rest of the league.

Christian Petersen

After the recent trend in late-inning losses, I sat down to find statistics to prove that the bullpen has been the undoing of the Rockies' team this year. Moving through page after page on, I quickly realized that my assumption was incorrect and that the bullpen has held up their end of the bargain for much of the season.

The first thing I was surprised about was that, overall, the Rockies pitching is tops in fWAR in the National League and seventh in MLB with 16.9 wins above replacement. I knew that the starting pitching was a plus and they graded out seventh in MLB and third in the NL. I was surprised though that the Rockies bullpen led the NL in fWAR with 5.0 and was sixth overall. If the team's pitching was this good, then I must be looking in the wrong area.

The Rockies are second to the St. Louis Cardinals in runs scored with 646 for the National League but only rank tenth in all of baseball. However, the team's batting fWAR of 15.7 ranked 22nd and 13th in the NL, ahead of only the Phillies and Marlins. Looking at each position individually, this is where the team ranks in terms of fWAR:

Position fWAR Rank NL Rank NLW Rank wRC+
C 2.0 18 10 4 89
1B -2.3 29 14 5 70
2B 1.0 22 12 5 70
3B 2.1 15 9 4 74
SS 5.9 1 1 1 120
LF 5.7 2 1 1 119
CF 0.6 27 14 5 86
RF 2.1 18 11 5 116

(wRC+, if you don't recall, is an offensive measurement based at 100 with each point above/below signifying percentage above/below an average player; full explanation here)

The obvious - the Rockies have very good players at shortstop and left field. Despite both of them missing many games this year, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez have contributed 5.5 and 4.8 fWAR respectively and have wRC+ ratings in the 140s. One of these years these two will stay healthy and they can pull this team back to contention.

The understandable - young players growing into second and third base. DJ LeMahieu has made most of his contribution of 1.0 fWAR this season with the glove as his wRC+ is only 77. Nolan Arenado is similar, except with more power at the plate as he has contributed 2.8 fWAR while only scoring a 79 wRC+. I would expect both of these players to improve over the next couple of seasons and be productive for the Rockies. One of the reasons the Rockies do not rank better at these two spots is the early troubles of Brignac (-0.1), Nelson (-0.6), and Rutledge (-0.5).

The confusing - right field and catching. While 2.1 fWAR and 2.0fWAR are acceptable, I thought the Rockies were getting much more out of right field and catcher this year. After all, Michael Cuddyer has posted a wRC+ of 146 which is third for all right fielders and Wilin Rosario's 106 is still six percent above the average at the position. Fielding hurts both of them, with Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR, the fielding component of the WAR calculation) giving them fielding scores of -12.2 and -7 respectively. While Wilin is still a work in progress, I have not noticed Cuddyer being this bad in the field. If that is the case, then the move to first base may be a requirement for next year. After all, his oWAR of 3.9 makes him as valuable at the plate as Cargo and Tulo.

The disappointing - first base and center field. Todd Helton (-0.9) and Jordan Pacheco (-1.0) have combined to make first base a black hole for the Rockies this year according to fangraphs. While Todd's offense has come and gone (-0.4 OWAR and 86 wRC+), his defense is ranked the second worst of his entire career. Pacheco's problems are mostly offensive (-0.9 OWAR) but he also was ranked below average on defense. As far as center field, Dexter Fowler has posted a 2.3 fWAR and 106 wRC+, it is mainly the negative contributions of Tyler Colvin (-1.1) and EY Jr. (-0.9) earlier in the year that make this number so low.

Overall, it was apparent how bad our bench was not built to contribute this year. Only Jonathan Herrera and recent additions Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon have posted positive fWARs for the team as part time players. Nine others have spent time with the team and combined to contribute -5.0 fWAR. Some like Colvin, Pacheco, and Rutledge, had good seasons last year and I can understand the team thinking they would contribute again. Others, like Culberson, Wheeler, and Brignac, were low cost pick-ups that probably should not have been relied on to contribute.

As the season wraps up over these last couple of weeks, watch the youngsters. Hopefully we can find some future contributors like DJLM this year and not have as many busts like Tyler Colvin when the team gets to spring training in 2014.

This week's thoughts:

The Good - winning in Arizona

In the first half of the season, the Rockies were 4-2 at home against the Diamondbacks but 1-6 when traveling to Arizona. Last night's win doubles their win total for the year in that state and now they can go for a series win in a venue that has not been kind to them this year.

The Bad - one run games

The Rockies went 0-3 in one run games this week, losing twice to the Giants and once to the Dodgers.

The Ugly - Matt Belisle's collapse

Matt has contributed more fWAR this season than any other reliever. That is why two losses, two blown saves, 4 runs (3 earned), and an ERA of 9.00 this week give Matt this dubious honor. Hopefully, we and he can put this week behind us and he can return to his normal eighth inning self.