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Baseball reading to tide you over as the Colorado Rockies offseason nears its end

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This weekend, the the Rockies pitchers and catchers are having their first full workouts. Next weekend are the first full squad workouts (position players report on Wednesday). And the weekend after that, the Rockies will play actual, real, fake, baseball games. Below you'll find some great reading material to sate you over for the final days of winter.

Ryan Hammon at Rockies Zingers updated his Rockies trade value rankings. His "40-Man Ladder" provides some excellent insights regarding where the 40 man roster stands, and who might not make it on there for long.

At Rox Pile, Michelle Stalnaker addresses Eddie Butler's position heading into spring training. In short, she believes he needs more seasoning. That's the prevailing position, and I understand it. For me, the measure for deciding whether or not to bring a pitcher up (aside from matters of team control) is the answer to this question: "does the player have anything more to learn in the minor leagues?" I don't know the answer to that for Eddie Butler. As an outside observer, my feeling is that he does have a bit more to learn before he gets promoted again, but not that much. And minor league lessons won't necessarily translate to the majors.

In one of my favorite jokes from Mystery Science Theater 3000, a grizzled cowboy walks into an old west saloon. "I thought you were dead!" A patron exclaims. "Only the good die young," the cowboy retorts. Then, brilliantly, Tom Servo quips, "most of us are morally ambiguous, which explains our random dying patterns." That's the sentiment you'll get from J.R. Moehringer's excellent profile of Alex Rodriguez for ESPN The Magazine. It is neither an exculpatory hagiography nor a condemnation of the "bad guy" of baseball. Instead, Moehringer presents Rodriguez as motivated, flawed, inquisitive, and naive. In other words, it's humanizing. Set aside a bit of time for this one. It will be worth it.

As a tribute to Jason Giambi's recently concluded career, Paul Swydan of FanGraphs writes about five observations about Giambi's time as a ballplayer. Among them is Swydan's remark that the end of Giambi's career was a storyline unto itself, especially his time with the Rockies. You'll find some great clips here, too.

If I were to register for SB Nation sites right now, I would seriously consider the handle "Rob Arthur Evangelist." In a recent piece for Baseball Prospectus (subscription), Arthur argues that pitch framing is even more important than we think. Arthur is at his best when he analyzes baseball from the perspective of an actor who at first seems peripheral.

In this case, he investigates pitch framing from the batter's perspective. In sum, if a batter is aware that he's stepping into the batter's box in front of a good framer, he's more likely to swing at pitches near the edge of the strike zone, which can lead to weak contact. The obverse also holds. If the batter knows the catcher is a poor framer, he's more likely to lay off those pitches. Arthur concludes: "In addition to harming the batter’s chances directly, by flipping balls to strikes, a good framer changes the dynamics of the at-bat indirectly as well." The more I realize that pitch framing is integral to baseball, and always has been (we just didn't know how to measure it before), the more I'm convinced that I never want balls and strikes called by a robot.

Finally, Matthew Murphy at The Hardball Times asks a question that Rockies fans should find interesting: "are ground ball pitchers overrated?" Yes, he answers. And I concur. In January, I argued that the Rockies should not avoid fly ball pitchers, and Murphy's article convinces me of that even more.

Murphy finds that while ground balls are certainly a good outcome for a pitcher, if inducing ground balls is a pitcher's only skill, then his worm killing ability risks overshadowing other flaws. The most salient of flaw being the ability to manage fly balls. Namely, while ground ball pitchers give up fewer fly balls, they tend to have a higher fly ball to home run ratio compared to fly ball pitchers. And because grounders have a higher chance of turning into a hit than fly balls, there's likely to be more traffic in the event of a big fly. A secondary claim is that xFIP is somewhat overrated when evaluating pitchers because it similarly clouds a pitcher's flaws by emphasizing the relative lack of fly balls. As Matt Gross commented in my article linked above, the two pitcher profiles the Rockies should pursue are "good ground ball pitcher" and "good fly ball pitcher." If only there were more of both around.