Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal wrote about how the Rockies could be on the verge of seeing major improvements on the mound. This seems rather silly when you compare the personnel throwing the baseball, but Rosenthal makes three very interesting points about their surroundings.
1) New pitching coach Steve Foster and new bullpen coach Darren Holmes are getting rave reviews over the former Jim Wright and Bo McLaughlin.
It's always hard to tell how much of an impact this has from the outside, but the success of the bullpen last year in Kansas City, which Foster helped mold into the most dangerous in the entire sport, is undeniable. Last November, Patrick Saunders got some quotes from Foster right after the hire.
2) Wilin Rosario will no longer get the majority of time behind the plate.
This is could turn out very interesting. Not only did the Rockies sign Nick Hundley this winter, but they also kept Michael McKenry, leaving Rosario third in the catching line. As Rosenthal notes, the Rockies ERA was much better when catchers other than Rosario were behind the plate last year:
Wilin Rosario (824 Innings): 5.18 ERA
All other catchers (607 Innings): 4.39 ERA
It should be noted, however, that catcher ERA can be completely random at times. Those numbers alone don't incriminate Rosario's defensive skills. However, the combination of these numbers, visible pitcher frustration on the mound, poor pitch framing measured by numerous sources, lots of balls to the backstop, and the general eye test are enough the think the Rockies can get better just by putting somebody else back there.
At the same time though, too many people rush to a conclusion on players like Rosario and fail to compartmentalize his skills. Just because he's an abomination as a defensive catcher doesn't mean everything he does is terrible. There's so many different ways a player can help their team. They can hit, hit for power, play a premium position up the middle, show great range on defense, run the bases well, display strong baseball instincts, possess a strong throwing arm, provide leadership in the clubhouse and outward passion for the game, put forth a great work ethic that can rub off on certain teammates, etc.
(This, oh by the way, is why Troy Tulowitzki is such an amazing player. He's above average at everything I listed there except running the bases [and even there he's not horrible]. When you start piling all those assets up, you end up with a guy that almost nobody else in the game can match.)
Anyway, back to Rosario. Just because he's awful behind the plate doesn't mean he doesn't have skills elsewhere, and as several folks have noted this off season, he does have the ability to annihilate left handed pitching. In fact, Rosario's career 1.009 OPS against left handed pitching (comes to a wRC+ of 159) ranks sixth in all of baseball since the start of 2011 (minimum 200 plate appearances; Rosario has 379 against LHP). Only eight other guys have posted an OPS over .980 against lefties over that time. Here's the list .....
This is ELITE company! Again, it's only one skill, and the lack of accompanying skills prevent Rosario from becoming a star, but he's certainly got this piece of the game down in spades.
That skill even by itself is extremely valuable for the Rockies, and it's something they should use as a weapon. The best way to do this is to expose opposing left handed pitchers to as much Wilin Rosario as possible while limiting his playing time in other situations where he might actually be providing a negative value. Over the past three years, poor defense behind the plate wrecked his value against lefties. Remove that negative part from his game by playing him somewhere else, and you probably got better on both ends of the equation.
3) Bill Geivett is no longer with the organization, and more importantly he doesn't have an office right next to the club house.
I got off on quite a tangent with the last point so I'll keep it extremely brief here, but it's very hard to believe that this situation was a positive for the club. That type of "finger in every pie" management style, even if done with the best of intentions, likely impairs guys from being able to do their job to the best of their ability. It drains authority from a guy like Walt Weiss, and it has the potential to wreck trust between different levels of the organization.
I can see what the Rockies were trying to do here, but I also see why it probably went over like a lead balloon.
Nick Groke and Patrick Saunders talk about the last rotation spot up for grabs. At this point, I personally would go with a Kyle Kendrick, Jordan Lyles (who looks really, really good by the way), Eddie Butler, Tyler Matzek, and Christian Bergman lineup to start the season and then start pushing guys out as Jorge De La Rosa and David Hale are ready to return, and of course, when Jon Gray proves he's ready to break down the major league door. By May, the rotation should be the five best pitchers out of that group of eight.
After getting smacked around over the weekend, Jon Gray hopes to turn it into a learning experience to help him in the future.
Did you miss the Rockies Blogger Panel event over the weekend? No worries, Richard Bergstrom has you covered with a recording of the event.
Hey, the first game of season is just one week away. Get Excited! Then watch this exceptional video from the Rockies media and get even more excited.