Jorge De La Rosa has struggled to start 2016. That’s undeniable. It’s a bit alarming considering that he was championed as the steadying force for a rotation of relative unknowns and youth, but we have seen this from him before. Just last year, De La Rosa struggled mightily in his first four starts coming off the disabled list. The numbers are eerily similar:
De La Rosa is getting BABIP’d to death. On balls in play, batters are reaching nearly 50 percent of the time, an unsustainable rate that should naturally regress to the mean, which is almost 40 percent less than it is now. It’s not that De La Rosa isn’t missing bats anymore; his 11.94 strikeouts per nine is very good, and his Swinging Strike percent of 11 percent is right in line with his three-year average. Every other ball that’s put in play is resulting in a hit. Unfortunately, De La Rosa’s walks per nine innings isn’t great – 4.67 – but is better than his first four starts from last year and will likely edge closer to his 3.8 BB/9 mark as a member of the Rockies. It really comes down to this; when that many batters reach, runs are going to score. If that number regresses, it will lead to De La Rosa successes.
The area of concern is in his velocity, which is down. De La Rosa’s average velocity has declined across the board by at least one mph for pitches used over 10 percent of the time compared to the last three years. The chart below shows his usage rate per pitch and average mph in parentheses.
His fastball, cutter and changeup have all seen a dip in average velocity. One mile per hour is a noticeable difference to a major league hitter. If there’s anything to be concerned about or something to directly correlate to the amount of balls being put into play, the drop in average velocity is it.
Over his final 22 starts of 2015, De La Rosa was fantastic, and all the more reason to not throw in the towel on his 2016 season. His Strike percentage and Swinging Strike percentage in 2016 are very similar to his last 22 starts of 2015, andif De La Rosa had a .269 BABIP this season, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Give De La Rosa until mid-June before deciding if he’s done. He’s started slowly over the past two years and ended the season well. While there are some areas of concern, it's still too early to write him off.
Five Things: Five Rockies Best Suited for Football
The NFL Draft is Thursday, so why not do something football-related? I’m not projecting how good these guys would be at football. Instead, I’m taking their baseball skill sets and finding positional equivalents.
1. Carlos Gonzalez, Wide Receiver
Gonzalez’s offensive explosiveness and flair for the dramatic makes him the most viable option at wide receiver in this class. He’s a home run threat every time he steps up to the plate but isn’t a one-trick pony; he hits for average and draws walks as well. When CarGo is on, he’s one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game. Gonzalez has a penchant for the dramatic; there are plenty of instances where CarGo has come through in the clutch for the Rockies. Wide receivers are the most explosive athletes on a football field and need versatility to become stars. CarGo would be a WR1 and dominate opposing pitchers, er, corners.
2. Nolan Arenado, Myles Jack (LB/RB)
Have you heard of Myles Jack? No? Let me tell you a little bit about him. The UCLA product was the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and is one of the most explosive athletes on both sides of the ball. He plays two ways and dominates at both in a leadership role, much like Arenado. Arenado, as we all know, is one of the best third baseman in baseball, both offensively and defensively. He won the National League Silver Slugger and Gold Glove this past year and is somehow even better this year. Nolan has gone to a new level of awesome so far this year and has entered the Mike Trout/Bryce Harper conversation for the best player in the game.
3. Ben Paulsen, Tight End
Ben Paulsen is about as average as a major leaguer as you can get, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll get solid offensive output, some power and decent defense across a few different positions. His ability to play first and the outfield gives him the positional versatility that would make him a three-down tight end. He’d be the guy that would be a solid blocker, could line up in the slot and catch a few touchdown passes over the season. You’d look up and say wow, he has five touchdowns? I had no idea. Paulsen will give the Rockies some solid play; nothing special or outstanding, but steady enough to appreciate it.
4. Gerardo Parra, Cornerback
Parra could play on either side of the ball, but ultimately his defensive prowess won out. Parra’s defense in the outfield and his ball tracking ability directly translates to a defensive back’s skill set. What sets Parra apart is his arm strength; when the Rockies outfield is fully healthy, there are few baserunners that will challenge that outfield thanks to Parra. He added another cannon in the corner to go along with Gonzalez’s arm in right. The football equivalent would be his elite tackling skills, something that’s rare for a corner. Parra’s knack for cutting runners down sets him apart.
5. Brandon Barnes, Strong Safety
This one is a personal choice. Brandon Barnes plays solid defense but brings so much emotion and heart to the game, which makes him a valuable asset to any team. He’s got the speed and, with his ability to play all three outfield positions, the versatility to be used all over the defensive backfield. This is more of a gut feeling than anything, but Brandon Barnes would be an emotional leader and a Kam Chancellor-like safety; he’s decent in coverage, but his versatility and emotional leadership make him great. These are the "intangibles" that you always hear when draft pundits are evaluating football prospects and what makes Barnes an asset for a major league squad.
6. (bonus!) Carlos Estevez, DE/OLB Pass Rush Specialist
Have you seen this guy?! He’s got the frame and the skill set to be an excellent specialist. His power fastball coupled with a working slider gives him a plus-plus move that makes everything else he has that much more dangerous. He’ll come in during high level situations to do one thing: strike guys out. As a pass rush specialist, Estevez would do exactly that. Used only on third downs, he can use his power to complement his finesse moves. He only needs a few chances to make an impact in a game.
A TOOTBLAN (Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop) is a statistic that records idiotic baserunning outs. The Rockies had a lot of these over the last few years so I’ve decided to track them this year. Essentially, this encompasses any out on the basepaths that is not a force out. I’m discounting pick offs and caught stealing since they are already recorded separately. Plus, TOOTBLAN is fun to say.
Sadly, there were two TOOTBLANs this week, both of which were unlucky. Trevor Story was thrown out by one of the most incredible throws I’ve ever seen by Yasiel Puig and Mark Reynolds got stuck in no-man’s land on a wild pitch in Cincinnati and was thrown out trying to get back to third base. Videos of both are below;
Like I said, both were really unlucky plays and, if statistics had feelings, the TOOTBLAN god would think twice before labeling these plays as such. Unfortunately, stats, even ones that sound as funny as a TOOTBLAN, still don’t have feelings, and these plays fall within the parameters.