Bridich vs. Arenado vs. Fans

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Reading through the numerous articles of the last week regarding the soap opera that is currently Colorado Rockies news, I noticed that pretty much everyone is placing the full blame for the Nolan Arenado fiasco on Jeff Bridich. This is par for the course with sports because fans watch and relate to players, not management. And let's be clear, I am not saying Arenado is the sole culprit here and Bridich is innocent. As the old adage goes, it takes two to tango. In this case, we have a good old fashioned mosh pit, as fans and media have decided to pile on. We are all responsible for this mess, some more than others. Sports media is just doing what they do, though it seems worse than usual with all of the trade rumors and fanning the flames with purposely incendiary questions to Bridich and Arenado. Fans have a borderline psychotic attachment to their favorite sports teams driven by a need to feel involved, which is what drives the media to over-cover the topic and fans to indulge in wild assumptions and finger-pointing with little to no data to back it up. Throughout this whole thing, one thing is missing (or I missed it and don't know how to work Google) - an actual analysis of statements by Bridich and Arenado about the underlying issue, namely, winning baseball games.

First, an anecdote. Fanfest 2016. I go to listen to Tom Murphy and Dustin Garneau talk about minor league experiences while my wife takes our then three-year old son to see Nolan Arenado read children's books to a bunch of small children. After the sessions conclude and we meet back up, I ask her how it went. She said Nolan made it through four pages (of a Curious George book) before complaining about the book being long (?!!), shutting the book and asking a bunch of young children if they had any questions for him. The children sat there in silence while a couple of parents asked inane questions that young children could not have cared less about. The point of this story is, when combined with the facts that he is just one year into a huge contract, the team is just one year removed from successive playoff appearances, and Arenado described the season as feeling like a rebuild, Arenado seems to be extremely impatient, if not a bit of a wank. Look, I get it. The season sucked and it is totally understandable that the players are frustrated and disappointed. But the season was in no way a rebuild and describing it as such was an indirect way of calling out Bridich. So, if reports are true that Bridich chewed Arenado's ass to pieces over that comment, I understand where Bridich is coming from. And Arenado's comment about feeling disrespected is a common refrain from athletes who got a dressing down from their bosses. Then, the escalation and fan/media speculation, and blah, blah, blah, soap opera. Again, it takes two to tango here and it certainly seems like both Arenado and Bridich could use a PR class. Now, let's actually act like baseball analysts and take a look at some statistics.

The easy issue to address is fans being upset about Monfort and Bridich saying they don't have money to spend on free agents this year and following through on that by signing zero major league free agents. Fans got upset about not being in the loop, then got upset about getting an honest answer. If I were Bridich or Monfort, I would never talk to people again after this lose-lose situation. More to the point, fans complaining about the spending or lack thereof are dead wrong to complain. For starters, we have no idea what the real revenue numbers look like (nor do we any right to them). What we do have is payroll figures over the last few seasons to see if Monfort has spent like we always complained he should.

  • 2013 - $72M
  • 2014 - $96M
  • 2015 - $102M
  • 2016 - $98M
  • 2017 - $130M
  • 2018 - $141M
  • 2019 - $146M
  • 2020 - $148M (at current)
Yep. There is no question that the team has spent money trying to get better and most definitely not rebuilding.

Now, let's analyze Bridich's comment earlier in the offseason that players need to play better this year. For this section, we're going to use the ZiPS projections for 2019 and compare those with how players actually performed. I realize WAR isn't the ideal stat, but it works for this purpose. ZiPS projections for 24 of the Rockies opening day players pegged them at a cumulative 35 WAR. At the end of the season, those same players accrued just 21.2 WAR. Theoretically, if the team had met projections, they end the season around 85 wins (rather than 71) and in the Wild Card hunt, though four games short. The point is a combination of injuries, the entire pitching staff falling apart, and Ian Desmond sucking (-1.6 WAR) led to the team vastly underperforming their projections.

So, given a team payroll that is projected to be in the top ten in baseball and a track record of mediocre to terrible free agent acquisitions under Bridich's belt, any kind of free agent splash this offseason was never going to happen. So, the only path forward was always that the current roster needs to step up. There is a lot of reason to believe that's exactly what will happen.

Of those 24 guys from last season, 11 of them had a negative WAR, for a total of -7.9 WAR. Five of those guys were relief pitchers and four of them are gone (Rusin, Bettis, Oh, Dunn). Also gone are Tyler Anderson and Chris Iannetta. The six of them combined for -2.4 WAR. Assuming they are replaced with the fabled "replacement player" gets the Rockies 2.4 wins. That leaves Kyle Freeland (-0.9), Antonio Senzatela (-0.7), Garrett Hampson (-0.2), Desmond (-1.6), Wade Davis (-1.3), and Raimel Tapia (-0.9). ZiPS projections for 2020 don't even include Hampson, Desmond, and Tapia, though it's hard to believe they won't be on the opening day roster. For argument's sake, let's assume Hampson continues to improve, Tapia performs at least at replacement level off the bench, and Desmond is relegated strictly to the righty part of a platoon situation, also providing replacement level value. That's another 2.7 WAR back, bringing the total up to 5.1. Let's also assume Freeland recovers from last year's disaster and hits his ZiPS projection (1.9). That is 7.0 WAR. I have no real faith in either Davis or Senzatela, but a short leash for both of them might save half the -2.0 they combined for in 2019. That's 8.0 wins back with zero free agent additions. Incidentally, ZiPS projects 29.1 WAR from 23 players, which is an improvement of 7.9, right where we ended up.

Using last year's win total and the improved WAR still only gets the team to 79 wins, so there is still a lot of improvement that has to happen to sniff the playoffs. There are a lot of ways that can happen with the current roster, from breakout seasons out of Sam Hilliard and Ryan McMahon, a full season out of David Dahl, Davis not sucking, the entire bullpen improving even just moderately, and Daniel Murphy having one last hurrah. Yes, a lot of things have to go better than right, but that's the case for most teams not named the Dodgers or Yankees.

Last thing before we go, let's address how well Jeff Bridich has performed. On the one hand, his free agent acquisitions have been pretty bad, the Tulowitzki trade was a wash only because Tulo's body completely broke down, and letting D.J. LeMahieu and Adam Ottovino walk was a tragically poor decision. On the other hand, two playoff berths and acquiring German Marquez speak to Bridich having some idea what he is doing. At this point, I suggest everyone from Bridich to Arenado to fans to sports media shut their mouths (which Arenado and Bridich appear to have done) and get ready/look forward to the upcoming season. I promise I will.

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).