2017-02-18T09:30:01-07:00Where the Rockies’ front office is strong, and where it is weak. Credit and blame for a baseball team’s success usually finds its way to one person. Whether that person is the general manager or, as is common nowadays, president of baseball operations and the like, commentary finds its way to a single decision maker. Part of this is practical. The role is high profile, and living with being the face of baseball operations is likely part of the job description. Similarly, it’s difficult to pin down where the influence of underlings shows up. Baseball teams don’t really advertise these sorts of things. A review of the Rockies front office necessarily and justifiably focuses on the work of the general manager. But it’s necessary to recognize that ancillary role players such as assistant general manager Zack Rosenthal, scouting director Zach Wilson, director of pitching operations Mark Wiley, and manager of baseball research and development Trevor Patch in the shape that the front office has taken. Jeff Bridich enters his fourth season as the general manager for the Colorado Rockies and his fourteenth with the organization overall. When he took over for Dan O’Dowd prior to the 2014 season, the Rockies were coming off of back to back last place finishes and were in desperate need of new direction. The immediate response to Bridich’s hiring wasn’t entirely positive. It also wasn’t entirely fair. The eye rolls and of course the Rockies hired from within groans that met the news were understandable though. After all, the Rockies were in need of a new direction, and someone who’s been around for a decade seemed an unlikely source of that. Now, three years later, it’s clear that Bridich has provided that fresh outlook despite his long history with the Rockies. He’s grown into the role and made it his own—Dan O’Down 2.0 he is not. Like all of us, he has strengths, and he has weaknesses. We’re at a point now where we can look at both of them and start to paint a picture about the type of front office Bridich leads. ★ ★ ★ Bridich has demonstrated an ability to find value where there didn’t seem to be any. Three transactions prior to the 2016 season show this. First, Bridich took Rule 5 draft pick and marginal reliever Tommy Kahnle and turned him into pitching prospect and now No. 12 PuRP Yency Almonte. In another move, Bridich turned once promising prospect Rex Brothers (who didn’t pitch at all in 2016 and recently signed a minor-league contract with the Braves) into lottery ticket Wander Cabrera (No. 29 PuRP). Those weren’t even the two most impressive moves Bridich and Co. executed. The “Corey Dickerson for Jake McGee” trade has turned into the “who the hell cares for Germán Márquez” deal. Márquez, No. 5 PuRP, has already debuted and has a real chance to be a legitimate back-end starter in 2017. The final value find is already a resounding success: the Rockies claimed catcher Tony Wolters off of waivers. They got him for nothing, and he’s set to be a critical component on a competitive team. Bridich was a less active trader this offseason. if we want to find an analogous move, it would be trading Eddie Butler for James Farris. Butler had little value to the Rockies in 2017. At best, he was a bullpen project. Farris doesn’t offer anything more than bullpen help; however, he might end up being a more trustworthy arm than Butler when (not if, really) the need arises. Given Bridich’s transaction history, I’m most confident in one like this turning out well for the Rockies. And even if it doesn’t, it didn’t cost much. Taking a $6 million gamble on Greg Holland could also fit in this category. That move has the potential to pay off in a substantial way. But while Bridich seems to have a keen ability to identify value, his major weakness appears to be an inability to follow through on multifaceted plans. The exception that at least supports this rule is the Márquez trade. In early January, 2016, the Rockies signed outfielder Gerardo Parra to a three-year,[...]
Rockies news, notes and links for Saturday, February 18th.
Jon Gray isn’t afraid of Coors Field. In an interview at the Rockies spring training facility, Gray stated that, yes, he did think he could become the best pitcher in Rockies history, and it’s because he’s done shying away from the team’s home ballpark.
In one of the most impressive pitching performances the franchise has ever seen, Gray fanned 16 Padres in a four-hit shutout, without surrendering a walk. The kind of unrelenting dominance that has only shown up at Coors Field a handful of times in its history. For pitching coach Steve Foster, the title will take experience to tell, but Gray’s talent is undeniable.
Trevor Story is itching to get back to baseball after a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb cut his historic rookie season short. The young shortstop plans to limit the number of head-first slides he takes, though he won’t let that goal get in the way of situational needs. Story’s aggressive style of play made his breakout rookie season a thrill for fans, but in addition to the injury, Story also racked up a 31.3 percent strikeout rate. Rockies manager Bud Black told media he wants to see Story stick to emphasizing a situational approach as he heads into his second major league season.
Carlos Estevez showed flashes of brilliance in his first taste of the big leagues last summer, when just a year before he split his season between Modesto and New Britain. Estevez’s speedy rise to the majors saw him thrown right into the fire after injuries to veteran relievers landed the then 23-year old righty with the closer role. Estevez performed well until an issue in his delivery began affecting his outcomes. After taking the offseason to sort it out, Estevez is confident in his mechanics, and willing to pitch wherever the Rockies need him.
The NL West appears to be on the brink of a sort of sans-the-Padres Golden Age, in which the competition is sure to produce some exciting baseball throughout the length of the season. The Dodgers and Giants still claim the top spots, according to Rian Watt of Vice Sports, but the Diamondbacks and Rockies are no longer forces to overlook. Watt has her concerns about the state of the Rockies’ starting rotation (read: few nice things to say about Chad Bettis), but is intrigued at the potential of Jon Gray to become the Rockies’ ace.
2017-02-17T11:00:01-07:00From Rockies games to Little League games, Purple Row have seen a lot of great games Last week, as a part of our new FanPost Friday series, we asked you, the Purple Row community, to tell us about the best baseball game you ever attended. I intentionally left “best” up to individual interpretation but suggested that it could be the most memorable, the most competitive, the highest quality, or the best quality time you had with someone else. It didn’t have to be a Rockies game, it just had to be a baseball game. In all we received 7 submissions for this edition of FanPost Friday. There were a few Rockies games, but most of them seemed to hold personal significance for a reason outside of fandom for the Rockies. I_Am_Marshall kicked us off with a short story about a Reds-Cardinals game in Cincinnati almost seven years ago. The game had some personal significance (first game with his future spouse), some historical significance (it was the annual Civil Rights Game), and it was an exciting game to boot! As expected, Game 163 featured prominently and flickerbock shared the whole story, from how he got tickets while on his honeymoon to the experience of the game itself. What seemed like hours later, the phone woke up and a new voicemail from Robert appeared. "Hey Mike. Robert again. I didn't hear from you so I just assumed you wanted to go and I got you a ticket. Call me when you can." That is a great friend. OakTreeStatus told us about a random Red Sox-Mariners game in 2004 that was probably my favorite post this week and is a great example of what watching a tight back-and-forth affair next to a fan of the opposing squad can be like He sat, completely motionless, hat in his hands and staring glassy-eyed across the sea of exuberance. I've never been so emotionally conflicted in my life as a fan, and I wavered between an "in your face!" and a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. For a brief history lesson, check out Perry’s post, including gems going back to 1965 in Cincinnati’s Crosley Field (two stadia ago)! Before the game I saw Rose standing at the railing talking to some fans. My parents, bless them, encouraged terrified little kid me to go ask him for his autograph on a scorecard. Pete was in his 3rd season at the time, the first (of 15!) in which he would hit .300. I still have that scorecard. For some recent history, Alex927814 recounts his incredible trip to a few recent games and why they actually surpass the experience of Rocktober 2007: An awesome month of baseball nonetheless, but that was only my 2nd favorite period of being a baseball fan in games that I had attended. I think that you'll understand why the 2 games I saw are able to one-up that period of time. Just typing about all of those games makes me have a nostalgia attack. Anyways, the two games I saw that one-upped that whole month were: Games 1 & 2 of the 2016 World Series. Just in case you thought we were all about the pros here, Roxman4Ever shared one Rockies game and one of his son’s Little League games, and David Brunning (aka dabruman23) shared his experience from when he was of Little League age seeing a pitchers dual in Yankee Stadium in 1978. A baseball game is always a memorable experience. Batting practice, the smell and taste of a hot dog, the cry for peanuts and crackerjack, the 7th inning stretch and a lifetime of memories with family and friends all make baseball a wonderful experience. The best game I ever saw was played on Sept. 4th, 1978. Louisiana Lightning struck Yankee Stadium in the form of Ron Guidry winning his 20th game in that magical season he went 25-3. We did have at least a few Rockies games considered. Eric Garcia McKinley reminded us just what it was like to watch a game at pre-humidor Coors (“It was the MC Hammer pants of baseball games”). And CompUser entered what I had thought/hoped would be a popular choice by recounting the first MLB game in Denver. Finally, evers44 skipped over several classic Rockies games to tell us about “the ni[...]
2017-02-17T10:00:04-07:00The Rockies have a good manager who might have the best team he’s ever had. Bud... Bud... Weiss? Er... Bud, wiser? And with that, I’m done with Super Bowl commercial parodies for a year. Let’s put the talking frogs aside for a bit because I’ve noticed quite a few fans wonder: what’s with all the fuss about new Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black? How’s a losing Padres manager going to be different from our previous fearless leader, Walt Weiss? It’s fair to say that Weiss’s tenure as the Rockies manager was, ahem, rocky. During his four years, besides juggling lineups with injuries on offense, he also had the displeasure of submitting the names of thirty different Rockies starting pitchers while trying to balance the whims of three different general managers. Quite a few decisions were called into question from the Twitter peanut gallery, but it would’ve been hard for many to handle the circumstances he had. Nonetheless, in 2016, he finally had a healthy rotation and lineup, but still the bullpen and eventually again, the team fell flat. The New Manager So why should Bud Black, a manager with a career winning percentage of just .477 and only two winning seasons of the nine on his résumé, be any better? His 2015 Padres team underwent a massive spending spree, raising eyebrows with the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, James Shields, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, and both baseball player Uptons. Those acquisitions, which didn’t pan out as the Padres hoped, didn’t raise the Padres win total and ultimately cost Black his job. But he’s in a different situation now. The 2017 Rockies will probably be the best offensive lineup Black has ever managed. The Padres, for most of Black’s, tenure were also pretty poor from a talent perspective. Only in 2015 did he have a team with a payroll of more than $77 million, dropping to a Marlins-esque low of $38 million in 2010 (which was, ironically, the one year Black’s Padres made the playoffs). And Black only managed one team during his nine-year Padres tenure where he had more than two players post offensive seasons 20 percent better than league average. Last year’s Rockies had four players (Blackmon, Arenado, LeMahieu and Story) do that. Black has always tried to jump-start offense with activity. His Padres teams, especially from 2010-2013, were among the best in the National League in terms of stolen bases and caught stealing and were often league average or better in terms of walks and strikeouts. In terms of playing time, he has a habit of getting his bench players regular work and playing platoon matchups when warranted. Two of his favorite plug-and-play guys, Alexa Amarista and Chris Denorfia will be with the Rockies this spring (though the latter is on a minor-league contract and might not see the majors given the team’s outfield depth). But mostly, Black’s reputation comes from his work as a pitcher, then pitching coach, and finally a pitching-oriented manager. He had a 15-year career, all spent as a starting pitcher, and won a World Series ring with the Royals in 1985. He then added to his collection of World Series bling as the Angels pitching coach in 2002. As a manager, though pitcher’s haven Petco has helped, he’s consistently cobbled together a quality starting staff and bullpen on a shoestring budget with a continually changing cast of characters. He also is fond of giving rookie starting pitchers some initial exposure in the bullpen, which may be in the works for 2017. Black also has a wealth of experience he can give to this blossoming young Rockies rotation. He has managed quite a few ex-Rockies pitchers who have had success at Coors such as Jason Marquis and Huston Street. Furthermore, he also managed Hall of Famer pitcher Greg Maddux and potential Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman which will add some anecdotes to the toolbox. Bud Black is also versed in sabermetrics and even appeared on Fox’s JABO broadcast experiment, though like[...]
2017-02-17T09:00:05-07:00Gray already played the part for most of last season, but now he could officially be the No. 1 guy. It’s been a while since the Colorado Rockies have had a bona fide No. 1 starter, but that could be changing. For the last few years, Jorge De La Rosa — a wily veteran who proved that pitchers can make a lengthy career out of working their craft at Coors Field — served as the team’s de facto ace. He’s one of only a handful of hurlers to make multiple Opening Day starts for the Rockies, who — surprise! — have struggled to identify and maintain top-of-the-line starting pitchers. Enter Jon Gray. The 25-year-old right-hander’s surface numbers — 10-10 record, 4.61 ERA — don’t do justice to just how good he was at times in his rookie season. Gray finished in the top 10 among National League starting pitchers in fWAR (3.7), K/9 (9.9), and FIP (3.61). He flashed ace potential, which makes the prospect of his future that much more exciting when considering the fact that he’s still learning what works for him at the major league level. Gray excelled at Coors Field, posting a 7-2 record with a 4.30 ERA while striking out 94 batters and walking just 18 in 832⁄3 innings. He did so despite cutting down the use of his changeup — a pitch long considered to be one that actually works at Coors Field — in favor of increased use of his slider and a new curveball. The slider, in particular, was a wipeout pitch for Gray. FanGraphs had the pitch at 13.9 runs above average, which ranked among the best in the NL. He thinks it can be better. "There are some things I did last year that took away from my slider, like trying to throw different changeups,” Gray explained in a recent conversation with Purple Row. “I'm going to stay away from that this year and focus on my breaking ball and fastball command." Gray’s fastball added some velocity last season but still wound up as a below-average pitch. He struggled to command the pitch on the road, where fastballs tend to have more movement than they do at elevation. That fact isn’t lost on Gray, but it’s not something he’ll allow to affect his mindset, either. “I take the same mentality into every game,” Gray said. “I'm just trying to go out there and get their guys out. I don't think any game is different. Doesn't matter who we're playing or what time of year it is.” That approach should bode well for the Oklahoma alum if Rockies manager Bud Black decides to tab him as the team’s No. 1 starter, which could come with a nod on Opening Day. Gray relishes the opportunity. “I'm definitely ready for that job,” Gray said. “A lot of our guys are. I think we have three or four frontline guys who can step into that role." It’s true that fellow starters Tyler Anderson, Tyler Chatwood, and Chad Bettis all bring something to the table that would make them a good fit for the job. It’s a big reason why the Rockies are predicted by media types to contend — and why the players themselves believe they’re ready to take the next step. "It means a lot,” Gray said about the front office’s decision to make offseason moves that reflect a team that expects to be in the thick of things. “They see what's going on with our talent and made a few additions accordingly, and for us players that is great to see.” As spring training games approach, Gray and the Rockies will be focused on turning that talk into reality. But so far, all is good. “[The front office is] ready for the playoffs and so are the players,” Gray continued. “We're all on the same page, and that's already been a great thing to experience." [...]
Pitchers and catchers have reported. Let’s share some tips for when we report
Every year one of the major milestones on the baseball calendar is the day when pitchers and catchers report. The Rockies battery-mates reported on Tuesday of this week, along with players participating in the World Baseball Classic. This was met with celebration in the baseball world, even though nothing of substance—at least from a observational perspective—will happen for several weeks.
Despite that fact, spring training seems to bring something out of even the casual baseball fan that NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLS cannot seem to match. Unlike those other sports, spring training offers a centralized location to soak in all that baseball has to offer partnered with warmer climes after a long cold winter. It’s a break from the winter and a harbinger of summer. All of this (and more!) makes spring training a wonderful destination trip, and many of us plan our springtime adventures around a trip to Arizona or Florida.
In order to help one another prepare for our own reporting to spring training, this week’s FanPost Friday asks:
If you spend your entire trip to spring training shuttling between the ballpark and your hotel room, you’re sure to have a good time, but not the best time. For those of you who have been, tell us: where do you stay? When and where you buy tickets (and get the best deals)? What are your favorite stadiums and why? Where is the best place to sit in those stadiums? Where do you go out to consume food or imbibe beverages? What other activities do you enjoy in the Phoenix area? What are some of your favorite stories or experiences from your trips?
If you haven’t been to spring training, tell us: do you have any interest in going? If so, what do you hope for from your trip? Why haven’t you gone yet? If not, what’s holding you back (other than cost, obviously)?
Write up a FanPost and tell us all about your spring training experiences (or hoped for experiences). It could be a bulleted list, a fictional-but-emblematic folk tale, or anything in between.
As always, we’ll collect all of the posts in a recap next Friday and highlight some of the best contributions. This could be a good reference post for years to come, but only if you help!
Start your FanPost today!
2017-02-16T11:00:02-07:00The Rockies rotation has a lot riding on young arms. The Rockies have been led by one man over the last few seasons. Jorge De La Rosa, who was not re-signed this offseason, left the organization as the record-holder for pitcher wins in Rockies history but was showing some decline as he struggled early on in 2016. It was a sign that it’s time to move on, buoyed by the success of other members of the rotation. Now that De La Rosa is gone, it’s time for the talented young arms to take the lead. The Starters There are four near-guarantees to start in the rotation: Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood. I say near-guarantees because nothing is guaranteed, but Bud Black envisions these four as the mainstays in the rotation. Gray began to look like the star that he was projected to be coming out of Oklahoma. He produced a strikeout rate of 9.91 per nine innings, improving on his 2015 performance by more than a strikeout. He established himself as a top young pitcher and already has one of the most gif-able pitches in the game in his slider. If Gray improves on his impressive 2016, he is set to lead this young, talented rotation for the next few years. Anderson came out of nowhere to be the most pleasant surprises of 2016. The 2011 first-rounder came back from injury that prevented him from pitching at all in 2015, cruised through Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque to make 19 starts in the majors and remind us why he was drafted so high. He will be the left hook of the one-two punch that the top of the rotation. Bettis and Chatwood are the “veterans” of the rotation. Both starters are 27, but have more experience pitching in the majors than anyone else in the Rockies prospective rotation and are considered the veterans. Both guys are exactly what you want for your fourth and fifth starters; they’ll keep you in games and give you a chance to win just about every time out. Bettis has more potential to pitch deep into games, but both guys are valuable starters for a team on the rise. The Battle of the Three Prospects The final starting spot is up for grabs and is going to be the matchup to watch this Spring. Top prospects Jeff Hoffman, Kyle Freeland, and German Marquez have been pegged as the candidates for the fifth rotation spot. Hoffman pitched nearly the entire season at Triple-A with constant rumors about his Major League debut. He was good but not great last year, flashing his talent and potential along with some mixed results. The Rockies made the right call by keeping Hoffman down for the majority of the season while still getting his feet wet against Major League hitters in September, where he made six starts and struggled across the board. It’s a very small sample size to make any inferences off of, but he’ll have to show much better stuff in spring training to win the spot. Marquez came over to the Rockies in the Corey Dickerson/Jake McGee trade and was impressive in his first year in the organization. Like Anderson, Marquez pitched at three levels in 2016 but spent most of his time with Double-A Hartford. The Rockies liked what they saw after five Triple-A starts to give him three September starts. Like Hoffman, it’s not enough information to make any inferences into his performance, but the organization liked what they saw to give him the exposure to Major League hitters. Freeland started in Double-A and was promoted to Albuquerque halfway through the year, making 12 Triple-A starts. The biggest red flag for Freeland is his low strikeout rate; since his time at Rookie ball in 2015, Freeland hasn’t posted a K/9 rate above 7, which isn’t ideal for a top pick. He’ll have to show that he can miss enough bats to be successful in the majors to win the fifth spot. Hoffman and Marquez were good enough in 2016 to warrant some September looks for the Major League club and are the assumed front-runners, but[...]
2017-02-16T07:25:40-07:00Colorado Rockies news and notes for Thursday, February 16, 2017 The Rockies could really use Joe Blanton | FanGraphs Travis Sawchik, noting the Rockies’ propensity for/need of slider heavy pitchers at Coors Field, makes the case for Joe Blanton in the bullpen. Blanton was one of the more effective relievers in the Dodgers bullpen not named “Jansen,” and yet teams are reporting to camp and he still doesn’t have a team. Maybe the Rockies could get a good deal for him, which is what it would take for them to have the payroll to add even more to the bullpen. As for who they might release to make room for him... Motte, Qualls healthy, ready for bullpen battle | Rockies.com Speaking of free agent relievers, Jason Motte and Chad Qualls have a battle ahead of them to make good on their two-year deals from last offseason. They can have the right mindset all they want, but it comes down to turning around some pretty poor numbers (Motte: 4.94 ERA in 30 games; Qualls: 5.23 ERA in 44 games). Fortunately, the likelihood that they are tasked with any more than middle relief is pretty low at this point. Kyle Freeland, from Thomas Jefferson High, pushing for Rockies’ rotation | Denver Post Pretty much the only other battle for roster spots is at the back end of the rotation. Kyle Freeland was drafted eighth overall out of the University of Evansville in 2014 with thoughts that he would rise quickly through the Rockies system. Injuries have slowed that but last year across Double-A and Triple-A he had a 3.89 ERA with a 6.0 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 162 innings. Of course he has a shot to make the rotation, but it’s far more likely he begins the year back at AAABQ. Saunders: Bud Black already putting his personal stamp on Rockies spring training | Denver Post I fully admit I, like many, were very skeptical of “Bud Black, Rockies manager.” But so far, albeit without any games played, I’ve been rather impressed. Saunders has a good rundown of what Black is doing so far to build the clubhouse culture (which matters, by the way, Brian Kenny). FanPost Friday: Best baseball game you’ve ever attended? We’ve already had almost a dozen entries in this week’s FanPost Friday, but you only have a little bit of time left to get your entry in for our Friday recap. If you’d like to submit one, head over to the FanPost section and start writing! Our next FanPost Friday prompt will come out tomorrow morning, so keep an eye out! [...]