Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Pirates 3, Rockies 0
2005-07-24 15:57
by Mark T.R. Donohue

VORP for Rockies' pitchers, 2005 (with ML rank):

Brian Fuentes, 12.6, 116th
Shawn Chacon, 12.1, 128th
Jay Witasick, 11.6, 138th
Marcos Carvajal, 6.8, 205th
Jason Jennings, 5.3, 227th
Dan Miceli, 3.3, 267th
David Cortes, 2.8, 276th
Jeff Francis, 2.6, 284th
Mike DeJean, 2.2, 293rd
Jose Acevedo, 2.1, 300th
Byung-Hyun Kim, 1.5, 325th
Bobby Seay, -2.6, 447th
Jamey Wright, -7.1, 521st
Joe Kennedy, -22.0, 558th

What's my point? Well, I think the fact that the Rockies have played a fair share of close games this season (and seemingly more than a few like today's) gives people the false impression that they have enough pitching to compete, or even close to it. Yeah, Shawn Chacon has been a victim of terrible run support. But Jamey Wright has been unbelievably bad. Byung-Hyun Kim's numbers would probably look a better if you filtered out his disastrous relief numbers. Jeff Francis's season has been very rookielike in that he's had a few starts where he's just gotten pounded right out of the box. Of the six guys who have started for Colorado this year, only two have consistently contributed to making them better, and one of those guys is out for the year.

The run support, and the midseason injury, have masked just how good Shawn Chacon has been for the Rockies this season. I keep going back and forth on whether it would be a bad idea to trade him or not. I think it would be a mistake to declare him untouchable, because you never know when a deal might come along to blow you away. But it would be a real mistake to flip him for appearances' sake as the Rockies did Witasick, Kennedy, and Preston Wilson.

The other thing that this little list makes clear is that bullpens are not difficult to field. Five of the the Rockies' top seven pitching contributors are guys they essentially got off of the scrap heap. None of them are making serious dollars. You can pull relievers out of a hat. Starters are not so easy. The Rockies have yet to improve their organizational depth in starting pitching one iota with any of the moves they have made so far this season. Zach Day is, best-case scenario, Jason Jennings-lite.

Since it's clear that signing starters as free agents is a bridge well and truly burned, what's this team to do to make itself any better for next year? Well, they might want to hang on to Chacon. Perhaps missing the balance of this season will be a blessing in disguise for Jennings, whom they now can't trade and will return for next year nice and rested. Byung-Hyun Kim is the only real "swing-and-miss" guy the Rockies have among the starters. Maybe they bring him back next year at a greatly reduced salary and he rewards them for their loyalty with a more consistent season. Aaron Cook remains an intriguing question mark.

Maybe it's not impossible for the Rockies to inch closer to .500 next year with Jennings, Chacon, Cook/Day/Kim, and a maturing Jeff Francis. I would just feel so much better if they had a single starter who could crack the top 100 in VORP.

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