Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Extensions and Retrenchings
2006-02-07 07:58
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Clint Hurdle and Dan O'Dowd have each had their contracts extended through the end of 2007. This is not really big news because in the current baseball ecology, allowing a management figure to begin the final year of a deal without an extension is equivalent to firing them. I don't know why this is. I have trouble enough convincing people to pay me for work I have already done, let alone work I may or may not theoretically do in the future. Baseball's a funny game.

I overheard ESPN's Buster Olney speaking to local radio this morning. I respect Olney, but he's an East Coast guy through and through, and his thoughts on the Rockies were startlingly unoriginal. It's impossible to develop pitchers at altitude? Says who? Worse yet was Olney's suggestion that Colorado resurrect the "beer league softball" model of several years back, with leaden sluggers at every position and a pitching staff expected only to get out of the way of liners roaring back towards the mound. Sigh. This is the sort of thing we've been trying to stamp out, but it sounds as if the message is not spreading. The Rockies have to play half their games on the road. They win at home already. To win on the road, they need at least the rudiments of competitive pitching. Let's move on.

Our spiritual brothers at Bucs Dugout and Royals Review have an in-depth comparison up of those two bottom feeders. For my part, I think the Rockies as presently operated compare favorably to the Kansas City and Pittsburgh franchises. First, they're not spending tens of millions of dollars on replacement-level veterans who won't improve them any, and second, they play in a division lacking any obviously superior clubs. But there are many similarities. The Rockies, Royals, and Pirates all have owners who swear up and down that they can't possibly make a profit while raising payroll any higher. Each team has a baby-faced starter upon whom they're resting the future of the franchise -- Jeff Francis, Zach Duke, Zack Greinke. Each has a classy genuine All-Star talent who must look with bemusement upon the detritus surrounding him in the locker room -- Todd Helton, Jason Bay, Mike Sweeney. And all these teams have seemingly smarter-than-average fanbases who harbor no illusions about their favorite teams' chances of contending (ever), yet cling to them with inexplicable tenacity. Wow, I just gritted my teeth so tightly I think I popped a blood vessel. Onward, Men of Purple.

2006-02-07 10:29:27
1.   Voxter
I really don't feel one way or another about Olney, but the fact is that the only time the Rockies have made playoffs, they played exactly the kind of game he appears to have been suggesting:

I don't think it's impossible to develop pitchers in Colorado, and I don't think it shouldn't be tried. But if the Rockies are going to win, I think the most important thing for them to do is lead the league in scoring by a wide margin -- which would indicate that they were scoring on the road, as well as at home.

2006-02-07 11:31:51
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
The '95 Wild Card team, as I think I've written before, when you adjust for park effects, had a league-average offense, league-average starters, and a near-historically great bullpen.

It's difficult to repeat this model because great bullpen years seem to be a fairly random thing, and Colorado doesn't have the money to pay for the kind of relievers who post a 200 ERA+ every year. I'd settle for being slightly above average in every category.

2006-02-07 11:40:33
3.   Mark T.R. Donohue
And the '95 team didn't score on the road -- 300 runs to 485 at home. They were lucky to be in the playoffs at all, as they allowed 783 runs while scoring 785. They should have been .500. It may be true that a really good bullpen can positively skew a team's Pythagorean record, but it could also be true that the 1995 Rockies were an average team who got lucky in a strike-shortened season.
2006-02-07 20:32:58
4.   Samthefan
The national media treats the rockies like a carnival act. Let's be honest--they are a carnival act. A carnival act with potential. Sort of.

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