Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Withdrawal Symptoms
2006-10-31 10:50
by Mark T.R. Donohue

So the World Series is over, and that means that another baseball won't be pitched in anger for five entire months. I am miserable at the prospect. For all of the complaining about how poor the play was in the postseason, I would much rather have a couple more Detroit-St. Louis games than no baseball at all. Even bad playoff baseball is still baseball. I don't know what it is about the sports fan psyche that requires all recent events to be immediately categorized as either the Best Ever or the Worst Ever, but there you have it. I avoided writing anything about the end of the season for several days, because I knew as soon as I did there would be no more baseball to write about for ages. That's the only thing I have to complain about as far as this World Series is concerned.

I don't have any high-minded opinions about "deserving champions" this or "watered-down" that. For my part, having a clear-cut villain to root against all October made these playoffs a lot of fun. I haven't wanted a guy in uniform to fail this badly since Paul O'Neill retired. In my world, things couldn't have worked out much better than Jim Leyland getting all the way to the final round only to fail rather miserably and visibly. There sure were a lot of legitimate things to second-guess Leyland on during the World Series. Not starting Kenny Rogers in Game 5, a little weird. His substitution patterns, consistently weird. Taking the whole postseason to realize Carlos Guillen is a better hitter than Placido Polanco, really weird. On the other hand, what about Sean Casey? I don't think I was able to write Casey's all name all season long without including a cheap shot. He was the Tigers' MVP in the World Series, for what it's worth. Didn't see that coming. In any event, Leyland lost and the Yankees didn't win. That's about the most realistic thing you can hope for at season's end, as a Rockies fan.

So it looks like it's time to return our attentions to Colorado baseball (he sighed), meaning that our welcome postseason audience will go right back to ignoring us. Well, that's okay, at least they know where we are if the Rockies decide to get interesting next season. It's not impossible. I'll start taking some more time to figure out what 2007 will bring after my postseries depression wears off. By way of a transition, I will give you this right now. As most Rockies fans know, after several years of gradual rebuilding, expectations should be justifiably much higher for next year. Brian Fuentes, Matt Holliday, and Jason Jennings all can walk after the 2007 season. With the exceptions of Jamey Carroll at second and the gaping chasm in center field, the major league team will have high-ceiling homegrown players at every position next year. If the Rockies don't accomplish at least a winning record in '07, Clint Hurdle and Dan O'Dowd should be fired. Last year, 75 wins was all we asked the team to come up with, and they made it. Next year, a ten-win improvement is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask. 85 wins would be more than the World Series winner managed in the 2006 regular season. Dare to hope, Rockies fans.

2006-10-31 12:05:26
1.   4444
really good post-season writing (my favorite of all i found both here at the toaster and other internetian places)


colorado's really interesting set of SP arms


my following of a NL west competitor (dodgers)


i'm hooked on this blog.


2006-10-31 12:07:19
2.   Cliff Corcoran
Congratulations to be the first to use the "hey, 85 wins is more than the World Champs had" line. I expect we'll hear a great deal of that next year. You should copyright it.
2006-10-31 12:19:06
3.   Mark T.R. Donohue
2 If only I could find a concise and elegant way of representing the thought on t-shirts and baseball caps.
2006-10-31 14:27:22
4.   Ali Nagib
How about:

85 W > [cards logo] '06

2006-10-31 14:40:09
5.   RZG
I'm in agreement with your "must be the greatest or worst ever" thoughts. I stopped listening to ESPN's Mike and Mike show because Greenberg is always making something the best ever or worst ever.

Why is there always a rush to judgement?

2006-10-31 15:33:49
6.   das411
5, meet ESPN-ization.

Hey Mark, what wrong with Peter Forsberg?

2006-10-31 17:03:22
7.   4444
3/4 - Or even ".525" in big block bold font. Give it a bit of mystery...
2006-10-31 17:47:25
8.   scareduck
Dan Szymborski at BTF has published his ZIPS projections for the Rockies:

This is a pretty interesting bunch, with potentially four regulars with a SLG over .500.

That's the good news. The bad news is the pitching staff, and particularly the bullpen, is going to be just plain awful.

I take it this is not news.

2006-10-31 18:18:33
9.   Mark T.R. Donohue
8 It is news, because the Rockies' starting pitching was excellent in 2006. Their bullpen faded late but was at least league-average. It was really the failure of the offense to ever get everybody going at once that hurt.

The projections seem rather optimistic for the declining Todd Helton and the inconsistent Brad Hawpe. However, I don't think it's crazy to think Matt Holliday, Jeff Baker, and Garrett Atkins can team up to give Colorado a plus middle of the order.

The bullpen is an open question. Ramon Ramirez and Jeremy Affeldt were very good last year and the projection system hates them -- Ramirez probably because he has no major-league or even high-minor experience before last year and Affeldt because he was consistently hopeless as a starter before finally being converted to a full-time reliever after the Rockies traded Ryan Shealy to Kansas City for him at midseason. I don't think it would be wise to expect a lot out of Ray King or Mike DeJean, but I don't think the Rockies will. Dan O'Dowd, while shaky on big-ticket acquisitions, has been consistently good at getting role players on the cheap the past few years. Colorado will bring a lot of last-chancers to spring training to contend for bullpen jobs, and they'll be quick to move out guys who don't get the job done. For the money, Affeldt, Ramirez, and Brian Fuentes are an acceptable core in my estimation. They could really use another strikeout righty. Chin-Hui Tsao, who has been hurt for the better part of two years, is the sleeper there.

I think the biggest problem with the projection is that it predicts declines for all three of Colorado's best starters. Given his youth, I think Jeff Francis is the best bet to take a step forward, but Aaron Cook's playing age is less than his listed age due to time lost to non-arm-related injury and Jason Jennings has been extremely consistent the past three years. Also, unscientifically, these guys pitched very well with no offensive support in 2005 and 2006...if the hitters start producing some runs, ought that not to provide a psychological boost?

The bullpen has the potential to be bad enough to scuttle improvements elsewhere, but that's a worst-case scenario. I would be more worried about Helton continuing to recede into oblivion, Atkins turning into a pumpkin, the Baker/Iannetta/Tulowitzki triumvirate being not ready for prime time, and Colorado not finding anyone better than Cory Sullivan to play center. The rotation is the least of my worries, with Cook, Francis, Jennings, and perfectly-acceptable-fifth-starter-for-the-price-bracket Byung-Hyun Kim. Who they'll get as a fourth starter is another question, but there are some system options, and they might pull a rabbit out of their hats as they did with Josh Fogg last year. When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose, and the Rockies -- especially on the pitching side -- are good at stacking up longshots and quickly bailing out on the ones that don't pay off.

So the bullpen is a mild question mark and the offense is a bigger one. The bench ought to be better with some guys who couldn't quite cut it as starters but have some ability seeing more platoon action -- Hawpe, Sullivan, Clint Barmes, Yorvit Torrealba, Luis "N.R." Gonzalez.

They're not clearly outclassed by any team in their division, and their rotation is notable more for its depth than dependent on any single player. They should win between 77 and 87 games, but the difference there is a big one and I don't know if Clint Hurdle is the right manager to steer them to the sunny shores of maximized potential.

2006-10-31 23:10:46
10.   Yu-Hsing Chen
Of course, they could simply give the umps non-huminitor balls when the Rockies bat :P

I think next year the big question is wether the Dodgers will take a step forward, they can certainly do that ane end up being an 90+ win team, which would pretty much eliminate any real hope for the Rockies, but if they get more injuries as usual and is stuck at 80 soemthing, with the almost guarnteed suckiness of the Giants next year and the Padres not likely to get better (D-back will get better... but not by enough to seriously contend IMHO)

i'm really hopeing Tsao can get healthy next year, espically after watching the monster year his countrymen Wang had and the great late run Kuo had also. Tsao's stuff is everybit as good as those 2, he can be a very good pitcher if he can FINALLY get healthy.

I'm hearing that the Rockies are going after Dave Roberts, which is a good idea, a solid all around player that can get on and steal. his age is a tad worrisome though. i wonder what they'll end up with next year in the middle, though it can't possibly be worse than the utter horseshit that was Barmes + Carroll (or should we say deer shit :P)

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