2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Colorado Rockies

A friend of mine is a big Rockies fan.  He grew up in Denver, and at the beginning of October, he was planning a trip back home to visit his parents.  His wish was that he could go back home and see the Rockies in the World Series.  He didn’t exactly get his wish (the weekend he was home was the weekend right before the World Series), but he did get to see Colorado put together the type of month that they make movies about.  The problem was that, like the 2006 Tigers, the Rockies somehow arrived to the dance as Cinderella and left as… well, I’m not sure what the other side of that analogy is… are we still allowed to make Kevin Federline jokes?
Anyway, off to the mountains for stop #22 on the tour, the Colorado Rockies.
Record: 91-72, 2nd in NL West (Won NLDS 3-0 over Phillies, Won NLCS 4-0 over Diamondbacks, Lost World Series 4-0 to Red Sox)
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 91.39 wins (860 runs scored, 758 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Up in the Rockies
More Rockies Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status 
Trade Rumors
Overview: The streak obscured the fact that the Rockies have put together a collection of the now formerly most-unheralded stars in baseball.  Did you know who Jeff Francis and Brad Hawpe were before this year?  You did?  Oh right, you read random baseball blogs.  You knew.  But suppose that you were one of the morons out there who doesn’t read random baseball blogs.  Not that people who hadn’t heard of Jeff Francis are morons… ummm… OK, suppose that you were a non-moron, but who somehow hadn’t heard about Jeff Francis… OK, I’d probably best get on with the article.
What went right: What’s scary is that there were baseball fans as late as the middle of last year who didn’t know the name Matt Holliday.  Most probably assumed that he pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Holliday put up an OPS over 1.000, although… well, his home/road split was 1.157/.860.  I’ll let you figure out which one was home.  Looks like that humidifier isn’t doing its job.  I suppose it’s not shameful to put up a .860 OPS, but it does make you wonder what he would do at sea level.  Still, Coors Field isn’t the happy fantasy-land that it used to be, with the field’s park factor checking in around 108 or 109.  It’s still a hitters’ park (over 100 favors hitters), but not as dramatically as it was in the mid-90s when the park factors were running into the 130s.  Taking into account the park effect, Holliday still walks away from 2007 with an OPS+ of 150.  A league average player is, by definition, 100.  Looks like Holliday’s doing OK.
Troy Tulowitzki shoulda been the Rookie of the Year.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Maybe it’s because the writers couldn’t spell his name.  To understand why is to understand the role of defense in a player’s contribution to a team.  A good defender is not always the flashiest, or the one who makes the highlight reel plays.  In fact, most highlight reel plays are the result of an outfielder getting a bad jump on a ball and having to dive to recover.  It’s not to say that Tulo was a slouch offensively, just that his defense was that magnificent.  That he put up a .291/.359/.479 was just a nice little bonus.
What went wrong: Well, they did lose in the World Series.  Sabermetrics or not… that is kinda the point of playing the game…  But then again, they made it to the World Series, which is most of the point of playing the games.  Maybe it wasn’t such a bad year after all.  The problem with a team that seemed to be able to do no wrong is that there’s not a lot for the “What went wrong” file.   For crying out loud, this is a team that squeezed sub-4.00 ERA seasons out of Jorge Julio and LaTroy Hawkins… in Colorado.  Of the Rockies top five relievers by appearances (Fuentes, Corpas, Affeldt, Hawkins, Julio), four of them had BABIP numbers between .250 and .265 (Julio had a .330-something).  So, what went wrong is that the Rockies did what they did with smoke and mirrors in the bullpen.  Affeldt in particular deserves some mention.  Someone who puts 5.03 next to his BB/9 stat, yet still looks good in the final shake out…  Yeah, Rockies fans, it was probably a fun ride.  The wheels are about to come off.
Yeah, that about sums it up: I’m afraid.  I’m very afraid.
What are the chances?: OK, how crazy of a ride was it?  From September 16th to October 15th, the Rockies lost exactly once, winning 21 out of 22 games.  Pythagorean says that they were a .560 team.  The chances of a .560 team, playing league average opposition (which the Rockies really weren’t… the streak started with one win in Florida, but the rest were against the Dodgers, Padres, Dodgers again, D’Backs, Padres for a game, Phillies, and Diamondbacks again) winning at least 21 games in 22?  About 1 in 20,000.  It wasn’t “hitting the lottery” improbable, but you likely won’t see that one again for a while.
The forgotten Rockie, Garrett Atkins: A moment of reflection on line-drive hitting machine Garrett Atkins.  He’s actually one of my favorite sneaky fantasy picks.  He plays third base, so he stands in the shadow of A-Rod, Wright, Chipper, Cabrera, and Ryan Braun.  He’s not going to net you amazing fantasy numbers (read: home runs), but he doesn’t strike out much for a power hitter, and hits a lot of line drives.  Line drives are mighty hard to catch.  Plus, he lives in Denver, which will inflate his stats a bit.  But, it also makes him a really good and really under-appreciated real-life player.
Outlook:  OK, the pieces of the offense are all for real.  They lost nothing by losing Kaz Matsui (yeah, I know, he’s fast, so what).   But, the pitching staff has one real starter (for some reason, pitchers don’t like playing in Colorado…) and the bullpen was all smoke and mirrors last year.  Hold on to those memories of last year, Denverites.  Unless lightning strikes twice…

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3 Responses to 2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Colorado Rockies

  1. dan says:

    I knew who Francis and Atkins were before this year and before I read random blogs such as this one…. MVP ’05 Francis was a beast, and Atkins was on my friend’s fantasy team…. so HA!

  2. hobohal says:

    No discussion of their defense is complete without including infield conditions. They grow the grass longer to slow it down. Tulo commented how he loved it as a defender and hated it as a hitter. I’ve also heard that given the infield and outfield factors they try and get groundball pitchers. I’m not sure if that holds up statistically.

  3. Pizza Cutter says:

    On the first point, I did a study a few months ago looking at the “fast/slow infield hypothesis.” I found that there’s little evidence to suggest that there’s any sort of consistent huge effect. On the second, I have no doubt that the the Rockies look at GB/FB numbers before bringing anyone to Coors, although I suppose I should look…

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