Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I've Given Up on Logic, and Now I'm Just Plain Bitter

Hey, Wiggy, are you glad you got put in the starting lineup last night so you could have an easy pop fly clank off your glove and lead directly to the Dodgers' only runs? Is that what it feels like to be a grinder? Would you have been pissed off if you hadn't been given the opportunity to blow the game?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ty Wigginton, Whiny Baby

There was a note in yesterday's Denver Post reading: "Ty Wigginton hasn't been the happiest man in the Rockies' clubhouse yesterday. He's a baseball lifer, a grinder. He will play just about anywhere on the diamond as long as his name is in the lineup."

Listen here, Wigginton, because there seems to be something you're missing, to wit: You suck. Yes, you've got a little bit of power, which is nice, but that's the only thing you bring to the table. You're hitting only .256, and you rarely take a walk, so you make an out far more often than anyone else in the Rockies' lineup. Remember how Dexter Fowler sucked so bad that he had to be sent down to AAA earlier this year? He's got 40 points of OBP on you. Against right-handed pitchers, your OBP is a pathetic .276, which is about the same as Aaron Cook's. Really, it's an upset that anyone ever lets you take the field against a rightie.

Your bat might be strong enough to justify a starting slot if you were some kind of defensive whiz at third base, but you are most assuredly not. You are, in fact, horrendous with the glove. They sometimes try to hide you at first base or left field, where your defense is still bad but at least not as noticeable, but you don't have enough of a bat to play those positions regularly.

You would make a nice bench option for a team with lefty-hitting regulars at first and third and the corner outfield spots, which is exactly what the Colorado Rockies are. You maybe would deserve to start on a bad, going-nowhere team that needed a little pop in its lineup. Maybe. Personally, since you're 33 years old and have zero chance of getting better than you are right now, I would look for a younger player before I gave you a start at any position at all, but hey, that's me.

But what you really should be is grateful that someone is letting you play major league baseball. Every day that your name is on the 25-man roster should be like Christmas to you. That's not good enough? You're going to pout and whine and make angry faces if you don't start? Because you're a grinder?

My goodness, the last thing this team needs is bad players who put their own needs ahead of the team. Let's hope that you've been in the lineup lately, Ty, not because you've been throwing hissy fits in the clubhouse when you don't get to play but because the Rockies are showcasing you for a trade out of town. It's about time you became someone else's problem.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Sorry I'm late getting to this, guys, but I've been out of town. I was sure that after Ubaldo's start in Tuesday, the ol' cowboy noticed that his ERA had dropped to under 4.00, but according to the stats that I can find, it's now at exactly 4.00. According to my figgerin', it had dropped to 3.97 before Dan Uggla hit his second home run. But then it went back over 4.

An ERA that starts with 3 looks a lot better than one that starts with 4. And since we appear to be following a noncontender, that kind of thing becomes more fun to track. If Ubaldo can retire a guy in his next start before allowing a run, it'll drop to 3.99.

The other thing I wanted to mention in regard to Jimenez is that I'm sure you've heard the trade rumors surrounding this genetleman, who is clearly the greatest pitcher in Rockies history. I understand that the Rox have to be open to offers, but if the Red Sox came calling, I'd ask point blank for Dustin Pedroia. When they say no, I'd say they should start building a package around Jacoby Ellsbury.

I'm not kidding. Just because Jed Hoyer thinks it's a privilege and an honor to get raped by the lordly Boston Red Sox doesn't mean we have to bend over too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Watching Ian Stewart

Since his recall from the minors, Ian Stewart is hitting .292/.370/.417. In his seven starts, he's only failed to reach base in one game. That's not great, but combined with the stellar defense he's shown, it's certainly good enough for him to keep his job.

Over that same time frame, incidentally, Ty Wigginton is hitting .217/.308/.217.

Dexter Fowler is supposed to be recalled from Colorado Springs today. Anyone who's been watching Ryan Spilborghs this past week has to have been reminded that Dexter is easily the best defensive center fielder in the organization. Even if he doesn't hit any better than he did earlier in the season, that makes Fowler a better choice out there than the likes of Cole Garner and Charlie Blackmon.

With Dexter back, and Carlos Gonzalez' return to the lineup imminent, the Rockies might actually put their best possible team on the field this weekend, which they haven't done for a long time. Watching the game last night, with Stewart and Chris Iannetta in the 7 and 8 holes, it occurred to me that this could be a legitimately good offensive team.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ubaldo Is Back

Everyone seems to be excited about Ubaldo Jimenez' outing last night in Washington, giving hope that he's ready to have a superb second half. But in actual fact, Ubaldo has been back for a while now. He's been every bit as great as he was last year eveer since the first of June.

That was the day Jimenez shut out the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium. In his eight starts covering June and July, Ubaldo has a 2.52 ERA - which, you'll notice, is lower than his 2010 season ERA of 2.88, when he started the All-Star Game and was third in the Cy Young voting. In that stretch, he's struck out 50 and walked only 11 in 53 and 2/3 innings.

That excellence has been hidden by two things: First of all, he was so bad at the beginning of the year that it's taken a long time to bring his ERA down. It's now at 4.14, which looks pretty good for a Coors Field pitcher, but is far from excellent.

The other thing is that the Rockies continue not to score for him. The Rockies have scored three or fewer runs for Ubaldo in 10 of his 17 starts this year. That picks up the string from last year, when the Rox scored two or fewer runs for him in 8 of his 15 post All-Star game starts. That's the main reason he went 4-7 in the second half last year, and it's the main reason he's only 4-8 this year.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sorry, Charlie, Again

Gentlemen, it's time to admit the obvious: Charlie Blackmon, who is scheduled to lead off for the Rockies this afternoon as they likely get swept by the Braves in Atlanta, is not a major league player. Blackmon now has exactly 100 plate appearances in the majors, and he's hitting .250. And batting average appears to be his strong suit: Among his 24 hits are just two extra-base hits, and he's walked just three times.

So his on-base percentage is a pathetic .273, and his slugging percentage is a feeble .292. Among all the Rockies who have 100 plate appearances this season, both those numbers are the worst, save for the now-released Jose Lopez. Dexter Fowler had a disastrous start to the season - yet his 2011 OPS is 100 points higher than Blackmon's.

How bad is Blackmon's .564 OPS? Among National League qualifiers for the batting title this year, only one player has put up a worse mark: Ian Desmond, shortstop for the Washington Nationals, is a tinch behind at .558. The worst OPS for a left fielder is the one recorded by Raul Ibanez of the Phillies, whom everyone agrees is toast - and it's more than 100 points higher than Blackmon's. And of course, Blackmon has the benefit of playing half his games in maybe the best hitter's park in baseball. In road games he is 3 for 41 with no extra-base hits and one walk. That's an .073 average, and a .168 OPS.

Yet this fellow is leading off and playing left field for the Rockies at Turner Field this afternoon. I would hope that this is purely a result of Carlos Gonzalez' injury, except that Blackmon has started 24 of the 28 games the Rockies have played since his callup. If the Rockies have any prayer of getting back into the race, when CarGo is ready to go again at full strength, Charlie Blackmon will be back on the Sky Sox.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Watching Ian Stewart

Watching Ian Stewart hit, even I get nervous for him, thinking that he's got to do something big RIGHT NOW or else he's gonna get sent back to the minor leagues. At the same time, watching Ian Stewart hit, I see the ball just jump off his bat and think that the Rockies need this guy hitting, in the big leagues, if they have any chance of getting back into the race.

Then I see him effortlessly line a shot foul into the upper deck down the right field line, then effortlessly shoot a double off the center field fence, all off one of the best pitchers in baseball, and I think there's no way the Rockies would be stupid enough to send him back down.

And if the team is indeed out of the race, why are we futzing around with Ty Wigginton anyway? Wigginton's future contains nothing but mediocrity. Ian Stewart's future could very easily contain a couple of 35-40 homer seasons.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Slap in the Face

With Carlos Gonzalez banged up after running into the centerfield wall on Sunday, the Rockies called up outfielder Cole Garner from Colorado Springs as insurance for the next few days. Garner is no prospect - he's 26, more of a corner outfielder than anything else, and is hitting .340 in AAA but everyone hits .340 at the Springs.

Mostly, I think this is interesting for what it says about Dexter Fowler. Dexter has hit like crap at Colorado Springs, just .197, which suggests that either he's a) hurt, b) totally messed up with his swing, or c) pissed off about being in AAA. It's probably some combination of the three. But if Carlos Gonzalez can't play, the Rockies have no true centerfielder on the major league roster, which makes it most significant that they wouldn't bring Fowler up.

Personally, I disagree with that decision; I would bring Dexter up, and tell him he's coming off the bench till he can show that his head is screwed on right. But this organization has clearly soured on him. I'll bet you this: One of our two AAA big-leaguers, Dexter or Ian Stewart, has played his last game for the Rockies. But I won't tell you which one.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Make Up Your Mind, Already

The trade for Mark Ellis was probably overdue, given that the Rockies' second base situation has been in such disarray for so long. Consider that of the four players who've seen significant time at second for the Rox this year, three are no longer with the team, including Jose Lopez, who was released, and Eric Young Jr. and Chris Nelson, who are now in AAA. The sole survivor of that unholy tetrad, Jonathan Herrera, has an OPS of .624.

So Ellis' arrival was welcome, but that wasn't the only thing to like about the move. What impressed me was that the Rockies immediately demoted both Nelson AND Young. They could have farted around with this a little, said they'd give Nelson some time behind Ellis to try to break him in. But no, they were very definitive about it: Mark Ellis is our second baseman. (It helps that he started out as a Rockie, as I write this, at 6 for 9 with four doubles and a homer.)

That's the way to run a team. You decide who the best players are, and you put them in the lineup. Of course, sometimes you make a mistake, and convince yourself that Charlie Blackmon is one of your best players, and then you got trouble. But in this instance, well done, boys.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jim Tracy Is Having a Very Bad Season

When Jim Tracy took over as manager of the Rockies 46 games into the 2009 season, Ian Stewart was hitting .187, sharing time as third base with veteran Garrett Atkins and playing a little bit in left field and second base as well. Tracy made Stewart pretty much his everyday third baseman, and Ian played in 102 of the remaining 116 games. He rewarded Tracy by hitting 18 homers and driving in 50 runs in just over half a season.

And the Rockies posted the best record in their history.

Stewart got off to another slow start this year, after getting hurt and missing almost all of spring training. This time, though, Tracy was not willing to be patient and inserted the mediocre veteran Ty Wigginton as his starting third baseman after giving Ian Stewart a grand total of 52 plate appearances.

Carlos Gonzalez was called up from the minors shortly after Tracy took over the team in 2009, but showed very little early on. On the 4th of July, when the Rockies reached the midpoint of the season, CarGo was hitting .194 with one homer in 74 plate appearances. Yet Tracy stuck with him, and Gonzalez played like an MVP the rest of the way, hitting .313 with 12 homers in less than half a season. This year, Dexter Fowler was hitting much better than CarGo's early-2011 performance when Tracy decided to exile him to Colorado Springs.

The point is, Jim Tracy didn't use to solve his problems by getting rid of players who were underperforming. His greatest strength with those 2009 Rockies was his patience: He decided who could play, and he let them go out there and do it, no matter what their numbers said.

Tracy has been charged with always favoring a crappy veteran over a younger player, but that certainly hasn't been the case this year. Yes, Ty Wigginton is the epitome of the crappy veteran, but Fowler was replaced by the rookie Charlie Blackmon, and the crappy veteran second baseman Jose Lopez was replaced by the less-experienced Jonathan Herrera, who has now apparently been replaced by the even-less-experienced Chris Nelson.

The problem with Tracy, as I see it, is that he's not deciding who he wants to have on the field so much as he's deciding who he doesn't want out there. Particularly with Dexter Fowler, one got the sense that he didn't care whether or not he had a better player than Dexter, just so long as he got Dexter and all his strikeouts out of the lineup. Charlie Blackmon is not a better player than Dexter Fowler, and has never been a better player or a better prospect, but Tracy made the decision not to play Dexter, then looked around to see if there was anyone else he could put in the lineup. Similarly, he's decided that Seth Smith shouldn't play against lefties - without asking himself whether he had a better rightfielder than Smith who should play against lefties. That's how we got such ludicrous decisions as Eric Young Jr. starting in right field against the Yankees on Saturday.

The key question to ask yourself about Dexter Fowler, or about Ian Stewart, isn't "Do I want this player in the lineup?" The important question is, "Do I have a better player than this guy, or is he my best option?" Jim Tracy needs to start asking himself the latter question. It really doesn't matter who isn't playing center field. It very much does matter who is playing center field.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dexter vs. Charlie

A few days ago, I said that by the end of this month, Charlie Blackmon's OBP and slugging percentage would both be lower than Dexter Fowler's. Well, it's only the 25th of June, and Blackmon's OBP is .328 and his SP is .321. Meanwhile, Dexter has a .340 OBP and a .348 SP, and he's still at Colorado Springs.

Get that? The Rockies sent down a good defensive center fielder and replaced him with a left fielder who trails him in the two most important offensive categories. Brilliant.


Eric Young Jr. starting in right field, and batting second? There is absolutely nothing Eric Young Jr. can do like you'd want a major league right fielder to do.

It's hard enough to win games at the major league level; it's doubly hard when you completely punt one of your corner outfielders.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Seth Smith - or "Smitty," as the players cleverly call him - is an exceptionally good baseball player, but he doesn't seem to receive nearly the recognition he should. He hits for a good average, delivers power with doubles, triples and homers, knows how to take ball four, and plays a pretty good rightfield, although he had a couple of hiccups out there last night. Of course, after Brad Hawpe, I would probably look pretty good in rightfield.

Did you realize that despite the presence of Tulo and CarGo, Smith leads the Rockies in slugging percentage this year, by a pretty wide margin? His .925 OPS is also easily the highest among the regulars. He had a huge game last night, hitting two homers, driving in three of the Rox' four runs, including the game decider in the top of the ninth. And for all that, his name didn't appear in the Denver Post game story until the turn page.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Exile of Dexter Fowler

It's official: Dexter Fowler has been optioned to AAA, and he is no longer on the 15-day disabled list or on a rehab assignment. Dexter's career arc is very similar to Ian Stewart's. They both took over their starting jobs in 2009, and put in two seasons of more or less league-average play. They both got off to slow starts in 2011 and found themselves back at Colorado Springs.

Dexter is a year younger than Stewart; he's 25 and Ian is 26. Major league players tend to peak around the age of 27. The Rockies have two guys who have held their own in the majors the past two years and should be just entering their primes, and they're both at AAA.

I made the case for Ian Stewart being better than the man who replaced him, Ty Wigginton. It is even more obvious to me that Dexter Fowler is better than his replacement, Charlie Blackmon. There has never been a season in their lives, prior to 2011, that Blackmon was close to Fowler as a baseball player. Last year, Charlie Blackmon hit .297 at AA with 11 homers, which tied for fourth on the team. Honestly, after that performance, the guy should have been considered no prospect. The sum and substance of the evidence that Charlie Blackmon is a quality major leaguer consists of the past two weeks.

I guarantee you this: By the end of the month, Charlie Blackmon's 2011 OBP and slugging percentage, despite his famous hot start, will be lower than Dexter Fowler's 2011 OBP and slugging percentage, despite his famous slump.

It's hard enough to win a pennant in the major leagues. It's almost impossible to win a pennant when you're not putting your best team on the field.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mr. Clutch

Ty Wigginton's last four home runs have been:

* A solo shot in a 9-1 Rockies loss.
* A solo shot in an 11-7 Rockies loss.
* A solo shot in an 8-2 Rockies loss.
* A solo shot in a 7-1 Rockies loss.

He hasn't homered in a Rockies win since April 26th. He hasn't hit a homer with a man on base since April 20th. Thanks a lot, burrhead.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sorry, Charlie

The feel-good story of the year for the 2011 Rockies so far has been Charlie Blackmon, who has hit .410 since his call-up from the minors a week and a half ago, including a scorching .688 in his last four games. While I hate to be such a Gloomy Gus, this is one bandwagon upon which I shall not be jumping. I say this for three primary reasons:

1) Blackmon is hitting about as empty a .410 as it's possible to hit. He's 16 for 39, but with one lone extra-base hit (a double) and no walks. Blackmon's OPS of .846 is actually lower than that of Chris Iannetta, who is hitting .235.

2) Blackmon's minor-league hitting record is not great. He was hitting .337 at Colorado Springs, but everyone hits like that at Colorado Springs. Brad Emaus is hitting .344 for the Sky Sox, and Josh Fields is hitting .365. Eric Young Jr. hit .363 down there before his recall a few weeks ago, and he doesn't look like a major-league hitter at all.

3) Blackmon's pretty old for a rookie; he turns 25 two weeks from yesterday. He's roughly the same age as the man whose job he took, Dexter Fowler. Dexter turned 25 in March. Look at it this way: When Dexter was 23, he was hitting .266, putting up a .363 OBP and playing a good defensive centerfield in the major leagues. When Blackmon was 23, he was hitting .307 and putting up a .370 OBP for Modesto in high-A ball. One of these gentlemen is a much stronger prospect than the other.

So while Rockies fans may have fantasies of Charlie Blackmon turning into some Caucasian version of Ichiro, he looks a lot more like the new Scot Thompson to me. What I suspect will happen is that his .410 start will earn him the left-field job for the bulk of the season. That batting average provides a hefty cushion; he could go 2 for his next 21 and still be hitting .300. As soured as Jim Tracy is on Dexter Fowler (and as little attention as he and Carney Lansford seem to pay to drawing walks), Blackmon's batting average is probably going to have to drop to around .250 before they recognize that Dexter is actually the better offensive player.

On the other hand, Blackmon is from rural Georgia, and his middle name is "Cobb." So maybe the fates are looking out for him.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cutting Tulo in Half

Troy Tulowitzki was a sexy preseason pick as the Most Valuable Player in the National League this year, and while Tulo hasn't exactly been bad, he hasn't really played at an MVP level, either.

But I wouldn't worry about it. Tulo has always been a pure second-half player; his numbers have improved after the All-Star Break every season of his career. And this is arguably the best first half of his career, comparable only to that of his rookie year. He's already set a career high in homers for the first half of the season, with 13, when his previous best was nine.

Take a look at this: Here are Tulowitzki's basic numbers, broken down by first half and second half, prorated to a 150-game season.

First Half
BA: .265 HR: 23 RBI: 77 Runs: 90 OBP: .340 Slugging: .456

Second Half
BA: .314 HR: 29 RBI: 111 Runs: 101 OBP: .382 Slugging: .541

So in the first half, he's the meh Cal Ripken, the run-of-the-mill All-Star shortstop of 1986 or 1996. In the second half, he's the MVP Cal Ripken of 1983 or 1991.

Tulowitzki has been accused of being a Coors Field creation, but his first half/second half splits are more dramatic than his home/road splits. If he's helped significantly by Coors, he's also helped significantly by July, August and September. And hopefully October.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Building a Champion Without Resorting to the Likes of Ty Wigginton

I admit that part of my antipathy to Ty Wigginton stems from an esthetic choice. My preferred method of building a championship team, both in theory and in practice, is to develop through the farm system, or to acquire young players from other teams that haven't yet had their shot. Seeing a group of young men collectively find its way into the majors, and eventually coalesce into a champion, as we saw in Colorado in 2007, is much preferable to hauling in the likes of a 34-year-old Gary Sheffield as a free agent. To say nothing of hauling in a rummy like Ty Wigginton.

Do you know how many of the regulars on the 2009 Rockies, the winningest team in franchise history, had previously played regularly for other clubs? None. Carlos Gonzalez had played half a season (badly) in the outfield for the Oakland Athletics, and Yorvit Torrealba was the backup catcher for the Giants and Mariners, but neither of them ever played even 100 games in a season for another team. Everyone else who had as many as 100 plate appearances for that team came up through the Rockies system.

That's my idea of team-building. You develop young guys and give them a chance, or you bring in players from other teams and make major leaguers out of them. That's how you catch lightning in a bottle.

It's possible for a champion to succeed by bringing in other teams' used-up parts, as the Giants did last year. But I wonder if San Francisco will ever embrace Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell to its collective bosom the way we did Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs. I rather doubt it.

And make no mistake: If I felt that Ty Wigginton was going to be a crucial piece on a World Championship team, I'd be happy to have him aboard. But he's not. Cuz he sucks.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ty Wigginton Is Killing This Team

The Rockies were up 3-0 in the third inning of their game against the Dodgers Sunday afternoon when L.A. pitcher Rubby de la Rosa reached on an infield single. Jamey Carroll followed with a bounding ball two steps to the left of third baseman Ty Wigginton - a picture-perfect double-play ball, with Wigginton's momentum already moving him toward second base.

And then the ball clanged off his glove. Everyone was safe. After a bunt and a strikeout, it looked like Ubaldo Jimenez would get out of it anyway, but then he walked Matt Kemp, the hottest hitter in baseball, and James Loney hit the first pitch he saw for a grand slam. Dodgers lead, 4-3, and although the Rockies made a charge at the end, they'd never catch up, and ended up losing 10-8.

Whenever bad stuff has happened to the Rockies this season, Ty Wigginton has been in the middle of it. The turning point to the season, to my mind, came on Saturday, May 14, against the Padres. The Rockies had cooled off since their hot start, but they went into that game in a virtual tie for first with the Giants, and got out to a 7-1 lead at home, with Joulys Chacin rolling along. Then came a couple of walks, Chacin botted a grounder, and Wigginton flubbed a simple little bouncer. Before long the Padres had come all the way back, the Rockies fell out of first, and they have never been back.

Make no mistake: Wigginton botches the un-clutch plays as well. He's a dreadful third baseman. According to, Wigginton has been worse than replacement level in the field every year since 2004. He played for the Orioles last year, and the Orioles are a bad team, but even they had the sense to move him off third base last year.

But he makes up for it with his bat, right? No. Wigginton shows a little bit of power, but he has a mediocre batting average and never walks, so his on-base percentages are quite poor. He hasn't had an OBP above .320 since 2008. This year, he's at .310 Last year, by comparison, Ian Stewart's OBP was .338.

Ah, Ian Stewart: There's the rub, isn't it? As hitters, Stewart and Wigginton are pretty similar; Stewart has a lower batting average, but he walks more, so he's on base more often. Their power numbers are about the same. Defensively, Stewart is far superior. Then you have to consider that Stewart is 26, an age when most players are just entering their prime; Wigginton is 33, a journeyman on the downside of his career.

So you have another player who hits as well as your starter, fields much better, and has a much greater chance to improve his game - and you stash him in AAA. Why? Well, Stewart got off to that famous slump this year, after he was hurt in spring training, and his numbers are pretty ugly for the 2011 season. Then again, he did what the club asked, he went down to AAA and hit the snot out of the ball, earning a return trip to the majors.

On his second tour of duty with the Rox this year, do you know how many plate appearances he got before Jim Tracy decided Stewart wasn't any good after all? Twenty-four. He got six starts at third base before he was discreetly disposed of like an old tissue. Twenty-four times at bat was enough to throw a young slugger with the potential to hit 40 homers into the trash, for a guy the Orioles didn't even want.