Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead: a Colorado Rockies Preview

Note: This was written by U-God.

A brief look at an opponent we play this week.

Offense: Carlos Gonzalez-CF, Jonathan Herrera-2B, Todd Helton-1B, Troy Tulowitzki-SS, Seth Smith-RF, Ty Wigginton-3B, Charlie Blackmon-LF, Chris Ianetta-C.  Bench: Chris Nelson-INF, Jose Morales-C, Jason Giambi-creepy old man.

When Dexter Fowler was sent back to the minors, Carlos Gonzalez made the shift back to his natural position in center field.  Honestly, he probably should have been there all along.  He's at worst average at the position defensively and an .800 OPS looks a lot better (and is more valuable) from your center fielder than your left fielder.  Is CarGo (awful, awful nickname) really the hitter he appeared to be last year?  No.  He's a legitimate 20-20 threat who could have a few 30-30 seasons in his prime and will bat around .280-.300.  He's a good player, but not the MVP candidate that last season made him appear to be.  Jonathan Herrera has one of the least interesting Wikipedia pages ever.  He seems to be a AAAA player.  He doesn't seem to do anything particularly well and was rarely even a league average hitter in the minors.  His defense isn't much better, which leads one to question what exactly Jim Tracy is thinking playing him and hitting him second.  If everything goes right, Todd Helton will play in his 2,000 game Wednesday night.  In case you were somehow unawares, all 2,000 of those have been with the Rockies.  The man who will inevitably have the first number retired by the Rockies once started ahead of Peyton Manning in college football.  It's a weird world.  The franchise leader in almost every counting stat (humorously third in triples) is having a pretty nice season for a 37 year old.  Age and injuries have robbed him of most of his power, but he can still hit for average and draw walks.  Helton has a shot at being the first Rockies Hall of Famer when he retires, but probably will be denied for playing at Coors Field.  Which is dumb.

Troy Tulowitzki is one of the best shortstops in baseball (and thus begins the Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez argument anew!).  If he could stay healthy, he'd have the top spot locked down as he's a true five-tool player.  Expect to see Tulo stealing less and less over the next few seasons though.  He'll keep putting up 30+ homerun seasons for the foreseeable future.  Over the past two seasons, he's started to swing at more pitches outside of the zone, though he's making decent contact with them.  He feasts on fastballs, which could end badly for our pitchers.  Seth Smith came into the year expecting to be platooned with Ryan Spilborghs.  Not having an OPS lower than .886 during a full month quickly put an end to that plan.  Smith is a capable to good fielder with 15-20 homerun power.  He also has a sweet left-handed swing and a career .352 OBP.  Smith will never be an All-Star, but every team could use a 3-4 WAR hitter for cheap.  Ty Wigginton has finally become a journeyman, as Colorado is somehow only the sixth team he has played for.  Ty can't play defense to save his life, but has been a slightly above average hitter for his career.  But teams will always need stopgaps until their prospects are ready, and that's where the Chief Wiggumtons of the world come in.  But that's not to say he's never gotten to play the hero

Charlie Blackmon probably won't amount to much more than a league average bat in the majors.  He lacks the power one would expect from a corner outfielder without providing the stellar defense to offset it.  He does have above-average speed and is a good thief.  Chris Ianetta has long been a favorite case study of mine.  He hits for an astonishingly low average (career .234), yet maintains a good OBP (career .360).  The man is a walking machine (career 14.2 BB%).  He also has the power to hit 15-20 homeruns a year.  His low average and high strikeout totals have always kept him from keeping a full-time starting role, but this seems to be the year he's finally being given the chance to succeed.  It's working pretty well so far.  He's only about average defensively though, so it's a bit of a shame we no longer seem to have any thieves in Chicago

Pitching: Jason Hammel-RHP, Ubaldo Jimenez-RHP, Aaron Cook-RHP, Huston Street-CL.

Jason Hammel has quietly been a solid third-starter for the Rockies over the past two seasons, racking up 7.5 WAR.  For some reason, hitters just don't seem to be striking out against him like they used to (K/9 down to 4.9 so far).  His walk rate has also ticked up, but he's seen some luck with his BABIP, helping him not completely fall apart.  He keeps the ball down, which is a good strategy for a pitcher playing in the greatest historic launching pad ever.  Hammel throws a low-90's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.  His breaking balls have been fairly reliable.  Ubaldo Jimenez gained notoriety last season as he threw the first no-hitter in Rockies' history and one of the best first halves in recent memory.  It also doesn't hurt that he's routinely near the top of the league in average fastball velocity for starting pitchers.  Jimenez will get around 200 K's a year while managing to keep the ball down (50.6 career GB%).  Jimenez has a mid to upper-90's four-seamer that has been stuck in the low to mid-90's this season, a tailing low-90's two-seamer, a changeup, slider, and a curveball.  Unsurprisingly, his changeup is highly effective.  Seems unfair to have a changeup about as fast as most lefties throw their fastballs.

Aaron Cook has never struck out more than 100 hitters in a season, despite having pitched over 200 innings in a season twice.  Such is the fate of an extreme groundballer (57.5 career GB%).  Cook has been with the team longer than any other pitcher and was one of the first pitchers to learn how to be effective a mile above sea level.  He tosses an upper-80's sinker, a slider, a curveball, a fastball, and a changeup.  Other than his sinker, none of them are terribly effective.  Still wondering how his strikeout totals are so low?  Huston Street came over from Oakland with Carlos Gonzalez as part of the Matt Holliday trade back in November of 2008.  Yet another product of the Oakland A's seemingly endless closer factory, Huston has shown remarkable control the past few season with two K/BB's over 5.00.  He can struggle with homeruns, but that's bound to happen in Denver.  Huston throws a running low-90's fastball, a strong slider, and a meh changeup.

Outlook: This is the last opponent's preview of the year and I'd like to thank you all for reading them.  I didn't have as much time this season to turn them into the linkstorms they used to be, but I hope you all enjoyed them nonetheless.  2-1 series record.  Kind of feels right ending with more Warren Zevon.


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