30 Clubs in 30 Days: Colorado Rockies

Lots of NFL moves to talk about. Matt Forte retired, the Jets released Muhammad Wilkerson, the Bears released Mike Glennon, and the Panthers released Jonathan Stewart. Forte’s retirement isn’t a huge shock to me, he’s looked pretty much done since joining the Jets after a successful Bears career. We at Wyman’s Sports (which consists of just me) wish Forte well in his future endeavors. Wilkerson’s release is a little surprising to me as he had recently signed a long term deal with the Jets after years of speculation about his eventual departure. Teams will be sure to try and scoop him up because he’s still got plenty left in the tank. Glennon getting released is a little surprising to me just one year after signing with the Bears but with Mitchell Trubisky getting the vote of confidence to be the starter, Glennon’s contract just doesn’t seem feasible to have around. The Panthers releasing the franchise’s all-time leading rusher in Stewart also wasn’t too surprising especially after the team drafted Christian McCaffrey with the 8th overall pick last year. The writing was on the wall for that one. So with that quick update, let’s get to the Colorado Rockies.

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2017 Results:

Record: 87-75, 17 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 6 games behind Arizona Diamondbacks for top Wild Card Spot, won 2nd Wild Card Spot, lost to Diamondbacks in NL Wild Card Game

Notable Offseason Additions: CP Wade Davis, RP Bryan Shaw, C Chris Iannetta

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RF Carlos Gonzalez, C Jonathan Lucroy, SP Tyler Chatwood, RP Pat Neshek, CP Greg Holland, 1B Mark Reynolds

Best Offensive Player: CF Charlie Blackmon

Best Pitcher: Jon Gray

Depth Chart:

C-Chris Iannetta, Tyler Wolters

1B-Ryan McMahon

2B-DJ LeMahieu

3B-Nolan Arenado

SS-Trevor Story, Pat Valaika

LF-Ian Desmond, Raimel Tapia

CF-Charlie Blackmon

RF-Gerardo Parra

SP-Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Chad Bettis, Anthony Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, Kyle Freeland

Bullpen-Wade Davis (CP), Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Chris Rusin, Scott Oberg

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bud Black (2nd season with Rockies)

Hitting Coach-Duane Espy

Pitching Coach-Steve Foster

1st Base Coach-Tony Diaz

3rd Base Coach-Stu Cole

Bench Coach-Mike Redmond

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The Rockies have been and always will be a great hitting team no matter who’s on the roster and that’s in large part due to the Coors Field effect. For those who live under a rock or minimally follow baseball, Coors Field is located in Denver, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. The altitude is very high and the air is very thin so the ball is going to travel further. It was an issue that Major League Baseball had for a while when talks of putting a team in Denver were occurring in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s before the Rockies debuted in 1993. Since then, though, they’ve had a plethora of great offensive seasons and 2017 was no different. There were two hitters in their lineup who could have won NL MVP and nobody would’ve bitched about it in Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado. Last season, Blackmon (who was my NL MVP pick) hit .331, slugged .601 with 37 home runs, drove in 104 runs, scored 137 runs, and had a WAR of 6.5. Arenado hit .309, slugged .586, hit 37 home runs, drove in 130 runs, played outstanding defense at third base, and was worth 5.6 WAR. Those guys are the spearheads of an excellent lineup that is expected to look like this.

1. Charlie Blackmon-CF

2. DJ LeMahieu-2B

3. Nolan Arenado-3B

4. Trevor Story-SS

5. Ian Desmond-LF

6. Gerardo Parra-RF

7. Chris Iannetta-C

8. Ryan McMahon-1B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

The one real weak spot in the lineup is first base, as I’ve never heard of Ryan McMahon and he’s only had 19 career at bats but the Rockies can play around with this lineup as there are several guys who are capable of playing multiple positions if need be. Ian Desmond is capable of moving out of left field to play first base and be replaced by Raimel Tapia or, if healthy, David Dahl. Pat Valaika is a guy who can play numerous positions as well. But even if they can’t figure out first base, there’s so much talent in this lineup that those deficiencies can be masked really well. DJ LeMahieu has hit at least .300 in each of the last 3 seasons, including winning the NL Batting Title in 2016 when he hit .348. There’s also shortstop Trevor Story, who was (forgive me) the STORY of the first half of his rookie 2016 season when he hit 27 home runs in just 97 games before an injury prematurely ended his season. Story was fully healthy last season and he hit 24 home runs despite hitting just .239. A lot of that is due in large part to a very high strikeout rate of 34.4%. But when he does get around on one, he can send it a very long way. It also helps that he’s a good defender at a premiere position, as he was worth 11 DRS, which was best amongst NL shortstops, second overall (and WAY behind #1 Andrelton Simmons’ 32 DRS). Arenado was the best defensive third baseman in the Majors with 20 DRS and LeMahieu was worth 8 DRS. So some excellent defense being played by the Rockies infield.

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Pitching in Colorado is always a challenge and that’s especially true for Rockies pitchers, who have to pitch in that stadium 81 games a year. If you manage to have an ERA under 4, it’s basically just as good as being sub-3. Jon Gray is easily the most talented pitcher on the staff and he got the nod to start the NL Wild Card game. He had an injury-plagued year, but in 20 starts he went 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA, a 3.18 FIP, and struck out 9.14 batters per 9 innings. He’s probably the only guy that you can really bank on in this rotation. Last season, the only pitcher to pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA title was German Marquez and he pitched the bare minimum required of 162.0 innings. He pitched to a 4.39 ERA and his FIP was basically the same at 4.40. The feel-good story out of this Rockies’ rotation, though, was Chad Bettis. After being diagnosed with testicular cancer and undergoing chemotherapy in March 2017, Bettis returned to the mound just 5 months later and pitched 7 scoreless innings in his first start back against the Braves while giving up just 6 hits.

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There’s a lot of talent in the Rockies’ bullpen. They signed star closer Wade Davis to a 3 year $52M deal, the average annual value of $17.33M being the largest ever for a reliever, to be their closer while also adding former Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. They already had other quality relievers such as Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Jake McGee as well. The Coors Field effect still matters to these guys, but there’s no denying that there is some ability there. Davis was absolutely dominant as a closer in Kansas City and he was an All Star in his one season with the Cubs. Shaw was a setup man for the Indians while Ottavino and McGee have closer’s experience. This is definitely one of the more talented bullpens in the National League and under normal circumstances, any late-inning lead the Rockies can get will seem to be pretty safe with this bunch, but again the Coors Field effect brings things into question.

Overall, I’m expecting a bit of a decline for the Rockies. I think they played above their capabilities last season, particularly on the mound. Their pitching staff was 8th in the Majors in WAR and I don’t think that’s going to be sustainable for them especially considering their ballpark and the actual talent they have. They’re going to score a ton of runs, but preventing runs may be an issue. I don’t envision a return trip to the postseason but a winning record is certainly not out of the question. Bud Black is a good manager and I’m sure he will find some way to get the most out of his guys.

Projected Record: 81-81, 4th in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Detroit Tigers, who have officially begun their rebuild after pretty much gutting the entire team around the Trade Deadline last year. Let me know what you think of the Rockies’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Why I Stuck to the Outfield

So since nothing happened with the Giancarlo Stanton trade, I’m going to deliver on my promise and tell a story from my sophomore year of high school in JV Baseball. So at my high school, we had a random long weekend and our catcher was going home to Colorado for break. The problem was we still had a game that weekend but his flight plans were pretty final. I was getting bored playing left field every day and wanted to switch things up, so I volunteered to take his place behind the dish. That was a bad decision on my part.

So before we get into this story, I need to mention the kind of physical state I was/am in. I have AWFUL knees. I inherited them from my mom. My dad, of course, has incredible knees. In fact, he once went for a 6-mile run before learning he had a torn ACL from an accident when he was practicing Brazilian Jujitsu. But I get blessed with my mom’s awful knees. My brother also has the same issues, as it is insanely uncomfortable for us to crouch or stand up from a crouched position. He went to a doctor to get them checked out once, and the doctor told him he had the knees of a 60 year-old (my dad got a similar check-up and was told he had the knees of an 18 year-old. He was in his mid-40’s at the time). So I’m assuming my knee situation is similar to my brother’s.

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Now as I’m sure you can guess, playing catcher can take a HEAVY toll on your knees. That’s why so many catchers often move to first base or DH later in their careers (i.e. Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli). Knee savers do help immensely, it almost feels like you’re sitting on a chair, but I didn’t have my own catchers gear, I had to use the bare minimum that the school had to offer. They did not have knee savers. I sucked it up, though, I hadn’t played catcher since fifth grade, when I was the primary catcher on my little league team and I was excited for an opportunity to return behind the dish. This was a bad move. Now, during warmups for practice, things were going pretty smoothly. I had a much stronger throwing arm than our normal catcher, but that was due in large part to the fact he had a bum throwing shoulder, but he was the best we had behind the dish. I sent a ball sailing over our short second baseman’s head on one throw and the coach said it was fine, the second baseman was late getting his glove up there because he wasn’t used to the ball getting there so soon. Now that I’m done tooting my own horn, it’s time to get to the good stuff: the problems I had.

So finally we did a simulated game. I’m behind the dish and throw down the one finger for our pitcher. He gives the heat and the kid at bat hit a foul ball that caught me in the arm, which of course is unpadded. I got a huge bruise and I felt my throwing arm go numb for a moment. But I was able to walk it off and got back down in the crouch. I threw down the number 1 again. The pitcher nodded and the ball was delivered low and down the middle. The batter foul tipped it, right into my athletic cup. The pointed part of my cup split between my nads and I was down for the count. I tried getting up to walk it off as my teammates laughed their asses off at what happened. I had to go down on one knee and eventually, once the pain started to subside, I had a little chuckle about it, too (you thought the painful part was going to have something to do with my knees, didn’t you? Lesson number 1, expect the unexpected).

The game itself was fine. I only let up one passed ball and didn’t have any issues with foul tips going where they shouldn’t. Thanks to my bad knees, though, I had a hard time throwing out potential base stealers despite having a solid arm. Trying to pop up from the crouch was a disaster and I could almost feel my knees cave in beneath me. It was a weird sight for me because I was the team’s leadoff hitter despite my season batting average of .121 (I had an OBP of .380, I drew a shit ton of walks, at one point walking 7 times in 8 plate appearances). You never see catchers bat leadoff so that kind of screwed with my OCD some. I think I ended up drawing another walk that game and had one of the few times I hit the ball the other way, I was pretty shitty about being a pull hitter. It wasn’t on purpose, just how it worked out for me. It was a flyout right to the right fielder, prompting my coach to say “well that’s going to screw up the spray chart.”

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That wasn’t the last time that I tried a new position and it backfired. Towards the very end of that same season, I was having a rough day. I remember it was May 10, 2012, which was my youngest brother’s birthday (that’s how I remember the exact date so easily). My roommate and best friend had gotten kicked out for poor grades and my own grades were not where I wanted them to be with finals approaching. I wanted to try out a new position to try and take my mind off things. I hopped in to play third base during practice. It wasn’t totally unchartered waters for me, I had been a third baseman for much of my little league career and knew all the responsibilities I would need to take on. I fielded a few ground balls and was feeling pretty good about my abilities at the hot corner. We then started an intra-squad scrimmage that was always the highlight of any practice. One of our players hit an easy ground ball in my direction. That is, it was an easy grounder until it hit the lip of the infield grass. The ball hit the lip, bounced up, and clocked me right in the mouth, ricocheting off my face into the third base coach’s box. That was one of the rare times I heard the head coach swear, as he shouted “oh shit!” as he rushed to my aid. I was bleeding out my mouth and my upper lip had doubled in size. That was the kind of day I was having. After that, I never again complained about being stuck in left field all the time. It was for the best.

Well that ends a painful chapter of my athletic career. Let me know what you thought in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

A Tale from my Baseball Career

So I literally have no idea what to write about for today’s blog, so I decided to try out a new segment where I recount some stories from my athletic career, some good, some bad. How well this blog does will determine whether or not I do more of these. I’ve always liked hearing peoples’ crazy stories from when they were athletes, no matter the level or sport, whether it be someone scoring a goal in soccer on the wrong field or when they got lit up by a future pro. So I hope you enjoy this one from my mediocre athletic career.

I was fourteen years old and playing in a Babe Ruth baseball game. If you follow my blog, you know I’m very passionate about baseball and I carried an even greater passion on the field when I actually played. I was in a lower level of Babe Ruth because, let’s face it, I wasn’t a great athlete, but I was good for that level. There have been several instances where I probably should have gotten ejected due to my on-field intensity. I’ve trucked the catcher in a league where that’s supposed to be an ejection, I’ve gotten in a war of words with an umpire over balls and strikes, and then this particular moment that I’m about to tell. Had the umpire known my intentions for this particular at bat in question, I most certainly would have been tossed and possibly even suspended, but since this was seven years ago, I’m sure the statute of limitations has passed for my suspension from Babe Ruth baseball, so I have no problem publishing it on the web.

My team from Sterling, Massachusetts was taking on a team from a nearby town called Fitchburg. Fitchburg was a much poorer town than Sterling was and tended to produce some nasty kids. I don’t remember how this game ended, or if we even won or not. I just remember that I was pitching and this one kid on the Fitchburg bench was taunting us pretty loudly and his teammates were hollering at what he was saying. I paid him no mind initially because earlier that season we had another kid get in our heads from taunting to the point where his antics literally cost us a run. This kid was probably the biggest dude in our league, he kind of looked like a 14 year-old version of Kane from WWE. I remember he was batting sixth for his team and came up to face me in the second inning. Well when he came up to bat, he tried to get another rise out of his teammates. He stood in the batter’s box, made the biggest grin as he bit down on his lower lip, widened his eyes like a mad man and started flailing the bat all over the place as his batting stance. His teammates were laughing their heads off from the dugout and, being the joyless shit that I was on a baseball diamond, I got furious. I didn’t show it on my face, but I was keeping down a lot of anger from this kid not taking the game as seriously as I did. Definitely an overreaction considering this wasn’t exactly the Major Leagues, or even AAU for that matter. But I made up my mind that I was going to throw at his head.

Now to get a sense of how physically imposing I was on the mound, here’s a picture of me from that season:

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Regular Roger Clemens on the hill, I know. I definitely struck fear in the heart of this kid that looked like he was pushing 200 pounds as a 14 year-old. And in truth, I didn’t even throw that hard, the hardest my fastball had ever been clocked at was 70 mph, which is slower than most Major Leaguers’ curveballs. But I felt like I owed it to myself to drill this kid in his stupid fucking face.

First pitch I hit the inside corner for a strike. I silently cursed myself for completely missing this behemoth of a kid and throwing a strike, though in my concussion-laden memory, that pitch looked like it was off the plate. I think the umpire may have expanded the zone for me to spite this kid at the dish. The next pitch, I missed again. And I missed so bad, I threw another strike! So now I was ahead of this kid 0-2 and I thought to myself: “shit! I’ve got him 0-2, I can’t drill him now!” As much as it pained me to do it, I decided to actually pitch to this kid. The next pitch missed on the outside part of the plate for a ball putting the count to 1-2. But now I saw that the kid wasn’t doing his stupid stance anymore, so I didn’t feel as bad about the next pitch. I gave him the high cheese and he bit and swung and missed on a pitch that was around neck-level and over the heart of the plate. He had struck out and nobody was laughing or cheering now and he kind of walked back looking dejected. So I go into an at bat intending to drill the batter, but my aim is so bad I accidentally strike him out. I like to think the baseball gods knew what I was trying to do and interfered, because let’s face it, throwing at a guy’s head is a dick move, which is where I was aiming. It’s one thing to drill him in the back, but I had every intention of head-hunting. But the baseball gods found a middle ground and I struck him out, which admittedly probably was more satisfying a victory for me than drilling him would’ve been. I learned something interesting about this dude when I told the story to a friend a couple weeks later. My friend knew the batter in question and apparently this kid had some violent tendencies. So perhaps I had dodged an ass-whooping by striking him out! Baseball gods came through for me again.

So that’s a tale from my athletic career. Do you want me to do this more often? Or did you not give a shit about my stupid unimportant days as a mediocre athlete? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.