Monday, November 7, 2011

Rox Talk - Break Time Over

My month long hiatus is over.  Time to get back to the blog.  My official endpoint for the season is when the Rocky Mountain SABR has had their end of the year banquet.  SABR is a fantastic baseball group bringing together a lot of different baseball takes.  Last night was the 14th annual version of the end of the year gathering.  This year's guest speakers were Rob Neyer, SBNation, and John Thorn, MLB Historian.

Rob Neyer talked about his meandering journey to becoming a baseball writer.  From a diehard Royal fan, to discovering SABR, and then finally interning with Bill James.  This then launched his career into book writing and a stint at and finally the National Baseball Editor for SBNation.  A fascinating point that Rob made that I had forgotten before the age of internet was when teams played late night games on the West Coast the morning papers normally didn't have box scores for that game and you had to wait for the night edition of the town's competing paper.  Wow how times have changed with instantaneous box scores!  We are spoiled by the information at our fingertips...of course this could be a curse too...

The evening's final speaker was John Thorn who was appointed the MLB official game historian.  Plugging his new book, Baseball in the Garden Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, Thorn gave a nice presentation on the misleading origin of baseball from the early 20th Century Mill Commission to the recent Commission put together by Selig this year.  Fascinating talk and he even had some early Denver baseball stories recalling that the probable first profession game in Denver was in October 1888 when the Spalding All Star team arrived in town and played at the old Riverfront Park.  The All Stars won 16-12 with Cap Anson having two triples.  Couple of good quotes by Thorn and I paraphrase (I'm not that fast of a writer), "Cooperstown is the wrong place but a swell place" and a general quote on why baseball is the American Pastime because it "connects boys and girls with their parents"  Also Thorn used the word sagacity (or acuteness of mental discernment and soundness of judgement)!  As aside, to me baseball is in our DNA.  It isn't the most popular or talked about sport but it flows along quietly as the unseen current in the river that is American History!

A nice night by all and now that 2011 is officially closed what can we learn from 2,429 games that were played?

1.  First and foremost...if you can stay within striking distance by September you can still get to the Playoffs...Tampa and St Louis proved this.
2.  If you can get into the playoffs the second season starts and all bets are off.  Your 162 game record means nothing!
3.  You can lose you second best pitcher and still win the World Series (no excuses Rox...)
4.  Baseball is confounding!  Numbers in short series really don't matter...thanks for playing Phillies, your three headed pitching monster meant nothing.
5.  Good managers can make teams better (LaRussa and Gibson)

And now what can I say about our team?  I have remarked about this once or twice before but this has to be the most disappointing team in Rox history.  For a team that was marked to win its first division title it got nowhere.  Some thoughts:

1.  Rox were unlucky!  Looking at their pythagorean W-L record it suggested that they were a 77-85  team...not a whole lot better but something...
2.  Rox were 38-43 at home!  In their history they have averaged 44-45 wins at home.  Last two seasons they won 51 and 52 respectively.  This season they outscored their opponents at home 439-427.  Thus they were 4 wins short of what they were expected to win.  Still accounting for this they were still 2-3 wins off their average.
3.  Rox played well on the road winning 35 games which was their 4th highest in history and three games better than their average
4.  May was just brutal.  Looking at the pythagorean W-L they were pretty unlucky.  September was also cruel as Rox have always had a good end of the year performance

Rox Historical vs 2011 Winning Percentage
5.  Rox starting pitching took 68 losses which is about 9 losses more than historical average.  Bullpen was 20-21.  Historical average is about 24-24.  Guess this just meant Rox starters were behind early and didn't have a lot of comebacks.  Only had 5 walk off wins and 41 comeback wins.
6.  Gave up 176 home runs with 101 of those coming at home.  
7.  Rox scored the least amount of runs in their history at 735.  The inability to score runs and the lack of offense was an eye opener especially with a team of Tulo and CarGo.  Kind of shows you that to win requires 9 guys!  Simple graph but always good to score more runs than your opponents and you tend to make the playoffs...duh
Runs Scored vs Runs Agains (2000-2011).  Playoff teams in Red and Rox historical in Purple (excluding 94-95 seasons)
8.  No excuses but injuries did hurt the Rox this year.  Inconsistent lineups and players finding their roles not to mention no production at second and third bases.
9.  Great year by Helton, Iannetta, Tulo, CarGo, and Giambi.  Average years by Smith, Wiggington, and Ellis.  Not so good by Fowler, Stewart, and Spilly.  Rox really need some more raw power at the plate.  Need to find their home mojo...teams aren't afraid of Coors and Rox really seem hesitant at home.
10.  Starting pitching was just a struggle especially with U-Ball starting slow and de la Rosa injury.  Chacin and Hammel showed that they are consistently inconsistent.  Cook farewell tour was painful.  Rogers isn't a starter.   Nicasio looks to be something if he can come back.  Bullpen was adequate.
11.  Role and bench players are not good.  Seems like the Rox have a lot of AAAA players especially in the minors and they just can't reach the conclusion that they aren't going to be everyday MLB players...

Overall Rox have something to build on.  Granted they were bad but I don't think as bad as the final record showed.  Of course bottom line they didn't take the next step.  Next year they will have a lot of new faces and some leadership has to step up to suggest that losing 89 games isn't acceptable.  Big mountain to climb is where are they going to find 17 wins next year?

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