Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rox Talk - Opening Day, Finally

Opening Day
Tomorrow, our Rox begin their 2012 campaign in Houston.  They finished the Spring at 17-15-1.  Good enough for a 0.515 winning percentage.  Since 2003, the Rox have played better than their Spring record only once and that was in 2009 when they went 0.446 and then finished the regular season at 0.568.  Most predictions I have seen have put the Rox winning from 78 to 85 games.  I have given up trying to predict but I think this year there is one area that will need to step up if the Rox are going to end up on the high range of wins and that is pitching, pitching, and pitching.  Youth (well besides 49 year old Moyer), consistency, and confidence will be the mountains they must overcome to succeed.

The April calendar with series against @Houston (record of 11-27 at Minutemaid Park), San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego, @Milwaukee (14-22 at Miller Park), @Pittsburgh (18-24 at PNC), New York, and one game with LA is a pretty even schedule out of the gate.  A 13 - 9 April would be nice but I would take a 11-11 start as well.  Rox are 6-6 on Opening Days away from home as they enter their 20th season.

Not many lineup surprises this year.  Really the only question for me is who will shine at third base this season.  It will probably be a revolving door like second base has been for so many years.  Nice to see Rosario have a nice Spring.   Interesting to see if he can translate that success day in and day out.  Players breaking camp will probably not be the team we see in May.  My guess is that Herrera won't stick around.  EY Jr is a great story but I frankly don't see how he fits in with the lineup.  Biggest question mark is again Dexter Fowler.  He has already been demoted to 2nd in the lineup.  If he can't get it going early and set the table for CarGo and Tulo, the Rox ability to score early and often will be limited.  If the Rox can jump out to early leads I think it will help our pitchers.  It won't be pretty if we fall behind early.  Dex is crucial to this lineup.

In the end I just hope they stay competitive and stay within striking distance of the division leaders.  The D-Backs came from nowhere with a young starting pitching corp last year so maybe this year will be the Rox turn?  Can the D-Backs really win upwards of 90 games this year or will they regress?  Giants going to find any offense?  Dodgers might surprise some folks and of course the Padres could always make things interesting.  That is what is nice about the West, year in and year out there is no dominant team.  Find some magic and maybe Rox can win the Division!

Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But...
To add my 2 cents on the Ubaldo / Tulo incident, I just find it hard to believe that someone that was such a nice guy, Ubaldo, could turn into such a vindictive ass.  I understand the Rox, as an organization, could have done some things differently last year but for Ubaldo to go out there every 5 days and not give it his all when 24 other guys are counting on you because you felt you were being slighted is just unacceptable.  He was under contract.  Rox management went out on a limb early in his career and gave him a long term deal.  Granted it wasn't mega dollars but at the time of the contract he had basically been a 0.500 pitcher.  Now he then did go out and have one of the greatest first halves in baseball history in 2010 and started for the NL in the All Star game.  Sure maybe Rox could (should?) have awarded him the big bucks but since that fabulous start he really hasn't done a whole lot.  See graph below showing his cumulative winning percentage since 2007 (Ubaldo is blue dots and Roy Halliday is the red dots, for comparison):
From 2007 to 2009, he was pretty average but got paid a decent sum (awarded with 4-5 year deal, heavily weighted in the back end but worth around $20M).  Then he sky rocketed in first half of 2010.  Since he went 17-2 (August 2010), he has been pretty dismal only winning 12 out of his next 42 starts both with Colorado and Cleveland.  He is now 28 and entering his prime and is making $4 M this year, $5.75M next year and $8M in 2014.  Pretty good money for someone who finds it convenient to take out his frustrations at throwing at Tulo.  

In the end Ubaldo is probably the greatest pitcher in Rox history but time and time again history has shown that continuously pitching in the rarefied air of Colorado ages pitchers a little too quickly.  He signed a contract when he was nothing and the Rox gave him more than he was worth.  Management knows all to well what Coors does to pitchers and this time they were the smart ones to cut the chain.  Remember this is business, don't take it personally.  At least you have guaranteed contracts.  Think you can safely say he doesn't win at least 15 games this year for Cleveland he isn't worth $4M this year...

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