The Coors Effect

June 2, 2010 2:16 PM

Jimenez, Olivo on way to career seasons

Yay for Tom finally having a good internet connection!  Shoddy internet connections have prevented me from updating the blog in the past couple of weeks, but now that the cable guy has come by this weekend, we're back.

And, let's see, the Rockies have this guy, Ubaldo Jimenez, who's not only having a career year, but what's looking like a season for the ages.  Ubaldo picked up his tenth win on Monday.  Monday, May 31.  For the record, Jason Marquis -- who, if I'm remembering things correctly, was the first pitcher to reach ten wins last year -- didn't reach that plateau until June 30.  Yes, Ubaldo has reached ten wins, and the calendar just turned to June.  What's more, his ERA is a microscopic 0.78.  No, I don't think Ubaldo is going to win thirty games and keep his ERA that low for the season, but he should easily clear the Rockies' franchise season wins record -- a mere 17 -- and probably win 20.  And probably become the first Rockies pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.  Yes -- Ubaldo is having a year for the ages, though the talk about threatening Bob Gibson's marvelous 1.12 ERA in 1968 is probably a bit premature.  If Ubaldo's ERA is still under 1 at the All-Star Break, then we'll talk.  For now, though, let's just enjoy the excellent year he's having.

Now, the rest of the rotation... geez, the Rockies are still just 18-23 when somebody not named Ubaldo is the starting pitcher, so there's still some improvement to be had in the rest of the rotation.  Jorge de la Rosa should be coming back fairly soon, I think, but whose spot does he take?  Well, we can safely assume Jeff Francis (1-1, 2.89 ERA since returning from the DL) isn't going to the bullpen.  I had initially thought that Hammel would be the odd man out, but he's been pretty effective since coming off the DL as well (2-1, 3.86 ERA.)  Jhoulys Chacin hasn't been great, but he's been effective (3-3, 3.62 ERA.)  Aaron Cook hasn't been great for the season, but he's sporting a 3.42 ERA over his last four starts.  Now, de la Rosa hasn't even started a rehab assignment yet, so I wouldn't say his return is "imminent," but the fact remains that once he returns the Rockies will have a difficult decision to make -- who goes to the bullpen?  My bet, originally Hammel, is now Chacin, who could use the bullpen apprenticeship.  This wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, as he's still just 22, and could work on some things in the bullpen.  I'm remembering that Adam Wainwright spent a year in the bullpen when he first came up, and now says that working in the bullpen taught him to get warmed up faster.  That allows him to pitch deeper into games, because he's not using so many pitches to get warmed up.

Ubaldo is one Rockies player who's having a career year, but what about Miguel Olivo?  Coming into the season, he was penciled in as Chris Iannetta's backup.  Then, Iannetta hit so poorly that he got demoted to AAA, while Olivo took the starting job and ran with it.  He's hitting .316/.384/.564, and this doesn't appear to be that much of a fluke.  Yeah, his BABIP is .370 -- probably unsustainable since his career BABIP is .299 -- but he's walking in better than 10 percent of his plate appearances (last year he drew a free pass in just 4.5%) and striking out in just 23 percent (last year, that number was over 30 percent.)  His HR/FB is roughly in line with what he did last year in Kansas City.  I doubt he'll hit .316 all year, but hitting somewhere around .280 with a fair number of walks and 25 homers?  Yeah, that would be a great year for Olivo.  Just because he's not going to bat .320 and hit 40 homers doesn't mean it's not a career year.

More tidbits from the past few weeks:

-The hype train finally ended, and the Matzek train started its ascent toward the majors last week.  Matzek clearly has a lot to work on -- he's walked six batters in his first nine professional innings, and hasn't made it past the fifth inning in either of his starts -- but the potential is clearly there, as he's struck out ten.  But the better debut down in Asheville has been that of Nolan Arenado, third baseman and last year's second-round pick, who in his first 46 at bats in full-season ball has homered, hit three doubles, and drawn five walks.  And he just turned 19 in April.  This looks like it could be an early-round gamble on a toolsy high school hitter that works.  Arenado just needs to add more power, but he's hitting for average and drawing walks, and his strikeout numbers have been solid.

-Catching prospect Wilin Rosario -- a.k.a. Miguel Olivo Jr. -- has a .225 ISO power at Tulsa, but has drawn just ten walks this season in around 139 PA.  Rosario needs to make more consistent contact, but the power is there, and apparently he's a pretty good defensive catcher (and still just 21.)  At this point, being Olivo (at least, pre-2010 Olivo) is probably his floor; better plate discipline and he's a solid starting catcher in the majors.

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