Denver Post columnist: Bench Todd Helton

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He’s not Griffey or Jeter, but to Rockies fans Todd Helton is close in terms of importance and stature. Which is why I was rather shocked to see this today from Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post:

Rather than pick up a piece of lumber
from the bat rack, Todd Helton should grab some pine on the bench. Is it baseball blasphemy to suggest the Rockies should sit down the
best player in franchise history?

At age 36, he’s not Beltin’ Helton anymore.

Of course, Kiszla suggests that it should be the 39 year-old Jason Giambi who should take Helton’s job, so he ain’t exactly thinking long term here.

Helton is getting base at a more-than-healthy .393 clip. The problem is his power, which is non-existent.  It would be one thing if the Rockies had some monster first base prospect hanging around, but they don’t. They have Jason Giambi who, however useful he has been off the bench, is not going to help anyone starting at first base every day. Putting Giambi in that role does not solve any problems. It just angers the fans and the guy the Rockies are paying $16 million a year to be the franchise.

Maybe Helton shouldn’t be hitting in the middle of the order anymore, but he’s not going to the bench. Nor should he.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.