Troy Tulowitzki

Springtime Storylines: Do the Colorado Rockies have enough offense?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2011 season.  The latest: The … punchless Colorado Rockies?

The Big Question: Do the Rockies have enough offense?

That may seem like a strange thing to ask given that they were third in the NL in runs scored, but with this team, in their home park, the sheer amount of offense doesn’t tell us much. The question is whether they even have a rough approximation of balance, and the answer in 2010 was hell no: only 291 of the Rockies’  770 runs were scored on the road last year, and that lead to a putrid 31-50 record outside of Colorado.

The Rockies didn’t make any big splashes to address the offense from a personnel standpoint — unless I missed that big Jose Lopez welcome party that shut down the city of Denver for a few days — and they seem content to hope for more plate appearances from Troy Tulowitzki and overall improvement from their younger players.

The whole home/road split thing has been vexing Rockies hitters since 1993. I’m not sure that there are any answers to it, really. If Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith, Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta continue to be overall average-to-below average offensive performers, however, this team isn’t going anywhere.

So what else is going on?

  • I dig this pitching staff. The 1-2-3 punch of Jiminez, De La Rosa, and Chacin only pale only when compared to the couple of otherworldly rotations the Giants and Phillies are sporting. The back end of the rotation is more in flux with Aaron Cook’s recent injury, but the rotation is no cause for concern. How many times have we been able to say that in the history of the Colorado Rockies?
  • The bullpen is solid too, with Huston Street, Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt anchoring things.  There are some concerns about how the Rockies match up against lefties in the late innings, but I’m not Tony La Russa so those sorts of things don’t keep me up at night.
  • Holy crap, before looking at their 2010 results at Baseball-Reference I had forgotten that they lost 13 of their last 14 games. Really, they were a game behind on September 18th before that hell-skid began. I don’t think this has any bearing on anything, but anyone who gets on that “the Rockies are a streaky team” kick you hear so often should point out that the streaks go both ways.
  • It should also give pause to those who look at their 83 wins form a year ago and say that it’s just too much ground to make up on the Giants.  That win total was a bit deflated by some bad luck and a late season disaster that may not be indicative of their true talent level.

So how are they gonna do?

Like I said in the Giants recap, I’ve been toying with the idea of picking the Rockies to win the west. Like I did last year!  But the closer I look, the more I worry that this is really a team made up of two stud position players — one of whom still needs to prove that he’s more well-rounded than some past Coors Field creations — an ace and a lot of guys who just can’t carry the day.  The challenges of playing at altitude have changed for Colorado in that the biggest question is no longer “how do we build a pitching staff?”  They have one.  But what I’m not convinced they have are enough bats to justify calling them contenders. Which isn’t to say they won’t contend. Just that, if they do, it will be because, like, five guys all turn up their offensive game at once to help Tulowitzki and Gonzalez out.  And it’s hard to count on something like that.

I’ll give the Rockies the nod for second place in the NL and a place in what looks to be a pretty crowded National League wild card hunt.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
Associated Press
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Cuba won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.