The new Angels are smarter than the old Rockies

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In trading Chris Iannetta for Tyler Chatwood and signing Ramon Hernandez, the Rockies are probably thinking that they made at worst a sideways move behind the plate and picked up a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter in return.

And in thinking that, they are most likely very wrong.

Hernandez is coming off two fine years for the Reds in which he finished with OPSs right around .790, making him one of the NL’s better offensive catchers. Going by OPS+, they were the second and third best seasons of his career, with only his 2004 coming out better.

Hernandez, though, turns 36 in May, his defense can only be charitably described as average and he hasn’t played in 100 games since 2008.

Iannetta, meanwhile, is likely still on the upswing. He turns 29 in April, and while he hasn’t had a typical offensive growth curve, he also wasn’t always used properly by the Rockies under Jim Tracy. In spite of that, 2010 was the only rough year he’s had in his last four. He finished at .238/.370/.414 last season. Alex Avila and Carlos Ruiz were the only full-time catchers with better OBPs.

It’s not a slam dunk that Iannetta will outhit Hernandez over the next two years. He will do more defensively, though, and he’ll be able to handle the greater workload. And my guess is that he will be the superior hitter. Going from Coors Field to Anaheim will be a bit of a shock to the system (he had massive home-road splits last season, though that wasn’t the case in previous years), but he’ll definitely benefit from not hitting in front of the pitcher every night, as was the case in Tracy’s lineup.

And I really don’t expect the Rockies to get a whole lot in return for the downgrade. It was somewhat impressive that Chatwood held his own in the majors as a 21-year-old last season, but he had a brutal 74/71 K/BB ratio to go along with his 6-11 record and 4.75 ERA in 142 innings. A fastball-curveball pitcher without a quality third pitch, he needs more Triple-A time and he’s far from a lock to ever have a successful stint in the Rockies rotation.

So, score one for the Angels and new GM Jerry DiPoto here. The upgrade from Jeff Mathis to Iannetta behind the plate should net them three wins or so next year. The Rockies, meanwhile, are still floundering, in large part because Tracy believes a player is only as good as his last 75 at-bats. GM Dan O’Dowd should be worrying more about talent than catering to his manager.

Dan Straily suspended five games, Don Mattingly one for throwing at Buster Posey

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Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.

Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.

The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. Mattingly came out to argue with the umpires about the fairness of issuing warnings right then and there. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly apparently said, “You’re next” to Posey, who was standing around home plate. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.

Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.

Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.

Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.