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Entries in Colorado Rockies (29)


Angels Swap Chatwood for Ianetta

Jerry Dipoto began his tenure as Angels GM by acquiring a high-OBP catcher and ending the long national nightmare known as "Now batting, Jeff Mathis." L.A. picked up Chris Ianetta from the Rockies in exchange for right-handed starter Tyler Chatwood. Colorado then inked Ramon Hernandez to a two-year, $6.5 million contract to serve as a stopgap to prospect Wilin Rosario.

In Ianetta, the Angels pick up one of the most patient hitters in the game and a guy who could be described as Mike Napoli Lite (don't tell Mike Scioscia I said that). The big right-handed hitter, 29 in April, has chased less than 19 percent of pitches thrown off the plate over the past three years. Daric Barton, Bobby Abreu, Josh Willingham, Marco Scutaro, Geovany Soto and Jack Cust are the only hitters with 1,000+ plate appearances over that period that have shown more restraint. Ianetta's power and discipline make him a quality hitter for a catcher at any altitude, as his 102 OPS+ and 99 career OPS+ show, and Baseball-Reference's Total Zone rates him as around average behind the dish.

Ianetta's production will be worth more than his modest $3.55 million salary in 2012, but his acquisition and the possible return to health of Kendrys Morales mean that Hank Conger may be looking at another year at Salt Lake City. This trade shouldn't be seen as a condemnation of Conger, though. Because he was swapped, Ianetta can void his $5 million club option for 2013, and it's hard to believe that he won't test the market at that point. Conger has hit a combined .204/.284/.345 in 231 PA in short MLB stints over the past two years, chasing 33 percent of out-of-zone pitches. So long as the switch-hitter gets regular ABs next year to hone his approach, he should be ready to take over in 2013.

Ianetta's pick-up also means that Mathis' playing time will be mercifully cut, if he's not set loose with a non-tender altogether. Whatever Mathis' defensive merits are -- they don't show up in the admittedly limited defensive catcher stats at hand -- it's hard to overstate just how bad of a hitter he has been since breaking into the big leagues in 2005. His adjusted OPS is 50 percent worse than average.

It's just plain hard to find an epic out-maker who has gotten as many plate appearances as Mathis (1,360). There's a simple reason for that: when a guy can't outhit his battery mate, he's usually shown the door. Maybe they burn his bats just to make sure he can't swing them anymore, or suggest he look into green energy job as a human windmill. Mathis is one of just 26 hitters ever to post an OPS+ of 50 or lower while getting over 1,000 PAs, and he's the only guy since the 1980s:


Scioscia loves Mathis, but Darwin hates him.

Colorado, meanwhile, traded two years of possible team control over Ianetta for five years of Chatwood. On the positive side, the soon-to-be 22-year-old ranked as the 76th-best prospect according to Baseball America prior to last year and managed not to get beheaded in the majors when he really had no place being there as a guy with all of 90 innings of experience in the upper minor leagues. That said, he's awfully raw. Chatwood barely struck out more batters (4.7 per nine) than he walked (4.5), and he was more of a modest ground ball pitcher (48 GB%) than a real dirt devil. It's not like he dominated on the farm, either, with 7.6 K/9, nearly five free passes per nine and ground ball rates that quickly went from extreme to average.

As a rookie, Chatwood basically flung 92-93 mph fastballs toward the plate and hoped for the best. That fastball, thrown nearly three-quarters of the time, was tagged for a .308/.406/.460 opponent line. He kept going to the pitch so often because he couldn't spot his curveball (thrown for a strike 54 percent of the time) or changeup (49 percent). The curve was too often buried well out of the strike zone...

Chatwod's curveball location, 2011

...and the changeup missed to the arm side... 

Chatwood's changeup location, 2011

With a predictable, fastball-heavy approach and spotty secondary stuff, Chatwood had an especially hard time keeping left-handed hitters off base. Lefties had a .410 OBP against him, the fourth-highest mark for a righty starter against lefty batters (Charlie Morton, Kyle Drabek and Esmil Rogers ranked 1-3).

This isn't to be totally negative about Chatwood, but rather a realization that he's basically a Double-A pitcher trying to survive at the highest level because he was promoted so aggressively. It could be a while before he's an asset, and even there you have to go more on faith in scouting reports and his youth than any hard evidence.  Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said as much to's Thomas Harding: "He's young, he has a power arm, he's a tremendous athlete, and from what we have gathered, he's ultra-competitive. We're not looking at his numbers because of his age and where he was at when he reached the big league level."

To temporarily replace Ianetta, Colorado signed Hernandez to an inexpensive two-year deal. Hernandez is 35, has bad knees and has averaged about 90 games per season in recent years, so there's a chance his career does a mile-high nosedive. But he has been on Ianetta's level as a hitter when he's in there (103 OPS+ since 2009), and the Rockies have the 23-year-old Rosario in mind as their long-term backstop. Rosario has serious power, though he might not be ready for prime time after striking out nearly five times as often as he walked at Double-A Tulsa with a .284 OBP and then putting up a 2/20 BB/K ratio late last season in the majors. It might be best if he opens the year at Triple-A and works on his plate approach while Jordan Pacheco splits time with Hernandez, lest Rosario become Miguel Olivo Jr.


Pomeranz makes MLB debut

Drew Pomeranz made his MLB debut yesterday afternoon against the Reds, getting a win while allowing two hits and registering two Ks and walks apiece in five scoreless innings pitched. Pomeranz, picked up by Colorado from Cleveland as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez prospect bounty, succeeded despite not showing the same zip that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft.

Before the season, Baseball America lauded the 6-foot-5, 230 pound lefty's power arsenal:

Pomeranz has two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph. It has good life and the deception in his delivery makes it tough to track the ball out of his hand. His breaking ball is even more devastating, a knuckle-curve with hard 12-to-6 action.

Pomeranz went on to punch out 119 batters in 101 minor league innings spent mostly at the High-A level in 2011. But, perhaps still regaining strength and stamina after having an emergency appendectomy on August 20, Pomeranz averaged 89.5 mph with his fastball and topped out at 92.6 mph on Sunday.

While the Mississippi product didn't get many swings and misses with the pitch (three whiffs in 22 swings), Pomeranz did a great job of keeping the ball at the hitters' knees:

 Pomeranz's fastball location vs. Cincinnati on September 11, 2011

Six of Pomeranz's nine ground ball outs came on fastballs. Echoing the Baseball America scouting report, Rockies manager Jim Tracy told's Jack Etkin that Pomeranz hides the ball well in his pitching motion:

His delivery is very, very clean, and he has a quick arm. And a quick arm like that creates a lot of deception, not only for left-handed hitters but right-handed hitters -- 91-92 [mph] looks much firmer because of that.

And the knuckle-curve? Pomeranz didn't go to his breaking ball much, throwing just eight of them out of 63 total pitches. The upper-70s pitch did show 12-to-6 action, with little horizontal movement but nearly eight inches of "drop" compared to a pitch thrown without spin:

Release velocity and movement of Pomeranz's curveball on September 11, 2011The curve that Pomeranz showed on Sunday had similar velocity and movement to those thrown by lefties like Wandy Rodriguez and Erik Bedard.

As a 22-year-old with less than a full season's worth of pitching in the pros, Pomeranz has work to do in terms of honing his control and developing a changeup to keep hitters off his fastball/curveball combo. But, assuming he regains his pre-surgery velocity in the long run, Pomeranz's sneaky delivery and big hook give him a good chance to eventually front Colorado's rotation.


Giambi's Greybearded Slugging

At age 40, Jason Giambi is still mashing. The pinch-hitter and part-time first baseman has cracked 12 home runs and has a .274 average, .371 on-base percentage and a .660 slugging percentage in 124 plate appearances. The Giambino does get to take cuts at Coors, but his 159 OPS+ shows that he has been a superb hitter, high altitude or not.

Now that his quad injury is healed, Giambi's big bat is making him the subject of some trade rumors. The Denver Post's Troy Renck Tweets that while Giambi isn't looking to leave Colorado, the slugger would like to end up in Philly if he is indeed traded. While he may well not reach the Phillies on waivers (claims are awarded based on reverse order of record), Giambi figures to go in the next few days if he's traded at all: players can be swapped in September, but they can't be added to the postseason roster.

So, what makes Giambi a hot commodity? His ability to pulverize fastballs and sinkers. While the sample size isn't huge, he's ripping those offerings unless the pitcher goes up and in:

Giambi's in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs and sinkers

Five of Giambi's homers have come on fastballs, and three on sinkers. His combined slugging percentage against fastballs and sinkers is .833, highest among MLB hitters seeing at least 300 of those pitches.

Giambi is just the fifth hitter in his forties in MLB history to rock an OPS+ of 150 or higher while getting at least 100 plate appearances, according to Baseball- Reference. To be sure, Giambi's feat isn't as impressive as those of Ted Williams, Barry Bonds (who did it twice), Willie Mays and Carlton Fisk -- those guys averaged nearly 440 plate appearances each during their silver-haired slugging seasons. But even so, it's rare to find a greybeard like Giambi who can still go deep.

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