from Denver Times
I try to be fair, and I try to take my feelings out of analysis as much as I can. Unfortunately, this isn't entirely possible. As much as anyone might try, our subconscious plays tricks on us, and because it's our "sub"conscious, it takes a bit of introspection to find our inner thoughts or motives. When one finds that one might have been a bit unfair (or wholly unfair), one should then try to address it. That's what I'm here to do.
I wrote my NL Predictions post, and Bill took exception to my Rockies pick. This is fine. I welcome comments, be them criticism or praise (especially perfectly sensible ones like Bill's), but his comment stuck out to me for some reason. Why? I wasn't sure at first, but it bugged me a bit. I thought about it, and I thought about my general perception about the Rockies.
After making the playoffs as the initial NL Wild Card team in 1995, they've only made 2 more playoff appearances (2007 and 2009). Traditionally, they're not a very good team. Of course, we shouldn't use a team's past reputation against them (You have to a bit, but saying they won't make the playoffs because they've only made 3 out of the last 15 is a bad reason), but I wonder how much that hurt them in my prediction of them. The Rockies seem to be a trendy pick for the NL West crown, and the projection systems also seem to like them. Why don't I (granted, I'd give them 85 wins, but most people like them for about 90 or so)? Was my prediction based on past prejudice?
Offensively, this team scored 804 runs last season (good for second, which actually surprised me a bit), and they even rid themselves of some dead weight in Garrett Atkins. Ian Stewart, Atkins' replacement, should improve based on his .270 BABIP. Chris Ianetta should as well and for the same reason (.245 BABIP). Dexter Fowler's production might have been a bit high, but his .351 BABIP wasn't out of line with his minor-league numbers. I might expect Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe's production to slip a bit, but their decline might not be too bad. And Troy Tulowitzki is just amazing. All in all, they shouldn't slip too much offensively, though PECOTA gives them 20 less runs.
Starting pitching doesn't usually come to mind when one thinks of the Rockies, but last year, they were decent (8th of 16). Ubaldo Jimenez is a stud, and he should do roughly what he did last season and the season before. But the rest of the rotation is a bit sketchy for me, and here's my main criticism of the team. Jorge de la Rosa (3.91 FIP) was better than he appeared for the second straight season, and Jason Hammel also had chance go against him (3.71 FIP). With those FIPs, their results should be better this season, right? I'm not so sure, and Aaron Cook is my main example (something about having one example should warn you, shouldn't it?). After a 3.76 FIP 2008, Cook slipped back into his mid-4s ways in 2009. I'm not here to discredit what de la Rosa and Hammel did last season, but I question their ability to repeat their performance this season. Hammel's FIP has been in the low-5s in his 170+ innings over three seasons, and de la Rosa has only done so well in one other season but only in 130 innings (2008). Can they repeat their 2009s in 2010? Sure, but I wouldn't count on it.
But why wouldn't I count on it? The statistical evidence states that they were legit, but every projection also has them going backwards this season. But here's my question -- why? Am I basing my analysis on what I want the Rockies to do (not in the least because they might be the Braves' main competition for the Wild Card)? Do Bill James, the Fans, and I underestimate Rockies pitchers because Rockies pitchers are usually bad, and therefore, 2009 was a fluke? Do the projection systems, who are supposedly more "objective" but are harsher than James or the Fans, hate them because of the same biases? Could the projection systems include the Coors Effect even though the humidifier seems to have helped? Do we prejudice our analysis (make up our minds beforehand) on their past results? And do other people overcorrect and give them more credit than they deserve because they want to believe in Rockies pitchers because no one else seems to want to?
Or do I give de la Rosa less credit because his career has been a bit odd? Do I not see progression in Hammel because he's an older player and not a hot-shot prospect? Is it the particular person? Is it their relative obscurity? Is it because they aren't flashy enough?
I don't know the answers to these questions, and even after the season, the only question we'll have the answer to is if I underestimated them. But I'll maintain that I'm not convinced that the Rockies are that good. I didn't include the bullpen, but will it be better than last year (13th of 16)? I didn't include the defense, but will it be better than 11th of 16 like it was last season?
But here's the thing. The Rockies won 92 games last season, and unless one thinks they will drastically decline, they should win 92 games again, right? Well, their expected win total was only 90 wins, and I expect that Hammel and de la Rosa will lose a win together. That's 89. But who will take over for Jason Marquis' 3.8 wins? Jeff Francis? Are you really going to count on a guy coming off a major surgery who is on the DL to start the year? 3 wins less, and we sit around 86, or PECOTA's projection.
Although this exercise didn't change my mind, was this still useful? You bet. I'll admit that my predictions may have been based more on my perception of the Rockies than an actual analysis of their talent because I didn't go through this much trouble the first time. The idea isn't to be perfect every time, but once you figure out the problem, you should work to correct it. And I'll try to do that. If I have an initial "feeling" about a team, I'll try to look at the supporting evidence -- statistics -- to back me up. And it's up to you to call me out whenever you see it.
I don't think Bill meant to call me out on this, specifically, but he saw an inconsistency in his analysis and mine and sought to find out why. While trying to answer his question, I stumbled upon another and ended here. I'm all the better for it, and I hope that I'm not the only one who's learned something from this. Keep asking questions. It makes us responsible for our answers.