I went to the Q & A session hosted by the Rockies at Coors Field. I came away with higher expectations of the team and impressive answers to some excellent questions. I will paraphrase the various things said at the session and then follow that with my interpretations and impressions. The 90-minutes sessions were divided into three 25-minute groups where the participants rotated among the three conference rooms.
Story is completely recovered and 100% healthy & working out as normal without restrictions.
Black spent considerable time talking about pitching as the audience peppered Bud with questions mostly “ignoring” Story. That was to be expected somewhat. Clearly the FO is no longer meddling in the on-field management. Bud says there is an understanding between Jeff Bridich (JB from now on in his article and BB for Black) that there is a red line between them, but they will continue to communicate on team transactions. Gone are the days of Bill Gievett telling the manager to use the piggyback system for pitching. In short, JB and BB will talk about what tools they need to make the team better while letting each other do their own jobs.
BB hinted that he will give most players the green light to steal on their own trusting their intelligence and awareness of context during the game. If that is the case, the team will probably have more stolen bases this year. I am comfortable with the idea of stealing on your own so the other team can’t steal signs or figure out the likelihood of running. Story and Black were ribbing each other about stealing and if caught would be pointing the fingers at each other. That told me that the players are clearly comfortable with BB and not worrying about being thrown under the bus.
BB stated that since Gray, Bettis, Anderson, and Chatwood had the most innings and experience last year they are likely to be four of the five rotation starters. He mentioned that Hoffman, Marquez, and Freeland are the candidates for the fifth spot and they all are likely to contribute this year as the rotation is not expected to be the same five the whole year.
BB not going to mingle in the mechanics of pitchers. He will manage the mental part of the game and let Steve Foster/Darren Holmes be responsible for pitching mechanics and hitting coach be responsible for the swing mechanics.
BB and Dick Montfort drove in the car 1 1/2 hour each way to Greeley (to attend some function) and chatted baseball. BB was clearly comfortable with Dick and feels that he will not be meddling at all. Dick seemed to be comfortable with JB and BB and no longer feels a need to meddle according to BB.
BB says Wolters and Murphy will be the catching tandem and he does not expect one of them to catch 140 games like Yadier Molina or Matt Wieters. It will depend on match ups and hot hands. There will be no “personal catcher” for certain pitchers.
BB had a long rousing applause when he was introduced. He started off saying he was clearly happy to be here in Colorado and was grateful for fan support from Albuquerque to Utah to Grand Junction and anywhere the Rockies Caravan stopped. He talked about his resume and how it helped him prepare for today’s game in Colorado. He’s seen both the traditional style and the sabermetrics style and he knows sabermetrics is part of baseball game today.
Gray was asked about the catchers – Wolters is so smart and very creative and Gray knew Murphy from the days in the minors. Gray says Murphy is the hardest working man in the workout room and a very detailed oriented person. Both catchers are great in the clubhouse.
Ottavino feels very normal and working out preparing for the new season. The last 2-3 weeks of 2016 felt like 100% so he prepared during the winter like he had no injury to overcome. He has talked with Greg Holland about what he has gone through during the TJ recovery.
I personally directed a question to Steve Foster and asked him how he will balance analytics with gut feelings. I cited an example of a LH-batter has very good even splits against RH and LH pitchers but a lefty specialist gets brought in and it was a waste of time in my opinion. Foster answered that analytics will definitely be a part of matchup decisions. Good!
Foster emphasized as always that he wants pitchers who has tough mental make up who don’t care where they are pitching. But he also understands that fastballs in the mid to high 90s will play anywhere including altitude.
Sam Moll, Miguel Castro, and Matt Carisiti will likely be needed at one time or another in 2017.
Yency Almonte and Ryan Castellani were prominently mentioned as the next SPs to hit Coors even as early as 2017 if they are needed. Zach Wilson says even MLBN has not heard of them yet, but soon they will. Woo hoo!
JB came into my conference room in the last group of three. Great and tough questions were directed at JB and I expected him to kind of dance around the tough questions, but no he was honest and forthright. The big question was about how the FO has meddled with the organization quite a bit (paraphrased by me). JB – in 2014 when he took over he wanted to change the direction of the organization and asked Montfort to give him more money and flexibility. (my interpretation – apparently Dick was convinced by JB’s plan of attack for the future and gradually gave him complete control). JB says Montfort is totally hands off (or nearly to that effect).
Another question fired at JB that all purple seamheads wanted to ask – what are you doing to change the perception that pitchers don’t want to come to Coors? Greg Holland took the microphone away from JB and said I’ll answer that question. JB was beaming and proud of his latest acquisition (Holland). Holland basically said it comes down to the product on the field. And the Rockies were putting shoddy products year after year on the field especially on the pitching side. Holland says he chose to come to Colorado (other than the relationships he already had with Foster & Holmes) because he believes Colorado now has a quality winning product especially on the pitching side. Bigger grin from JB.
Holland talked about himself a little bit; the main theme was he is here to win today. He has no interest in building up stats that would help him look good. All he wants to do is win. He’s not thinking into the future. One game at a time and his only mission is to win now. Losing is not in his vocabulary. Dunn is the same way except he’s not as vocal as Holland.
JB and Zach Wilson talked about the first baseman position. They prefaced their comments saying that Todd Helton’s shoes were quite big to fill. The first thing they look at is the glove noting how Helton makes the defense better especially at Coors behind the pitchers. In my opinion, that explains why they chose Ian Desmond over the other available first basemen on the market thinking his glove will play a lot better than the marquee first basemen on the market. They mentioned that Ryan McMahon and Brian Mundell are being looked at and developed to possibly play the position in the future.
Foster (if I remember correctly) says he is aiming high. He says if the Rockies pitch well as expected, we can go to the World Series. Yah, I like this attitude. Gone are the days of “losing is the norm attitude.” Foster and Holland have similar convictions – aim high. That explains why Foster & Holmes were JB hires and retained when the rest of the coaching staff (except Stu Cole) were let go. Indirectly, JB is aiming high as well. Now Montfort can sit back, relax, and enjoy the Coors Field atmosphere.
I have read comments here and on Purple Row and elsewhere that the off-season job done by the Rockies was not all that great. After attending the Q&A yesterday, I think the pundits are delivering low blows. I’m aiming for 90-wins. We have a really good depth in both the rotation and bullpen. SPs – Gray, Bettis, Chatwood, Anderson, Hoffman, Marquez, Freeland, Almonte, Castellani, Senzatela. BP – Ottavino, Holland, Dunn, Diaz, Castro, Moll, Rusin, Lyles, McGee, Motte, Qualls, Estevez, Gopherg, and Rayon Gonzalez. At my count for the BP, that’s 14 and 10 for the SPs. Do I see any scrap pickups? NO! (except Qualls).
Then there’s our lineup – I project that CarGo will be the only one regressing as his long swing slows down a little bit (plus his inability to hit away from the shift; I read the 2017 Bill James Handbook and CarGo is hurt tremendously by the shifts as in top five. Some guys say Chuck_Nazty and DJLM will likely regress; but I say if they do regress it will be small and the difference will be more than made up with the addition of David Dahl and Ian Desmond to the lineup. Not to even mention Tom Murphy despite the high K rate (still way better than Hundley). I think the only work we have left is to strengthen the bench. I advocate Mark Reynolds (still available and he’s better than Raburn) or Jordan Patterson. I don’t need the PAT theory to cross the 90-win barrier. I need PAT only for the bench to take us from 90 to 95. (breakout season from Cardullo? LOL)