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Hammel deal keyed Rockies' run

10/7/2009

Tyler Hissey on the the deal that put the Rockies in the playoffs:

    Back in April, I wrote an article about the Tampa Bay Rays' decision to part ways with right-hander Jason Hammel. Hammel was out of options, making him expendable in pitching-rich Tampa Bay. The club decided to keep Jeff Niemann, also out of options, around instead, so dealing him for any return (in this case prospect Aneury Rodriguez) was better than letting him walk for nothing.
    For that reason, the thought processes were sound on the Rays' end. The Colorado Rockies were also wise to pull the trigger, though, and have reaped the early benefits of the swap. Colorado had just lost ace lefty Jeff Francis to injury for the season and starting pitching appeared to be a question mark. As it turns out, the Rockies' pitching staff was sensational, led by Ubaldo Jimenez, and is the primary reason why the team is headed to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

    --snip--

    Overall, Hammel produced 3.9 Wins Above Replacement in his first year in Colorado while making the minimum--great value. A lot can change and it is hard to fault the Rays for doing what they did given the data available at the time. The Rockies have be to thrilled with how the deal turned out (Rodriguez had a so-so year in Double-A), though, and deserve a ton of credit for making what appears to be another shrewd move.

Aneury Rodriguez, ranked as the Rockies' No. 16 prospect before moving to the Rays, has dropped a bit this season, with his walks going up and his strikeouts going down. He's still young (21) and far from a lost cause, but the odds are against him ever pitching effective in the majors. As a starter, anyway.
Meanwhile, Hammel gave the Rockies 177 solid innings this season. His strikeouts were roughly what they'd been as a Ray, but he somehow cut his walk rate in half. We don't hear much about Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca. But, considering the performances this season of Hammel and Jason Marquis and Jorge De La Rosa, shouldn't we?

What this really brings to mind, though, is the stunning depth of pitching the Rays have built. A year ago, they didn't have room in their rotation for Jason Hammel. This year, they didn't have room in their rotation for Scott Kazmir or Edwin Jackson. When Andy Sonnanstine couldn't pull out of his bizarre funk, the Rays hardly noticed. Has any team in recent memory featured so many young starter pitchers who could actually pitch?

Ah, but the Rays are out and the Rockies are in. Hissey's right: the Rockies deserve a great deal of credit for making a lopsided trade that's helped propel them to the postseason.