October 24, 2007

ROX OF AGES (via The Mother Judd):

Rockies Place Their Faith in God, and One Another (BEN SHPIGEL, 10/23/07, NY Times)

The role of religion within the Rockies’ organization first entered the public sphere in May 2006, when an article published in USA Today described the organization as adhering to a “Christian-based code of conduct” and the clubhouse as a place where Bibles were read and men’s magazines, like Maxim or Playboy, were banned.

The article included interviews with several players and front office members, but team players and officials interviewed this week said it unfairly implied that the Rockies were intent on constructing a roster consisting in large part of players with a strong Christian faith. Asked how his own Christian faith affected his decision-making, General Manager Dan O’Dowd acknowledged it came into play, but not in a religious way. He said it guided him to find players with integrity and strong moral values, regardless of their religious preference.

“Do we like players with character? There is absolutely no doubt about that,” O’Dowd said during a recent interview in his Coors Field office. “If people want to interpret character as a religious-based issue because it appears many times in the Bible, that’s their decision. I believe that character is an innate part of developing an organization, and to me, it is nothing more than doing the right thing at the right time when nobody’s looking. Nothing more complicated than that.

“You don’t have to be a Christian to make that decision.”

Even if the Rockies are not consciously doing it, reliever Matt Herges, playing for his seventh organization, said the team had the highest concentration of devout Christians he had seen during his nine major league seasons.

Every Sunday, about 10 people gather for chapel, according to reliever Jeremy Affeldt, and Tuesday afternoon Bible study sessions usually attract seven or eight players. Affeldt said players discussed life and their families as well as scripture.

“Certain guys attend chapel, certain guys don’t,” outfielder Cory Sullivan said. “I don’t think that’s any different from how it is in any other major league clubhouse. Nothing’s shoved down your throats.”

On the whole, players were relaxed in speaking about their religious convictions but said that faith was not a requirement for peer approval. The Rockies, who will face the Red Sox in the World Series beginning Wednesday, care more about whether a teammate plays hard, is unselfish and treats everyone with respect.

The Rockies' Starting 8.5 (Mark Allen Haverty, 10/24/07, Sports Grumblings)

The rotations for both teams have been set, with the Rockies going with Jeff Francis for Game One, as we said Monday, followed by Ubaldo Jimenez in Game Two, Josh Fogg in Game Three, and the returning Aaron Cook in Game Four. We had discussed that possibility previously, as Cook had been declared done for the season only when the Rockies thought the season would end when September did. Cook was the only starting pitcher for the Rockies to pick up a loss in the three game series with the Red Sox back in June, but he had pitched brilliantly, holding the Red Sox to two runs in 7 2/3 innings. Cook replaces Franklin Morales, who failed to pitch more than four innings in either of his two postseason starts and who has only eight regular season major league starts under his belt. Morales will move to the bullpen for the World Series.

Defense Rocks!: How Colorado's fielding wizardry will change baseball forever. (Eriq Gardner, Oct. 24, 2007, Slate)
Baseball is usually seen as a clash between pitchers and hitters—a test of wills between the guy on the mound and the slugger at the plate. The defense, on the other hand, is praised and scorned in extreme circumstances, glimpsed only in the final few moments on Baseball Tonight, and all but ignored when sportswriters call upon team management to find nirvana by signing Johan Santana or Alex Rodriguez. But if there's ever a time to focus on the guys with gloves, it's the 2007 World Series. This year's Colorado Rockies are perhaps the greatest defensive team in baseball history. It's even possible that their defensive prowess will change the way the game is played and the way teams are constructed.

In 2003, Michael Lewis' Moneyball showed how Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane used statistics to find undervalued players. Back then, these were typically guys like Scott Hatteberg who drew walks to keep innings going. By the time Lewis published the book, the secret was out and the art of plate discipline was no longer undervalued. Beane and other smart GMs around baseball had already moved on to the next great statistical frontier: defense.

If there was ever a World Series that was destined to revolutionize baseball and get teams to build around defense it was Brewers vs. Cardinals in 1982. The result: 25 years of teams aping Harvey's Wallbangers. It's about Robin Yount, not Ozzie Smith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 24, 2007 10:02 AM

It's Christians v. Convicts!

Of course, to pick one of the Rox great fielders, Tulowitski may field like Ozzie, but he also hits like Yount. Best of both worlds.

Frankly though, after watching Jeter's fielding regress to little-league levels this season, and watching Jorge's flat-out failure to block pitches in the dirt (and Damon's lack of range in center pre-Melky taking over), I wonder if there wasn't something to the old baseball idea that you get strong glove men up the middle, and your slugging from the corner if/of positions. Cano was the only Yankee who provided great hitting and strong fielding.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 24, 2007 3:49 PM

Tulowitzki does not field like Ozzie. He just doesn't. McDonald and Everrett aren't even close.

I agree with OJ, but the quality of defense in MLB is significanlty better than in the past. So much so that it can only be explained by GM's playing close attention to it.

Posted by: Benny at October 24, 2007 5:02 PM


Tulo had a 119 RATE2 acc to Baseball Prospectus in this, his first full season. That's equivalent to Ozzie in his best fielding season acc to BP -- he had a 112 RATE2 for his career btw.

Ozzie in his first full season (1978, at 23 he was a year older than Tulo this year) had a 114 RATE2, significantly lower than Tulo.

I know Ozzie has been deified so that it's sacrelege to compare anyone to him, but really, it's not at all absurd to compare the two fielding-wise.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 24, 2007 5:13 PM

I've seen both extensively and live and Tulo does not have Ozzie's range, instinct, first step or arm. Not even close.

MacD is closest to him in my opinion with Everret second...

C'mon now, Ozzie was the greatest defensive player ever.

*Tulo's only played one season obviously, but I've seen him alot over that season.

** He's also set to win me some $$$ booze in a bet so I ain't no Tulo hater either.

Posted by: Benny at October 24, 2007 6:14 PM

No, he's not as good as the best fielder ever, but he might be the best fielding ss right now:


Posted by: oj at October 24, 2007 8:31 PM

There's no way to know, but I suspect Joe Jackson and Tris Speaker were better fielders than Ozzie. Clemente was, and perhaps Maz, too.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 24, 2007 11:20 PM

Ozzie would have been a better outfielder than those guys on range alone. His only comp is other SS's--Honus Wagner (perhaps the best player of all-time) & Rabbit Maranville in particular.

Ozzie had a year (1980) with 288 putouts (not even his best), 621 assists and a ridiculous 933 total chances. He averaged over 5 TC a game for his career.

If we accept--for the sake of argument--that Omar Vizquel was the best ss of this generation and take his best numbers of each stat regardless of year we get:

735 TC

273 PO

447 A

& he has 4.5 TC/G for his career

Or, take the top number's posted this year, regardless of which ss, and you get:

834 TC (Tulo)

262 PO (Tulo)

& 561 A (Tulo)

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2007 10:57 AM