Over the coming weeks I will look back at the 2010 season for the Rockies. While they finished with the third best record in Rockies history, the season was still a failure. The Rockies were preseason favorites to win the division by most and there were more than a few experts picking them to go to the World Series. I do not think you will find anyone within the Rockies organization that will look at 2010 as a successful year.
This 10 part series will be a mixture of what went right in 2010 and what went wrong.
Part 9: Hammel and Olivo first half
As I wind down this series of post mortems for the Rockies I center the last two on Jason Hammel and Miguel Olivo.
Jason Hammel was slotted into the Rockies rotation as their fourth of fifth starter when the year began. Being the first, second or fifth starter is all sort of meaningless after the first turn through the rotation, but generally speaking the overall team awareness of their need to win is less with Hammel on the mound than Ubaldo Jimenez.
How much pressure was on the entire team in the last month when Ubaldo took the hill? He was stuck on his 19th win for so long that the offense was starting to tighten up when he was pitching. Ubaldo and the rest of the team might have given a cliché response stating that there was not any added pressure with Ubaldo on the mound, but there was.
With Hammel on the mound the Rockies were OK with five innings of three run baseball in his starts. No pressure.
Then Jeff Francis started the year on the disabled list and Jorge De La Rosa hit the DL at the end of April and Hammel was suddenly the second or third best option for the Rockies rotation.
In the first half of the 2010 season Hammel threw 90 1/3 innings of 4.07 earned run baseball. He would hold opposing batters to a triple slash of .276/.326/.393 in the first half. A pretty good first three months of pitching for a guy with a career ERA over five. He struck out about a half a batter more per nine innings than his career norm and he gave the Rockies a chance to win.
His performance peaked in June when he made six starts, posted a 1.83 ERA and held opponents to a season low slugging percentage of .349. Batter’s barely got on base more than 30% of the time against Hammel in June and when they did record a hit it did not go for extra bases.
The guy who caught most of those games for Hammel also had a great first half.
Olivo made a strong run at the All-Star game. Or, let me rephrase; Olivo’s great first half went largely unnoticed around the baseball world. Olivo was the biggest slight at the Mid Summer Classic when he didn’t even go as a reserve and the less qualified Yadier Molina received the start. If I remember correctly Olivo somehow managed to finish fifth in All-Star balloting. Highway robbery.
In the first half Olivo hit a whopping .325/.377/.548 and his OPS+ of 150 was amazing. There is no way he should have not been the starter for the National League in the All-Star game. Take into account the fact that he threw out most every base runner that tried to steal a bag on him and no one could use defense as a valid reason for Molina starting over Olivo.
Not only did Olivo hit 11 home runs in the first half, he also drew 20 walks. To put that walk number in perspective; in Olivo’s career he only had one season out of eight in which he drew at least 20 walks in an entire season. In 2004 Olivo walked 10 times with the White Sox and 10 more with the Mariners. Olivo is not known for taking walks.
With Chris Iannetta spending time in AAA during the first half of the season Olivo proved to be the better catcher and did all he could to keep the Rockies afloat in the first half.
Tomorrow we will touch on their second halves and it is not pretty.
10 part series: Rockies 2010 post mortem
— Ubaldo, Tulo, Cargo: October 5th, 2010
— Mora, Herrera: October 11th, 2010
— Belisle, Betancourt: October 15th, 2010
— Hammel/Olivo pre All-Star break
— Injuries: October 4th, 2010
— Helton, Smith/Hawpe: October 6th, 2010
— Barmes, Ianneta: October 8th, 2010
— Morales, Corpas, Cook: October 13th, 2010
— Bullpen in September: October 18th, 2010
— Hammel/Ovlivo post All-Star break
More from Travis Lay
— Is Cliff Lee a left handed Greg Maddux?
— My League Championship guesses
— A Texas Rangers feel good story