Rockies Mailbag: Will Colorado expand its analytics team?

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

Hi Patrick! I want to say thank you for all your answers to my questions as well as everybody else. It must be quite a task to get answers to some of these questions. LOL. I do have another question about the front office. You always state that the Rockies have the smallest analytical department in the MLB. Is that by design as Dick Monfort does not believe in analytics? Or is it just the front office is way behind everybody else in this area and they are trying to slowly catch up? It seems that the successful teams have a big analytical department so just wondering why Monfort does not try and expand in that area. Thank you again!

— Del, Lamar

Del, I don’t remember writing that the Rockies have the smallest analytics department, just one of the smallest.

Monfort doesn’t have anything against analytics, per se, but there is no question that the Rockies lag behind other teams.

The club believed it was making progress in building up the analytics department. But after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, only one R&D team member was left. That was Brittany Haby, who was hired as a fellow before being promoted to manager of baseball research. In August 2021, Scott Van Lenten was hired as director of R&D but he lasted just six months before he was fired last March.

Since then, the Rockies brought in four others to join Haby, all from outside the organization. In August, Brian Jones, the team’s video coordinator for the past 15 years, was promoted to director of R&D, meaning the department is up to six people. The Dodgers have more than 20.

Jones and general manager Bill Schmidt have both said that the analytics will continue to grow.

I feel like Sean Broussard wins for the best new walk-up song with “Pressure” by James Vickery. It’s so silky smooth. What’s on your list of the most iconic walk-up songs for the Rockies?

— Mike, Denver

Mike, you’re going to think I’m old, probably because I am, but I don’t recognize a lot of the current walk-up songs. And I’ll be honest and I’ll tell you that I don’t pay a lot of attention to the walk-up songs — or “entry songs” as they pertain to closers.

But here are my top five:

5. Andrés Galarraga: “The Pink Panther Theme” by Henry Mancini & His Orchestra. This is going way back to the Rockies’ early days, but having the “Big Cat” come up to the plate with this jazzy, rich melody was awesomely clever.

4.  Ryan Spilborghs: “Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani. To this day, if I hear that song I think of “Spilly” and Rocktober. The crowd singing along with “who-hoo, woo-hoo!” was awesome.

3. Charlie Blackmon: “Your Love” by The Outfield. It’s a great song from the ’80s with great interaction with the fans at Coors Field. After Chuck Nazty retires, I’m sure that the fans singing “Toooooniiiiigggghhttt!” will be part of the soundtrack to his memories.

2. Dante Bichette: “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. The perfect match between a slugger and a song. I here “Sledgehammer” and I think about Bichette shaking his fist after hitting the walk-off homer against the Mets in Coors Field’s inaugural game in 2005.

1. Larry Walker: “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. A Hall of Fame guitar riff for a Hall of Fame player. Believe it or not, once you get beyond Ozzy going off the rails in his personal life, the song’s pretty deep. But for the purposes of Walker coming to the plate, the song flat out rocks.

Patrick, with the season winding down, is there much we can expect from this team in the offseason? (General manager) Bill Schmidt definitely did his best to make a splash last year (though the moves didn’t translate into wins). Maybe another big bat like C.J. Cron who needs an opportunity, like Gary Sanchez or Adam Duvall?

— Ron, Parker

Ron, I’ll say this for Schmidt, he’s been proactive. He extended the contracts of Kyle Freeland, Daniel Bard, Ryan McMahon, Carlos Estevez and Elias Diaz. He signed Kris Bryant to a mega-deal. He traded for Randal Grichuk. Plus, he’s moved up a bunch of rookies to see how they play in the bigs during September. A lot of those moves didn’t pan out, but it leads me to believe that Schmidt will be fairly active during the offseason.

I don’t see the Rockies signing the type of slugger you mention, because there are a lot of young players with power that should be in place, or nearly in place, for 2023. I think Schmidt’s biggest splash in the offseason could be via trade for a starting pitcher or center fielder.

Hi Patrick, love that the Rockies called up their young prospects this September. I am excited to watch Ezequiel Tovar and Michael Toglia.

I saw Tovar will wear No. 14. Why do they always give their young prospects that number when they get the call to the majors? Seems like a lot of guys have worn it and later changed. Troy Tulowitzki comes to mind as one of the big stars who made his debut wearing Andres Galarraga’s number.

— Rip, Aurora

Rip, I went back and looked at all of the jersey numbers given to Rockies players over the years. I don’t see a particular pattern with No. 14.

Tulowitzki took No. 14 for just the tail end of the 2006 season. He switched to No. 2 in 2007, in honor of Derek Jeter.

Here is the full list of Rockies players who’ve worn No. 14:

  • Andres Galarraga, 1993-97
  • Todd Walker, 2000
  • Greg Norton, 2001-03
  • Matt Anderson, 2005
  • Troy Tulowitzki, 2006
  • Sean Barker, 2007
  • Dexter Fowler, 2008
  • Matt Murton, 2009
  • Mark Ellis, 2011
  • Josh Rutledge, 2012-14
  • Rene Lachemann, 2015 (coach)
  • Tony Wolters, 2016-20
  • Rio Ruiz, 2021
  • Ezequiel Tovar, 2022

Patrick, thank you for your coverage in a tough year. The Rockies showed some interest in Michael Conforto last year prior to injury. Do you see them trying to pursue him again this offseason?

— Nathan, Lamar

Nathan, thanks for the compliment. You’re right, it’s been a tough season, and let’s face it, not a very exciting one.

In regard to Conforto, I don’t think he’s on the Rockies’ radar. They had a mild interest in him last offseason before an injured shoulder forced him to have surgery in April. There were reports that the Astros offered him a two-year, $30 million contract prior to Sept. 1, but agent Scott Boras denied the report.

While the Rockies need more power in the lineup I don’t see them pursuing Conforto after they signed Kris Bryant to a seven-year, $182 million contract last spring.

What the Rockies need is a center fielder who can hit leadoff. Conforto doesn’t fit that need, but another Mets player does. That would be free-agent-to-be Brandon Nimmo. Whether the Rockies have a legitimate chance to land Nimmo is another question.

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