I have no idea what the Colorado Rockies will do this season. In the past three seasons, they've gone from 92 wins (and the wild card) to 83 wins to 73 wins. They traded away Ubaldo Jimenez last July for two young pitchers, but then spent the winter acquiring 30-something vets (or in the case of Jamie Moyer, an almost-50 vet).
Every member of the lineup has a big question mark surrounding him.
C Ramon Hernandez: He's hit well the past two seasons in a part-time role for Cincinnati, but he'll also be 36. Does he have another decent season in him?
1B Todd Helton: Does he have anything left at 38? Can he stay healthy? Is he a .302 hitter (2011) or a .256 hitter (2010)?
2B Marco Scutaro: What are the odds he stays healthy at 36? In the past 10 seasons, only five second baseman that age or older have had 500 plate appearances in a season: Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent, Jamey Carroll, Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Young.
3B Casey Blake: He's 38 and coming off a season in which he played 63 games. If he's done can top prospect Nolan Arenado jump from Class A to the majors?
SS Troy Tulowitzki: OK, not really any questions about Tulo other than his health. He's missed 59 games combined the past two seasons, and 61 in 2008.
LF Carlos Gonzalez: Is he the star player of 2010 or merely the good player of 2011?
CF Dexter Fowler: Is that all there is?
RF Michael Cuddyer: Will his production increase at Coors Field? But at 33, he's at that dangerous age, and you have to wonder how much of a liability he'll be on defense.
And then there's the rotation. You can make an argument that Jhoulys Chacin is the only lock, and even he faded in the second half (.287 OBP allowed in the first half versus .354). That leaves as many as nine other pitchers competing for four spots, if you include the rehabbing Jorge De La Rosa. I understand the approach: Bring in as many arms as you can, see which of the youngsters can step up and compete at the major league level.
But does this approach work?
For example, I checked all the playoff teams from the past three seasons. Those 24 teams averaged 139 starts from their top five starters, or an average of 28 per pitcher. Thirteen of the 24 teams had at least three starters with 30-plus starts and four others had a No. 3 with 28 or 29 starts. The Rockies' 2009 playoff team had 155 starts from their top five guys.
Some teams did struggle all season to find a fifth starter, but the lowest cumulative totals for the top five guys were from the 2009 Phillies (and they acquired Cliff Lee) and 2009 Twins, each with 123 starts, or an average of 24 per starter. The only team that didn't receive at least 20 starts from at least four pitchers were those '09 Twins, who had 33 from Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker, 24 from Francisco Liriano, 17 from Glen Perkins, 16 from Kevin Slowey, and 12 each from Carl Pavano and Anthony Swarzak. That team had a great bullpen and won a weak division with 87 wins.
So it can be done. And there's nothing that says the Rockies won't settle on five guys coming out of spring training, and they'll all pitch well and stay healthy. But if I'm a Rockies fan, I'm worried. The lineup is built to win now, but the pitching staff appears built as a filter for 2013.