Monday morning, the Baltimore Orioles agreed to trade Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. The trade is a little bit perplexing from the Orioles' perspective, since neither Hammel nor Lindstrom is a potential long-term building block. And the trade is a little bit perplexing from the Rockies' perspective, since...well I'm going to let Dave Cameron take this one. Over at FanGraphs:
The Rockies can’t keep giving up on every pitcher they have who gives up a lot of hits. It’s just part of the atmosphere they have to deal with, and they have to adjust their expectations accordingly. Getting frustrated and dumping every pitcher who posts a high BABIP in Colorado is simply going to lead to the team getting rid of a lot of good pitchers.
With Guillermo Moscoso, Jamie Moyer, and now Jeremy Guthrie, the team has now acquired three pitchers who have lower than average career BABIPs. Clearly, the team is trying to stop giving up so many base hits, and they’ve now targeted guys who have a history of keeping guys from getting hits in other cities.
Since the beginning of time, it's seemed like Dan O'Dowd has been trying out different strategies for finding pitchers who can work in Coors Field. Cameron submits that this is the latest one - identifying pitchers with low batting averages allowed on balls in play. And, as any good or even okay stats guy could tell you, that's a dangerous strategy. Low batting averages allowed on balls in play tend to turn into average batting averages allowed on balls in play. Oh no, the hits!
I take issue with Cameron seemingly suggesting that BABIP is the big driving force here. Every transaction is different, and every transaction is made for a number of reasons. Dan O'Dowd doesn't just make decisions based on a BABIP leaderboard. One notes that Lindstrom posted a fine BABIP last year, and that Hammel's was even better than that.
But BABIP, or hits allowed, does appear to be a consideration, and as Cameron warns, there's explosive potential here, given what the Rockies have put together. Explosive in a bad way. One has always figured that pitchers in Colorado would need to get strikeouts and ground balls. The Rockies haven't focused on strikeouts or ground balls. It could work, but it could also do the opposite of work.