The Mount Rushmore of the Colorado Rockies

Ellis Burks, once a great Rockie, in a photo from spring 2012 when he was coaching the Reds / Presswire

Here are the Colorado Rockies. The way I see it, this is a discussion of just the final two faces on their Mount Rushmore as Todd Helton and Larry Walker clearly get the top two spots. Let’s look a little more at who gets #3 and #4.

Here are the batters by career WAR with Colorado:

Rk Player WAR/pos From To
1 Todd Helton 58.7 1997 2012
2 Larry Walker 46.4 1995 2004
3 Troy Tulowitzki 23.5 2006 2012
4 Matt Holliday 17.5 2004 2008
5 Vinny Castilla 15.8 1993 2006
6 Andres Galarraga 13.4 1993 1997
7 Carlos Gonzalez 11.8 2009 2012
8 Ellis Burks 11.1 1994 1998
9 Eric Young 8.8 1993 1997
10 Clint Barmes 8.1 2003 2010
11 Chris Iannetta 7.6 2006 2011
12 Jeff Cirillo 7.4 2000 2001
13 Dexter Fowler 4.6 2008 2012
14 Jay Payton 4.4 2002 2010
15 Garrett Atkins 4.3 2003 2009
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/16/2012.

As for pitchers, take a look, but hold your nose:

Rk Player WAR From To
1 Ubaldo Jimenez 17.8 2006 2011
2 Aaron Cook 15.4 2002 2011
3 Steve Reed 11.4 1993 2004
4 Pedro Astacio 9.9 1997 2001
5 Jason Jennings 9.4 2001 2006
6 Brian Fuentes 9.3 2002 2008
7 Jeff Francis 8.5 2004 2010
8 Armando Reynoso 7.9 1993 1996
9 John Thomson 7.2 1997 2002
10 Kevin Ritz 6.7 1994 1998
11 Curt Leskanic 6.3 1993 1999
12 Bruce Ruffin 6.3 1993 1997
13 Jhoulys Chacin 6.0 2009 2012
14 Jorge De La Rosa 5.8 2008 2011
15 Jerry Dipoto 5.5 1997 2000
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/16/2012.

Ubaldo Jimenez is an interesting case. He was lights out for a while there, and as he started to fade the Rockies traded him off. If we isolate his time with the Rockies, it’s pretty clear that he’s the top starter they’ve ever had.

As for the 2007 Rockies who made the World Series, it’s hard to ignore Matt Holliday, who was the leader of that team in both the regular season and post-season.

Not much else to say…let’s get right to the poll.

38 thoughts on “The Mount Rushmore of the Colorado Rockies

  1. 1
    Dalton M says:

    As much as I’d love to put in Jeff Francis for how good he became as my #2 starter in MVP Baseball 2005, I’m going to have to hold back and make my ballot: Helton/Walker/Tulo/Castilla

  2. 2
    Dcarson108 says:

    As overrated as he was, I think Dante Bichette should be on this poll.

  3. 3
    John B says:

    The omission some Rockies fans will definitely point out is Dante Bichette, who is probably the best reason in the world why blindly looking at triple crown statistics is a stupid idea.

    In 7 years as a Rockie, he averaged .316/32/132 per 162 games and was worth 3.1 WAR (total!), owing largely to atrocious defense and a lack of patience at the plate (plus, he was playing at Coor’s Field in the 1990’s, so he only once had an OPS+ above 120).

    In 1995, Bichette led the league in HR, RBI, SLG, hits, and total bases to finish second in the MVP balloting. He got 1 full WAR for that effort (defense counts in baseball, as it turns out).

    In 1999 (his last year as a Rockie), Bichette was worth an astounding -2.6 WAR, even with 34 HR and 133 RBI.

    My vote? Helton, Walker, Tulo, and Holliday.

    • 5

      Vinny Castilla managed some amazing dichotomic futility, as well.
      1999 – 33 HR, 102 RBI, 84 ops+

    • 6
      Shping says:

      Thank you, John B, for pointing out Dante’s extreme overratedness. And the WAR numbers manage to illustrate this in a relative way, but i still don’t see — despite my contempt for his skills — how you can tell me that an “Average Replacement” player would have been worth 2.6 more wins in 1999.

      Anyway, here’s a vote for the 3rd and 4th spots going to The Big Cat Galarraga and Senor Castilla: two guys who were huge faces of the early franchise for several years.

      Tulo in a couple years probably, but not quite yet.

      • 9
        Luis Gomez says:

        Completely agree to include Galarraga and Castilla.

        This may not be news, but I find kind of cool to have the All Time Homerun hitters from three different countries (Canada, Venezuela and Mexico)

        Oh, and I also found a bit disrespectful to name Vinny that way in the poll. Wether you like it or not, he was one of the original Rockies, and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to convert from a light hitting shortstop to a Silver Slugger third baseman, not just a hitter’s park.

        • 11
          Andy says:

          Sorry about that, Luis. This is a longstanding joke I have with Neil from B-R and wasn’t really meant to be a commentary about Castilla. Although I do think Castilla is overrated due to Coors-inflation, I don’t actually think he stole money.

    • 27
      tag says:

      Bichette might not be a Mt. Rushmore candidate, but he sure is a poster boy – for Coors Field in the 1990s. And also for the kinks that need to be worked out of WAR. There’s no way a replacement player puts up those kind of offensive numbers, Coors or no Coors. Sure he was horrendous defensively, but those numbers at-bat still mean something.

    • 38
      Fred says:

      To me that’s much less of a knock on Bichette than it is a flat out indictment of the crimes committed by WAR.

  4. 4

    Seems premature to put a 27 year old on a “Mt Rushmore,” but GG, 30-HR, face-of-the-franchise Shortstops don’t come along very often.


    For #4, I’d say The Big Cat.
    He was an original Rockie, and batted .370 that first year (yes, .402 at altitude).

    And though he is 10th in team history in PA, he is 5th in all those important triple crown categories :0

    • 10
      Hartvig says:

      Those were my 4 as well but I considered writing in Bichette because he is kind of the poster child for the inflated offensive numbers during his time with the team. I have a really hard time imagining that any pitcher spending most of his career in Colorado will ever make the Hall of Fame.

    • 12
      brp says:

      I don’t think there’s even a debate. Helton, Walker, Tulo, Big Cat, and I barely even consider anybody else.

      Andy – are you going to be posting “results” of the polls somewhere?

      • 13
        Andy says:

        Yes, in fact I am having life-size Mount Rushmore-style carvings made of each set of 4 heads for each team. Thee will be available for purchase at a price of $399.95 each.

        But seriously, I’ll post a set of results when they polls are all over.

  5. 7
    ReliefMan says:

    He may be far from the team’s Mount Rushmore, but speaking of the Rockies, Jamie Moyer just became the oldest player in major league history to get an RBI, driving in 2 as he hustled to beat the throw to 1st for a single!

    Isn’t it great what can happen when you let the pitchers hit?

  6. 8

    How about a ceremonial Mount Rushmore featuring the Blake Street Bombers (Walker, Bichette, Galarraga, and Castilla)? They were THE face of the franchise in its formative years, and when the Rockies busted that group up to try overpaying pitchers to come to Coors Field in the late 90’s, they fell from respectability to irrelevance for a long time. I was fortunate enough to be in Denver for a couple classic BSB games in 1996 and 97…. win or lose, they were always entertaining and packed the stadium. Not paying tribute to that era of Rockies history does the franchise an injustice…

  7. 15
    Christopher says:

    Is there no place to put a vote in for the Humidor?

  8. 16
    Big Daddy V says:

    It’s Pedro Astacio, and there’s no other choice. He’s the only pitcher in history with a season of 5+ ERA and 5+ WAR.

    Death to the humidor! Long live dingers!

  9. 17
    JDV says:

    Helton, Walker, Bichette and Castilla. WAR doesn’t prove Bichette’s disutility; Bichette proves WAR’s disutility. Let the eggs fly.

    • 19
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      As much as I believe Bichette is quite overrated, I still am extremely suspicious of several of his huge negative defensive WAR ratings {-34, -18; -77 for 7 Rockies years}.

      I agree with Shping’s comment in #6 about his 1999 season; again, his Triple Crown stats make him look a lot more valuable than he really was, but there’s no way he is 2.6 wins _worse_ than his (theoretical) AAA replacement. There’s gotta be a middle ground here.

      • 20
        Andy says:

        I’m not saying I definitely agree 100% with the negative defensive numbers, but I submit that it’s QUITE possible that Bichette really was worth a lot less than an average defensive replacement–even as much as a couple of wins less. Think about the impact when virtually every runner takes the extra base or the number of fly ball outs that turn into hits over the course of a season. That can turn into an awful lot of runs.

        • 28
          tag says:

          No Bichette fan here, but I’m in Lawrence’s and DMV’s camp. It’s possible he might be two wins worse than an average defensive LF, but aren’t we talking a replacement level one (or is it average, I can never remember)? In a league with Manny Ramirez in Cleveland, among others, I too have a hard time crediting those defensive numbers. I mean, at Coors in the 1990s, aren’t most of the balls he can’t get to flying over his head into the stands anyway? 🙂 Also, there’s no way some random replacement-level player posts anything close to his offensive numbers. Yes, they were definitely inflated, but not that inflated.

          • 29
            Richard Chester says:

            I have my doubts about WAR but I am hesitant to criticize because I have no idea of how the constituent components of WAR, such as Rbat, are calculated. Bichette’s oWAR for 1999 was 0.8 with an Rbat of all of 3 runs which seems low in view of his overall stats. Of course you must take the Coors Field effects into account as evidenced by his gross imbalance in his home/away splits. To approximate a more proper assessment of his offensive ability I take his road counting stats and double them. This projects to 28 HR, 74 R and 102 RBIs. Combining this with his road BA of .287, OBP of .342 and OPS of .844 does not indicate super-star stats but they are indicative of an oWAR of greater than 0.8. I cannot imagine a replacement player matching those stats.

    • 21
      John Autin says:

      I have no independent information on Bichette’s defensive ability, but I wanted to make one small point: In an outfield the size of Coors, the value of outfield defense is magnified, both positive and negative.

      I would also suggest applying a simple smell test to Bichette’s huge negative dWAR for 1999:
      — Was he old? Yes, 35.
      — Was he slow? Yes, based on (a) 6 for 12 in steals, (b) 2 triples while playing in a high-triples park, (c) 34% rate of extra bases taken as a baserunner (NL average was 43%).
      — Did he make a lot of errors? Yes, his 13 errors led NL left fielders and were 2nd among all OFs.
      — What was his Range Factor? 1.86 chances per 9 innings, compared to a league average of 2.00.

      None of that proves anything, but it does at least make it plausible that Bichette’s defense in 1999 was truly awful.

      • 22
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        John A,

        OK, you convinced me… that it may be _possible_ that Bichette was -34 runs on defense. It still seems too high a number.

      • 30
        bstar says:

        I agree with JA’s sentiments about Coors Field being so cavernous that it can lead to weird dWAR numbers, especially low ones. I don’t think Bichette would have put up dWAR numbers so awful had he played, for example, in short-porch Wrigley Field. Look at the Cubs’ LF this year, 36-year-old Alfonso Soriano. According to UZR and Fangraphs, he’s the sixth best defensive player in baseball this year!

        • 31
          Andy says:

          I think Bichette’s career numbers generally support your assertion. In 1018 games with the Rockies, Bichette was at -77 fielding runs. In 686 games elsewhere, he was at -14 fielding runs. Now, since his time with the Rockies game later on, it might be that he was slower/worse in his later years, and so that stark difference is probably not entirely attributable to Coors. But, in his last 137 games, coming with the Red Sox, he had just -3 fielding runs.

      • 36
        Hartvig says:

        There was a reason that Bichette wound up playing for the Rockies and not some of the teams that had him before. He was mostly around an average major league hitter- not a great recommendation for a corner outfielder but there have been many players like that that stay with teams for years.

        But he was always a horsesh!t outfielder and none of those teams felt that his bat was enough to offset that. Colorado not only inflated his offensive numbers, it also magnified his very real defensive shortcomings.

        I will admit however that those games could be a whole lot of fun to watch sometimes. It’s why I love watching minor and independent league games so much. Every couple of games or so you’ll get to see something you almost never see at the major league level but it’s usually not the kind of performance you would qualify as “good”. Spectacular maybe. Often hilarious. Occasionally even mind-boggeling.

  10. 18
    Brent says:

    Helton, Walker, Holliday and Tulo for me.

  11. 25
    Tmckelv says:

    Matched the Consensus of Helton, Walker, Tulo, Holliday.

    Galarraga was a close 5th (w/ Holiday), But Matt’s 2007 was outstanding in the Rockies’ only WS appearance. Also they already had 1995 (Walker) and 1B (Helton) representation in the Big 3.

    Dante Bichette was a close 6th as a representative of the pre-Humidor days in Mile High/Coor’s field Colorado.

  12. 26
    Insert Name Here says:

    I’m going with Helton, Walker, Tulo, and (get ready to hate on me) Ubaldo Jimenez. Yes, really.

    Actually, I made this concept into a Sporcle quiz (if you haven’t heard of Sporcle, you really should check it out, it’s a great website with a strong community):

    My first attempt was a sad failure, as one commenter would point out a problem with my (WAR-based) methodology:

    But I fixed the problem for the 2nd version:

    WARNING: I myself strongly disagree with some of the selections. But Sporclers don’t like opinionated quizzes, it wastes the site’s bandwidth.

    • 32
      bstar says:

      Egad, insert, who made the lists of Mt. Rushmores on that second quiz? Does the site generate them? For the Braves they have Kid Nichols, two more 19th century pitchers, and Eddie Mathews. That’s scary bad.

    • 33
      e pluribus munu says:

      A very interesting set of names, INH. It never would have occurred to me to set up the methodology(/ies) you used, and your lists yield some pretty weird outcomes, but it seems to me that’s a lot of the interest. How could I have overlooked the greatness of Billy Rhines all these years?(It’s a failing I could not have regretted yesterday, never having heard of him before he took monumental form today.) If we were all to design Sporcle Rushmores, each using an independent statistical model, we’d probably get closer to triangulating a consensus, and also get to know many Rhines-like ringers. (My design would be fudged to guarantee Karl Spooner a second bust.)

      • 37
        Hartvig says:

        “(My design would be fudged to guarantee Karl Spooner a second bust.)”

        If their jokes would make me laugh as loud as that did, I could make a good living getting comedians to pay me to come and watch their shows to get the crowds rolling…

        Well played.

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