An Open Letter to Dan O’Dowd and Walt Weiss
We know you both have the toughest jobs in all of sports. Building a major league team, maintaining it, having the right depth, and choosing among options is beyond any level of difficulty we can imagine. As for managing a Major League team….well, you live in the land of second guessing, you have to keep millionaires happy while also integrating young men who are making the league minimum. And then each day you have to pick the best 9 to start the game and decide from inning to inning who should replace whom. We may all think you should have used a lefty to at least start the 9th inning on Sunday’s Padres game, but you can also point to the fact that closers are there for a reason and that yours was perfect in save situations before Sunday. So know that we are not saying we are smarter than you, better at baseball than you, or that we should have your jobs. But what fans do have is the distance from the team to be, potentially, more objective. And that is why we think you might be acting too slowly in addressing the team’s pitching issues.
Now, this is easily the best pitching, stats-wise, of any Rockies team yet. It has a chance to beat out the 2010, 2009 and 2007 teams by the end of the season in key areas such as wins, ERA, WHIP and BABIP. But…we have a problem. This team has already lost 3 starters for at least a month. We now have Chacin back, and as soon as he, like Jorge De La Rosa, fixes the “one inning gets you” issues, he will once again be the solid leader of the staff with Jorge he was last year – and perhaps even better a pitcher. We know that both Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood will be back sometime either before the All-Star game or by the trading deadline. It is easy to sit and await their return, because both are better than league average pitchers. But this team is right now leading the Wild Card race and within a series sweep of being in first place. But they are also facing a long road trip while the Giants are settling in for a 22 of 32 stretch at home. This team cannot afford to slip back to far. We know that everytime Jorge DLR and Jordan Lyles give this team a chance to win everytime out (Lyles bad start that every pitcher has throughout the season). We know that Chacin even with the bad inning issue, could easily be 3-0 or 2-1 rather than his 0-2 record. The issue remains at the bottom of the rotation – Juan Nicasio and Franklin Morales.
We know that you know better than us what Juan is throwing each game. But if the PitchingFX is to be believed, we see 95% 4-seamers and sliders. Now, he has great stuff with those two pitches. But…at age 27 he still has not learned how to master a changeup, curve, or cutter with enough regular control. He is a grinder, a competitor, and he has decent stats. But every pitch we are waiting for the batter to guess correctly which of the two pitches and then barrel-up the ball. If this team is fine being .500, then Juan is good enough. Can Juan further develop? Is the starting rotation at Coors the place to be doing it? As a 5th starter he might be acceptable if you didn’t have any alternatives. But there is the rub…
As for Franklin Morales, there is no bigger fan of his among the Rockies faithful. I always thought he would be a great starter, and when you watch games like the one he threw in San Diego, you can see it. When his control is even average (the old “effectively wild”) and with what some are calling a cutter but is just a fastball that moves in on the right-handed hitters hands, he can dominate. The problem is that at this point, he is still too hit and miss. Now, I am not one who thinks he is done as a starter. Jorge didn’t put it together until 28-29. All around the league we see pitchers who finally figure out what they need to do well after the prime prospect age. And because Franklin was rushed to the majors at 21, he is still only 28 and teachable (the learning of additional pitches is part of that process). In saying I don’t think Franklin should start anymore, I foresee his continued development while in the pen with the hope of him still becoming a starter in the future.
But the fact is that Franklin’s ERA is over 5 and Juan is giving you less than 6 innings on average, which hurts the bullpen. Of Juan’s 9 starts 3 have been good to very good (Arizona in home opener – 1ER in 7, San Diego on April 15 – 2ER in 6, and Mets on May 1 – 0 ER in 7IP). Of the rest the only one that qualifies as a quality start was against Cincinnati when he went 6 gave up 2ER/4R total, but that was on a day where he had to be very good and he wasn’t. The other 5 starts have been unacceptable to put it bluntly. Now, again, as a 5th starter without alternatives, I can see keeping him in the rotation, but there just isn’t any development happening for him on the secondary pitches and he seems many days to be getting wilder than before. His arm, were it be in the pen would be electric, but again, I am not sure that Juan is finished developing, and time in Colorado Springs working on secondary pitches would make him a much better pitcher, be it in the pen or starting.
Which brings us back to the alternatives. Right now down at AAA and AA you have 5 pitchers who all can make a case for being at Coors. I agree totally with your desire to not bring any of them up until we know (as well as you can know) they won’t have to be sent back down a month later. Every start in the minors, if the pitchers uses it as such and your whole organization has emphasized this – don’t worry about results, worry about development, is a another day of growth for a pitcher where it doesn’t hurt anyone. I would love to not have to call up any of the pitchers. But there is also the side of the coin that you are in a pennant race and from what we can see (acknowledging you know more than we do), among the group of Matzek, Winkler and Anderson they all are mature enough and seem able to throw enough pitches for strikes to make any of the three an upgrade at least over Morales and perhaps also over Nicasio. Looking at a match-up of Baumgardner vs Morales does not fill any fan with confidence, not even myself the world’s biggest Franklin Morales fan.
So, we urge you to make a move and to make it soon. Waiting for the return to Chatwood and Anderson may well doom you in the divisional race if not also the Wild Card. Given the largely great results at AAA from Matzek (aside from one outing) and Anderson and it would seem you could bring up a lefty who is at least the level of Morales. When looking at a 25 year-old Winkler and an impressive Eddie Butler, it is hard to imagine they have much more to learn in Tulsa, and while pitching at Colorado Springs might be the next best step for both, they also seem as though they would be able to provide at least what Nicasio is providing.
Sadly, this will mean movement in the pen. We know that Morales is too big a talent to send through waivers, so he would got to the pen, meaning likely that Chris Martin, who has done a great job but who could also use a bit more seasoning, can go to Colorado Springs and continue to improve all his pitches. Nicasio, according to the websites, still has options left. Going down to Colorado Springs and working on his change-up, his 2-seamer, his 4-seamer control, and another pitch would make him a much greater talent going forward.
As fans know this isn’t some cry in the dark to just see great talent. We have done that over the 20 years of this club before this year and we rarely have gotten good long-term results when we have rushed kids up to the big leagues (again, Morales being a case in point). But the guys you have as options are relatively polished and mature – they look ready to see what they can do. As fans, looking at the schedule, we ask you to make the move.
The Fans of Colorado Rockies