DOCTOR CHRISTOPHER’S WEEK 2 IN REVIEW
Rockies fans are an odd bunch. We were told that we shouldnt get too excited by how well they did the first week (4-1), with 2 wins on the road and great hitting on the road. And rightly so, one week in baseball is just that. But wow, I think the Rockies fans are seriously pessimistic, in a way that seem pathological. They want to be unhappy. I was unable to watch most of the games this week but listened in and followed the games on mlb.com while working, so I know how bad the SF trip went. But listening to KOA you would have thought we just lost 10 in a row at home. I heard one fan saying that Keith Law is right, we will lose well over 100 games. This team with this lineup is not going to lose 100 games unless injuries come in bunches.
Here is an important reminded. The last team to get swept by the Giants? Some group from Detroit that has just won the AL Pennant and was the huge favourite to win the World Series. Getting swept by the Giants stinks, agreed. Especially because they could easily have won 2 out of the 3 and certainly at least 1. And yes getting bombed 10-0 makes things seem even worse (just like the Giants felt on April 7 when they got bombed 14-3…it happens to everyone and that was at home for them). But this was the reigning world champions. They won the WS for a reason and it’s basically the same team back again. SF is one of the Rockies hardest places to win historically. And it was one series. Right now we have lost the same number of games as the Giants. If this team stays healthy it may end up being the best hitting team on the road in Rockies history. It right now is having QS at around 3 out of every 4 games. Relax. It is early. But this team is fun! And its baseball, not global thermal nuclear war. Enjoy the Rox…because really, this has been a decent week.
So lets look at the week in detail.
9-1 ROCKIES OVER PADRES
Sunday at home vs San Diego. Chacin showed that the season opener was no one-timer. He pitched well even through 6.2 (99 pitches) that had they needed his to push towards a complete game to save the pen he probably could have done it. But this is part of the team’s strategy built around Mark Wiley’s thinking. Pitches at altitude do take longer to recover from and do add up faster. So pulling him in an April game at 99 pitches is fine. The Sunday lineup (similar to the Wed lineup that we all groused about) came through with 9 runs, with power from two regulars (Fowler and Dex) but 7 hits from the 4 subs. The pen was sharp, with Wilton Lopez throwing 1 innings of scoreless ball but giving up 2 hits again. A great close out to the short homestand and a sweep
4-2 GIANTS OVER THE ROCKIES
As I wrote in the post-game wrap, many pitchers, even the best, struggle to get loose in the first inning. Overall baseball ERAs are highest in the first inning of the whole game. DLR has seemed to take longer to get going since the TJ surgery, and it hurt big time in this game. He almost got out of it with a big K of Buster Posey (I hate to say it but I think I like Buster as a person…but he is still a Giant so booooo), but then one bad pitch to Hunter Pence and the you are down 3-0 facing one of the toughest lefties in the NL in Madison Bumgarner. But the quality of this lineup showed up, getting 5 walks overall and forcing Bumgarner out in 5.2 with 104 pitches. At that point the game was 3-2. But against arguably the best pen in the NL (the reason I didn’t pick the Giants to win the West is I do believe all those games in October are going to take its toll this year and we will see their rotation and pen breakdown…so far I am dead wrong on that) shut the door going forward. Two big issues for the Rox. First, Weiss again showed bad pen management resulting in the 8th inning run against Volstad might well have been avoided with a pitching change earlier. That run meant that Rutledge’s 9th inning lead-off double was meaningless, since they could not work on getting the one run across to tie the game. The bigger issue is that this current team has too little off the bench. While Pacheco gives a nice bat for a single, there is nothing scary on most nights out there. A move to bring up Colvin or a similar bat is going to be needed soon. The great news is DLR outpiched Baumgarner, and was spectacular after the first, taking only 76 pitches (50 strikes!) to get through 6 innings. This gives us a huge confidence boost going forward, which we shall see as the Rox try to sweep the Pads on Sunday. But the bench and the pen management remain concerns.
9-6 GIANTS OVER ROCKIES
This game should have been won by the Rockies. Period. The reason I have been saying 78 wins +/- 10 (and remember I am the purple shade wearing, purple cool-aid drinking person out here) is that this team has not yet learned how to win. That could happen during the season. The team in a way reminds me of last year’s Baltimore Orilies, but that team learned in April and May how to just win a game, especially late in the game. The Rockies need to win games like this. In an effort to get Nicasio a win they let him stay out there through 5. He left with a 6-4 lead. I wrote all spring the strength of this team should be the pen. Not so far. I know that Adam Ottivinio was a #1 pick by St L and that he did well enough last season, but there is a reason by StL gave up on him is what we have seen. He has a live arm. But he and the strike zone are not always on good terms. It’s not just walks (he had 1 in his outing, taking over 2 batter into the 6th for Nicasio who had a strong 5th which led Weiss sending him out there), but it’s getting behind in counts and missing badly, often up. Look, I see why he is there – that arm is very alluring. Maybe we don’t have a better arm in the minors right now. But the two games they had leads in that they lost so far…both you can look at number 0 for the final cause. Yes, Belisle also got battered. And Lopez once again gave up 3 hits and another run. This game was so very disappointing. The offense was stifled at the 5th (again, great pen work by SF) and the bench couldn’t provide any pop. These are the kind of games that come back to hurt late in the season. They mean you have to take a game you deserved to lose later in the season to off-set this one that got away. When the Rox went to bed Tuesday night they knew they should have won at least 1 and maybe 2 already going into the getaway game.
1O-0 GIANTS OVER ROCKIES
Let me say I thought Barry Zito was done after 2011. Boy was I wrong. Late last year he was a key piece of the WS winners. All he has done this year is throw back-to-back shutouts. I have a feeling that it is Timmy Lincecum who is going to be out of the rotation very soon, while Zito is finally earning his big contract. As for Francis, we all knew that on days when he is missing, even by a little, he is going to get pounded. He did! Big time. There is a reason he is our #4 starter, but I don’t think we will see a lot of these this season, but when we do, yikes! To be honest, I only heard a bit of the game but it sounded like the team was simply tired all around. It’s still early but 6 games in a row, the time change and flight, and then a day game after a long night game that ended in a loss, this was a blow-out waiting to happen. They stunk. But you have these games (look at the scoreboard and just about everyday you see a good team somewhere on the scoreboard getting pounded – remember that everyone, good or bad, basically wins 60 and loses 60 and these games happen to all teams). So, the Rox are swept out of SF. Not a rarity to be honest. But really stinks after the good start. They did get 7 hits. But once again one member of the pen stunk up the joint, with Volstad getting hammered for 3 runs in less than 2 innings, but worse, 7 hits in that short outing. I really am wondering if Volstad is suited for the pen. I still think he could be a decent starter, but we shall see. Good thing there is an off day.
7-5 ROCKIES OVER PADRES
Now, yes, its San Diego, but the team that wore these jerseys last year would not be 5-0 against this team, and they need wins bad teams to help off-set their record against tougher teams. This game had a bit of everything. After two consecutive games without quality starts, they got the second of the season from John Garland. Six innings of 5 hit, 3 run ball. The one walk and one homer were off-set by 4Ks. If ge gives the Rox this over the whole season he might be the best FA pickup (especially for the price) in the bigs. And then the pen blew up again. Wilton Lopez is a different story from Ottivinio and Volstad. Wilton has been a pen stud before, as recent as last year, in the bandbox that is in Houston. I think we will get it worked out (it’s still only 11 games in). With Ottivinio I have my doubts, until he can control the strike zone. I still also believe that Volstad might better serve us in COS getting ready for an injury in the rotation. Anyways Lopez cost Garland a win and nearly cost the team the game. But wait, here is one of those games where unlike Tuesday against SF, they found a way to win. Brother and Bettencourt pitched 2 innings of 1 hit with 3K ball. In the 8th they took advantage of a walk and an error to set-up Todd Helton (can we say he is getting back into rhythm) double and a Rosario groundout (showing maturity as a hitter by not focusing on the 3Ks to get the ball in play and score a runner from 3rd with less than 2 outs – the single most important things aside from starting pitcher that the Roxs must do to win. And then some guy who has stolen the body of Dexter Fowler hit another homer followed by Rutledge’s first of the year (think Josh has quietly been finding his stride and is going to be a solid .280/15hr guy who will play great D). So 4 runs over the final 2 innings in a game they could have hung their head about after seeing Garland’s solid start wasted. They could have totally mailed it in after the sweep in SF. But this team is not, repeat, not the 2012 team. And while I still worry about Weiss and the pen management (and he is a horrible interview but who cares, I still like you Walt), he has really given this team a desire to win that was missing since 2010. So, a great recovery game.
9-5 ROCKIES OVER PADRES
If the Rox are going to have good season and maybe even make noise in August and September, they have to win on nights when their starter is not his best. Joulys Chacin is clearly the #1 on this staff, and a night like this shows you why. He had at best his C stuff tonight, which if you talk to big league pitchers that is the reality about 1/3 of the time. Over the history of this club we rarely have had guys who can pitch well when his stuff is in the C category. Chacin wasnt dominant and yes, this is not a great lineup he was facing (though some growing young batters out there like Cabrerra). He left with only giving 2 run, and smartly Weiss pulled him before things got bad, which denied him a QS, but he got the win without requiring the O to put up double-digit runs. Nice hitting and running all the way through the lineup and that on a night when the air was heavy (notice that CarGo shot – thought it was Friday night when it would have been deep and gone – and might have had a triple but it didn’t matter in the end). A little worrying that after the 6th the offense went dormant, but if you cannot win on the road with 9 runs, there are bigger issues. Tonight we got to see Baby Bull shake off the bad Friday night, destroying a pitch to the very deep of the night. Cuddy added another one off a big curve that he missed earlier in the AB. They got 3SBs (going to be more and more important as the season goes along), and also had a caught stealing on the D side. The 14 hits felt good, with Todd moving his average up to .241 over the past two nights. Everyone but Josh Rutledge got a hit, and he scored 3 runs with 2 of the steals. While Escalona gave up 2 runs in his 2 innings on one barely over the fence homer and another absolute bomb (I am betting they told him, just go out there and throw strikes, and he did for the most part), the rest of the pen had a nice night. If my count is right they have had 7 QS out of the 11 games, winning 2 of the other non-QS, having 1 QS be a blow-out and the other a pen-blow-up issue. So, not bad this far into the season. If Chacin can win his starts when he is struggling with his stuff, this team is in good shape.
So there you are. While many fair-weathered fans were busy burning their Rockies gear, the week was a .500 week, 3-3. I really do not get the pessimistic fan at this point. Why bother even following the game. Do you enjoy being miserable. Look, last year it was clear things were going bad. I wasn’t lying to myself, but I was looking for some good signs somewhere. But 11 games into the year on a team that is 7-4, thinking Keith Law is right that we are going to end up in the 56-58 win area…why would you think this? Just don’t follow the team and save the anger. The next two weeks are important. tomorrow they get the chance for their second sweep of the season and the chance to return home with a .500 road-trip, with and 8-4 record, maybe in 1st place. Then we get 10 games at home, but a tough group with 4 against a tough Mets team, 3 against the DBacks, the team I picked to win the West, and then 3 against the team I think will win the NL East, the Braves, followed by their first road trip after an extended time at Coors that starts with the DBacks and then the Dodgers. So we shall see how the Sunday lineup goes tomorrow. There are no off-days until the 30th, so not only would a win be key for the practical reason, it will give an extra boost they will need as the team takes on that challenge. Also, we should see the first roster move sometime next week as the team looks to balance their excess of IF depth for another arm.
Personally, it has been about as good of a first 2 weeks as we could hope for, as only the Braves and Giants have more wins so far (and the Giants have played one more game). So how about some optimism out there fans – this team has pitched well, it has been very entertaining, and really its weakest part thus far is the one that is perhaps easiest to fix and should be their long-term strength – the pen. I feel like singing the whole score to Annie right now….but I won’t.