IT ALL STARTS WITH PITCHING
This has been a tough week for the Rockies organization. Dick Monfort answered a fan complaint in a way we all have at some point, but in a way that no owner of a club should EVER do. Then he gave an interview that was Wiley Coyote-esque in furthering the damage. Across the baseball world national writers began to speculate not only on trades of Tulo, CarGo, and Morneua, but of Jon Grey, Eddie Butler, Dinger, and the Rooftop at Coors. And then just to rub salt in the wound, Justin Morneau lost out to Rizzo from the Cubs, who yes had 20 dingers, but is not an overall quality player, while Justin has been good to great in every category. What a week. If I am right, they are also on now a 15 game losing streak, right?
As of matter of fact no! Yes, the ownership blow-up was big – but it may result in the team getting going on filling areas of need within the organizational structure (and we know what such changes CAN do, whenthey added Mark Wiley two years ago and I think we can all agree the growth in our younger pitching group has already risen to near-excitement level – and almost all of it – with the exception of the gift of Grey – can be traced back to Wiley and his change in all-things-pitching). Morneau did lose out on the AS bid, but we get to see him launch bombs into the Target night which is good enough.
And on the field, this team has started to not only get healthy, but has started to play baseball like the did when they were healthy. Before the deluge, this team was known for good enough to solid starting pitching, good to occasionally great pen work, fantastic to 70s Baltimore Orioles level defense, and offense that went from power to timley hitting. Now, I will grant you beating the Pads and Twins isn’t a great measure of a team’s excellence, but a three game winning streak deserves notice.
On a night when the starting 8 was just about what you expected on March 30th to see everyday (with essentially Stubbs for Cuddy, a smart move how hot Stubbs has been…plus Cuddy still can’t scratch his back yet), the team played a solid to near great game.
The starting pitching featured the greatest left-hander in Rockies history (and not just in terms of wins which he now is the leader in for the team), as Jorge De La Rosa, on a night when his cutter didn’t cut so well, pitched another 6-inning, 1 run outing. Spreading 6 hits and 1 walk across 6 innings (and 102 pitches, the one aspect that can tell you when DLR is not quite healthy – pitch counts), adding in 3Ks. What would Jorge look like if he was healthy?
The trade market for DLR got hotter last night, as he is the 2nd best option to David Price on the market, and he would likely bring a good haul this year (based on last year’s market for Bud Norris, a far less polished and highly rated pitcher). The Rox are left with a dilemma – if they think they can still make a run you keep if but if you are out of contention do you trade him, get the haul and then go into FA with the question of whether or not you can get back the team’s all-time best pitchner, the only true master of Coors? This is a tough decision. Assuming the team isn’t about to blow things up – and as I said recently, after the past 3.5 season, the fans cannot tolerate 3 more such seasons as we have seen with the Stros, plus the team is about to have a flow of its best pitching talent in history and do you want that happening in a rebuild period? And if they are not blowing it up and are going for it in 2015….can you do so without DLR? So on a good night for the Rox best pitcher, it still ends up feeling like it just adds more unease to the ballclub.
DLR was followed by the bad Rex show, as he faced 3 batters, allowing 2 singles but, at least no walks. So with 2 on and 1 out, in came the Zero, who has come back the past few weeks to reclaim that name. Ottovino struck out pinch-hitter Josh Willingham, issued a walk on a great AB from Brian Dozier, and then got Kurt Suzuki, a fairly fleet catcher, out on a play that reminds you why Tulo is untradeable to this team in so many ways:
DOES ANYONE MAKE THIS PLAY LOOK THIS EASY?
Yea, as roxnsox said on the chat board and I am sure many in the stands said, “TULO!, TULO!, TULO!” – take that Andrellton Simmons! Get that Gold Glove ready for 20th and Blake!
The 8th was a bit disappointing and Boone Logan at times looked awesome, throwing 95mph dart and a nasty slider to the back foot of right-handed power hitter Kendrys Morales. But 2 sharp singles set men at 3rd and 1st, and he threw a great pitch to shatter the bat of LF Nunez, but it therefore was to slow rolling to get 2. But he came back to get a nice K on the SS Escobar. Not a horrible inning, but Boone is still just not on. I do wonder about the market for Logan. We shall see, even if the Rox are still in it, as they might use their lefty depth elsewhere (including Morales once the rotation gets well) to fill the 2nd lefty spot.
The 9th was ideal with a 1-2-3 inning (although homer-run derby contestant Brian Dozier hit one all the way to the edge of the wall in left for the 3rd out).
So solid to very good starting, good pen work.
The defense was about as good as it has been all year, with the exception of another WP, this one by DLR, when a runner was at 2nd, allowing him to move to 3rd (it didn’t end up mattering when a double drove him in, but…we all know what WP and passed balls have done to lose double-play chances or set-up runs). But why focus there.
Already talked Tulo. How about the return of the great CarGo – showing off a knee that looked strong, he charged with that easy stride a single in right field (his new home and proof that Cuddy is going to get dealt before September 1 in my opinion), he taught Brian Dozier you do not run on CarGo (his playing RF is going to really cut down on 1st to 3rds). Has to be seen to be enjoyed:
One of the 5 best throws I have seen from RF in the past decade. And then you had the usual assortment of fantastic plays by Arenado that would be get flashing stars but…its Nolan, its just what he does. Oh, and just for fun, another great double-play featuring a nice stop by DJ, a option QB flip to Tulo and that makes 2 when he threw a bullet to first.
We had a good discussion on one of the post yesterday that RMH had about whether, according to the SABR stats that its just pitching killing the Rox. But last night showed how D impacts a game. While its true that some fielding is taken care of in stats like Fielding Indy Pitching ERA, those stats miss the mental impact of defense. The Rox for the past 2 years have preached, “throw it low, let them hit it, trust your guys.” It’s a good strategy with the team they had out there last night. But now when you have Culberson at 2nd and Cuddy or Rutledge at 3rd, when you have anyone other than Tulo at SS, when your outfield in RF and CF don’t have arms like Stubbs and CarGo or the ability to run down balls that all 3 last night can. If you don’t trust your D a pitcher goes into two modes – I have to K everyone and I have to nibble to avoid getting a pitch too close to the hitter zone. Both are the path to quick exits. That is not measurable by any stat because a lot of this game is played between the ears. With the defense last night, Rox pitchers can challenge hitters and trust the 8 guys are going to catch it. That is a huge change.
Oh right…offense, forgot the last part. While the stats say this is the best offensive team ever for the Rox (relative to league performance which is way down this year). But we know better watching this team. Since early May this team has scuffled, especially on the road, but also in late inning situations and with RISP. The answer of late has been the long-ball, and it continued, as they have still only had 2 runs score other than the long-ball this whole week. This offense since early May has not been at its best or potential. That being said, 6 runs matters.
The first saw the new standard, homer to open the frame:
After a line-drive single from Blackmon in stepped Drew Stubbs who has killed lefty pitching all year…and still is with his 10th homer on a bomb to deep left-center.
In the second the team showed they can, when pressed, score a run without a homer. It started with a triple by that noted speedster Nolan Arenado:
And he was driven in by Wilin Rosario, who is slowly starting to get hot, hitting .278 in June and .250 in July. A hot 2nd half (assuming he is still in Colorado) will be key to any run or even shot at .500. But an RBI with a runner at 3rd and no-outs, is big given recent issues.
Sadly, they wasted the rest of the inning. DJ followed with a single, a DLR bunt got it to 2nd and 3rd, with 1 out, but All Star Charlie B struck-out as did Stubbs. For the game they were 1-3 for RISP.
But why worry about all that hard work when you can hit bombs. In what we all hope is the return the great past, the two guys everyone is sure are gone before too long, added runs in just 2 step. In the bottom of the 3rd you can have CarGo single and then Tulo hit #21 (is he ready for this Derby or what), taking the pitch where it was thrown to just over the stands in right field:
And to show they can add runs after building the lead, and that they have a very good pinch-hitter, Brandon Barnes stepped up in the 7th and using a 3-iron drilled one into the left-field stands, and important step forward for a guy hitting just .120 over the past 28 days (6-54), though he is now 11-35 as a starter (.314).
Overall they had 11 hits in 32 ABs, for a .280 average. And they did K 6 times on the evening in just 8 innings. But, that is quibbling. It was a game that really looked more like April 25th rather than June 25th, and it shows how all the little pieces of this team can fit together to make them dangerous, tough, and tenacious.
That is now 3 in a row, all built on solid pitching (remember, Jurrjens gave them 4 innings of 1 run ball before the gas tank was clearly empty), with 1 run allowed during each starters non-weary innings. They need their starters to go longer yes. But they are getting closer and closer. And even better news. Not only was it made official last night that Brett Anderson is starting on Sunday, following Tyler Matzek on Saturady. Eddie Butler is heading to Modesto for his first re-hab start with a target of July 21 to be back in the rotation. And Jordan Lyles had a good batting practice and is heading to AA Tulsa and will be back in the rotation on July 27. So, by the end of the month you should have DLR, Matzek, Anderson, Butler and Lyles as your starting 5. That should get your excited. And Masset will be back around the same time.
Best of all it means we miss the Brett Tomko era of the Colorado Rockies.
3 in a row…two more at home before they head to the break. Then to Pittsburg where we will probably face Volquez, Morton, and Liriano (all pitchers they can beat) and then back home. Yes, they have the Nats at home and then the Pirates following that , followed by 4 with the Cubs at Wrigley. That is the schedule before the trading deadline. Can they perform well enough to get all the way into the Wild Card race? They are still 10.5 back. No idea if its possible (my goal is just to have this team get to .500 for the season to excite things for 2015, but I know this…last night is the recipe.
Health is the key. Rather than listen to silly local writers or national guys who know nothing about the Rockies, listen to Tracy Ringolsby, the best national writer in the biz but one who knows the Rox: