Is Something Wrong with Jorge De La Rosa? Sorry, this will be a long answer to a short question, but to see the truth about Jorge we need to look at what has actually happened when he is on the mound. You might be surprised if you only look at the stats.
So two starts with no wins, a high ERA, and an emotional mess. If you read the Denver Post Sunday, you will see Woody Paige trying to create a “it the Titanic as they see the iceberg” view of DLR. As the resident Rockies optimist, I think this is a lot stress and worry about at this point, nothing.
I read through Jorge’s history on baseballreferne.com (if you have not visited that site, you should. I have been able to do everything from seeing how great Stan Musial was in each year to finding the box scores to ever game I have seen in person). Jorge has ups and downs. Sometimes is April’s are decent, sometimes bad, and sometimes pretty good. In his career you do see that April is his worst month for K/9, but that is about. Pitching is about rhythm and confidence, just as much as hitting. We see all the time that a pitcher has a break-out year and then you get to the next April and they are not that same guy. Sometimes it takes a while to get back to it, and sometimes it doesn’t happen all season.
At first I thought Jorge was that kind of guy. I was wrong. 2009 he was 16-9 but with a 4.38 ERA with a WHHIP of 1.378. 2010 in just 20 games he was 8-7 with a 4.22 ERA and a WHIP of 1.315. 2013 (lets skip his two injury years) he was 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA and a WHIP of 1.384.
The ERA has gone down each of his years, but that WHIP is pretty consistent. Some might say he is lucky to have such good records and a declining ERA. But, he has actually shown a good ability to get the key outs. Good hitters get hits and will work out walks. But key Ks and pitching to good defense is the way that guys who are not aces (and Jorge is not an ace but can be a decent #1 but a very good #2).
This year things look awful. But are they? In Miami through 4 innings he had given up the one hit, a towering homer by Ozuna, and had 6Ks, 2BBs (in the 4th) 5GO/1FO. In other words, he was very good. He was matching Fernandez pretty much pitch for pitch (again save the homer). Then came the 5th. Yes, hit emotions ate him up. Yes, he could not get his calls with Rosario (I think had the issues not appeared in that start in spring training may have planted a seed). But the 5th opened with Ozuna getting another solid hit, this time a double (can’t find the average for Ozuna vs DLR, but he was on DLR like he was Ted Williams). So man on 2nd, he can’t get the right pitches with Rosario (second time with man on 2nd, in the 4th after 2BB, he Kd the next hitter). I think DLR was frustrated with the way Ozuna was all over him. He gives up a single to Hechaveria, a light hitting SS (can’t remember if it was solid or not). Fernandez gets a bunt down. A seeing eye infield hit that should have been an out to the lead-off hitter. And then next was a HBP on Baker. Other than the two swings to Ozuna, no one squared him up, he was still throwing great. But the combination of the failure to get in-sync with Rosario, the infield single – he lost his mental control. Yes, this is a guy who before 2009 was a head case – power arm, weak head. This is true of a lot of guys in the minors and even majors. They turned him into the pitcher he could be in Colorado. In Coors field! But if Lopez doesn’t come in and do what Lopez has done all his Rockies career (as opposed to what we have seen from guys like Ontavino and Kahlene so far this year) and let in the next 4 runs, DLR leaves that game, yes early, but with a decent line.
Last night, he did not have his best stuff. Interestingly his velocity is significantly up over 2013, and last night it was very good. But his secondary stuff wasn’t getting over. Pitchers have to work through this, we all know. The first he was able to get Ks on the first two guys with some hard throwing. Then he walks Goldschmidt (I think that was one of those – I don’t want to mess with this guy, so the walk on a 3-2 count). The bad thing is that to get to this point it was already 19 pitches. Ks are great, but they simply use up pitches. He gives up a big hit to Prado that gives up a run (7 pitch AB), another BB (6 pitches another 3-2 count BB), and then the toughest AB, a 10 pitch 3-2 count K. So, just the one run, 3Ks, but without his best stuff he was nibbling, leading to the 42 pitch inning. At that point he was going to have to be perfect to get through the 5th. The second alas was a repeat of the 1st. A single and SB for Owings then a K (10 pitches total at this point). Then the one that hurt, the first pitch E3 on 1Bto the pitcher! Owings scores. Gets another GO and his first FO. 21 more pitches and a run when he should have gotten out of the inning on 15 pitches without any runs. Third innings, still not sharp but doing his best to keep the team in it. He gets a FO on a sharply hit ball to Goldy, then Prado gets a weak infield hit. Then he gives up a homer to simply on fire hitter (I thought it was great to get away from Stanton but Trumbo is trying to make us think he is Stanton!) – Mark Trumbo does what he does, hits it out – team is down by 4 just like that (got behind 2-1, and when he is up in the count Trumbo is hard to get out right now). But he doesn’t let it get to him this time. Yes a deep flyout to Montero and then a GO from Owings. 18 pitches, 2 runs, but if the defense turns that infield single into an out, its 1 run and only 15 pitches. To his credit, next inning, a 1-2-3 inning, on 12 pitches, with 2GO and 1FO.
DLR was not sharp, but his defense didn’t help him. The error in the 2nd and the infield hit in the 3rd cost him arguably 2 runs and at least 9 pitches. He is essentially got to have 10 pitch 5th to stay in, verses having potentially 20 pitches and only being behind 2 runs rather than 4, which would have had him up going into the 5th 3-2. Instead, its 4-2 and he has to be perfect. A 4 pitch FO, then a 6 pitch BB to Goldy (he looked both ragged at this point and wanted nothing to do with Goldschmidt). 101 pitches, and he is gone.
When we just look at the bottom line on a pitcher we get the wrong impression of a pitcher. Focusing on just two innings also isn’t helpful. Yes the 5th in Miami and the 1st in Coors were innings he cannot have if he is going to lead this staff. But, it is still April, he is still trying to find his grove.
If Lopez doesn’t implode and the defense doesn’t fail DLR, his actual stats would look vastly different. But the bigger issue is – do we panic? No! We want DLR to be the ace of this staff. He needs to lead them –especially as so far Anderson has not looked like a guy who was a #1 in Oakland.
DLR needs to get his head straight. The defense needs to play the way we all expect them to each day. He needs to bring better stuff each night, and control his newly recovered velocity. He can do this – he is simply not in sync. Give him a few more starts, let us see how the month progresses. And yes, lets see how he does with Rosario behind the plate (FYI Woody, Rosario needed a day off and Rosario is the only guy who hits Miley well on this team, so yes, Pacheco caught him last night – Rosario is going to start opening day at Coors, and he plays against the guy he hits hard, so Saturday was Pacheco’s game. Woody is focusing on the issues – they are real. I am looking at a guy who has actually pitched decently – more like a #3 than a #1, but not horrible.
There are things to worry about. Anderson’s failure (ground ball pitchers do sometimes run into everyone finding the holes, so yes I might be worrying too early here) to be a solid #2. The pen in Miami was stretched but help is coming. The problem this team has against guys who change speeds on you – something this team has always struggled against, especially at home where they get too anxious at bat. Still, this team is holding together. Tulo seems not himself yet. Rosario is off slow. But, for me, I am not really worried.
Then again I am the world’s most optimistic Rockies fan. Baseball is 162 games, which means we get to enjoy 6 months of fun, ups and downs, and hopes. No reason to panic…but lots to keep our attention focused on.