What can we say….we have seen way too much of this lately.
First lets talk about the starting pitching. Juan Nicasio has a great arm. He is such a tempting talent. This year we were told he added a split-finger that would work as a change-up. But the truth is…he is very fortunate to play with a great defensive team and….he is not as good as his stats say. His ERA coming into tonight was 3.61. But if you use the fielding independent ERA (taking out park and how good your defense is) was 4.85. The great defense he has behind him has kept him a full run better than he actually was. I would say that Juan has been doing with smoke and mirrors to put it bluntly. He got through the Atlanta game without giving up any runs in 6 innings largely due to how over-swinging the Braves were that day. But it tempts you, you start to think, maybe Juan really is pretty good.
Tonight we saw what Juan is like when he isn’t lucky. The three singles in the first that gave up a run (again with 2 outs!), okay, that happens in the 1st to a lot of pitchers. The next three innings he was solid. Which takes us to the 5th. While the BA each time through doesn’t go up that much, the OPS – On-base + Slugging, does. 1st time through Juan gives up only a .709 OPS. It jumps to .790 2nd time and .815 3rd time through. Oh and while he struggles to start games (first 25 pitches – BA, .302, OBP, .327, OPS .912) he cruises along til he gets to pitches 75-100 (BA .280, OBP .333, OPS .813) So in the 5th, his pitch count climbing well over 75, here is what happened:
- Gave up double on a really good pitch to David Murphy.
- Throws a horrible pitch that is hammered to deep center where Charlie Blackmon leaped and might have stolen a homer-run! Great catch. Murphy goes to 3rd. Horrible pitch.
- Michael Bourn pounds a 93 mph 4-seame right back up the middle (almost or did hit Juan who, broken neck understood, has to field his position better because that could have been a big out that kept the runner at 3rd). It scores Murphy and now its 1 out and a man at 1st, a man with speed, that gets Nicasio focused elsewhere. Game now tied at 2-2.
- Facing Asdrubal Cabrerra who could not catch-up to a fastball tonight (slider-speed bat as they say, at least with the temps in Clevland tonight), a guy hitting .246 with an OPS of .693 (or marginally better than DJ) and in a 1-1 camp, throws a slider…a hanging slider…that flew deep into the stands. Score 4-2. All of this happened quickly as Nicasio had a strong 3 prior innings but was elevated in pitch count. Sadly, this meant that Tommy Kahnle was not up at the start of the inning and had to get ready quick.
- Next up Michael Brantley, their most dangerous hitter, on a 1-0 count crushes one deep to center for a double.
- He gets helped out by Jason Kipnis (who the Rockies despereratly tried to get included in the Ubaldo trade in 2011 but Clevland knew they had a future stud, and said no), helped out grounding out to 1st, allowing the runner to move to 3rd.
- Lonnie Chisenhall, who already drove in a run in the 1st , is up. Is Kahnle not ready? Or is Weiss trying to get one more hitter out of Nicasio (in an AL park, not as big an issue with DH). Guessing Kahnle not ready. He gets ahead of the hitter 1-2 but his 4-seamer, which was 93 earlier in the inning, is only at 90, and it gets turned into a double. Score 5-2. Nicasio gone. Kahnle on. Team dejected.
A few weeks earlier I wrote an open letter to management saying “It is time – we need to see at least two of the prospects up here because Morales and Nicasio are not 4th and 5th starters of a team trying to make the playoffs. You can see the letter and sign-on here. http://jaredb17.sg-host.com/2014/05/19/an-open-letter-to-dan-odowd-and-walt-weiss-time-to-make-a-change/
That was May 19th. Morales went out on the 20th and gave them 6IP of 1ER ball and then next got bombed out of Atlanta. Nicasio game them the 6IP 0ER in Atlanta and tonight’s disaster. I know these are the 4th and 5th starters, and they are replacements for Anderson and Chatwood, but they are both at least 6 weeks away. What is more in baseball, if you choose not to skip pitchers – which we do not in large part to keep Jorge De La Rosa healthy as he and Lyles carry the staff – then your 4th and 5th are as important as your #1 and #2 starters. With Chacin still not himself (was he rushed?) these performances are really starting to hurt this team. They not only are losing games but burning up the bullpen. Both Franklin and Juan have talent…but they are not talented enough to be starting every 5th day.
The thing about tonight was they were facing the Indians #1 pitcher, a 28-year old 2nd season thrower named Corey Kubler. Kubler didn’t really break in until last year, but has a strike-out machine since – getting 136 in 147.1 last year. It is a great reminder when we see pitchers at 25 or 26 still in the minors and say “non-prospect.” Kubler and McHugh (not as good as Kubler) are both 27+, but it took them a while to figure out to use their talents. It was the same thing with Carlos Gomez (Brewers) and Chris Davis (Baltimore), position players who went from prospect to barely in the majors and then figured it out and became not just All-Stars, but MVP vote-getters. It is why the team is not rushing their talented pitching prospects. We do understand that – you want guys to succeed up here when they get here. But not every player takes to 27 to figure it out – some do great when they get to the show because they are ready. At this point players like Butler and Winkler do not have anything left to show or learn at AA – so bring them COS or Denver but they need better challenges. Tyler Matzek has been through a lot but okay, if you say he needs more time…how long? Sorry, for interlude on age and prospects. Back to Cory Kubler (and don’t you wish we had asked for him in the Ubaldo deal instead of Alex White).
This year he has been their only good pitcher, coming in at 5-3 with a 3.10. But in May? Before the game he was 3-0 in 5 games, 2.02 ERA. Add to that 48Ks in 35.2 innings! The Rockies got to him in the 4th with a double by Dickerson and then a nice homer by CarGo (who looked as good as he has all year it seemed). That gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead. Tonight was a night they needed their starter to at least got 5 and hold the door. Had Nicasio, they might have done it (the pen was fantastic tonight, with TK going 2.1 and only having 2 walks as an issue, Matt B looking great, and Masset throwing as nasty as all year). But with Kubler on the mound, once behind it was over. He set a new record for Indians Ks in the month of May – and think how old the Indians are and all the great pitcher they had – heck Bob Feller! Kubler Kd 12 Rox, their pen got 3 more. The Rox managed only 5 hits. Everyone, aside the Dickerson double and CarGo homer looked over-matched and out-of-sync.
So at this point the team is 2-5 for the road trip. They had a chance to win the 1st game in Atlanta, but lost it after the tying the game when the pen gave up an 8th inning run. They won the next day 3-1 (Nicasio at work), got bombed the final game of the series, went to Phili, got bombed the first game (Chacin), had DLR do what he does – win games, then lost the heart-break in Phili 6-3, thought granted they were only up 3-2. Then tonight they had lead in the 5th 2-1. Tonight they had to steal one against a pitcher who right now is throwing fantastic – not just against the Rockies but everyone – and it didn’t happen. Yes, the Indians hitters get credit as well, but tonight was one of those nights we needed our starter to just hold the line. They needed Nicasio to get through that 5th. He didn’t…but maybe that is just who Juan is. He is a good pitches 25-74, and aside from that, he is not good enough.
So where do they go? They have two games more on this trip. They throw Franklin Morales again tomorrow against a very talented Trevor Bauer has just 3 starts, is 1-2 and his ERA is 3.86. In 16.1 IP he has already struck-out 21 batters, not good for a Rockies team that is struggling at the plate. Last night Root kept talking about how the Rockies have struck-out the least. Well, on the road – they have stuck out 7th most in the majors – 229X before last night vs just 78 BB. The good news is that Bauer has a WHIP of 1.52. So he can be hit. His FIP ERA is 5.32, so if the Rockies are patient…they can get hits and win tomorrow. And then Sunday, Chacin steps up against Josh Tomlin, who is 3-2, ERA 3.04. Alas, his WHIP is .97. So he is pretty good, though his FIP ERA is 4.29, so he is not unbeatable either. He has just the 5 games, with 4 starts. This is not Jose Fernandez. But if they swing like they did Friday night…they will make him look it.
The team is still 2 games plus side of .500. They have stunk the past 3 weeks. As in 6-12 bad! But the great thing about baseball is they play 162 of them. If the Rockies manage to win the next two games, the road trip becomes a 4-5 trip. They feel much better about the whole thing. Right now the Giants, who are as a number of analysts have proven out based on statistical numbers the luckiest team in baseball. But they are what they are – 1st place team by 6 games. All the Rox can do is take care of Saturday and then Sunday. The team has taken some big shots – with too many pen games lost (2-8), too many starters on the DL (3), too many 3B injured (1 – Nolan), and not enough good ABs. But as disappointed as I am with this team, I am not giving up and I don’t think they are giving up yet either. But…we all need a change soon!