What’s Wrong With Our Rox?

2011 was supposed to be an aberration. The team that was picked to win the division on the way to the World Series, by many a prognosticator, ended up in the basement with many fingers pointing all different directions.

Not a problem. Chalk it up to team culture and clean house was the answer.

So, the monster trade of Ubaldo Jimenez at the end of July, shedding slothful servants in the clubhouse was the mantra for the winter meetings. Under-performing Stewart? Gone. Under-performing Iannetta? Gone. Smith, Street, Reynolds, Hammel, Lindstrom, etc. etc. etc.

It was a Winter Meeting fire sale.

The culture was wrong. The team was suffering because of under-performing from the field and on the mound. The team just wasn’t living up to its 2007 high water mark.

Ah, that 2007 season and its baby brother, 2009. The mighty albatross of expectations that fans have been holding onto like a ratty baby blanket. Those magical seasons will never happen again, really shouldn’t happen again, because both were “lightning in a bottle” type of moments. One season needed a miracle, going 21 – 1 to take the big stage while the other hinged on the firing of Clint Hurdle, after going 18 – 28, to spark another unlikely run to the playoffs.

Do the Rockies need to suck to succeed?

PITCHING

2010 was the “Year of the Pitcher”, and the Rockies had the best arm on the mound.

Pitching wins games.  Everything is contingent on pitching.  You build a team around pitching.

Pick your phrase, but please don’t forget the meaning behind the words: Pitching is king.

So, when you enter a season and the one single unifying voice between the news outlets and fan site combined is that the pitching for the Rockies was completely questionable and it would be a miracle if they competed at all, you have to wonder why anyone would be surprised after the 33rd game of the season that our starting pitching is a combined 6 – 12 and scraping bottom in almost all of the statistics.

One of the biggest red flags? Matt Reynolds has the most wins on the team.  A reliever has more wins than any of the starters.

HITTING

Is it the Coors Field Effect?

Fans hate the phrase.  The Hall of Fame will have to deal with it come Helton inductee time.  Is the altitude of Coors to blame for the team hitting going missing on the road?

Is it mental?  Is it physical?

There are those that say it doesn’t matter.  And those that say it does.

But, one thing is for certain: this team isn’t hitting on the road.

With one of the most impressive lineups since the Blake St. Bombers, at least on paper, hitting wasn’t supposed to be an issue this year.  All of the trades made during the winter meetings seemed to focus around shedding under-performing  bats and bringing in lumber that could launch the ball to new heights.

Cuddyer, Hernandez, Scutaro and Blake were all supposed to beef up a lineup in ways we hadn’t seen in years.

For the most part it worked.

Blake was a bust and Scutaro hasn’t been anywhere near his 2011 numbers, but Cuddyer and Hernandez both proved they belonged on a team that honored hitting above all else.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the scoreboard.

Tulo didn’t show up.

You can’t blame the Coors Effect for the approach you get from Tulo with runners on.

You can’t blame the Coors Effect for the approach you get from Tulo with nobody on.

You can only blame Tulo for his home run or bust cuts on each and every swing.

Troy Tulowitzki, as anyone can see, is going through another rough spot at the plate.  His desire to be the best that ever played is quickly turning him into an over swinging bundle of negative.  He knows it and we know it.  Tracy just seemed to figure it out as he moved Tulo down to fifth in the lineup.

But, Tulo isn’t alone.  Tulo isn’t the reason we put up 19 hits over the three game sweep to the Dodgers.

So, is it acclimating after altitude that has our boys bumbling?  Or, is it just not understanding how to hit in key situations?

Say what you will about Jim Tracy as a manager, but his mini speech to the team in San Diego about treating the next few ballparks differently, by not going for broke at every bat, was sage advice.

Too bad it fell on deaf ears.

FIELDING

If there was one thing that was key coming into 2012, one aspect of the game that was a given, it was the gloves.  If pitching wins games then fielding saves pitching.

You can’t strike out every hitter every time.

Balls get put into play.  Gloves have to be used.

The Rockies have an excellent history of great fielding.  Helton is one of the best gloves you will ever find at first base in the history of the game.  Tulo, CarGo and Dex were all considered impenetrable if a ball was hit their way.

So, with a struggling presence on the mound then every single ball launched into the field of play becomes even more important.  Getting that ball to the proper bag becomes a must.

In 2007 the Rockies made MLB history with their fielding percentage at .989.   Last year they were 13th at .984.  This season so far they are 23rd with a .979 and 26 errors.  They only made 68 errors in all of 2007.

It is worth repeating: if we aren’t pitching well then we better darn well be fielding.

MANAGING

Many fans call for the head of the team when they body isn’t winning.  The shouts for Tracy, Apodaca and O Dowd’s heads on a plate get louder with every loss, especially series losses, not to mention sweeps.

On the one hand, it is Tulo’s hand on the bat making those horrible swings, not Carney’s.

On the other hand, it is Esmil on the mound walking batter after batter while Tracy is just sitting there watching.

The players are the ones playing the game, this is true.  The argument that the owners and managers shouldn’t be the scapegoats for poor play is only as true when viewed against the idea that the players are only as good as the support they are given.  If that support isn’t solid then they are setup to fail.

So, how is this team setup to fail?  It all comes back to pitching. Pitching was the big question mark and management knew that as much as anyone.

If the owners wanted to give their guys a chance on the field, they would have brought in the best on the mound.

It is completely demoralizing having to field behind starters that have consistently failed to see a seventh inning or later.

 

When all is said and done, pitching is king and pitching is what has been neglected for too long.  Coors will only see the loyal gracing the seats and eating the treats for so long before they recognize that their hard-earned dollars aren’t being spent judiciously.  Ownership needs to recognize what every single player, reporter and fan has been saying all along: you can’t win games with our rotation on a consistent basis.  Period.

 


I’d like to thank D The Ranter for the use of the images above.  His blog Rockpile Rant has not only excellent insight from an excellent fan, but some of the coolest pictures you will ever see.  Go check it out!

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sam
sam
8 years ago

Great article I still say its Tracy and O’Dowd, there was a reason tracy was fired by the Dodgers and Pirates 4 out of his last 6 managerial seasons have been below .500 he makes bad in game decisions and his lineup decisions are very poor at times IMO, O’Dowd is an idiot plain and simple NO ROTATION HELP IN THE OFFSEASON WTF!!!

Miketober
Miketober
8 years ago

I’m tired of hearing the excuse that Tulo is “trying too hard”. It reminds me of a AA little league game where a kid swings and misses by a foot a pitch over his head, and all the well meaning parents say “wow, great swing” and “way to be a hitter, Billy.” Tulo is a professional and should understand about taking a controlled swing, situational hitting, and letting the game come to him. If he hasn’t learned that by now… Read more »

SteveinAurora
SteveinAurora
8 years ago
Reply to  Miketober

I guess I would expect Tulo’s big brother…Jason Giambi…to take him aside and explain some of these things to him, as well as anyone else on the team that is struggling. Isn’t that one of the main reasons that he was brought back??

sdcarp
Admin
sdcarp
8 years ago

So to keep the discussion on track, the question is “what’s wrong with the Rox?” I have a couple of big picture “wrongs:” 1. Pitching development. We’ve drafted some guys generally considered pretty darn good by most scouts (most recently, Matzak and Friedrich come to mind). They get into the organization and tend to make a splash very early, then regress…..in some cases very significantly. This makes me think the Rox are trying to make major mechanical changes to them.… Read more »

Pooter
Pooter
8 years ago

I agree with your comments on Tulo. I think the first step to fixing this team and Tulo is moving him out of the cleanup spot. I am very glad Tracy was finally able to do that yesterday. This is the lineup I would like to see: EYJ CF It is time to give him a shot! Scutaro 2B Cuddyer RF Cargo LF Tulo SS Helton 1b Hernandez C Herrera 3B This group in the rotation needs to step up!!!… Read more »

OrangeRocks
OrangeRocks
8 years ago

In the middle of a terrible Rockies losing stretch no one wants to hear it however really it is NOT the starting pitching, as they have pitched just about as expected sans the ace (Guthrie) and his bike accident. If you look at the statistics the Rockies offense seems on paper to be fine, however it is far from being what it should be. All those extra hits and runs in those home game blow outs cumulatively hide some awful… Read more »

rockymountainhigh
rockymountainhigh
8 years ago
Reply to  OrangeRocks

Hammel wasn’t consistent for years and had never pitched the whole year. Lindstrom was a bit inconsistent. He didn’t strike out batters as much as you think he would given his decent velocity. Rockies was looking for a starater who can give us 200 innings year after year. So I think it was a good trade. If you haven’t heard, Hammel has got knee problems and he’s missed his last start. After only four starts you are calling Guthrie below… Read more »

Ryan
Ryan
8 years ago

Guthrie is going to be a free agent after this season, so if they were looking for someone “who can give us 200 innings year after year” they looked in the wrong place.

OrangeRocks
OrangeRocks
8 years ago

That would be “very average” not below average based on Guthrie’s recent past performance – still a terrible trade!

OrangeRocks
OrangeRocks
8 years ago

So now the Rockies are left with Pomeranz throwing those precious 2012 innings (remember the FO says he can’t throw more than 150 innings this year) pitching shutout baseball at the AAA level. I know that this should make all the sense in the (baseball)world, but I just do NOT get it. Decisions like this should get somebody fired? Just based on what we do know, Pomeranz is a better MLB starter (right now) than either White or Friedrich, so… Read more »

Bob K.
Bob K.
8 years ago

I find it interesting that the fielding has gotten worse each year that JT has been here.

sdcarp
Admin
sdcarp
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob K.

Yep……and marginal (I’m being kind) pitching needs excellent fielding to have a chance.

ProgMatinee
ProgMatinee
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob K.

Base running too.

It might be easier to name what isn’t wrong with the team…then again, I’m not finding much.

sdcarp
Admin
sdcarp
8 years ago
Reply to  ProgMatinee

I think Dinger is generally doing a good job.

sdcarp
sdcarp
8 years ago
Reply to  ProgMatinee

I’ve been critical ………. but it’s also important to be fair and point out some good things. First, I think the Hernandez/Rosario catching combo is doing well, and is being managed well by Tracy. Rosario is obviously rough around the edges defensively, but his offense and energy are unmistakable. Second, I think the Cuddyer signing (even if the price was high) is working out really well. The guy is a player. Love his attitude. The jury still out on the… Read more »

rockymountainhigh
rockymountainhigh
8 years ago

Go ahead and give me the thumbs down; I’m expecting at least ten of them. I will come across sounding like a Rox organization defender or putting positive spins on everything that has gone wrong. Starting pitching: It has been a mess no doubt about it, but we do have reinforcements that we did not have last year. Throw in a couple of missed starts by Guthrie that kept the mess grating bigger than it should have. Now we have… Read more »

Cisco Kid
Cisco Kid
8 years ago

RMH, Good post. My sentiments exactly. Way to early to start blowing things up as has been suggested. That would only be a knee jerk reaction. Good business practices don’t adhere to fork lift changes at the first sign of any adversity. If we go back to 2009 at about this time of year or later in May the Rox were worse off than this team is now. Besides, I think this team is much better than that ’09 squad… Read more »

Timo
Timo
8 years ago

Love Tulo in the two-hole. Also agree on the starting pitching. While Moyer was a feel good story over the first couple of weeks he’s now just in the way of seeing our young arms develop. There seems to be the question of who Guts replaces when he comes back and I think what’s best for the team is to get Moyer out of there and keep the young guys. Whichever young arms don’t get it done between now and… Read more »

Pooter
Pooter
8 years ago

Rockies 10 game winning streak begins tonight.

GARY
GARY
8 years ago
Reply to  Pooter

NOT!

Agbayani
Agbayani
8 years ago

Jared, really nice summary. Compare 2009. Why can’t we turn it around just like we did then? Well, I suppose we could. But 2009 was special for the Rockies because the top 5 starters made all but 7 starts that year. That’s right, only 7 starts from the likes of Jose Contreras (2) and Frankie Morales (2). This year we’ve already missed 5 starts from our top 5, we’ll keep missing starts from Chacin until he finds whatever he lost.… Read more »

GARY
GARY
8 years ago
Reply to  Agbayani

Agreeing with you more and more Ag,except for Fowler.He is late inning defensive replacement player at best in my mind.He simply kills the offense,especially on the road.

Mike Raysfan
Mike Raysfan
8 years ago

I found it interesting that JT used the exact word I used in chat during the game yesterday. “Embarrassing”

I thought the media would be tough on the Rockies after they way they have been losing games. I did expect to hear stuff like “No lead is big enough for the Rockies” but I didn’t expect to hear, not even from the national talking heads, stuff like ” The Rockies season will be done before the end of May”

GARY
GARY
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Raysfan

I think it’s done NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

ProgMatinee
ProgMatinee
8 years ago

I don’t normally consider myself a fair weather fan, but I am considering purchasing Mlb.tv and watching the Indians games rather than the Rockies with my 3 hours a night I can dedicate to baseball.

jaredean
jaredean
8 years ago
Reply to  ProgMatinee

say it ain’t so Prog, say it ain’t so… i can understand getting frusterated and not wanting to watch because the stress level is too much…personally i’ve tried to catch every game in one form or another over the years and don’t see myself changing that, but one thing I have strived to do is not get so emotionally caught up in it… I remember in ’09 when we were playing the Phils in the NLDS and after we took… Read more »

Pooter
Pooter
8 years ago
Reply to  jaredean

Good Post! I did some very foolish things after that second blown save agains the Phillies. I still have a hole in a closet door that I can look at and remind myself of that night.

I do enough team jumping in the NFL, Rockies, Nuggets, and Huskers will always be my teams no matter how bad they may be. Must say it is going to be difficult to root for the Jets this year!!

Batgirl
Batgirl
8 years ago

Good post, Jared. That’s how I have to look at my love of the Rockies…..they can’t be the barometer for my life. “When they win, I’m happy and when they lose, I’m depresssed”. THAT had to change. I love to watch baseball and I live in Colorado so they are my team. I can’t just randomly pick another team and become a fan (but I understand the temptation to do so). What I’m struggling with is that baseball is my… Read more »

jaredean
jaredean
8 years ago
Reply to  Batgirl

You gotta jump on during the game and chat with RWO fans…we make it a bit easier to enjoy (misery loves company)…

ProgMatinee
ProgMatinee
8 years ago
Reply to  Batgirl

I know God and family comes first but baseball is a near third. :lol Honestly, these losses, especially embarrassing ones, drains me, as if I had a personal stake in the outcome. Its pretty absurd, but that’s how it is. I’m not sure how long I can do that without just pulling my hair out.

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