• Francis shows you can pitch well at Coors

    Fri, June 29, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    So much for that theory.

    On Friday night, Jeff Francis showed Dan O’Dowd what the formula for winning at Coors Field is. The lefty went six shutout innings. He gave up only three hits. He walked one and struck out one. Francis threw 82 pitches.

    Francis pitched well enough to give the Rockies a chance to break the game open with the bats. After finishing the sixth inning, the offense ensured that the Canadian would pick up a victory by putting up four runs in the bottom half of the inning.

    For good measure, the offense continued to pour on the runs, scoring four more in the eighth inning behind a long home run off the bat of Wilin Rosario deep into left field. Michael Cuddyer also added a home run and a double on the night to help the Rockies score 10 total runs.

    Once again, the Rockies offense showed how good this team could be if the starting pitching was simply average. Top to bottom, including the bench, this Rockies offensive attack is as good as anyone’s in the league. They can hit the ball to all parts of the ballpark. They hit home runs, doubles, triples and they hit them in bunches.

    Originally brought in for depth, Tyler Colvin adds to the argument with his hitting abilities. He is forcing his way into the everyday lineup, adding another triple, his fifth on the year, to show just how deep this team is.

    If O’Dowd had known just how good Colvin would be, he may have opted to save the $10 million per year that the team used to sign Cuddyer.

    For Rockies fans, watching this offense put up big numbers is fun. However, it has to be bittersweet. As bad as this Rockies team has been on the field, there simply is only one place where the club has failed. The starting pitchers have been so bad that they have been solely responsible for the failures of this club. Between the starting pitching, and the poor defense, which might also be blamed on the starting pitching failing to keep the fielders alert and ready, the Rockies have become one of the worst teams in baseball.

    Part of the reason the Rockies starting pitching remains so poor is because O’Dowd insists that it is impossible to pitch at Coors Field. He continues to insist that the park is playing differently in 2012 rather than to acknowledge the fact that the Rockies offense is better than it was and the pitching is far worse as well.

    It is interesting that Francis seems to be the guy to be the least intimidated by the park. Maybe he has confidence that pitching there isn’t impossible because he has the formula. He won 17 games in 2007 and has had success there before.

    However, ever since Francis departed, O’Dowd and the Rockies have made Coors Field such a focal point, and have talked about it so much that it wouldn’t be a shock if they had forced the park into the heads of the young pitchers, and recently acquired pitchers.

    If someone in charge continues to talk about something being difficult, nearly impossible to do, at some point it is hard not to believe it. That might be the case for some of the struggling starters like Christian Friedrich, Alex White and Jeremy Guthrie.

    Maybe it is time for the Rockies to scrap trying to think outside the box with their pitchers and go back to the basics. Pitchers that command their pitches and stay low in the zone avoid all of the issues that come with the ball flying out of the park. Once the ball gets up in the zone, pitchers get shelled. Instead of trying crazy theories that are unconventional, the Rockies need to go back to what helped them win in ’07 and 2009.

    Even a couple of decent pitchers may have saved this season for the Rockies. Instead, they are fighting to stay below 100 loses for the first time in their 20-year history.

  • Colvin needs to play most days, which means Helton’s role should change

    Fri, June 29, 2012 by admin with no comments

    Marco Scutaro was the hero of the day for the Colorado Rockies. He laced an 11th-inning single that scored the winning run, giving the Rockies an 11-10 victory, and a series split against the Nationals.

    The game saw the Rockies score seven runs in the first two innings. The offense, using a Jim Tracy style day-game lineup, found a way to get to Edwin Jackson. Tyler Colvin continues to push for an everyday spot. He wound up just a double shy of the cycle after going 4-for-6 with five RBIs.

    It was easy in the early going to write Colvin off. The sample size was too small and after a such a poor 2011, Colvin’s hot start seemed like a fluke. Instead, he is starting to look like the No.1 draft pick that he was.

    His four hits pushed his batting average to .309. He has eight home runs and 29 RBIs in limited playing time. It is quickly looking like Colvin is going to need to be in the everyday lineup. However, that poses a problem for the Rockies, along with their loyal fans. Colvin needs to be in the lineup, but where does he fit?

    The outfield is set with Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer can play some first base, and so can Colvin, so when Helton isn’t in the lineup, the answer is easy. However, Colvin needs to be in the lineup more than just every third or fourth day. He needs to be out there every day.

    The answer is difficult for nostalgic reasons, but easy for logical reasons. The spot for Colvin has to be first base. Whether that means moving Cuddyer to play first and having Colvin in right, or the other way around, the best lineup option for the Rockies is to have him out there. Of course, that comes at the expense at the Rockies’ best player in franchise history, Todd Helton.

    Helton is the face of the franchise. This is his team. It always will be his team until he chooses to retire, regardless of what role Helton has on the team, it will be his team. However, it might be time to change that role. Helton has been convinced by this team that he is old. They insist that he can’t play a day game after a night game.

    With Jason Giambi looking like a potential trade candidate, Helton needs to move into that role. It will take him some time to adjust to being a late-inning pinch hitter. However, imagine the benefit that the Rockies could have with Helton being a defensive replacement in the later innings and getting a couple of good, quality, healthy at-bats from him, especially in a chosen situation.

    It might be the right time for the Rockies to make that transition.

    With that said, the issue simply isn’t the offense. This Rockies team puts up runs like crazy. Dan O’Dowd may believe that Coors Field is playing differently, but the reality is that the park is yielding more home runs because the offense is far superior to the one at 20th & Blake in 2011.

    As good as the offense has been, the Rockies starting pitchers have been worse. Staked to a 7-0 lead through two innings, Josh Outman allowed the Nationals right back into the game. He gave up five runs in the third inning and once again couldn’t make it through five innings to qualify for the win in what looked like a blowout.

    The fact is, Coors Field hasn’t changed a single bit. Nothing about the park is different. The home runs that are leaving the ballpark are not any more cheap than the home runs that left the park in previous seasons. The difference is the quality of pitching from the Rockies. As Jordan Zimmermann showed on Wednesday night, the formula for winning at Coors is to pitch low in the zone and induce ground balls. The Nats induced four double plays on Wednesday and squelched any rally the Rockies put together.

    The team can play around with any theory that they want to play around with. They can experiment with four-man rotations, pitch limits, mixing and matching, calling up Double-A pitchers, and any other crazy theory that they want to try, but the reality is, Coors Field will play like it did in 2011 again when the talent matches that talent.

    Compare the talent and experience in the 2012 rotation to that of 2011. It isn’t even close. Jeremy Guthrie isn’t struggling because of Coors Field. He is struggling because he leaves straight fastballs up in the zone. Christian Friedrich is struggling at home because he only has a month of experience at the Triple-A level after struggling for two seasons in Double-A. It is going to take time for him to figure it out. Alex White, even though he was sent back to the minors, was in that same boat as well. Guillermo Moscoso and Outman are journeymen minor leaguers who simply don’t have the talent to be consistently good. It is as simple as that.

    The Rockies will improve as soon as they find a way to improve their starting pitching. That means improving the talent, not trying some crazy formula of throwing less innings and less pitches in order to somehow save the bullpen. That doesn’t mean blaming the field, the altitude or the players on the field. It means fielding a team that has arms that can produce outs whether it is at Dodger Stadium, Petco Park or Coors Field. It means taking responsibility for the failings in the offseason and figuring out how to do better next year.

  • O’Dowd has reached his pitch count

    Wed, June 27, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Dan O’Dowd has thrown his 75 pitches. He is ready for a reliever.

    The Colorado Rockies continue down a road they have never been before. On Wednesday at Coors Field, the club lost 11-5 to the Washington Nationals, a sobering display of two franchises headed in different directions.

    With the Rockies looking lost and pathetic on the field, the story lately has been coming off the field. That was the case again on Wednesday. The same day that the Rockies held a fan forum with owner Dick Monfort and general manager Dan O’Dowd, an article was published in the U.S.A. Today highlighting Bob Apodaca resigning as pitching coach and some of the odd routes O’Dowd is taking to try and win.

    The words out of O’Dowd’s mouth paint the picture of a burned out, worn down general manager who has spent so much time dwelling on making the product at Coors Field a good one, that he has lost touch with the rest of baseball.

    The article details the heavily-covered four-man, 75-pitch-limit rotation. However, beyond the story in the article is what sneaks out of O’Dowd’s mouth. When talking about Apodaca resigning, he said “I could tell there was a sense of relief. In some ways, I was almost envious.”

    On the surface, that statement is made about Apodaca feeling the heat of a pitching staff in disarray. However, the last part of the quote is the most telling. Why would O’Dowd be envious? The only logical reason for O’Dowd to be jealous of the relief that Apodaca felt upon quitting is that he himself is ready to throw in the towel.

    Political candidates will say that in a heated race, they can never envision themselves losing, because it changes the mindset and the campaign will spiral out of control. Body language changes, the tone of speeches change, and desperation sets in.

    The same can be said of O’Dowd. The stress of trying desperately to win and failing has defeated him. He isn’t managing the team with a sense that they can win, but rather a feeling that he has already been defeated. A general manager who already feels defeated, believing that not only is the other team trying to beat him, but the home field itself is against him, will be defeated before the day begins.

    O’Dowd also clearly blames Coors Field for the team’s struggles once again. He cites the Coors Field ERAs of Randy Johnson (4.01), Curt Schilling (5.51) and Greg Maddux (5.09). He points to them as proof that pitching at nearly one mile above sea level is next to impossible. The problem is that the majority of Johnson’s starts at Coors Field came well after his prime. The majority of the starts that came during his prime were pre-humidor. Same goes for Schilling. His final year in the National League was 2003, the year the humidor made it’s debut. Maddux’s best years came in the ’90s, well before the humidor, and in the two-plus years he spent in the N.L. West, he posted ERAs above 4.00.

    On the conference call, O’Dowd made a few more statements that suggested that it is time to move on. To the season ticket holders asking about the poor pitching performances, O’Dowd said, “the changes we have seen from Coors Field are not an excuse, they are reality.”

    O’Dowd truly believes that statement. He has become so frustrated with failing to build a winning team, that he has resorted to excuses. In fact, he isn’t even using typical excuses like injuries, or players not panning out. He fictionalizes the ballpark to be something that it is not.

    The general manager said that Coors Field has yielded 25 percent more home runs, both by the Rockies and the visitors, to date in 2012 than it did in 2011. He then went on to say that statistic points to Coors Field changing, for whatever reason. The only problem is that O’Dowd fails to give himself credit where credit is due.

    The logic suggests that the Rockies lineup got better. In fact, there is no denying that. Wilin Rosario has joined the bottom of the lineup and clubbed 11 home runs. Compare that to the 14 that Chris Iannetta hit in all of 2011.

    Dexter Fowler, who seemed lost at the plate in 2010 and 2011, has found his stroke. With that has come a power surge. Is that Coors Field’s doing, or has the player become better?

    The Rockies also added Michael Cuddyer and Tyler Colvin, both of whom have added pop into the lineup. The fact is, the Rockies are a better hitting team in 2012 than they were in 2011.

    On the other side, maybe opponents aren’t hitting the ball out of the park due to Coors Field magically changing, but rather because the Rockies pitchers are that much worse. Even with Jason Hammel not at the level that he is in 2012, he certainly didn’t yield the long ball the way Jeremy Guthrie has. Jamie Moyer seemed to serve up two home runs a game. Was that due to Coors Field, or the fact that an 80 MPH fastball better not cross the middle of the plate?

    Let’s face it, the Rockies’ talent on the mound isn’t anywhere near what it was in 2011.

    As for O’Dowd, by all accounts, he is a great person. However, he actually buys into his own excuses. These are not pathetic attempts at keeping his job an extra year and hoping for better. These excuses are truly what O’Dowd believes.

    It has to be frustrating. There is no doubt that O’Dowd works hard at his job. He spends time pouring over the stats. So much time that he has figured out just how long an average pitcher lasts at altitude before flaming out.

    However, that might be part of the problem. O’Dowd has burned himself out on trying so desperately to win that he is tired. After 12-1/2 years, he still has no formula for winning, and he is no closer now then he was in 1999. So instead of continuing to try and figure out a strategy that works, O’Dowd has come to the point of feeling sorry for himself and making excuses.

    What it shows is that O’Dowd needs some downtime. He needs to get away from the game. He is spent. He is not thinking rationally because he has been examining the situation with a microscope instead of having the luxury to take a step back and see the whole picture for a while.

    O’Dowd may have done some good things with the Rockies, but at this point, it is time for him to move on and let someone else try and figure it out.

  • Turning Rockies around hard to start somewhere; Apodaca was a good place

    Tue, June 26, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Ten years is a long time to do one thing. That is how long Bob Apodaca held the position of pitching coach of the Colorado Rockies.

    He was relieved of his duties on Tuesday, reassigned within the organization as Special Assistant to the General Manager.

    The reality is, it was time for Apodaca to go. The Rockies are headed down a historic path, and not the kind of history teams like to be a part of. The starting pitching for the Rockies has been so bad that the team has decided to go with a crazy 4-man, 75 pitch limit rotation to try and limit the damage.

    For years fans have been calling for this move. Even after the 2008 season in which Clint Hurdle fired some of his best friends who were coaches on his staff, Apodaca remained, much to the surprise of many who followed the team. After Hurdle was fired and Jim Tracy took over, Apodaca remained in place.

    The problem for the former pitcher is that too many pitchers regressed under him. Pitchers with serious talent simply never turned the corner under his tutelage. The list is long. Many fans point to the success of Felipe Paulino and Jason Hammel after leaving. However, the biggest example of his failures comes from the pitchers who had a good half season, then were simply lost on the mound.

    Jhoulys Chacin seemed to turn the corner in the early part of 2011. He picked up the slack for a failing Ubaldo Jimenez. After the All-Star break, the Venezuelan righty has been terrible. His injury is the only reason he hasn’t had a trip back to Colorado Springs.

    Esmil Rogers was once a highly thought-of pitching prospect for the Rockies. His fastball sat in the upper-90′s and his slider had the potential to be devastating. After failing as a starter, Rogers tried his hand as a reliever. He was possibly even worse in that role, posting 8.06 ERA in 2012 after a 7.05 ERA in 2011. Although it is early, Rogers seems to be thriving in Cleveland. He has posted a 2.45 ERA in six appearances in Cleveland so far.

    Hammel’s success is far more documented. A starter relegated to the bullpen in September of 2011, Hammel was shipped off, thrown into the bunch of Rockies who were declared bad apples. Suddenly, the righty is a sure-fire All-Star while pitching in the American League East.

    The list goes on and on. The reality, whether the decision was Apodaca’s or not, as was reported by the team, is that it was time for the move.

    Many Apodaca supporters said that the failures fall on the shoulders of the pitchers. They are right. The pitchers were the ones performing on the field. However, if the pitchers had quit listening to Apodaca, it was time for him to go. If the pitchers were listening to Apodaca, it was time for him to go.

    For Rockies fans, the news is good. Whether Apodaca made the decision himself, or if the front office decided it was time for the move, it shows that changes are going to happen. Of course, the Rockies’ struggles do not simply get explained away by blaming the pitching coach alone. However, it is a start. It is one layer of protection that both Jim Tracy and Dan O’Dowd had before the blame lands on them.

    The move is some sort of movement from a club that seemed like they had dug their heels into the dirt so far that nothing was going to happen during the season, and if anything happened after the season it would be a big surprise.

    This team is headed toward 100 or more losses and the front office seemed content with the status quo. Despite calls from fans for some sort of change, the front office had done nothing but reiterate that they believed that the problems were not in the coaching staff, and not even in the clubhouse, but with Coors Field somehow playing differently than it has in the past, and the altitude taking a toll on players’ bodies.

    This move is somewhat of an admittance that the team actually realizes that they have some issues.

    This is a start to turning the Rockies around. It might take a long time to turn the ship all the way around, but it has to start somewhere.

  • Francis holds off Strasburg, ‘old humidor’ musings

    Mon, June 25, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Jeff Francis has proven to be the veteran stopper that the Colorado Rockies and Dan O’Dowd thought they were getting in Jeremy Guthrie.

    In three of the four starts that the former ace has started since his return, Francis has looked like the same guy who won 17 games for the Rockies in 2007.

    Francis, tied down by a silly pitch count and four-man rotation, was lifted after the fifth inning. However, he pitched well enough to give the Rockies’ offense a chance to win against arguably the best pitcher in the National League, Stephen Strasburg.

    The Canadian lefty went five innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter. He threw just 66 pitches in the game, 48 of which were in the strike zone. It was the definition of a veteran outing.

    Going up against Strasburg, Francis knew that he would have to be on top of his game. Francis went to the mound and did just that. Giving up even a few runs might have spelled doom for the Rockies on Monday night. He pounded the strike zone and found ways to get outs. His fastball may only be in the mid-80s after all of his shoulder issues, but he still knows how to get movement and fool batters.

    This four-game set with the Nationals shapes up to be a good one. Not because the games should be competitive, not because the Rockies are fighting their way back into the race, they certainly are not. This should be an interesting series because of Dan O’Dowd’s recent comments in regards to Coors Field playing differently than it has in the humidor era.

    O’Dowd seems to believe that the ballpark is suddenly playing differently, shown by the number of runs put up in the park over the first three months of the season. He makes no mention of the Rockies having a considerably better offense and a considerably worse pitching staff.

    With that in mind, the Rockies faced Strasburg on Monday and Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday night. Strasburg has already become a mini-legend due to his accomplishments in college and his ability to hit well over 100 on the radar gun. Gonzalez, however, may be the best-kept secret. The lefty is 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 14 starts. He has struck out 101 batters while walking just 34 in 84-2/3 innings. Amazingly, Gonzalez has given up just one home run.

    If Coors Field was ever primed to turn back into a bandbox, this would be the week. The ball always flies better when the temperatures are hot, and as anyone in the Rocky Mountain region is aware, it is beyond hot. O’Dowd seems to believe that the park is playing differently. Well, if the Rockies go out and smoke Gonzalez, it might give the Rockies GM a game to point to.

    Monday night’s game, however, proved just the opposite. It pointed more toward the logic that the inflated scores have nothing to do with Coors Field magically changing, but rather that the talent on the mound simply hasn’t been there. With Francis and Strasburg both dominant, the runs stayed off the board. Despite 100 degree heat, no home runs were hit on the night.

    The Rockies look to beat the heat and the Nationals once again on Tuesday with their crazy four man rotation, 75-pitch limit system. Christian Friedrich will have the honors for the first three innings for the Rockies, then recently recalled Zach Putnam or Guillermo Moscoso will get the call to take over whenever Friedrich hits 75 pitches.

  • O’Dowd joins excuse making, has to go

    Mon, June 25, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Winning is tough. Only one of 30 Major League teams can win every year, and in a league with no salary cap, the Colorado Rockies have an even tougher time winning than some of the other franchises.

    With that in mind, franchises in some of the smaller markets have two choices. They can either commit to excellence, regardless of the odds, or the second option, they could make excuses and continue to fail miserably.

    Sunday night was the latest example. A clubhouse cleaned out to bring in guys who care about winning and are focused on the game became a joke once again when Marco Scutaro once again lost his focus and made a Little League mistake that possibly changed the course of the game. After being called safe at second base in the ninth inning, Scutaro wandered off the bag, thinking he was out. He was tagged and suddenly the Rockies no longer had the tying run in scoring position with one out. They had two outs and the tying run at the plate.

    The play on the field has been analyzed over and over and over again. It is bad. This Rockies team is terrible. There is no way around it. The play on the field is horrid. The management has been beyond horrid. Jim Tracy has shown his incompetence over and over again. Bob Apodaca has failed as a pitching coach. This scribe has shown his opinion on that issue over and over again.

    However, I have long been a defender of Dan O’Dowd. Despite only reaching the playoffs twice in his 13-year tenure, I have been a fan of some of the things he was willing to take a risk on. Acquiring Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street in exchange for Matt Holliday was an absolute fleecing.

    Trading Jason Jennings for Jason Hirsh, Taylor Buchholz and Willy Taveras was another move that was lopsided greatly in the Rockies favor. Acquiring Jason Marquis for troubled reliever Luis Vizcaino was key to the Rockies making the playoffs in 2009.

    Those are a few of the many moves that people might not think about when they think of O’Dowd’s decisions. He made himself defensible. He has made moves that helped the Rockies compete and have their day in the sun.

    The problem is, O’Dowd has given in to the excuse making. He has started blaming other factors on his lack of success instead of pointing his finger in the mirror.

    Saturday was the latest example. On the Rockies Dugout show on 850 KOA, O’Dowd was interviewed by Mike Rice. The interview can be heard http://www.rockiesradionetwork.com/player/?mid=22202250 in its entirety.

    O’Dowd admits that he is the one who was largely responsible for the four-man rotation. He said that it is something that he has thought about since 2000. He said that Coors Field is such a tough place to play that something different has to be done.

    The general manager makes excuse after excuse after excuse as to why winning at Coors Field is nearly impossible. He says that Coors Field has changed almost completely back to how it was before the days of the humidor. He says that pitchers who have played here and moved on have suffered severe injury after leaving.

    It is interesting. O’Dowd blames those injuries on the park that those players played in previous to the injury. What possibly could Coors Field have done to injure the pitchers? O’Dowd seems to insinuate that pitching at altitude has more to do with the effects on the body, rather than the effects on the ball at the field.

    Logical thinking would suggest that if many former Rockies pitchers were immediately getting injured after leaving, the pitching coach may have been teaching poor mechanics, which resulted in pitchers using the wrong part of their bodies and injuring themselves. How would pitching at 5,280 feet influence the body of a mid-20s athlete who is in as good of shape as almost anyone in the world? That logic simply doesn’t make sense.

    When O’Dowd talks about Coors Field magically playing like it did pre-humidor, he seems to believe that the field just changed. Wouldn’t logic suggest that it might not be the park, but rather the talent on the mound? To most people, that would be the answer. To someone who doesn’t want to take personal responsibility for making poor decisions and leaving a roster and farm system depleted, the answer would be something magical and fictional happening at the park in which these inferior pitchers are playing.

    The worst part of the interview comes just before the eight-minute mark. O’Dowd says that he cares what the fans think, but then immediately goes into saying that the fans don’t understand because they don’t live it day-in and day-out. He then goes as far as saying that he isn’t concerned with what the fans think at all.

    To any fans who think that they might make some sort of statement to voice their disapproval, the answer to how it will be received was given at that moment. O’Dowd doesn’t care whether fans love him or hate him. He doesn’t care if they are frustrated with the product on the field, he doesn’t care how passionate they are. He thinks that fans’ opinions are worthless.

    After listening to the interview a few things become clear. First, O’Dowd is completely naive to what is happening. This franchise is the laughingstock of baseball. They look clueless. They have a manager who makes poor decisions night-in and night-out, yet O’Dowd believes he is great. He believes that the fault of this season lies squarely on the shoulders of the players. No one else. He thinks that they are good enough to win, and have failed to do so.

    Second, O’Dowd seems to have no idea how depleted the talent is on this team. Alex White and Christian Friedrich may be good down the road, but the two young starters still have to figure out how to pitch at the big league level. The initial rotation included 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, who, with all due respect, barely threw hard enough to register on the radar gun. He also traded away the most talented member of the rotation in Jason Hammel, for a below-average veteran who was supposed to eat innings, but really just eats leads in Jeremy Guthrie.

    Third, O’Dowd thinks that the fans are idiots. He thinks that he is the only one who does research, he is the only one who looks into ballpark factors. He believes that every single person who claims to be a Rockies fan needs to be reminded of when to make noise by the scoreboard. He has no idea that there are people out there who live and breathe Colorado Rockies baseball.

    Never once in the interview does O’Dowd blame himself. Not once does he say that he made mistakes. He blames Coors Field several times and he blames the players for not getting the job done on other occasions. His coaching staff and the front office are never blamed for the failures that this team is going through.

    What that says is that it is time for change. O’Dowd did a great job for many years. Many fans don’t realize how good many of O’Dowd’s moves were. However, it seems that the frustration of losing over and over again has gotten to the general manager. Instead of figuring out ways to win, O’Dowd has decided to go down the excuse path. It is the true sign of a guy who needs to move on. He has lost his touch and he is going down a bad road and taking the franchise with him. It is time to focus on something different.

    The only problem is, only the fans see the issue. Dick Monfort believes that O’Dowd is doing everything perfectly. He believes that he is the best GM in the game. What that says is, no matter how bad 2012 gets, whether that is 90 losses, 110 losses, or somewhere in between, nothing is going to change. The Rockies are going to move forward with the same sorry excuses, the same sorry coaching staff, and the same sorry talent that O’Dowd acquires, drafts, or incorrectly develops.

    For Rockies fans, rock bottom might be deeper than they thought.

  • Rockies win but not after an awkward pitching moment

    Sat, June 23, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    The Colorado Rockies’ offense showed how good it is on Saturday. The team picked up its second interleague win of the year, beating the Rangers 11-7.

    As the team continues to struggle, there will probably be several big numbers put up by the offense. The Rockies’ offense is good enough to contend, the starting pitching, however, is so miserable that the teams may overlook how tough the lineup is.

    The Rockies hit very well. Every starter got at least one hit. Dexter Fowler hit his 11th home run of the season, Wil Nieves notched his first home run as a Rockie and the team looked like it was hitting on all cylinders offensively for the first time since the eight-run 10th inning in Detroit eight days ago.

    In addition to the offense, the story came in the fifth inning. With the new four-man rotation, with pitch counts limited to 75, the Rockies ran into their first dilemma. After scoring 11 runs in the first five innings, Outman walked back to the mound with a 10-run lead and three outs to qualify for the win.

    Already at 68 pitches, Outman’s day was going to be over soon. He had to get through the fifth in order to qualify for the win in the lopsided game. Most likely with his pitch count in the back of his mind, Outman struggled. After getting two outs, Outman allowed singles from Adrian Beltre and Michael Young, scoring two runs. Suddenly, the lefty’s pitch count was at 93 and Jim Tracy was headed out of the dugout to get him.

    Clearly frustrated, Outman slammed his glove, yelled a word that would designate the game “R” rated, handed the ball to Tracy, then, much to anyone watching’s surprise, bumped Tracy on his way off the mound. As upset as Outman was, there is very little doubt that the bump was unintentional.

    Adam Ottavino strolled to the mound and on the first pitch gave up a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz, making Outman’s final line worse, and making Tracy’s decision look silly as well.

    The Rockies recovered and won the game, thanks in large part to great work from the bullpen. However, the move was another ridiculous one from Tracy in a season full of ridiculous moves.

    Many believe that he did the right thing by allowing Outman a chance to win the game, and the lefty blew it. That defense makes sense. Dig deeper, however, and think about the situation. Outman was already beyond the 75-pitch mark, saving his arm for his next start was already done. He had only given up two runs in the inning, it wasn’t as if he had absolutely blown up. He was one pitch away from walking into the dugout with a three-run outing in a game where his offense had scored 11.

    It wasn’t like Outman had labored his way through the game. He had pitched well enough for the win. Of course, the argument is that personal statistics shouldn’t matter, and maybe they shouldn’t, but tell that to the guy who is trying to earn a living in the game. Tell that to the agent of a guy who worked his tail off, filling up the strike zone and only walking one batter.

    As Purple Row’s Andrew Fisher wisely pointed out, wins don’t necessarily determine a pitcher’s contract. He is right, many times it doesn’t, and he gave great examples of times when it didn’t matter. However, just like a hitter doesn’t want to get pulled with a chance to win a game, or help their statistics, a pitcher wants to walk away with a win.

    The fact is, the situation is simply weird. It doesn’t make sense. It has no reasonable logic to back it up. In a normal situation, Outman would have pitched into the sixth inning, even if he has given up four or five runs in the fifth inning. Instead, Tracy has developed a quasi system that makes for awkward situations.

    Outman has some fault of his own in the situation. He has to make pitches to get out of the inning and pick up the win. That is on him. He knew the situation. However, if Tracy hasn’t lost his clubhouse, moves like Saturday’s will quickly help him lose the team. When players start questioning their manager’s decisions, it never makes for a good situation, and usually spells the end of that manager’s tenure.

    The pitchers have to pitch better, but punishing them with very little chance to win any game that they pitch in is not a great way to convince them to start throwing strikes. It’s not like the pitchers are going out and not trying to throw strikes. It’s not like they have ulterior motives and are trying not to pitch well, punitive decisions aren’t going to help young pitchers learn how to pitch, it is going to make them lose their confidence and lose faith in their leader.

    The players deserve some of the blame for this mess, but they can’t be the sole guilty party. When Tracy, Dan O’Dowd and some of the coaches start acknowledging their questionable decisions, it might make it easier to feel like they have taken enough personal responsibility to start making decisions based on learning from their previous mistakes. Instead, the front office and coaching staff has kept their head in the sand, believing that they have done everything possible to win baseball games.

  • Friedrich gives some hope for the future

    Fri, June 22, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    When it rains, it pours. The Rockies got a good performance from Christian Friedrich, but lost 4-1 to the Rangers.

    If things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse for the Colorado Rockies, the Rangers had to choose this series for Roy Oswalt to make his Texas debut. The righty held out deep into the season before finding a home in Arlington. The righty had been preparing himself for the Rangers rotation in the minor leagues when both he and the club determined that he was ready.

    Despite getting hits off of the new Ranger, the Rockies couldn’t get them in bunches. In 6-2/3 innings, Oswalt gave up nine hits, but only one run crossed the plate for Colorado. The beauty of Oswalt is that he possesses the ability to get the strikeout, a valuable weapon with runners on base.

    Oswalt K’d six and walked only one, helping to minimize the damage and get the Rockies in a position where they were forced to get hits and couldn’t play small ball to scratch runs across the plate.

    The reality is, at this point, in the situation that the Rockies are in, very few people expect this team to go into Texas and put up a competitive fight against the two-time defending American League champions. The Rockies are in experiment mode. They are desperately trying to find anything that will help them win even one baseball game.

    The Rangers are in the exact opposite boat. They have been playing great baseball for the past three seasons. They expect to win. There are few holes on the team and regardless of who is on the mound, they have a very good chance to win each night, at home or on the road.

    It wasn’t a game anyone expected the Rockies to win, and simply put, they don’t belong in the same conversation as the Rangers at this point.

    On the positive side, Friedrich took another step forward. Sure, his line didn’t look phenomenal. He gave up four runs in six innings. He walked one while striking out four. Not great, but considering the lefty threw only 73 pitches suggests that he was efficient with his pitches and pounded the strike zone.

    The only two mistakes that Friedrich made left the yard. A first-inning shot from Adrian Beltre produced two runs, scoring Josh Hamilton, whom Friedrich had walked. In the fourth inning, Friedrich gave up a solo shot to Mike Napoli, giving the Rangers a commanding lead at that point.

    Teams with lineups like the Rangers are going to punish pitchers who make mistakes. They did that on Friday night and the Rockies paid for it. With little room for offensive error, the Rockies simply couldn’t afford for Friedrich to make even a couple mistakes.

    Despite a few bad starts, Friedrich has been surprising in his emergence. This is a pitcher who sported a 5.05 ERA in his second season in Double-A in 2011. He didn’t win a game after the month of June at that level. After an offseason full of hard work, suddenly the former No.1 draft pick is living up to his potential. There is still room for improvement, but based on the situation he is in, he gives the Rockies some hope for the future.

    At this point it is all about finding little things that are going well. It is about finding ways to stay positive and look to the future. The future is the only positive the Rockies have going for them right now.

  • So you’re saying Francis gave the team a chance

    Thu, June 21, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    A little starting pitching can go a long way.

    That was the lesson once again for the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night in Philadelphia. This time, however, the Rockies got to see firsthand what being on the right end of the strong pitching performance feels like.

    Jeff Francis, limited to 76 pitches due to the Rockies four-man rotation rules, pitched five strong innings. He gave up just one run on six hits. He struck out three while walking none. The lone run came from Jimmy Rollins, who led off the bottom of the first inning with a blast to left field that had Rockies fans feeling like they were about to witness the same misery they have been through most of May and all of June.

    Instead, Francis put his foot down. He was efficient, pitching his way through five innings and handing the ball to the bullpen with his offense in a place where it had a chance to win.

    The offense did just that. Down 1-0, Chris Nelson drilled a two-run home run into left center field. It was his second homer in as many days and gave the Rockies a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. For good measure, rookie catcher Wilin Rosario blasted a ninth-inning fastball into the seats in left field. The only question on Rosario’s ball was whether it was going to get over the fence, or put a hole in it.

    As much heat as he has taken since the Rockies collapse, Dan O’Dowd deserves some credit for the performance from Francis. Knowing the starting rotation was in dire need of a guy who could give a quality performance every now and then, O’Dowd signed the Canadian and has been rewarded with two wins in the three games he has started.

    With Francis dealing, it was Jim Tracy’s first test to see whether he would stick to his guns on the 75-pitch limit. Sure enough, Francis didn’t face another batter after hitting that mark. Conveniently enough for Tracy was the fact that his starting pitcher was due up first in the top half of the sixth inning, making the decision fairly easy.

    The bullpen came in and did a great job. Lost in the madness of the Rockies terrible season has been the performances of both Josh Roenicke and Matt Belisle. Roenicke went 1-1/3 innings, picking up the win. He has a stellar 2.76 ERA despite pitching more innings than any reliever in the National League. Belisle has also been special. His success comes less as a surprise because fans have become used to watching him pound the strike zone and get outs, regardless of the situation he is called in to. On Thursday, he pitched a dominant eighth inning, lowering his ERA to 2.13.

    When the Rockies get a good starting pitching performance, they have the horses to win games. Their bullpen is very good. It is not above average, it is one of the better bullpens in baseball. The offense does not have any true holes. When guys like Nelson, a true fill-in, can show some pop and hit, and Rosario can hit bombs out of the eight hole, the Rockies should be in a good spot.

    It might make most Rockies fans sick to think about how good this team could have been if the starting pitchers could just be mediocre. They don’t have to be great, they just have to be decent. Instead, they have been extremely bad, aiding in the Rockies spiral out of control.

    The Rockies give their fans something to be positive about, if not for just one night. They head to Arlington, Texas, on Friday to take on one of the best hitting clubs in the game in the Rangers. It should be interesting to see how many innings 75 pitches gets the starting pitchers through against an American League team that has a tendency to score big runs.

    For now, however, the Rockies can feel good about a win. Thanks, in large part, to Jeff Francis, who pitched well enough to give his team a chance.

  • Pulling defeat from jaws of victory in keeping with season’s theme

    Wed, June 20, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    It was a game the Colorado Rockies should have won. They were one out away from securing the victory before the Phillies stole one away from them, winning 7-6.

    Rafael Betancourt couldn’t get the final out in the bottom of the ninth inning, partly because of bad defense and partly because of poor pitch location.

    After getting two quick outs, Betancourt gave up a base hit to old friend Ty Wigginton, who scored from first base on Hunter Pence’s double to left field. Anyone who watched the Rockies in 2011 knew that Betancourt’s biggest mistake came with one out. Instead of getting Jimmy Rollins out, Betancourt should have walked him, allowing Wigginton to do what he did so many times with the Rockies, bounce into a tailor-made double play. That is a joke, of course, but it seems like anything that can go wrong has gone wrong for the Rockies in 2012.

    It seemed like the tables had turned when the Rockies scratched out a run against Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning. It was the first time Colorado had seen the closer since he finished them off in the final three games of the 2007 World Series. It is amazing how different things are in such a short amount of time.

    The night was destined for the Rockies to win. Especially considering Jim Tracy’s crazy decision to go with a limited pitch count, four-man rotation with Jeremy Guthrie in the bullpen seemed to work. Guthrie came into the game in the fifth inning and pitched three innings of hitless baseball. Most Rockies fans were bracing for the apocalypse at that point, but the earth did indeed continue to spin on its axis.

    The final run was scored when Marco Scutaro fielded a ground ball somewhat up the middle and was forced to throw to first because DJ LaMahieu was going after the ball instead of covering second base. Todd Helton awkwardly fielded the high throw to first base, coming off of the bag. It was a play that Helton makes 100 percent of the time. Instead, even Helton failed. When Todd Helton fails defensively in a moment like that, it speaks to just how bad things have are going for this failed team.

    It’s bad. It’s very bad. There is not much left to say about it. The team’s wagon was running on three wheels two weeks ago and is currently sitting still, with no wheels to be found.

    Despite all of the losing, no change seems to be on the horizon. In fact, at this point it seems like a waste of breath to even discuss the possibility. As sickening as it may be, Rockies fans can expect the excuses to begin soon. With news of Troy Tulowitzki being out for at least two months, standard operating procedure for Tracy will be to mention at least three times per week how decimated by injury this team has been.

    The problem with that excuse is that it entirely false. The team was losing long before Tulo went on the disabled list. Jorge De La Rosa has been out all year long, and the team knew that, and should have been planning on that since May of 2011 when the lefty went under the knife.

    Blaming injuries is a pathetic excuse anyway, and frankly, it is an indictment on the lack of talent that the Rockies have in their farm system. Part of winning is finding ways to deal with injuries and having the depth on the farm to be able to have someone fill in when a key player goes down.

    It is a sad time for Rockies fans. There is no other way around it. There is very little to be positive about. It is hard to ignore the blatant ignorance that is oozing out of the owner’s suite at Coors Field and what the lack of accountability has created in the general manager and manager’s office.

    Until something changes with the culture of the franchise, nothing should change in regards to the play on the field.