• Rockies should hang on to Betancourt, Belisle

    Sun, July 29, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Trade season is here and the Colorado Rockies are sellers. There is no doubt about that.

    The team has already dealt Jeremy Guthrie and Marco Scutaro, two veterans brought in to stabilize the clubhouse. Next in line would be Ramon Hernandez, and Jason Giambi, if he wasn’t on the 15-day disabled list. However, word is out that the team may consider dealing Rafael Betancourt.

    Betancourt is signed through 2013 with an option for 2014. He is making $4 million in 2012, with a raise to $4.25 million in 2013. In the real world that is more money than most people would ever dream of. In baseball terms, however, that is pretty inexpensive for a dominant late-inning reliever.

    Matt Belisle is another name that has been floated around, but with less traction than Betancourt. Belisle is making $3.775 million in 2012 and will make $4.1 million in 2013.

    In a season in which the Rockies are on pace to lose more than 100 games, nearly everyone should be on the block. If a contender wants to overpay for a player, the Rockies should allow them to. This is a perfect time to quickly replenish a depleted farm system.

    That said, the Rockies should stay away from dealing both Betancourt and Belisle at almost any cost. Unless another team is willing to give back some pretty phenomenal prospects, the Rockies should be hesitant to let those two get away.

    The reason is simple. Both Betancourt and Belisle are rarities in Major League Baseball. They are guys who can be trusted in nearly any situation that they are thrown into. They have consistently been good at Coors Field and on the road, and are the main cogs in what has quietly been one of the best bullpens in the National League, despite a huge workload.

    The key to both of the late-inning relievers is that they pound the strike zone. Since 2010, Betancourt has walked a total of 26 batters, eight of which were intentional, while striking out 200 in 161 2/3 innings. Pounding the strike zone at that rate is extremely rare. In Coors Field, it is nearly unheard of.

    Belisle’s ratio is very similar, he has been special. Since 2010 he has walked a total of 38 batters, 11 of which were intentional, while striking out 198 in 217 innings.

    Pitchers like those two are easy to forget about. In a season in which the Rockies have usually given up five or more runs by the time either one of them steps to the mound, their importance really isn’t as great as it may have been if the purple pinstripes were in contention.

    The issue, however, is that when both of those pitchers are gone, a team struggles to replace them with the same quality. Colorado might get some salary relief by dealing them, but the value in a solid back of the bullpen goes beyond salary relief for just one season.

    If the Rockies do end up dealing one or both of those pitchers (Betancourt seems the most likely), they will have created another hole to fill. At this point, if the team ends up creeping back into contention, or close to it in 2013, they are going to need to fill other holes. Right now, they don’t need to worry too much about their bullpen. They have talent locked up for fairly cheap that can get the job done. There is no reason to believe that those guys won’t perform at the same level in 2013, and the Rockies may need them then more than ever.

    When things have gone as bad as they have for the Rockies, it is easy to get short-sighted. It is easy to suggest that anyone who someone else might want should be traded, if nothing else to save salary. However, the long-term cannot be forgotten about in the emotions of such a poor season.

    The reality is, both Betancourt and Belisle are rare pitchers. They pound the strike zone, get outs and have no issues pitching at Coors Field. The Rockies should be hesitant to deal away either one of them.

  • New pitcher Sanchez fits right in

    Wed, July 25, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Jonathan Sanchez fits right in with the Colorado Rockies.

    The former San Francisco Giant, then Kansas City Royal made his Colorado Rockies debut on Monday night in Phoenix. The lefty went four innings, giving up five earned runs on six hits. He struck out five but walked four, an issue Sanchez has dealt with his entire career.

    The pitching has been the issue. That might be the most obvious statement made in the history of Major League Baseball. However, if this Rockies team even had decent starting pitching, their record would be closer to .500 rather than potentially losing 100 games.

    A poor pitching performance from Sanchez was all the Diamondbacks needed with Ian Kennedy on the mound. The 20-game-winner from a year ago pitched eight innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. It was a performance that the Rockies would love to see just once or twice from their starting pitchers.

    While it is easy to be negative, there are still a few positives that can be taken from Monday’s game for the future of the Rockies.

    Josh Rutledge continues to be impressive. Quickly he is looking more and more like the second baseman of the future for the Rockies. On a night when Kennedy looked like he couldn’t be touched, Rutledge blasted his first big-league home run off the righty. Later, he doubled and came around to score. In a small sample size, Rutledge is showing no signs of a learning curve. He is hitting .368 through his first week and a half.

    The challenge for Rutledge will come over the next few weeks. Major League scouts are good. They will suddenly start finding holes in his swing and start challenging him with pitches that he probably isn’t seeing right now. If he can make that adjustment, it will be incredibly impressive. Getting him enough at-bats to go through the adjustment, which might entail a prolonged slump, is crucial to his development.

    Another positive for the Rockies was the performance from reliever Carlos Torres. The righty went three hitless innings in relief of Sanchez. He walked one while striking out three. If Torres can prove to be a solid middle reliever, it will help the Rockies get some much needed rest for Josh Roenicke, one of the team’s unsung heroes this season.

    The game unraveled in the fourth inning, when Sanchez intentionally walked Ryan Roberts to face Kennedy with the bases loaded and two outs. Instead of attacking Kennedy, Sanchez threw what Jim Tracy described as a “lollipop” pitch, in which Kennedy was able to drive for a bases-clearing triple.

    The weird thing about watching these Rockies is that they have more talent than what their record suggests. They are not a bunch of re-treads, they can hit the ball with authority and have a lineup that should be feared. If they had starting pitching that wasn’t a colossal joke, this team would be in a much different boat.

    Will the young Rockies starting pitchers continue to get better and suddenly be good enough to win games? If they do, this team could quickly make a turnaround and be much better than they are currently. However, that is going to take development and seasoning, which means the current 2012 team must provide support for their young pitchers in order to develop.

  • Pacheco’s average good enough to keep him up

    Sun, July 22, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Jordan Pacheco can hit. There is no denying that fact.

    Three weeks ago, when Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd addressed season ticket holders, there was a question about Pacheco from the audience. The man asking the question acknowledged that he was from New Mexico, where Pacheco is from, and therefore was biased toward him. However, he wanted to see how impressed O’Dowd was with the third baseman.

    The fan didn’t get the answer he was hoping for, as O’Dowd was quick to say that if Pacheco wants to be a regular, he needs to hit for more power.

    At this rate, O’Dowd might have a hard time convincing anyone that Pacheco shouldn’t be in the everyday lineup somewhere.

    The Rockies third basemen, a stop-gap for Nolan Arenado, who is being groomed in Double-A, has done nothing but hit the ball. The rookie has done far more hitting than anyone expected and has done what every player in his situation tries to do, force the team into a tough decision.

    On Saturday night in San Diego, Pacheco did it again, going 3-for-6 at the plate with four RBIs, one of which was the game-winner in the top of the 12th inning.

    The knock against Pacheco has been his defense. He was originally selected as a second baseman, but moved to catcher when his range was deemed not good enough. With no place for him as a catcher, he was moved back to the infield and has been forced to be a third baseman at the big-league level.

    There is no doubt that he has struggled at the new position, but anyone who watches regularly knows that Pacheco has made huge strides at third. In April he seemed tentative throwing to first base. Now he seems confident. Ground balls seem like less of an issue, and the comfort looks to be coming along quickly.

    With only one home run, his power is well below what is typically expected from a corner infielder. However, should that really be the decision maker? The 26-year-old is older than most rookies, but that doesn’t mean he should have less rope to work with. Many players hit for far less power in their first couple of years in the big leagues because of the talent difference in pitching. Breaking balls break more, change-ups are more deceptive, fastballs have more late-life to them. It takes time to recognize that and hit those balls into the seats.

    On the other side, Pacheco isn’t getting nearly the credit he deserves for hitting as well as he is. Consider how much slack a catcher gets on the offensive side. Most backstops get the free pass of having so much to think through mentally that they can’t be expected to hit for average, and that is a fair argument. So what about Pacheco? He is also learning a new position, and third base is no cake walk. Mentally he cannot take any plays off and has to constantly be thinking.

    Being a big leaguer is hard enough as a rookie. It is tough to hit. It is even more difficult when there are so many other things to learn. Pacheco has done extremely well playing the cards that he has been dealt. Saturday night was a prime example of that. His three hits upped his batting average to .306, well above what most would have predicted.

    Pacheco may not be in consideration for long-term third base duty for the Rockies with Arenado around the corner. However, he is certainly going to make it difficult to leave him on the bench when he has proven that he can not only hit, but hit well at the big league level. If his power develops, he could turn into a star.

  • Guthrie can’t hold big lead; let the trading begin

    Wed, July 18, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    The hits keep coming for the Colorado Rockies … or, more appropriately, the hits keep coming for those batters opposing the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies lost a 5-1 lead to the Pirates, and the baseball game, 9-6 on Wednesday.

    It would have been a bad trade even if Jason Hammel hadn’t performed well for the Baltimore Orioles.

    Being honest, Jeremy Guthrie was just a marginal Major League pitcher before the trade. The idea that he was an ace was rooted in the fact that the Orioles team he pitched for was so bad that he became the guy who pitched on Opening Day by default.

    What Guthrie has become has never been as apparent as the scene that took place in the 3rd inning. When opposing pitcher James McDonald stepped to the plate with two outs in the frame, Jim Tracy went to the mound to take the ball from Guthrie. When a manager doesn’t think his starting pitcher is capable of getting the opposing pitcher out, the confidence is at an all-time low.

    It got worse, as Guthrie headed to the dugout to a chorus of boos from the Coors Field faithful. The disgraced right-hander, who had previously tipped his cap to the booing crowd, avoided that disgrace. Instead, he headed into the dugout and ripped his pinstriped Rockies jersey off in disgust.

    The Rockies came out on fire. They knocked McDonald around early. Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the 1st inning with a pace-setting home run to right field. Two batters later, Carlos Gonzalez smashed a bomb off the back wall of the bullpen.

    The scoring continued in the 2nd inning as the Rockies scored two more runs to give them a 5-1 lead.

    In most seasons, a game in which the offense had it going, the game would become a laugher and be chalked up as a win by the 5th inning. However, in this season, the unfortunate reality for the Rockies is that there were probably more fans expecting them to blow the lead than fans who were expecting them to build on it.

    That is the type of year the Rockies are having.

    In a completely lost season, the acquisition of Guthrie has quickly moved up the list of poor decisions in the history of the Rockies. Along with trading Brad Ausmus to the Padres for Bruce Hurst and Greg Harris way back in 1993, the club has had their fair share of bad moves. Yet, the move to bring Guthrie in as the ace of the Rockies has backfired as badly as any of them.

    The only redeeming quality of the Guthrie trade is that he was a one-year mistake. The signings of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle set the club back for six years, reshaping the way they went about business.

    At this point, it isn’t Guthrie’s fault. He has made it clear that he is baffled by Coors Field. He has all but said that he has no confidence in himself pitching at altitude. The fact that the Rockies have run him back to the mound twice in this homestand, when getting rocked only makes Guthrie’s trade value lower than it already is, it simply doesn’t make sense.

    The Rockies might be able to sell Guthrie to another team as a guy who will do better once he is out of the nightmare that has become his first season in Denver. It would be easy to convince another team that he will return to at least being serviceable once out of Coors, but the fact is, his value is slim-to-none, the best the Rockies will be able to do for Guthrie is a low-level minor leaguer and some salary relief.

    With the trade deadline two weeks away, the Rockies should be well on their way to saying goodbye to many of the players who have been in the clubhouse with them all season long. Guthrie, if anyone wants him, will most certainly be gone. Marco Scutaro, Jason Giambi, Ramon Hernandez, and perhaps Rafael Betancourt should all be dressing in purple pinstripes for the final time sometime in the next two weeks.

    Whether the Rockies can get some value from the trades remains to be seen, but the fact is, it probably works out better for the team that they are so far removed from even fooling themselves that they are in the race that they should have no issue wheeling and dealing nearly anyone that teams are willing to talk about.

    The Rockies get a day off on Thursday before they head to San Diego and Arizona for a six-game road trip that has meaningless written all over it.

    The team needs to continue to give their young talent a chance to improve. They need to get them as much experience as they possibly can in order to see what they have heading into the 2013 season.

  • Win in ninth bodes well for future

    Tue, July 17, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    In the year that is 2012 for the Colorado Rockies, there was no other way for play to resume after the rain delay in the top of the 9th inning.

    Poised to win 4-1, giving Jeff Francis another win in what has been a phenomenal homecoming, the Rockies win was put on ice after the Pirates had put two men on base with one out. When Pedro Alvarez, a power-hitting lefty stepped to the plate, third base umpire Gary Cederstrom felt that the rain had become unplayable and he called for the tarp to come out.

    After an hour and nine minute rain delay, Rex Brothers took the mound in place of Rafael Betancourt. One quick ground ball and the game would be over. Not so fast. Brothers’ first pitch to Alvarez was a belt-high fastball that the left hander deposited deep into the empty left field bleachers.

    Suddenly, a game that seemed to be in the Rockies hands was now tied. As bad as 2012 has been for the Rockies, this was a game they were destined to lose. It was a situation where the bats would fall flat in the bottom of the 9th inning and the bullpen would give up another run or two and the Pirates would steal one.

    Instead, rising rookie Wilin Rosario started off the bottom half of the 9th with a base hit off of former-Rockie Jason Grilli. Fellow rookie Josh Rutledge had the job of bunting Rosario to second base, but couldn’t get the job done, striking out on a foul bunt. With one out, Jason Giambi took the at-bat that fans have become accustomed to. He lined a ball to center field, moving Rosario to third base with one out.

    With the winning run at third base and one out, Dexter Fowler had one job, hit the ball in the air. A ground ball with the infield in would almost certainly result in an out at the plate with Jim Tracy always eager for an opportunity to run the contact play. Fowler did the job, he made contact and elevated a pitch from Grilli. Rosario was able to score from third on the fly to center, giving the Rockies the win that they thought they had secured a couple of hours before.

    Lost in the 9th inning fireworks was the performance by Jeff Francis. There is no way to deny the impact that the former ace has had in his return to the Rockies. The lefty went five innings, giving up one run on six hits. He didn’t walk a batter and he struck out one.

    The outing, and previous performances by Francis underscore something that has been missing from this 2012 Colorado Rockies season. When a starting pitcher pitches well enough for his team to stay in the game, good things happen. Francis didn’t walk away with a victory. His outing will be a forgotten fact in a roller coaster game in which the club gave up a three-run lead in the 9th, only to get the win back in the bottom half of the frame.

    However, what Francis did was put his team in a position to win a baseball game. That is all a starting pitcher can do. On Monday night, the Rockies took advantage of that. Other nights it won’t go so well, but the fact that the offense was given nine innings worth of opportunities to make an impact in the game goes very far for the confidence of the hitters.

    On top of Francis’ performance, the work of middle reliever Josh Roenicke should not be forgotten. The right-hander pitched three “piggy-back” innings, giving up just one hit. Roenicke has been a diamond in the rough, picked up on waivers in September of 2011, he has turned into one of three lock-down relievers that the Rockies can turn to.

    The Rockies are well out of the race in 2012. Anyone who thinks they can make a run to the playoffs is delusional. However, this is a perfect time for the Rockies to gain some momentum heading into 2013. It is a great time for them to gain experience for their young players who are looking to get comfortable at the big league level.

    For what that is worth, Wilin Rosario is gaining that invaluable experience. In the 5th inning, the inning in which the Rockies scored their first four runs, Rosario executed a perfect hit and run, taking an inside pitch to the right side of the infield, squeaking a hit into right field and moving the runner to third base.

    His base hit in the bottom of the 9th inning was another step in the right direction. Young players have the tendency to try and do too much in that situation. Rosario didn’t try to hit the ball out of the ballpark, he looked for a pitch that he could hit hard and he put it into the outfield.

    Those are good signs for a catcher who is looking to be the Rockies first-ever catching prospect who becomes a fixture at the position for the club.

    As bad as it has been for the Rockies, there are a few positives that are starting to emerge from this lost season. The youth of this team is giving fans some hope. The players that are taking the field seem to have some chemistry, and if that grows, this team could quickly return to playing games that matter late in the season.

  • There is potential, but not until 2013

    Mon, July 16, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Nothing was too special, or too unexpected from Sunday’s Colorado Rockies 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Cole Hamels pitched like an ace who will be highly coveted as a free agent in the offseason. Drew Pomeranz pitched like a rookie with a ton of promise, but still making small mistakes that are common of players with a lack of big league experience.

    Pomeranz’s big mistake came in the 5th inning when he gave up a single to Jimmy Rollins. With the speedster on first base, Pomeranz attempted a pick off, but threw wildly to first, which landed Rollins on second base. The lefty then walked Shane Victorino after looking like he was thrown off by the poor throw. Immediately following the walk, Hunter Pence deposited a three-run homer into left field, giving the Phillies five runs, and essentially ensuring the victory.

    On the other side, Hamels was simply himself. He went eight strong innings, mixing and matching and keeping the Rockies off balance. He had no trouble with Coors Field, understanding the importance of keeping the ball down in the strike zone in order to attain success. He induced 11 ground ball outs, while only recording one out via the fly ball.

    In a year when the Rockies have nearly hit rock bottom, it has become almost laughable to hear general manager Dan O’Dowd and manager Jim Tracy insist that Coors Field is playing differently, that the ball is suddenly flying out of the park again, and that the humidor doesn’t seem to be doing its job. It seems that every time one of those two make that excuse, an opposing pitcher comes into Coors Field and proves their theory wrong.

    On Sunday, that was Hamels. His eight innings of one-run baseball was the best example of that since C.J. Wilson dominated the Rockies in early June. The fact is, good pitching, pounding the lower half of the strike zone, coupled with good defense is going to induce ground ball outs.

    Young pitchers like Pomeranz, Alex White and Christian Friedrich are going to have a learning curve coming to the big leagues. They are going to have to figure out how to get big league hitters out. Games like Pomeranz had on Sunday are going to happen as part of the process. None of them are going to be dominant right away, that just isn’t how it typically works.

    However, the key is for the Rockies to continue to preach to the young pitchers the formula for success at the big league level. They have to teach them to continue to pitch to contact, with the occasional strikeout pitch. They need to pound the strike zone and allow their defense to do the work and things will go well for them.

    If the Rockies can preach that mindset, and get their young pitchers to believe that they can pitch well at Coors Field, the Rockies might have a chance to win in 2013. They must stop using Coors Field as an excuse and start using the park as the advantage that it really should be.

    In the meantime, Rockies fans should still be excited about what the future holds for some of their young arms. Pomeranz, White, Friedrich and Nicasio have all shown promise. They all have the capability of being very good Major League pitchers. If they realize that potential, the Rockies could quickly turn the ship around and become a contender, or at least respectability.

  • Rutledge, Friedrich give hope for future

    Sat, July 14, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    For Josh Rutledge, it doesn’t get any better.

    Two days ago the 23-year-old was in the starting lineup for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers. After the fourth inning he was removed from the game and told that he had been called up, not called up to Triple-A, called up to the big league level.

    He would make his Major League debut on Friday night against the Phillies. Rutledge found himself in the starting lineup out of the game, playing shortstop and hitting eighth against Cliff Lee.

    Forget that Lee has recorded only one win in the 2012 season. Forget that he doesn’t look anywhere close to the Cliff Lee that has dominated over the past four seasons. This is still Cliff Lee, a man whose focus in the postseason has made him one of the richest pitchers in the history of the game. This is who Rutledge had to face on Friday.

    If there were any nerves for Rutledge, they didn’t show. In his first at-bat, he ripped an RBI double to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

    He wasn’t done there. He came back up to the plate in the fourth inning and hit a single the opposite way to move Jordan Pacheco to third base. In the sixth, with a runner on third base and one out, Rutledge took perhaps his best at-bat of the night. He didn’t try to do too much, and lined a ball to right field, just deep enough to score Tyler Colvin. The sacrifice fly gave Rutledge both of the Rockies’ RBIs on the night.

    In the seventh inning, Rutledge recorded the first walk of his big league career, and then decided to get another “first” out of the way by swiping second base for his first career stolen base.

    As far as a Major League debut goes, it doesn’t get much better than that. His batting average sits at a pretty 1.000 and his two early RBIs were enough to get the Rockies going.

    Rutledge is one of the newest crop of prospects that the Rockies organization is excited about. Making the jump from Double-A is going to eventually throw a few speed bumps his way, but it is a good move for the Rockies. They are well out of the race and they need to find out if Rutledge and some of the other prospects can play at the big league level so that the team can be comfortable enough to sell off some of their aging and expiring contracts.

    The move to bring Rutledge up might also be a way to invigorate some very angry fans. This move might be done to show fans that the Rockies aren’t as far off as everyone seems to think they are. They have some prospects coming up that they are excited about and they aren’t afraid to play them to show what they can do.

    Despite a phenomenal debut for the rookie, Rutledge will have some ups-and-downs, just like every big leaguer. The interesting thing to watch for will be how he handles the failure. It will also be interesting to see how the Rockies handle his failure. Will they be quick to ship him back to the minors? Will they let him tread water until he figures things out? There can only be guesses at this point, but the time has never been better to see what some of the younger players can accomplish.

    As good as Rutledge’s debut was, it overshadowed an absolutely incredible outing by Christian Friedrich on the mound. The lefty looks far more comfortable at Coors Field. Working his big hook, Friedrich struck out seven in six innings of work, giving up only one run on five hits. He pounded the strike zone, only walking one batter.

    Friedrich, if he learns to pitch at Coors Field like he did on Friday night, could be a star. Something suddenly changed in him from 2011. He looks far more confident and his stuff is crisp.

    Make no mistake, the Colorado Rockies are still a very bad team. However, if they can get some experience for their younger prospects who are waiting on the farm, the year might not be all lost. These are the prospects who the Rockies are depending on to turn the ship quickly and get the Rockies back in the playoff hunt within a year.

    For one night, however, Rockies fans don’t have to look to the future. They can be happy with two great performances from two very young baseball players.

  • Rockies not going anywhere, but second half should be better

    Fri, July 13, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    Every bit of criticism that the Colorado Rockies have received has been well deserved. It is extremely difficult to find any positives in this horrible season. In fact, the truth is, the Rockies probably deserve even more criticism than what blogs, newspaper articles, and local radio shows have thrown their way.

    This is a terrible team. It isn’t just the players on the field. It is a top-to-bottom failure. From ownership to the scouting department to the players on the field, this franchise has been terrible.

    The good news is, however, the worst is behind the 2012 Rockies.

    Most people think that is a crazy statement. Most who follow the club know that the trend suggests that the team that is on pace to lose 100 games for the first time in franchise history is only going to get worse as the season goes on.

    However, that might not be the case. In all of the losing, the talent on this team is starting to surface. Instead of pitchers like Jamie Moyer wasting innings for the Rockies, the team is letting its young talent gain valuable experience. Jeremy Guthrie, another albatross in the Rockies staff, should soon be shipped off to a team looking for another arm for the stretch.

    As bad as the rotation has been in the first half of the season, there is reason to believe that they will be much better in the second half. The fact is, the rotation is better with Drew Pomeranz and Christian Friedrich than it was with Moyer and Guthrie on Opening Day.

    Jhoulys Chacin should be back within a month and at some point, Juan Nicasio will return from his knee injury that has gone from a minor setback to something that eliminated nearly half of his season.

    The only thing holding those four pitchers back is the Rockies’ crazy four-man, 75-pitch limit rotation. If that goes out the window, which is debatable, the young talent is a huge reason for hope. There is a ton of talent among those four pitchers, and there is depth in the form of Alex White, and frankly, the addition of Jeff Francis has far better than anyone could have expected when he was picked up.

    The main source of the Rockies struggles has been their starting rotation. With the young pitchers starting to figure things out and gain more experience, the second half has potential to be better.

    The pitchers have been the big issue, but the lineup should also continue to improve, which will only help. Wilin Rosario is showing that he has a Major League bat. Pitchers continue to try and throw fastballs by him, and he continues to show them that they made a mistake for trying. He struggles with sliders, but should also see improvement with more at-bats.

    The other young hitters are also gaining much-needed experience. Jordan Pacheco, while not hitting for the desired power for a corner position, is giving the Rockies much more than they could have expected. His defense is improving, and he gives solid at-bats in the bottom half of the lineup.

    The biggest area of improvement will come when Troy Tulowitzki returns from injury. The shortstop’s season has been sabotaged by his groin injury, but returning healthy should allow him to be the Troy Tulowitzki who finished in the top five of the NL MVP voting the past two seasons.

    A healthy, hitting Tulowitzki means better pitches for an already on-fire Carlos Gonzalez. If CarGo can hit at .330 with Tulowitzki either not in the lineup or not at his best, things can only get better when Tulo is healthy and hitting in front of him.

    Make no mistake, this Colorado Rockies team is finished. They are going nowhere and they will finish well short of .500. There are still major issues plaguing the front office, starting with Dan O’Dowd and trickling down to Jim Tracy. The excuse mindset has crept in and is something that needs to be removed in the offseason. However, there is still reason to believe that the 2012 Rockies will improve. Despite the ineptitude of the front office, this team should be much better than it was in the first half.

  • Reasons for hope still exist

    Wed, July 11, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    In a way, the home run derby and the All-Star game was very fitting for Colorado Rockies fans.

    The Rockies had a participant in each in the form of Carlos Gonzalez, but he made little impact while the guys around him put on the real show. It was strangely symbolic for a team that has been as bad as any team in the league throughout the first half of the season.

    With the Denver Broncos set to open training camp in two weeks, the Rockies are soon to be an afterthought in Denver. The clamoring for Dan O’Dowd to be fired will turn into clamoring over how many victories Peyton Manning will lead the Broncos to.

    So what else do Rockies fans have to look forward to in 2012?

    As easy as it would be to suggest that there is nothing positive going for the Rockies, the answer isn’t that negative. As bad as things have been in the first half, there are things that the club can build on. There have been individual performers who have given the club some signs of hope.

    1. Dexter Fowler

    Dexter Fowler is a huge bright spot in an otherwise dismal season. The fleet of foot outfielder seems to be figuring things out at the big league level. After a horrendous spring, he is hitting an even .300. He leads the National League in triples with nine and surprisingly, has added the power element to his game, launching 11 home runs.

    Fowler still strikes out way too much. He has 73 strike outs to just 37 walks. However, the rest of his game has significantly improved. Considering the fact that he was on the bubble coming out of spring training as a guy who the Rockies might need to move on from, Fowler has impressed. The impressive thing is that his progression may just be at the beginning. If Fowler can cut down on the strikeouts and use his speed to get on base, his numbers could improve even further. The only thing to worry about with Fowler is whether his sudden breakout season will make him a valuable trade commodity at the end of July. It is doubtful that the Rockies would deal him, but if they were offered enough, it might be the perfect time to pull the trigger.

    2. Tyler Colvin

    As much heat as Dan O’Dowd has taken, Colvin represents a major win for the embattled general manager. The Cubs and Rockies essentially traded their biggest head scratchers to each other. The Rockies gave up Ian Stewart and the Cubs gave back Colvin. The two throw-ins were DJ LeMahieu and Casey Weathers.

    Stewart continued his downward spiral in Chicago before requiring wrist surgery that will most likely end his season, and Colvin has pressed his way into the starting lineup. In just 200 plate appearances, Colvin is hitting .305 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs. He is also a free-swinger, notching 48 strikeouts to just nine walks, but overall, his performance has been nothing short of remarkable for the Rockies. Whether it is a fluke, as many have suggested, or if this is the real Colvin, should be discovered quickly in the second half.

    3. Wilin Rosario

    His defense is nothing short of frustrating. He struggles with balls in the dirt, he looks silly on routine plays and often throws the ball away. There is no excuse for poor play behind the plate, but it is also easy to forget that the catcher is making the jump from the Double-A level. He would have started in Triple-A, but the Rockies were convinced that playing every third day behind veteran Ramon Hernandez would aid his growth. With Hernandez hurt, Rosario has been thrust into a role that he isn’t ready for. His defense is showing that fact, but his offense looks like the real deal. Even with such a small sample size, it leaves anyone who watches Rosario on a regular basis shaking their heads when an opposing pitcher throws him anything but a slider. Fastballs tend to get out of the ballpark in a hurry when they are throw to Rosario, and they travel a long way.

    If Bryce Harper wasn’t already ordained Rookie of the Year before he made his debut, Rosario would be a top candidate. He has 14 home runs, well on his way to breaking Todd Helton’s Rockies rookie record of 25. Rosario has proven that Hernandez is no longer needed, and that he is ready to move forward as the starting catcher. With experience, Rosario’s bat could prove to be a huge piece of a lineup that has no shortage of power.

    4. Young starting pitchers

    In a season like this, putting anyone who is a starting pitcher on this list seems crazy. However, as bad as things have been for the Rockies, as much as they have struggled, particularly on the mound, take a step back and look at the talent that a few of the young starting pitchers have shown.

    Despite a general manager who tells his team that their home park is an impossible place to pitch, Drew Pomeranz and Christian Friedrich have done well in their limited appearances at the big league level.

    Pomeranz was supposed to impress. The Rockies dealt their first ace to Cleveland for him. Friedrich, on the other hand, had nearly been forgotten about before a great spring training put him back on the map. A curveball that resembles Barry Zito’s when he was a Cy Young winner and a fastball that sits around 93 mph gives Friedrich impressive stuff. Even better than his stuff is his poise on the mound. He carries himself like a veteran who knows he is going to get outs.

    Along with Friedrich, Pomeranz has shown that he is ready not just to participate, but to dominate at the big league level. The lefty held the Nationals to just one hit in six-plus innings on Friday night and has the confidence back that the Rockies were excited about when they snagged him from the Indians.

    Combine those two guys with a healthy Juan Nicasio, a Jhoulys Chacin who is back in shape and potentially Alex White or any number of other starters and the Rockies rotation suddenly doesn’t look so bad. With former pitching coach Bob Apodaca out of the way, the younger Rockies might have a chance to develop into good starting pitchers. The key is to ignore the words that come down from the front office about how difficult it is to pitch at Coors Field. If these young minds can avoid that excuse, they might just turn this club around.

    As bad as it has been for the Rockies in 2012, there are still some reasons to keep paying attention. There are still reasons to hope that this team can be in a much better spot one year from now.

  • What-ifs after first half; who’s coming should be next

    Mon, July 9, 2012 by admin with no comments

    BY DAVID MARTIN

    If this Jeremy Guthrie would have shown up at the beginning, the Colorado Rockies might be in a different position.

    The embattled right-hander went six strong innings, giving up just two runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked only one. The lone mistake Guthrie made was driven by Ian Desmond over the wall for a two-run homer.

    The performance was what Dan O’Dowd had expected when he traded Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom for the veteran “innings-eater.” He thought he was going to get a guy who would pitch to contact, give up a few hits, but find ways to get outs and keep his team in the game long enough for the offense to throw a punch.

    On Sunday, Guthrie gave his offense a chance to win, and the offense took advantage. The decisive blow came off of Eric Young Jr.’s bat. He launched a pinch-hit home run to lead off the eighth inning, helping propel the Rockies to a comeback 4-3 victory over the best team in the National League.

    After Young homered, the Rockies scored in ways that they generally only see when they are on defense. Two wild pitches helped Colorado score their final two runs, giving them a one-run lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

    As the Rockies head into the All-Star break, it is hard not to think back on the first three months of a lost season and think about what might have been had the Rockies pitching materialized the way they thought it would. As bad as this team has been, the pieces were in place for them to at least be decent.

    If Jhoulys Chacin wouldn’t have hidden his injury in spring training, if Guthrie would have been anywhere near the innings-eater that the Rockies had expected, even simply being a .500 pitcher. If the Rockies had allowed Drew Pomeranz to pitch the way that he is capable of pitching without trying to tinker with his delivery in the minor leagues for so long, and if Juan Nicasio had stayed healthy enough to simply be decent, the Rockies season would have been a different story.

    As bad as this team has been, the reality is, the offense has been good besides a few lapses that almost every team endures throughout a season, and the bullpen, despite having to pitch as many innings as they have been asked to pitch, has been one of the best in baseball.

    The starting pitching and the defense has been the biggest issue for the Rockies. So big that a very good offense, one better than what the Rockies had in 2009 when they went to the playoffs, simply cannot overcome.

    Of course, there are quite a few “if’s” in making the Rockies a decent team. Those are four guys who needed a different fate for this club to succeed. The way to overcome those “if’s” is to be prepared for them not to all happen. Dan O’Dowd, who has even admitted not getting enough pitching depth, needed to bring in additional arms that could have helped the big league roster. Instead of signing a couple of proven veteran arms, he signed Jamie Moyer, a 49-year-old coming back from Tommy John surgery. Beyond Moyer, he traded possibly the team’s best pitcher in Jason Hammel for Guthrie, who had been nothing more than pedestrian in Baltimore for the past four seasons.

    There was no way to foresee Chacin’s or Nicasio’s injury. However, if the Rockies had been prepared to deal with injury, even with simply a serviceable arm or two, this team might not be in the position that they are in. They might not be quite good enough to be competing, but they might be hovering somewhere around .500, a mark that most fans probably wouldn’t be too disappointed with.

    For now, the Rockies head into the All-Star break with a chance to reflect on what has gone wrong, and for some, to prepare to get shipped off to a team that has a chance to play in the postseason.

    Watching their team be sellers at the trade deadline isn’t fun for Rockies fans, but it should be exciting to see what returns the club can get from the talent that won’t be around after the 2012 campaign anyway.