Rockies Magic Number

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

7 in a row? Inconceivable!

My last post must've lit a fire under the Rockies, because somehow, they've eked out a few wins.

Things that have worked:

Starting Pitching. Maybe not completely lights out, but consistent enough to give the bullpen a fighting chance.

The bats have slowly started clicking. The boys are STILL leaving an obscene number of runners on base, but as long as the pitching and defense are trying, wins are coming in.

Ryan Spilborghs. 'Nuff Said.

Players coming back off of the DL. Namely, Rodrigo Lopez, who had a solid start against StL, allowing 3 runs over 6 innings in his first start since his return.

Good play from utility players and spot starters. I mentioned Spilborghs. Taylor Buchholz has strung together 2 straight quality starts, allowing only 3ER over 14 innings of work and has watched his season ERA drop 2 full runs. With Josh Fogg going to the DL with a groin strain, Buchholz looks to build on these quality outings, and make himself a more dependable member of the Rockies pitching staff. (Don't count on it. Buchholz, while a hard thrower and a spot starter, isn't really the 'anchor' type of pitcher.)

The bullpen has looked mildly more solid since the Royals series. Jorge Julio has watched his ERA drop from 12.5 to 10.2. DRASTIC improvement. But in all seriousness, the core of the pen has remained solid - and by core, I mean Affeldt, Fuentes, Corpas, and hopefully Ramirez will regain his form.

Many problems still remain with this team, but for now, let us bask in the glory of the Rockies firing on enough good cylinders to provide some solid wins the rest of this homestand. Although, I am going tomorrow night, so if they lose, yeah, my bad.

Until next time, sports fans, this is Andrew, wishing you all a great night.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Quarter of the season away, and ever so far to go.

The Rockies are 20-27 overall this season, and only 10-13 at home.

The Rockies bullpen is the worst in the majors. The pen’s ERA is just under 9, and starters’ confidence is being repeatedly shot with zero run support and this shaky bullpen to back them up.

Management isn’t sure how to handle this pitching quagmire, and it’s showing game in and game out.

On Friday against the Royals, Jeff Francis allowed 2ER over 7 1/3 innings pitched. Francis gave up a leadoff single and then struck out the next batter before being pulled by manager Clint Hurdle in favor of typical 8th inning setup man Manny Corpas.

Up until this outing, Corpas had been stellar, carrying an ERA of 1.35 into the 8th against the Royals.

I’ll interject into this general analysis of the team at this point with my own personal commentary.

Has Clint Hurdle been watching his own team for the past season? Manny Corpas and Ramon Ramirez are absolute garbage handling inherited runners. They’re both still young relievers, and they need the freedom to walk one or give up a single before they can close out their inning. And if those inherited runners, say, score on these singles, they will completely go on tilt and opposing batters will begin teeing off on them. Given their own innings, the two combine to be reliable relievers whose bad outings are far outnumbered by their lights-out innings.

Additionally, what was Hurdle thinking with Francis? Jeff Francis is NOT Jason Jennings, as much as that might help the team. Francis is not an inning eater; he’s a solid 6- or 7-inning starter who can give the bullpen something to work with on a regular basis. The point being is that after pitching the 7th inning, Francis tends to become shaky and gets himself into trouble. HAD Hurdle been watching the previous inning, he’d have remembered Francis’ 1st and 3rd jam with nobody out that he lucked himself out of with no runs scoring, and maybe had thought twice about pulling Francis after only one out, the game would’ve resulted in a win. I mean, we lost 2/3 to the ROYALS! I hope that we kept Girardi’s number when we traded him in ’95.

Corpas proceeded to walk his first hitter and allowed 5 runs to score, one being Francis’ leadoff single. Corpas only managed 1 out before Hurdle turned to recent callup Darren Clarke, who proceeded to get out of the inning with no further damage. (Clarke had been called up from AA that day to take the place of Zach McClellan who had just gone on the DL.)

Now, all the blame being placed on Clint Hurdle isn’t entirely fair. The Rockies hit the DL hard early in the season. Kaz Matsui went down fast with lower back spasms (after batting ~.360 with 5 SB), Rodrigo Lopez dropped with an arm strain, Byung-Hyun Kim, LaTroy Hawkins, and Ramon Ramirez soon followed. AAA RHP Zach McClellan was brought up, and was an effective replacement for the 14.0 innings he spent with the club before himself falling to the injury bug. Willy Taveras spent some time sitting with a groin strain, giving Steve Finley plenty of time to be old in the lineup.

When injuries weren’t a factor, lack of bats came to play. Uber-utility player Jamey Carroll was soon (and still is) battling the Mendoza line from the losing side, as well as young catcher Chris Ianetta. Tulowitzki was having trouble finding his swing from early on, and prospective lineup fixture Garrett Atkins still hasn’t really moved beyond .240. Bench production was at a minimum, besides Carroll, as Finley and Mabry failed to crack .200 and were a relative non-factor off of the bench. Omar Quintanilla, who has been up and down since his acquisition by the Rockies, was brought up to fill out the void in the infield, and batted above .250 during his short time back in the majors.

Good news soon came, however, as some creative lineup moves began to bring out some production from some of the Rockies. With Matsui still on the DL, Tulowitzki was moved to the #2 spot, and while batting in the 2, his AVG has been .284 with 2 homers and 14 RBI.

Atkins was dropped to the 5-hole and Holliday was moved into the 3. A good move, but it could’ve been done sooner.

Brad Hawpe, while batting poorly through April (although taking more walks, a good improvement for those who’ve been following), began to find his stroke in the early weeks of May, and was soon moved to the #5 spot, dropping the still slumping Atkins to #6.

Willy Taveras began to look like the CF that Coors has needed, and his batting average is still sitting around .300 with an OBP of .375+, and he is still a constant threat to steal.

Holliday has been nothing but astounding so far this season, and Todd Helton is looking like the 1B foundation that the Coors Faithful have been so accustomed to before the past 2 seasons.

And that brings us to today. Kaz Matsui has returned to 2B and the #2 spot in the lineup, and has quickly returned to fine form. John Mabry has been sent down to AAA Colorado Springs, and OF Ryan Spilborghs has been called up, much to the excitement of many in Coors. The downside of these roster moves is that with the return of Kaz, either Carroll or Quintanilla would need to be sent back down to make room on the 25-man roster.

Now let’s look at this objectively. Carroll has gotten himself caught in at least 2 rundowns this season, if not more. He is, to date (5-23-07), batting .184. Defensively, there’s not an issue. So look at Quintanilla, who batted about .070 above Carroll, shows the same, if not better, defensive prowess at both 2B and SS, has the same speed on the basepaths, but is not under a $4M/2year contract. It would seem that Carroll is retaining his spot on the active roster because he is being paid for it, and not the other way around. The front office’s excuse is that they already have 2 young players on the roster trying to find a consistent swing on off-the-bench duty and irregular starts in Ryan Spilborghs and Jeff Baker, they don’t want a third.

Honestly, if I’m going to be fed this much boloney from the front office, I want a weenie whistle.

The Rockies are one of the most promising squads out there, with young stars like Corpas, Tulowitzki, and Taveras, potential superstars such as Matt Holliday, a solid veteran cornerstone in Todd Helton, and even a few players finding a second chance with the Rocks like Kaz Matsui.

It’s not a bad team, overall. I refuse to say it’s completely garbage. But something is not clicking, and if previously performing pieces aren’t moving together like they should, maybe it’s time for a change.

And I don’t mean trade Todd Helton.

Until next ranting update, Coors Faithful, this is Andrew, wishing everyone a fine day.