2011 was supposed to be an aberration. The team that was picked to win the division on the way to the World Series, by many a prognosticator, ended up in the basement with many fingers pointing all different directions.
Not a problem. Chalk it up to team culture and clean house was the answer.
So, the monster trade of Ubaldo Jimenez at the end of July, shedding slothful servants in the clubhouse was the mantra for the winter meetings. Under-performing Stewart? Gone. Under-performing Iannetta? Gone. Smith, Street, Reynolds, Hammel, Lindstrom, etc. etc. etc.
It was a Winter Meeting fire sale.
The culture was wrong. The team was suffering because of under-performing from the field and on the mound. The team just wasn’t living up to its 2007 high water mark.
Ah, that 2007 season and its baby brother, 2009. The mighty albatross of expectations that fans have been holding onto like a ratty baby blanket. Those magical seasons will never happen again, really shouldn’t happen again, because both were “lightning in a bottle” type of moments. One season needed a miracle, going 21 – 1 to take the big stage while the other hinged on the firing of Clint Hurdle, after going 18 – 28, to spark another unlikely run to the playoffs.
Do the Rockies need to suck to succeed?
2010 was the “Year of the Pitcher”, and the Rockies had the best arm on the mound.
Pitching wins games. Everything is contingent on pitching. You build a team around pitching.
Pick your phrase, but please don’t forget the meaning behind the words: Pitching is king.
So, when you enter a season and the one single unifying voice between the news outlets and fan site combined is that the pitching for the Rockies was completely questionable and it would be a miracle if they competed at all, you have to wonder why anyone would be surprised after the 33rd game of the season that our starting pitching is a combined 6 – 12 and scraping bottom in almost all of the statistics.
One of the biggest red flags? Matt Reynolds has the most wins on the team. A reliever has more wins than any of the starters.
Is it the Coors Field Effect?
Fans hate the phrase. The Hall of Fame will have to deal with it come Helton inductee time. Is the altitude of Coors to blame for the team hitting going missing on the road?
Is it mental? Is it physical?
But, one thing is for certain: this team isn’t hitting on the road.
With one of the most impressive lineups since the Blake St. Bombers, at least on paper, hitting wasn’t supposed to be an issue this year. All of the trades made during the winter meetings seemed to focus around shedding under-performing bats and bringing in lumber that could launch the ball to new heights.
Cuddyer, Hernandez, Scutaro and Blake were all supposed to beef up a lineup in ways we hadn’t seen in years.
For the most part it worked.
Blake was a bust and Scutaro hasn’t been anywhere near his 2011 numbers, but Cuddyer and Hernandez both proved they belonged on a team that honored hitting above all else.
Tulo didn’t show up.
You can’t blame the Coors Effect for the approach you get from Tulo with runners on.
You can’t blame the Coors Effect for the approach you get from Tulo with nobody on.
You can only blame Tulo for his home run or bust cuts on each and every swing.
Troy Tulowitzki, as anyone can see, is going through another rough spot at the plate. His desire to be the best that ever played is quickly turning him into an over swinging bundle of negative. He knows it and we know it. Tracy just seemed to figure it out as he moved Tulo down to fifth in the lineup.
But, Tulo isn’t alone. Tulo isn’t the reason we put up 19 hits over the three game sweep to the Dodgers.
So, is it acclimating after altitude that has our boys bumbling? Or, is it just not understanding how to hit in key situations?
Say what you will about Jim Tracy as a manager, but his mini speech to the team in San Diego about treating the next few ballparks differently, by not going for broke at every bat, was sage advice.
Too bad it fell on deaf ears.
If there was one thing that was key coming into 2012, one aspect of the game that was a given, it was the gloves. If pitching wins games then fielding saves pitching.
You can’t strike out every hitter every time.
Balls get put into play. Gloves have to be used.
The Rockies have an excellent history of great fielding. Helton is one of the best gloves you will ever find at first base in the history of the game. Tulo, CarGo and Dex were all considered impenetrable if a ball was hit their way.
So, with a struggling presence on the mound then every single ball launched into the field of play becomes even more important. Getting that ball to the proper bag becomes a must.
In 2007 the Rockies made MLB history with their fielding percentage at .989. Last year they were 13th at .984. This season so far they are 23rd with a .979 and 26 errors. They only made 68 errors in all of 2007.
It is worth repeating: if we aren’t pitching well then we better darn well be fielding.
Many fans call for the head of the team when they body isn’t winning. The shouts for Tracy, Apodaca and O Dowd’s heads on a plate get louder with every loss, especially series losses, not to mention sweeps.
On the one hand, it is Tulo’s hand on the bat making those horrible swings, not Carney’s.
On the other hand, it is Esmil on the mound walking batter after batter while Tracy is just sitting there watching.
The players are the ones playing the game, this is true. The argument that the owners and managers shouldn’t be the scapegoats for poor play is only as true when viewed against the idea that the players are only as good as the support they are given. If that support isn’t solid then they are setup to fail.
So, how is this team setup to fail? It all comes back to pitching. Pitching was the big question mark and management knew that as much as anyone.
If the owners wanted to give their guys a chance on the field, they would have brought in the best on the mound.
It is completely demoralizing having to field behind starters that have consistently failed to see a seventh inning or later.
When all is said and done, pitching is king and pitching is what has been neglected for too long. Coors will only see the loyal gracing the seats and eating the treats for so long before they recognize that their hard-earned dollars aren’t being spent judiciously. Ownership needs to recognize what every single player, reporter and fan has been saying all along: you can’t win games with our rotation on a consistent basis. Period.
I’d like to thank D The Ranter for the use of the images above. His blog Rockpile Rant has not only excellent insight from an excellent fan, but some of the coolest pictures you will ever see. Go check it out!