The Rockies entered June still in first place…and would be there on June 4th if the Milwaukee bullpen could have held an 8-5 lead.
In the past two weeks I have heard Ryan Spillbourghs and Pat Saunders of the Denver Post repeat my old dictum – everyone wins 60, everyone loses 60, it’s the other 42 that determine champions and who gets the first overall pick. Spilly’s quote had some math issues but…I appreciated hearing from two baseball people what I thought I had developed on my own (even in my chosen field of study I am an inveterate stealer of ideas and then forget they are someone elses).
What has always been the issue is how do you know which 42 are which? Was the Rox blowing a multiple run lead in San Diego for the second time this season one of the 60 or the 42? And the three games against Seattle…which are those?
Look, sometimes you just run into a team on a hot streak or starting one. I think what we saw against Washington back in April is a case of that (and while they are a great team, if the Rox played them the next week after the injury to Eaton or when Turner started to cool off, is that a 3-1 series in the Rox favor?).
The Seattle series was very disappointing. They lost their first series in a month losing the home series 2-0, and then having to rely on Kyle Freeland and a big fly from Arenado to split the road series. And then they go out and blow the Friday game against the Padres. So…time to panic. The Rox woke up on Saturday out of first for essentially the first time in the season. Thankfully the Rox got a 2016 road start from Tyler Chatwood to give the Rox a chance on Sunday to have a 3-4 week…nothing to really panic over. Of course if Hoffman gets shelled or Cozart shuts the bats down, it will be a 2-5 week and the Rox will be that much firther out of first. So maybe a game like Sunday the 4th of June is one of those 42.
The last time I wrote I said that the starting rotation of the Rox and Dbacks had a better starting rotation than the Dodgers, and that the Rox has been, based at least on ERA-, the best of the division. The Dodgers have been searching for the combo to put with Kershaw, and Saturday showed that Rich Hill isn’t that man, at least this year. With Alex Wood going on the DL for at least 2-weeks they suspect, their rotation looks that much weaker. But the Rox rotation is the one that fell apart this past week.
On Monday they got another awful home start from Tyler Chatwood. His control was awful (3 walks doesn’t capture how many spots he missed). For once the bullpen from start to finish was solid (4.2 innings of 3 hit, 3 walk scoreless ball). Tyler really does pitch more like a 5th starter – one game off, one game on. He needs to pitch as a #3 or #2…that is the level of his stuff. But…he just can’t do it consistently. The bats didn’t help with just 7-hits off a decent starter and a pretty good bullpen (Jerry Dipoto I still think is a very bright GM and he knows great defense and great bullpens are key to success).
Then on Tuesday Tyler Anderson pitched like he did in April, not May. He’s now on the DL and I begin to wonder if a lengthy DL spell might be needed to do surgery on whatever is bad in his knee. And of course, as we saw last year with Jake McGee, you take away a solid base from a pitcher and the results fall apart. And knee injuries are not always quick fixes (in my 20s I had a non-ACL but substantial knee injury and I tried to run on it 6-weeks later and…it was a lost year). And once again, the offense sputtered, against a very average at best starter and the lessor arms of their bullpen, again only getting 7 hits.
What was really disconcerting was the bullpen though. Otto is now on the DL. Who knows when he gets back and if back issues might explain why his control is so varied this week. Mike Dunn has been awful since going on the DL, leading me to think he’s not getting the same extension on his pitches since his back injury. And if that is true, this could be a long season if they don’t shut him down and let it get right. And Carlos Estevez was once again hit hard. 5 hits and 3 runs in an inning isn’t acceptable for any guy in the bullpen, and especially a guy with stuff like Estevez. Was his being rushed to the majors last year (and I agreed with doing it…he looked ready and they needed pen help to stay in the race) a factor in what we are seeing? Who knows, but with guys like Yancey Almonte (who a lot of scouts believe profiles better as a reliever despite his strong start in AA this year), Jairo Diaz (who appears to be healthy but has been out of the minors dealing with “personal issues” – probably related to issues in Venezuela), and Sam Moll (a lefty who might be the best choice if Dunn has to go back on the DL), the window for Estevez to be considered an important bullpen arm might be closing (no pun intended).
Then on Wednesday Senzatela wasn’t awful – 4 runs in 5 innings but with 7Ks. But he was hurt by some of the weaker hitters in their lineup. The issue on Wednesday was simply James Paxton wasn’t touched. He’s a great pitcher finally tapping into his potential with a sub-2 ERA. So the issues against Seattle yes highlighted weakness in their pitching but, a total of 18 hits in 3 games isn’t going to win many. Which is why the Friday start against the Padres from Marquez was so disappointing. Now yes, it is possible that the smash to his hand and thumb might have made him lose control of his fastball – he says today it is feeling fine. But when you have a 4-1 lead against the Padres, you have to win it. And when your team finally gets 13 hits, you have to win it. Marquez had been great the prior 4 starts…and this one, was an April start. And of course both Scott Oberg and Mike Dunn game up runs (Dunn, another homer). It didn’t help that with 10 hits the Rox scored just 4 runs off of Clayton Richard. And the heart of the Padres bullpen pretty much shut down the Rox afterwards.
So, not a great week. But this club has gotten pretty good starting pitching on the road. They have generally hit on the road (the Paxton start and the one against the Twins Barrios being the exception but…great stuff when thrown great on a given night will shut down the ’27 Yankees). So…is it time to panic?
No. But Tyler Anderson’s knee needs to get better fast. Tyler Chatwood has to give 75% of his starts in the mode of Saturday not Monday. He has to be a staff leader. And he can be. We have to accept that there will be awful games with young starters (like Marquez on Friday), and ones that are limited (like Senzatela on Wednesday). But Kyle Freeland’s starts have been what you hope for from a rookie with his pedigree (and he might…stress might…be a bit better than scouts thought he was going to be – more of a 3rd starter than a 4th or 5th).
The team has to get better if they are really going to push for the West Division title and the playoffs. The good news is that:
- Jon Gray has thrown 12.1 innings
- David Dahl has had 0 at-bats
- Tom Murphy’s only at-bats began this weekend…in AAA
- CarGo still has less homers than Yunel Escobar
- And Trevor Story is still finding his groove.
Given that, and that the Dodgers are playing about as well as they can the past month and the Dbacks have had pretty solid health…maybe things are actually better than they appear.