Questionable Sunday Managing in Loss

With a starting lineup you’d expect to see in game 121 on the field, the Colorado Rockies dropped the 2012 opening series against the Huston Astros, 3-2.  At one point during the game Drew Goodman, George Frazier and Jeff Huson, the Root Sports announcers, could be heard discussing the MLB historic run of 17 Sunday losses by the team last season.  They were unanimous in their confusion as to how that happened, and none of them could see the proverbial “nose on your face” moment taking place right in front of them.  The field was littered with Rockies second string players, in only the third game of the season.  The Astros had their same exact line-up in the game as they did opening day.  Which, in case anyone needs a reminder, was two days ago.

How the Rockies broadcasting crew missed this obvious part of Jim Tracy’s game is surprising, but what wasn’t surprising was the outcome.  During the 17 Sunday losses, and eventual 2011 terrible 6 – 19 Sunday record, it became commonplace to see mostly bench players start games.  It was obvious to those passionate fans that followed each and every game what the issue was: the line-up.  Many felt that if Jim Tracy would just stop putting in his Spring Training 9th inning guys to start a game, he might win once in a while.

Well, the lesson wasn’t learned. Worse than that, in a series against the worse team in baseball, Tracy elected to start the game with 5 of his 8 players coming off the bench.  Colvin, Pacheco, Giambi, Rosario and Herrera all got the start today with a collective line of: 17 AB, 3 H, 3 BB (all Giambi), 5 K, 8 LOB, 1 Error.  We will get to the error in a moment.

It is understandable wanting to get some guys into a game for work.  It is also understandable to give other guys a rest.   However, on the third game of the season giving someone a day off to rest isn’t even on the radar.  So, how do you get your guys work?  Certainly not by dumping all of them into a game at one time, especially to start that game.  Bringing them in scattered throughout the week is one option.  Another would be to wait until later in a game and trickling the into the line-up.  Either way you give your starters, the guys you pay the most money for and the guys the fans really come to watch, a chance to start the game off right.  Do you think you will ever see the Broncos start Caleb Hanie or Adam Wever over a healthy Peyton Manning, just so they could get some work in?  That would never happen.  How about starting a game in Miami where James, Wade and Bosch just sat out every Sunday so they could get some rest?  Again, that would be a joke.  So how is it that the best line-up you have doesn’t get put onto the field each week?

It really is a shame that the run support, and eventual error, cost Nicasio a win.  His pitching was masterful.  He threw his fastball at will and wherever he wanted.  There should be absolutely no question that his comeback from a near death experience is the greatest story in baseball this season.  He gave up only one earned on five hits in seven innings, striking out four on 82 pitches.

It looked like we would have a repeat of Friday as Nicasio was replaced by Rex Brothers, but the outcome was very different.  Brothers, who was dominant in the season opener, allowed two runs on three hits in two-thirds.  Both runs, however, were unearned because of a play that made the difference in Nicasio leaving the game with a win and Brothers leaving the game with the loss.  Brothers disposed of the first two batters quite nicely, one by ground the other by strikes.  But after giving up back to back singles, after a struggle with his command, Carlos Lee came up to the plate.  Brothers got Lee to ground one to Jordan Pacheco at third.  Pacheco had plenty of time for a nice hard throw to first to get Lee out, but instead he threw a strange short-hop slider that ended up in the camera well.

It was a bad throw, to be sure, but also a bad receiving job at first by Cuddyer who was moved at the top of bottom of the inning from right field to first base.  On the second largest questionable move of the day, Tracy moved Tyler Colvin to right and brought Dex into center, for obvious defensive reasons.  He also moved Cuddyer to first to replace Giambi, again you would have to think for defensive reasons, but not as obvious as bringing Dex in for his glove.  What he didn’t do, and this is what will be the source of debate after this game, was to bring in Nelson to replace Pacheco at third.  Pacheco, who had several errors at third during spring training, multiple errors per innings in one game alone, is known more for his bat than his glove.  To leave him at third instead of moving Herrera over and bringing in Scutaro is a mystery.  Yes, Scutaro had a difficult game on Saturday, but his lifetime fielding percentage (.977) is up there with Tulo (.987).

While this is only game 3 of 162, and there is no way it will be the only time the team loses, the disturbing trend of sitting the bulk of your starters all at once on Sunday is the miss-management that continues from last season.  That is the reason for pinning the loss on roster moves, as opposed to a bad throw by Jordan.

28 Comments

    • GARY

      April 9, 2012

      I can’t think of another team in the past,or the hear and now that has ever used this wholesale half-assed-bail out every Sunday.Tracy keeps talking about “playing the game right”,and respecting the game.I fail to see how his Sunday strategy does either!

      Reply
    • sam

      April 9, 2012

      I was shocked when i seen the lineup for sundays game, were was our first team its only the 3rd game of the season and he is resting players, SERIOUSLY TRACY MUST BE STUPID!!! his substitutions were also mind boggling why did he not put helton at first base and nelson at 3rd. That alone would of saved us this game and the series. he’s been doing this for a long time and no1 grills him for it, this is why we lose so many 1 run games, he is not a great in game manager its as simple as that!

      Reply
      • Bob K.

        April 9, 2012

        Do you suppose that the Dodgers and the Pirates had legitimate reasons to fire him? When will the Rockies wise up and join that club?

        Reply
    • Pooter

      April 9, 2012

      I actually liked the lineup on Sunday and would argue it was the fill in players that did the damage on Sunday. Giambi with 3 walks, Rosario with a 2 run bomb, Colvin with a great catch and an RBI. Tulo and Cargo need to step it up, Astros pitchers breezed through these two guys like the Rockies should have breezed through the Astros clean up hitters.

      Reply
    • Wyorox

      April 9, 2012

      Tracy responded to this issue by saying that playing games at altitude wears down a team faster. Of course, they haven’t played a game at altitude yet, and they have a day-off tomorrow. I don’t get it.

      Reply
      • sdcarp

        April 9, 2012

        The “altitude” excuse (in terms of some sort of longterm negative) is complete horses**t (BTW – this isn’t directed at you….I realize you’re just relaying what Tracy said). Why do cyclists, runners, triathletes, etc. come from around the world to train in Colorado? To take advantage of the Altitude (and corresponding lack of oxygem). They force their bodies to acclimate via producing additional red blood cells to carry oxygen. They then go back to sea level and have an advantage. Physiology says that the Rox should have an advantage, not a disadvantage.

        Reply
        • Mike Raysfan

          April 9, 2012

          True enough. This is a topic that is discussed in detail on other sites. In general I agree. I can go home to FL. and look like a real speedster on a bike … for a day or two.

          Reply
    • sdcarp

      April 9, 2012

      I remember an interesting article last year that surfaced about the time Davey Johnson became the Nationals manager and Jack McKeon was resurrected to guide the Marlins the second half of the year. The jist of the article was that there is currently a void of available, major leage ready, Manager candidates (hence the need to turn to the retirement home for those two clubs). So even though Tracy’s act is wearing thin, you have to ask “who’s a likely replacement?” In my opinion, if it comes to that, the Rox need to look outside the organization. We can dream of Francona……but that isn’t happening. So who’s out there?

      Reply
    • ProgMatinee

      April 9, 2012

      Great post Jared! Summed up most of the thoughts I had on this issue and what I read from other posters as well.

      Tracy’s comment about the altitude is another example where he seems to be overthinking it.

      I also agree with Pooter that the starters need to step up as well…otherwise it makes it all too easy for Tracy to replace them…except for Tulo and Cargo who seem to get a pass when they struggle, but the team overall pays the price.

      Reply
    • Agbayani

      April 9, 2012

      Gotta give credit to Renck in today’s Denver Post. He points out that Belisle wasn’t even warming up, and that Tracy left Pacheco in (his weakest fielder at his current position) while making various other fielding substitutions.

      And sdcarp, I agree about the altitude thing. Over time it has to be a huge advantage to the home team, not a disadvantage. I

      Reply
    • Mike Raysfan

      April 9, 2012

      Couple of points about this A lineup vs an alleged B lineup.

      Nelson/Pacheco – There is no A or B player. A week prior to the season starting there was twitter discussion about Pacheco being the opening day 3rd baseman and seeing the most time at the position. A couple of days prior to season’s start it was announced that both Nelson and Pacheco would be seeing time. Prog even corrected me and said they couldn’t be considered platooning because they hit from the same side. it will be a “shared” position. Expect to see much more of this.

      Rosario – If Nicasio is pitching expect to see Rosario catching.

      There is no one on the current roster than can play 1st base at the level of Todd Helton. Not gonna happen.

      Reply
      • jaredean

        April 9, 2012

        I really believe that in a one run game with the lead you have to “protect” it at all costs and that means putting your best gloves on the field. Many here don’t like him and he has been terrible at the plate so far (who hasn’t), BUT Herrera has a better glove than both Jordan and Nellie…that is my opinion (and many will point out that he is my “weakness” on this team, i forgive him almost anything…so far)…

        So, he should have moved to third and scutaro should be at 2nd…Todd for sure should be at first (if you are gonna rest him and not put him at first for his glove, why all of the sudden need him for his bat?)

        I do think bringing in Dex was wise for sure…

        Reply
        • OrangeRocks

          April 9, 2012

          Yep that is exactly what I would have done as well. However the culture of baseball (J Tracy) will you that if Todd has to stretch out and play an inning or two in the field, then you have lost the benefit of the day off.

          First of all I totally don’t buy that argument at all, and secondly I would rather just win the darn game.

          Pomeranz pitches at Tulsa tomorrow, now is it just me or would that start have been better at the MLB level against the Astros?

          Reply
        • Miketober

          April 9, 2012

          Todd, like any professional athlete, should be stretching out every day.

          I’m older than Todd, and while I’m not a professional I am pretty athletic, and it does wonders for me to get in even a little workout every day, even if it’s mowing the lawn, going for a short run, or playing some catch. I don’t buy that excuse at all that Todd needs a complete day off.

          Reply
      • ProgMatinee

        April 9, 2012

        While I agree that Pacheco and Nelson are equal time players, they are not the same player. This means that if Nelson starts we may need to replace him in PH situations with Pacheco. Conversely when Pacheco starts we may need to replace him in defensive situations with Nelson.

        The Rockies have a luxury of an extra infielder until Pomeranz is called up, they need to use it correctly. They could have replaced Pacheco with either Nelson or Herrera (replacing Herrera with Scutaro if necessary at 2nd).

        Reply
    • Miketober

      April 9, 2012

      Great post Jared!
      I agree it’s ridiculous how FGH and the other baseball intelligencia can’t see the obvious correlation between Perennial Tracy’s tinkering and the poor Sunday/Rubber Game record.

      Reply
    • Jeem

      April 9, 2012

      Why do I always get sucked into trashing the Rockies’ broadcast crew? “They were unanimous in their confusion as to how that happened, and none of them could see the proverbial ‘nose on your face’ moment taking place right in front of them… How the Rockies broadcasting crew missed this obvious part of Jim Tracy’s game is surprising…” How? Because they are hopeless wienies. I can just see Drew Goodman’s upper lip stick-out as he sets upon his latest defense/justification for something stupid that has been done. I understand he works for the Rockies, but come-on. In this guy’s “world,” every move made by the “establishment” is undeniably wise, and those of “us” out here who would question them are nothing but naive baseball “outsiders” who simply aren’t qualified to perceive the inherent wisdom in every move made by Rockies management. Bull! Keep pitching to all the elementary school fans, Drew. And of course George and Jeff yuck it right along (they just don’t jerk my chain as hard as Drew does, daily).

      Pooter’s wise observation about the reserves’ production aside, Jaredean’s point in the main article is right-on. Why do you have to rest EVERYBODY on Sundays? Wasn’t 17 straight losses last year a clue? This was a horrible strategic performance. Again, Jaredean is right on: with a ONE run lead, you’ve got to do EVERYTHING you can to protect it! Dex in for Colvin (or move him to right with Cuddyer out), Scuttaro to second and Jonny to third (I too am a Herrera advocate). Game over. Rockies win. What a stupid waste of a tremendous comeback performance by Nicasio.

      Reply
      • Miketober

        April 9, 2012

        Well said (ranted 🙂 Jeem.

        I’ve often wondered, are the announcers just that dumb or is there an official directive not to criticize Jim Tracy and DOD? And not only to treat them with kid gloves but to make excuses for them. And while I’m on my conspiracy theories track, I wonder if Helmer said something critical last year that got him fired.

        Reply
        • Jeem

          April 9, 2012

          Thanks Mike. And I believe, yes, there is a directive not to criticize at all costs. Interesting thought on Helmer. Could well be.

          Reply
        • Swede

          April 9, 2012

          Yes, I have talked to broadcasters who know they are not to be ‘too critical’ or they may lose their jobs. It’s common in many sports with the exception of the big market team broadcasters.

          Reply
    • Doc

      April 9, 2012

      Amazing. So much has changed, yet nothing has. When I posted my Sunday lineup last Saturday a lot of you thought I was joking. Obviously not. JT may be a nice guy, but he’s one stubborn son-of-a-gun, and as long as he’s treated like the emperor with no clothes, he’ll…Okay, enough of that. The positives I see thus far: Cuddy, fast becoming my favorite player, the starting pitching is going to be all right, and I think Rosario will improve as the season wears on. I hate the Midgets so I’m hoping for a sweep this week. Go Rox!!

      Reply
    • Swede

      April 9, 2012

      First – Jim Tracy is a good man. I do not question his integrity, his love of the game nor his desire to win. There, now that I have that out of the way …

      I’ve been taught by coaches and in business to ‘Always put yourself in position to win!’

      I know it’s a long season of 162 games, there’s hot weather, there’s altitude, there’s sun glare, etc. I really don’t care.

      Day in and day out the manager’s job is to put the best possible team on the field.

      I know there are lefties, righties, specific batter vs. pitcher match-ups, specific records in given parks, home and away breakdowns, etc.

      Day in and day out the manager’s job is to put the best team possible on the field.

      Why do I repeat myself? Because Tracy over thinks everything!

      Baseball has a very unique rhythm – intragame and intergame (from game to game). Tracy does not appear to have ANY ‘feeling’ for this rhythm at all. I love numbers, splits, stats and percentages but at the end of the day you MUST allow the rhythm of the game to carry the day. The individual players are a part of that rhythm and you absolutely squelch that rhythm when you post a different line-up every day – let alone platooning a second string team on Sundays. ;-(

      I certainly hope Tracy gets in-tune with the rhythm of the game and stops tweaking the line-up to death.

      I repeat … ‘I hope’ …

      Reply
    • Banjar

      April 9, 2012

      I wish that there was some way to get Ryne Sandberg into the Rockies organization (he’s currently managing the Phillies AAA team in the International League). Eventually he will quite possibly be given the manager position with the Cubs, which, of course, I’m sure he wants. Nonetheless, having Ryne Sandberg working somewhere in the Rockies organization can’t help but be a big plus.

      Reply
      • GARY

        April 9, 2012

        I’ve been pushing for Ryno for 2 years.However,with Tracy on a “lifetime” contract Sandberg would be crazy to switch organizations.Especially with Cubs fans clamoring for his taking the reins of the Cubbies.

        Reply
        • sdcarp

          April 9, 2012

          Sandberg is an interesting thought. He’s been passed over ( in many people’s minds ) by the Cubs at least once. I would think he might get another opportunity there later this year.

          It really does beg to ask who’s available, and who can bring a staff. I say that, because if it comes to a Managerial change this time, it probably should also include a new Major League coaching staff as well ( unlike last time where Tracy simply stepped into Hurdle’s role and lots of the other guys more or less remained ).

          Reply
        • sdcarp

          April 9, 2012

          Just after I finished the last post, a name occurred to me that I had previously thought of…….and then forgot. Mike Maddux. Texas Rangers pitching coach. Has done an amazing job with those guys in a Park that is almost as tough on pitchers as Coors. It would be his first Managerial gig, so he would probably come fairly cheap. He would need to be paired with a very solid hitting Coach.

          Reply
    • GARY

      April 9, 2012

      Jaredean,totally in agreement,and I too have been a Herrera fan.The think is,Tracy loves Herrera and calls him repeatedly “a professional ball catcher”.So who better to be at third in a one run game?

      Reply
    • Jim

      April 9, 2012

      If you have ever run a marathon (a baseball season) you know that pacing yourself during the race is a requirement for winning. Your pace for that first mile is just or perhaps even more important than the 20th mile. There is NUTHIN’ wrong with playing subs early in the season, even the first few games! Odd comparisons to the sport of football is also absolutely linear thinking.

      As evidenced by the home opener, the “1st string” is more than capable of playing a game that looks like a high school team. They only had 3 basic shortcomings. Bad pitching, hitting and defense. Let the developmental guys get their time in. The may be our starters of the future which may come quicker than you would want or expect.

      Reply

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