Friday, September 27, 2013

Time running out on Rockies

That sound in the background as the Rockies limp towards the last two games of the season in last place is the slow tic tic of time running out on the organization and one of it's core players.

The Rockies are guaranteed to finish in last place in the NL West for the second time in a row.  Not the position they were hoping for when they signed Tulo and Cargo to the long term contracts in 2011.  But the clock is ticking on Cargo's contract which expires after 4 more years.

With Helton riding off into the sunset after two more games, this becomes Tulo and Cargo's team going forward.  The problem is they can't seem to stay on the field consistently to contribute.  So far this year Cargo has played 110 games and Tulo 123 games.  Nolan Arenado leads the the team in games played at 130 and he didn't get called up until late April.  In addition Dexter Fowler has only played 119 games this year so far.  To put the missed games from 3 key components of the team in perspective, Tulo has only played 2 more games than retiring Todd Helton.

The Rockies have 4 years left on Cargo's contract.  But Cargo, Tulo, and Fowler HAVE to figure out a way to stay healthy for full seasons to make significant headway towards winning a division title.

Tic Tic Tic...  The clock is running.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two phone calls the Rockies need to make in the off season.

Another Rockies season is coming to an end, and once again we find our favorite club mired in the basement of the NL West, with a good portion of the meaningful roster sitting on the bench injured. And as usual I have failed to keep up the blog until I feel so ashamed that I have to write something just to put a new date on the time line.  If there is something that the Rockies and I have in common it is a failure to live up to expectations. The only difference is, people pay to watch the Rockies, and I wish someone would pay me to do this, so I could actually enjoy what I do in retirement.

But putting disappointments aside, it is time to start talking about what the Rockies should do in the off season to improve in a division where we now have the resident 800 lb gorilla in the form of the LA Dodgers and the never ending wallet.  Unlike some sportswriters in the Denver area, I'm not going to berate and call for the heads of the front office and ownership.  First of all it is pointless, and secondly, outside of their penchant to bring in middle aged, no risk, no benefit starting pitchers, they have actually put together what I think is a talented but inexperienced roster.  With that out of the way, there are two phone calls that the Monforts and O'Dowd have to make as soon as possible in the off season.

I heard today that Dante Bichette will not be returning as hitting coach next year.  I was sorry to hear that, but wish Dante all the best.  The man knows hitting, and was one of the best two strike hitters I've ever seen. Todd Helton is a great two strike hitter, but Dante struck fear in pitchers when they got two strikes on him. But that leaves the Rockies in need of a hitting coach for 2014.  I know a lot of people would like to see Helton come back as hitting coach, but that isn't going to happen for a few years. So in the mean time, there is someone who would be great as the hitting coach next year, and he could double as our big bopper off the bench from the left side of the plate.  Yes I mean Jason Giambi.  Yes he is over 40, and yes he probably wants to play again next year.  Let's face it, the guy could probably hit when he is my age, and he knows hitting almost as well as Dante in my book.  If he wants to keep pinch hitting, fine make him a player/coach. But this is one of the two calls that have to be made by the Rockies if they want to demonstrate a desire to improve next year.

The second call that needs to be made is to Ubaldo.  Yes I remember the nasty way the Rockies treated him as they traded him to Cleveland, and I'm sure he harbors a dislike for the Rockies front office for how it all came down.  But the Rockies need good prime aged starting pitching, and Ubaldo is still in his prime, and he seems to have straightened out what ever problems he had that made him expendable in Colorado.  There is the issue of the mutual option between Cleveland and Ubaldo, but swallowing some pride and at least making the call hurts no one.  The worst that could happen is he says no.  Not like that isn't going to be a regular occurrence with any other possible free agent pitcher of any merit.

So there it is. Make two phone calls and see where the chips land.  Of course we have to wait for Cleveland to be eliminated from the playoffs first, since both folks appear to be heading to the destination, we would all love the Rockies to get to again.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Time for the Rockies first real test of the season.

The Rockies start the day in 3rd place in the NL West at 21-19 and only 2 games behind the leading San Francisco Giants who come to town for a 4 game set at Coors, followed by the 2nd place Arizona Diamond backs for 3 games.  Following this home stand the Rockies go to San Francisco for 3 more.  That is 10 games against teams in front of them.  If the Rockies are going to dispel any of the spring training predictions of languishing in the basement of the NL West, then the next 10 days are more important than originally expected.

The Rockies have stated to a man that they need to "dominate" at home, and that has to include the division rivals now sitting in front of them.  A few sports writers have said the Rockies need to "show well" during this stretch, but I think that is underestimating the importance of this upcoming 10 game set.  Fail to dominate, and the Rockies could find themselves juggling last place with the catatonic Dodgers.   Dominate, and they can keep themselves relevant in the NL West and in contention for the long run.  It may not be a make or break stretch, but it could very well be a break stretch that sends the Rockies into a tail spin that a lot of national sports prognosticators have been predicting.

Two things have to happen for the Rockies to "dominate" during this upcoming home stand.

First the Offense has to find it's stride and stop the Jekyll and Hyde approach that has seen them go multiple games trying to find a runner on base, to knocking around pitchers for one game so bad that you start to feel bad for the base ball.  Consistency, and ability to hit with runners in scoring position has to improve.   The top of the lineup with EY Jr, and Dexter Fowler have to get on base consistently.  We don't need home runs by the top of the order but we need them on base causing the pitchers to actually pitch to the meat of our order.  Cargo and Tulo have to drive those runs in consistently, not going 0 for 8 in one game followed by 8 for 10 in the next game.

Secondly, the starting pitching has to keep the game close for the offense to do it's job.  Putting the offense in a hole before they even get up to bat has to be avoided.  And they have to limit the damage in innings to prevent games from quickly getting away from them. 

This is a big stretch, and the Rockies know it.  Now we'll see if the mental toughness of the team is up to the task, or has the early season success been just a mirage to tease us into a sense of accomplishment.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rockies 2013 view at the quarter pole.

If someone was to tell me that the Rockies would be flirting with 1st place in the NL West division, and the LA Dodgers would be settling into the basement of the division at the quarter point of the season, I would have asked for the mixture that was being passed around to drink.  But that is exactly where we find things sitting at the current moment.

During spring training, new Rockies manager Walt Weiss and Hitting coach Dante Bichette wanted the Rockies to "dominate" at home, and be competitive on the road, and approach hitting with a swagger harking back to the "Blake Street Bombers" of the early and mid 90s.

As of this writing the Rockies are 9-5 at home, and 8-8 on the road.  Pretty much the combination that Weiss wanted to project during spring training. The Rockies offense which many expected to be able to hit, has been everything that was advertised.  They lead the NL in Runs scored, hits, triples, total bases, RBI, batting AVG, OBP percentage, SLG percentage, and OPS. And remember the Rockies have played 16 road games, and only 14 home games at this point.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly so far.

THE GOOD:

The offense.  Except for some serious failures with RISP lately, the Rockies offense has been dominant, both on the road and at home.  The addition of Nolan Arenado at 3B has added some much needed pop at the corner position, and makes the Rockies lineup a disaster waiting to happen for any pitcher from 1-8.  The disturbing issue of hitting with runners in scoring position lately needs to be addressed, but overall the offense is doing what it was expected to do.

The Bullpen.  The Rockies Bullpen has been outstanding especially at the back end. If the Rockies can make the game a 7 inning game, they have a chance to hold on most times for a win.

THE BAD:

The Rockies defense has shown holes so far this year.  They currently sit in the middle of the pack of the NL in fielding percentage and have committed 18 errors so far this year.  Though this is one of the "absolutes" that Walt Weiss has talked about during spring training, they may have plugged the biggest hole with the call up of Nolan Arenado at 3B.  8 of the 18 errors were committed by Rockies 3B not named Arenado prior to his call up.  Arenado's range and arm significantly fixes the defensive problem at 3B.  Watching his range to his right has surprised Tulo at times, who now doesn't have to cover the entire left side of the diamond on defense.

THE UGLY:

Can you say pitching?  Are you surprised? 

The Rockies starting pitching is average at best, and utterly over matched at times at worst.  Jhoulys Chacin has been both dominant and average in his 5 starts posting a 3-2 record, but has gone 100 pitches only once in that span.  John Garland has been workman like posting a 4-3 record. Jorge De La Rosa has been very good in 3 of his 4 wins, but woefully inconsistent in 3 other games putting up a 4-3 record.  Jorge has yet to go past 6 innings as high pitch counts continue to plague him. Juan Nicasio has been the picture of inconsistent, having only gone 6 innings only once on the way to a 4-2 record, which is a bit misleading as the offense has bailed him out of a number of games.  And last but not least is Jeff Francis, who at 2-4 has been even less consistent than Nicasio.  Jeff's room for mistakes is so slim you can cut it with a strong breeze, has been progressively getting worse as the season has progressed.  It almost reminds you of the fatal problems of Moyer last year. 

The Rockies starting pitching has kept them in some games and blown up early in others.  The key to the Rockies eventual position in the standings is going to still be dictated by their starting pitching.

The other pitching ugly: Wilton Lopez.  Please for the sake of my sanity, please don't let him anywhere near the mound with the game in the balance.  My stomach simply can't take the stress. :)

What it all Means?:

The Rockies are playing well, and the offense is carrying the team.  The defense has been average, but has been improved with the addition of Arenado at 3B.  If the Rox can get the game to the back end of the bull pen with a lead they have a better than average chance to put the game away.

The starting pitching is still suspect, and the season will hinge on whether the starting pitching can keep the Rox in games long enough for the offense to do it's thing.

It is still early....  don't get too high when they are winning, and don't get too low when they lose.  162 games is a marathon.  One quarter of the season doesn't decide anything. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rockies Reclamation Projects Continue

So far this off season the Colorado Rockies have made three free agent pitching signings.  First they re-signed Jeff Francis to a 1 year deal to fill a veteran starting pitching role for a young and erratic starting pitching rotation that absolutely has to improve significantly if the Rockies are going to have any chance at contending this year.  Last year Francis pitched 113 innings for the Rockies while going 6-7 in 24 starts with an ERA of 5.58.  Nothing stellar, but considering the remaining cratered starting pitching rotation, it was a breath of consistency. Which led me to believe that it would be a no brainer for Francis to be resigned in the off season.

The Rockies have said that they will go with a traditional 5 man rotation this year instead of the failed 4 man rotation they experimented with late last year.  However, the starting pitchers are expected to be be limited to probably (my guess here) 100 pitches.  Which means starting pitchers will be barely going 6 innings more likely 5 on a consistent basis based on starting pitching pitch counts last year.  This means there are going to be "Hybrid" pitchers needed to cover the gap between the 5th/6th inning and the 8th/9th inning where the Rockies bullpen appears to be strongest.

So to fill this "Hybrid" role the Rockies have gone out into the free agent market to acquire additional arms to compete in spring training for the role.  But have they gotten any established bullpen arms to come in and compete?  Have they looked for younger arms that could possibly fill the gaps needed for spot starters should a starting pitcher go down?

The answer to both questions is a resounding "NO".  The Rockies continue their penchant for reclamation projects to fill the gaps in their pitching.

Secondly, they signed former Rockies closer Manny Corpas. Corpas is an additional year removed from his injury which kept him from pitching at all in 2011.  He pitched a total of 46.2 innings for the Cubs last year in relief going 0-2 with a 5.01 ERA and 16 BB to 28 SO.  Not exactly an innings eater, and definitely not someone who could bounce into the starting rotation should the need arise.  But at only $800k minor league contract, it is a low risk, signing.   My problem with the signing, is it is once again a flyer on a reclamation project, rather than a solid signing to fill a particular need on the pitching staff.  The Rockies are once again "hoping" to strike gold without putting anything in the pot.

Lastly, the Rockies have signed 41 year old Miguel Batista.  Does anyone remember the last time we brought a 40+ pitcher into Coors Field?  Yeah me too.

Last year, Batista pitched 46.2 innings for the Mets, and 6 innings for the Braves in relief with a 4.61 ERA, and 33 BB to 36 SOs.  Not exactly a recipe for success in Coors Field.  Granted the signing is to be to a minor league contract with an invitation to the major league club spring training, thus very low risk.  I have to look at this as another flyer on a reclamation project.  And definitely not a signing that I expect to fill any real need other than another arm for spring training.  The Rockies are once again "hoping" to strike gold without putting anything in the pot.

At some point, if the Rockies are serious about contending in the NL West they are going to have to do something other than "hope" a reclamation project comes through.  They are going to have to put some money in the pot, in the form of realistically trading for "real" starting pitching.  No free agent pitcher in their right mind will sign with Rockies regardless of the salary, so the only source for outside starting pitching is going to be through trade.

The problem I have, is I'm not sure I trust the Rockies front office right now to actually know how to trade for pitching.  But that is just me.

Feel free to leave a comment. And you can follow me at twitter/patrickbwayne or on facebook/patrickbwayne.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Looking at Rockies pre Spring Training

That deafening silence that has been coming from 20th and Blake over the off season has been the Rockies activity in the free agent market.

So far this off season the Rockies have made a total of two free agent signings.  Jeff Francis was signed for a one year deal for $1.5 million.  In addition, the Rockies made the big move to sign former closer Manny Corpas to a minor league contract. That is it.  End of free agent activity to date.

I for one never expected the Rockies to make any large free agent splashes.  But there were some in the Denver media who advocated opening the vault to try and land big name free agent pitchers.  We all know how the signing of non Coors field experienced free agent pitchers has turned out over the years now don't we?

From my perspective, the Rockies have done exactly what I thought they would do over the off season so far.  First get the new Manager and coaching staff in place, then get Francis re-signed, and then go to spring training to see if any of their current starting pitching prospects can step up and show some stability and improved command over last year's debacle.

Right now the starting rotation going into spring training figures to be 1) Jorge De La Rosa, 2) Jhoulys Chacin, 3) Jeff Francis, 4) Juan Nicasio, and finally 5) Drew Pomeranz.   With Christian Friedrich who has only recently started pitching again since his injury, Tyler Chatwood, and probably Josh Outman competing for the final rotation spots with Nicasio and Pomeranz.  I don't see any position player trades (i.e. Fowler) for starting pitching coming to fruition prior to spring training. 

Don't look for the Rockies to make any positional trades prior to spring training either.  While the last half of the year was a dismal slide into the standings abyss, one thing that did come out of it, is a bevy of young positional players who appear ready and more importantly able to step up to the big stage.

With Toddfather Helton returning for what is most likely his last season at 1st base, he has fair backup in Michael Cuddyer in the 2nd year of a 3 year contract, and Jordan Pacheco who hit a more than respectable .309 last year.

Everyone has their fingers crossed that Troy Tulowitzki is fully healed and will take his usual place at short stop, but should there be a problem, Josh Rutledge proved last year that he can handle the defensive position adequately, but also provide some offense with his .274 BA, 8 home runs, 5 triples, and 20 doubles last year.  We also go into spring training with Johnathan Herrera as a solid backup at SS, and 2B as well.

With Josh Rutledge's season, last year he appears to be the starting second baseman, if Troy is back at full strength, with Herrera and DJ LeMahieu as most likely next on the depth charts there.  Le Mahieu showed an ability to hit consistently with a .297 average last year, and a solid defender.

Third base appears to be the corner spot with the field wide open between Pacheco, Chris Nelson, and  minor league prospect Nolan Arenado.

Catcher is locked up with Wilin Rosario as the starter, and Ramon Hernandez as his backup.  The question will be whether Rosario can clean up his defense enough to keep him catching.

Outfield is a pretty interesting situation going into spring training, with Carlos Gonzalez entrenched in left field, and Dexter Fowler entrenched in center field, Cuddyer as the primary right fielder when not relieving Todd at 1st base,  and Tyler Colvin, EY Jr, Charlie Blackmon, and Tim Wheeler fighting for utility outfield spots (of which there will probably only be 2 at most, and 1 most likely).

The Back end of the bullpen is set with Betancourt, Belisle, and Rex Brothers expected to handle the 8 through 9th inning work with Betancourt the closer again.

The rest of the bullpen looks to be a work in progress at this point with the losers in the final starting pitching rotation battle to fill in the "hybrid" rolls, along with Edwar Cabrera, Edgmer Escalona, and Adam Ottavino.


With the NL West expected to be one of the toughest divisions this coming year, with the Dodgers spending like the Yankees of old, and the defending world champion Giants moving to improve.  The Rockies are going to have their work cut out for them to have any chance at making the playoffs.

Don't look for much more in the way of trades or free agent signings though.  The Rockies are going with what they have.  The pitching is going to have to get tremendously better than last year, and the offense is going to have to out slug the opponents especially at home.  It looks to be an interesting spring training as new manager Walt Weiss and new hitting coach Dante Bichette try and instill a little of the old Blake Street Bomber's swagger back into this young club.

Feel free to leave a comment. And you can follow me at twitter/patrickbwayne or on facebook/patrickbwayne.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A tale of 31 seconds

Last night the Atlanta Falcons squandered a 20 point lead to the determined and gutsy Seattle Seahawks and fell behind 28-27 with only 31 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter with one time out.

The previous afternoon/evening, the Denver Broncos squandered a 7 point lead to a determined Baltimore Ravens team and were tied 35-35 with only 31 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter with two time outs.

A tale of 31 seconds and the mentality of needing to play to win separated the Falcons and Broncos and determined that the Falcons would advance to the NFC championship game, and that the Broncos would be packing their lockers and going home instead of playing in the AFC championship game.

The Falcons playing to win used the 31 seconds to drive to a game winning 49 yard FG with only 8 seconds remaining in regulation to hold off the Seahawks and advance to the championship game.

The Broncos playing not to lose squandered the 31 seconds and two timeouts to take a knee and let the game go to overtime where they would eventually lose 38-35 on a Raven's FG in the second overtime.

There is an old saying in Baseball that Jim Tracy used to remind us about during his tenure as Rockies manager. "Play to win in 9 innings".  Which translated means you take all the shots you can to win the game during regulation, because in extra innings or in this case over time, anything can happen.

The Broncos, having one of the best quarterbacks of all time, and an experienced accurate field goal kicker in Praeter, decided to take a knee and not be aggressive with their 31 seconds of regulation.  And they payed for it.

In the end the outcome very well might have been the same.  But to not take the opportunity with a future hall of fame quarterback and one of the best kickers in football, speaks volumes about the mentality of the Broncos coaching staff.  "Play it safe".  During the Broncos 11 game winning streak they were never challenged except during the San Diego comeback, and they played aggressive offensive football during the second half of that game.  When it came time to need to play aggressive again in the playoffs, the Broncos coaching staff turned into a turtle and hid in a shell.

Maybe the Broncos needed Jim Tracy on the sideline Saturday instead of John Fox.

Feel free to leave a comment. And you can follow me at twitter/patrickbwayne or on facebook/patrickbwayne.