Monday, April 20, 2009

Colorado Rockies Continue Downward Spiral, Lose To Diamondbacks 6-3

The Rockies Spring Training home is Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona. The stadium is the oldest facility in the Cactus League, and most well known for being the location of several scenes from the Major League movies, starring Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes.

The movies, ironically, are about a fictitious Cleveland Indians team that begins the season horrible, only to find their groove, come back and go to the playoffs.

The Rockies may be confused about whether or not they are playing Major League Baseball and not acting out the scenes from the movies that were filmed in their spring home. The last three seasons in particular the Rockies have struggled mightily in April.

Tonight's loss at the hands of the Diamondbacks puts the Rockies early season record at 4-8. Despite the fact that the Rockies play only three home games in their first 14 games, the team was looking for a quick start. They needed it so that they would not be crawling out of a hole like in the previous two seasons.

In 2007, the Rockies finished April at 10-16. They went on to win the National League Wild Card, but only after posting the best record in the Majors after the 15th of May. It took all of that for the Rockies to crawl back into the race, which reached its peak when the Rockies defeated the Padres in the 13th inning of a play-in game in Denver.

Last season the glory of being the National League Champions quickly faded as the club finished the first month an abysmal 11-17.

In '07 it took everything the Rockies had, and some help from a collapsing Mets team to pole vault the Rockies into the playoffs.

In '08, there was no such luck. Even though the Rockies played better baseball down the stretch, they never recovered from their early season struggles.

That is why having a good April is so paramount to the Rockies this season. Although playing in the weak National League West, they cannot afford to fall so many games out of first place that they are just trying to get back to the .500 mark all season long.

Thus far, the biggest problems have been situational hitting and executing pitches.

Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez were the two pitchers the Rockies had this season that the organization figured to be locks as far as consistency goes. Both are pitchers who induce several ground balls and avoid the home run.

That has not been the case this April, as both have struggled to find command of their fastballs, routinely leaving pitches up in the zone. Cook has already given up five home runs, after giving up only 20 all last season. Jimenez cannot seem to find location and is struggling with giving up walks and working with runners on base.

After tearing the cover off of the ball in Spring Training, the offense has fallen flat. Ryan Spilbourghs, who won the Abby Greer Award for the best spring player for the Rockies is off to a terrible start. The new leadoff hitter is hitting .256 after tonight's pinch hit double, but has already struck out 14 times.

Brad Hawpe is leading the starting lineup in batting average, checking in with a pedestrian .275 batting average.

In the spring the Rockies emphasized being aggressive on the base paths and taking the extra bases when they could. This meant more stealing, more hit and runs, and more putting the ball into play. The Rockies led all Cactus League teams in stolen bases.

That aggressiveness seems to have alluded the Rockies since they have been donning their regular season uniforms. Going into tonight, the team had only five stolen bases and four sacrifice flies on the season. Yet the most alarming stat is how often the team is striking out, something that plagued the club throughout the '08 campaign.

In Los Angeles, the Rockies averaged 12 strikeouts per game in the three game series. In Chicago, Rich Harden had nine strikeouts in the fourth inning. Tonight in Arizona, Diamondbacks pitcher Jon Garland, who had struck out two total batters in his two starts so far this season stuck out five in 6-2/3 innings.

In Major League, the Indians dig themselves out of their hole once they find confidence in themselves. The story lines matched up very similarly to the 2007 Rockies team. However, unlike most movies, real life does not always have a happy ending, and if the Rockies continue to fail at executing, they may find that they have played themselves out of the race before May begins.

4 comments:

  1. Nice post. The sad bitter truth.

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  2. Luckily for the Rockies they still have time to turn it around. However, they need to get to work. A good series against the Dodgers this weekend would be huge.

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  3. Don't you think it is a shame that the Rockies no longer have Brent Butler at second base?

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  4. Interesting that you say that...my sister once lost the "race from the outfield wall, put second base in and get past the foul line" game at Coors Field because her favorite player, Brent Butler was 20 feet away...she was always mad that Matt Holliday took his number....Thanks for the post Tiffany :)

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