Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rockies Winning Streak Ends At Eleven

On the brink of history, the Colorado Rockies fell on their faces.

During the franchise-tying 11 game winning streak everything seemed to go right. Pitchers made the pitches that they needed to, the offense had clutch hits and the defense played almost flawlessly, mixing in some really nice plays to save runs.

Tuesday night was the exact opposite. It all started with starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, who struck out the first two batters of the game before leaving a pitch up and over the heart of the plate to Evan Longoria. Longoria proceeded to give away the first of several souvenirs to the fans sitting in left field.

The defense lacked the crispness that helped propel the team back into contention. In the second inning Gabe Kapler hit a foul ball down the left field line. Ian Stewart approached the ball, then mysteriously backed off, thinking that Troy Tulowitzki would get it. The only problem is that Tulo was covering third base and the ball dropped in foul territory. On the next pitch Kapler roped a triple, scoring two and the route was on.

The fact of the matter in the 12-4 loss for the Rockies, is that they were never in the game. While it is difficult to complain about a team that is 11-1 in the last 12 games, play like Tuesday night are exactly why the Rockies had such a bad first two months. During the streak, the main key was the fact that the starting pitchers were keeping the team in the game from the beginning, allowing the offense a chance to strike back.

The only thing consistent for Jorge De La Rosa has been inconsistency.

If there was a winner take all game and a manager could pick anyone to pitch, De La Rosa would be near the bottom of most managers lists. Despite having incredible stuff, he throws in the mid-90's and has an above average changeup and curveball, he cannot seem to figure himself out.

From one start to the next he seems like two completely different pitchers. In fact, De La Rosa can seem like two different pitchers from one batter to the next. Tuesday night was a prime example of that. He made quick work of BJ Upton and Carl Crawford, putting pitches exactly where he wanted them. Immediately following the two strike outs De La Rosa proceeded to give up a no-doubt home run to Evan Longoria. The most frustrating thing about him is that he has the talent to be a top flight pitcher.

The way that De La Rosa falters, if he had any less talent he would not be in a big league uniform. He would be a guy who no team would want to take a chance on because there was no strong upside. The problem is, De La Rosa has a ton of upside. Teams like the Rockies are willing to live through what they hope are growing pains, hoping to uncover a diamond in the rough.

Unfortunately, his inconsistency brings a lack of confidence to a team that has to wonder if no matter what they do at the plate, they may get upstaged by an imploding starting pitcher.

Actually a pitcher like De La Rosa may have been even better if his stuff was just a little bit worse. It sounds funny, but its true. With the arsenal of pitches that he brings to the mound at the lower levels he was able to blow the ball past hitters with his fastball and buckle hitters knees with his breaking pitch. He relied heavily on his talent.

Talent, however, will only take a man so far. Instead of learning how to make pitches and hit locations, De La Rosa became used to relying on his raw abilities to get him out of jams in the Minor Leagues. That translates to good stats, but the difference is that Major League hitters are not as fooled by his pitches. They are able to catch up to his fastball, and they can lay off the breaking pitch out of the strike zone.

That leaves De La Rosa in a situation that he is not used to. He is used to getting guys out of using pure talent instead of having to be a pitcher and deceive them with what is coming, or finding a hole in their swing and pitching to that. It is a tough hurdle that many talented pitchers face when they enter the league.

Ubaldo Jimenez is a classic example. In the minors he could throw so hard that he could walk two batters per inning, but still get out of the inning by striking out the next three. In the Majors he had to learn that control was more important than velocity. It has been a learning curve, but Jimenez is showing the mental fortitude to handle the change.

That mental fortitude is something that De La Rosa is still looking for. Until he finds it, or the Rockies decide that they can no longer wait for him to find it, the club will struggle when De La Rosa takes the mound.


  1. I would think that with Morales getting ready again De La Rosa could be the guy that gets bumped. He's a great guy to have for long relief in that he's capable of putting up a bunch of zeros in a game where you need that in order to get back into it. In the same sense if he gets absolutely bombed it's not as big of a deal since the game is likely out of hand anyway.

  2. Schruender,
    Thanks for the comment! The only problem with Morales is that he has the same issues as De La Rosa. They both let innings snowball on them. I'm also not sure that I like De La Rosa out of the bullpen because he is so bad with runners on base. His mechanics get all out of whack. It's really too bad because he has so much talent. I think before the end of the year you will see Jhoulys Chacin called up from AA-Tulsa.