Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rockies Pitching Staff Lacks Good Coaching

The Colorado pitching staff is chalk full of talent. They have Ubaldo Jimenez who throws 99 MPH heat with movement, to go along with breaking pitches that buckle opposing hitters knees. They have Aaron Cook, an All-Star a year ago who throws a sinker that ranks in the top 10 in all of baseball. They also have Jason Marquis, the newest All-Star Rockie who leads the National League in wins on good pitching, but mostly pure competitive drive. Jorge De La Rosa throws in the mid-90's from the left side and has a change up that falls off the table.

The bullpen is anchored by a closer in Huston Street, who is a former Rookie of the Year and has converted 95% of his save opportunities so far (19 out of 20) and was very much in the All-Star talk.

Despite the talent and recent success, the weaknesses of each player has been exposed. On Sunday Jimenez took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before walking two and giving up a three-run home run to Mark Reynolds, who set a record for the most strike outs in a season in '08, on a 1-2 pitch with two outs.

On Saturday, with a 4-0 lead, Cook was unable to shut down the lowly Diamondbacks. He could not find location on his sinker and continued to leave the ball up in the zone. The big blow to him was also a long ball to Reynolds, who to his credit, is tied for second in the National League with 24 home runs.

The bullpen has found ways to get the job done, but often times when the bullpen is working it is nail-biting time for Rockies fans. Last Saturday night in Oakland the Rockies sported an 11-2 lead, but in just two innings the lead evaporated to 11-9 and Street was forced to come in and close the game out.

With the success that the Rockies experienced in June it is difficult to suggest that the coaching or managing is not up to par, but after a lack-luster series loss at the hands of the lowly Diamondbacks, while blowing leads of 4-0 and 3-0 with Cook and Jimenez on the hill, respectively, there has to some questions asked.

Despite the fact that Jimenez had a no-hitter going throw five innings, it was clear after two batters were walked that pitching coach Bob Apodaca should have made a trip out to the mound to calm down the young starter. It was as deep as Jimenez had ever taken a no-hitter, and the nerves were undoubtedly starting to get to him.

The problem for the Rockies pitchers has not been their performance, it has been the fact that they are pitching strictly on talent and guts. There never seems to be a time when there is any real coaching.

Apodaca will take his strolls out to the mound when he needs to, but the conversations at that point are one sided. When the camera shows a close-up of the conversation between Apodaca, the catcher and the pitcher, very rarely does anyone else do the talking besides Apodaca. He never asks how the pitcher is feeling, or what his plan is for the next hitter, it is simply a lecture to the pitcher throwing strikes.

Generally speaking, when a pitching coach goes out to talk to the pitcher it is simply an opportunity for the coach to remind the pitcher of the game plan and give him a chance to calm down and collect himself. That is not the case with Apodaca. He goes to the mound and gives the pitcher even more to think about, causing pitchers to speed up and try and do too much.

It would be interesting to see what a guy like Jimenez or De La Rosa might look like with a pitching coach who they believe in and who can instill confidence into them, however, as long as Bob Apodaca remains in his current position, the growth of those young pitchers will be limited.

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