Friday, December 11, 2009

Rockies Must Make Moves To Be Competitive In 2010

The Colorado Rockies are becoming known as a come-from-behind team. In 2007 the Rockies completed the best three weeks to end a season in the history of the game. In 2009 the Rockies recovered from a such a huge deficit that Congress may want to call Jim Tracy for some advice.

The Rockies are quickly gaining notoriety around the baseball world as a good team, but they have already achieved one title that they aim to change in 2010. The Rockies have gained the dubious title of being extremely slow starters.

In 2007 the Rockies finished April with a 10-16 record and were sitting 10 games under .500 on May 21st before they started a seven game winning streak that turned their season around.

In '09 not much was different. When Clint Hurdle was fired as manager on May 29th, the Rockies were 20-32, good enough for 29th best record in baseball.

If the Rockies want to avoid another slow start in 2010 they must not be content with putting the same team that was on the field in '09 back on the field in 2010.

After the Rockies found themselves in the World Series, owners Dick and Charlie Monfort decided to do as much as they possibly could do to keep that team intact. The plan was a good. It was something that many baseball fans around the country are not fortunate enough to experience.

The plan left Dan O'Dowd looking to the scrap heap to plug small holes. O'Dowd picked up starting pitchers Kip Wells and Josh Towers. They were viewed as insurance in case someone got hurt or one of the young pitchers needed more time in the minors.

The Rockies never dreamed of what would happen. 17 game winner Jeff Francis was just a shell of himself, finding out nearly a year later that he was having shoulder issues that forced him on the disabled list twice and limiting him to a miserable 4-10 record in 26 starts. The injury would sideline him for the entire 2009 campaign.

The team was also depending on Franklin Morales and Jason Hirsh to be pillars in the starting rotation. Hirsh's injured shoulder kept him in Colorado Springs all year and Morales showed his youth, pitching his way back to the minors before the end of May.

Kip Wells was beyond a disaster. He was released before the end of July and was possibly the worst starting pitcher in baseball in 2008. Fighting his own injuries in '08, Wells went just 1-2 with a 5.27 ERA. Josh Towers never saw the big leagues, dealing with control issues all season long.

After a terrible '08 season, the Rockies knew that changes needed to be made. In November O'Dowd jumped into the deep end trading Matt Holliday to the Oakland A's for Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith. Fans screamed that the Rockies were cheapskates and that they had no desire to win. Those fans were enjoying eating crow in August as Gonzalez had found his groove in the Major Leagues and Huston Street had re-established himself as one of the top closers in baseball.

The failed '08 campaign led the Rockies to trade for perennial 10-game winner Jason Marquis for added pitching depth in case Francis was not ready to go. Marquis was a proven winner, someone known as an innings eater and a guy who was a bulldog on the mound.

The move proved to be one of the best. Without Marquis, the Rockies would never have sniffed the '09 playoffs. The righty won 15 games, 11 before the All-Star break, eight of which coming after a Rockies loss. Despite his late season tailspin, there is no doubt that the Marquis trade was a season saver.

Knowing that there were still some holes in the rotation, O'Dowd made another trade right after Opening Day for Tampa Bay's Jason Hammel. Hammel had lost the fifth starter battle in Tampa Bay, but was highly regarded around the league. His curve ball is one of the best in the league and at 26 he was just getting his feet wet in the big leagues.

All Hammel did was win 10 games in the fifth spot in the rotation. Having Hammel at the back of the rotation made the Rockies solid all the way through the rotation, there were no weak spots.

All Rockies fans are familiar with these moves, but what does it have to do with 2010?

As the general managers meetings come to a close on Friday in Indianapolis the Rockies have done little more than sign Chris Iannetta to a three year deal and get the ball rolling on re-signing clutch performer Yorvit Torrealba.

The argument can be made that the Rockies do not need to make any trades. After all, youngsters Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez will only continue to improve, Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart will have better seasons than their full season slumps of '09, and Jeff Francis would be back to replace the loss of Jason Marquis to free agency.

While all of those propositions are reasonable, it seems that it may be the perfect storm for all of that to happen.

The Rockies currently have no backup plan in case of injury. After missing an entire season the Rockies are depending on Francis to replace an All-Star season put together by Marquis. They are asking two young players in Fowler and Gonzalez to play like seasoned veterans, and Iannetta and Stewart to prove that their seasons at the plate were simply a fluke. While Iannetta had numbers that suggested his season was not as bad as his batting average, the young catcher would be the first to admit that his season was not what he had envisioned. Stewart is a slick fielder who can hit the ball as far as anyone who has ever played the game, but he has a glaring hole in his swing, and has the potential to strike out as much as anyone in baseball.

To ask Stewart to suddenly turn into a contact hitter and figure out a Major League curve ball may be quite a bit to expect.

While the Rockies have depth in the minor leagues and are looking as if they could emerge as the favorites to win the National League West, they are risking quite a bit by not attempting to bolster their big league roster before heading into the season.

2 comments:

  1. I am pretty excited to not have to watch Atkins or Hawpe play defense anymore. I think our lineup is certainly NL Championship worthy:

    Fowler
    Helton
    Smith
    Tulo
    Gonzo
    Stewart
    Iannetta
    Barmes

    If I could add anyone in this crappy free agent market, it would be Justin Duchscherer (sp?). He could be great as both a reliever and a starter (plus, he's coming to the NL from the AL -- always a plus).

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  2. I don't mind this lineup, but I don't think it is going to end up shaking out like that. Even though Brad Hawpe may be the fourth most talented outfielder on the team, I see him getting at least 130 starts. Here is how I see it...

    Fowler
    Gonzalez
    Helton
    Tulo
    Hawpe
    Iannetta
    Stewart
    Barmes

    Once again Seth Smith finds himself in somewhat of a platoon role, which is a shame.

    I think Duchscherer would be an awesome pick up for the Rockies. He is still young and like you said can pitch both out of the pen or in the rotation. My greatest fear for the team right now is that they are not accounting for the loss of Jason Marquis. They need more starting pitching depth.

    Thanks for the comment.

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