Thursday, April 29, 2010

Franklin Morales: Struggling Rockies Closer May Not Fit Role

Could someone please fix the humidor?

The Rockies lost 12-11 on Wednesday after slamming their way back into a game in which they were down by six runs before they recorded a single out.

Greg Smith pitched all of one inning, giving up six earned runs on four hits and three walks. It was the exactly opposite of what the Rockies needed from him in the rubber match of the three game series.

Despite Smith's incredibly poor performance, the Rockies still brought their hitting shoes. They stormed back, taking a 7-6 lead, then 8-6, then 10-6 and finally 11-6. The taxed bullpen however, could not hold the leading, giving up six runs and losing in 10 innings.

The loss is hard to handle, especially when the offense did everything that it could to crawl back into a game that looked to be out of hand early. The bullpen has done a great job, but the loss showed a glaring weakness for the Rockies.

The big pink elephant in the room is Franklin Morales in the closers role. Jim Tracy was quick to promote him to the position after Huston Street went down. Tracy talks about Morales as a guy who can hit the mid-to-upper 90's from the left side and has a great curve ball. All of these compliments are very true. However, Morales is missing perhaps the greatest tool required of a closer.

Morales should not be in the closers role because he does not have the mental toughness for it. A closer needs to come in with the mindset that no hitter who has ever played the game or who ever will play the game has a chance to get a hit off of him. They need to trust their stuff and know that they can throw any pitch at any time for a strike. Morales does not have that.

The hard throwing lefty's performance was not an unfamiliar one to the Rockies. Morales looked exactly like Brian Fuentes, who, to his credit was and is a very successful closer. However, it is very well known that Fuentes is synonymous with "heart attack."

On Wednesday, Morales came in and plunked Mark Reynolds on a 1-2 pitch. This is the same Mark Reynolds who holds the record for most strikeouts in a season. Morales then walked two batters, only to wiggle his way out of the jam, a la Brian Fuentes. However, with the bullpen thin due to having already worked eight innings, Morales was sent back in the 10th inning. He threw a fastball to Kelly Johnson, who crushed it over the right field wall to seal the victory for the Diamondbacks.

Morales struggled with fastball command. And that is saying it nicely. The truth is, he had no clue where his fastball was going. He was able to locate his offspeed pitches decently, but was not getting any close calls on the plate because of the fact that his command was so poor.

The thought is nice. Morales has every pitch in his arsenal to be a closer. Unfortunately, he might be the worst guy to pick from the entire bullpen to close out games. He just does not have the right frame of mind to do it.

It may be time to give someone else a shot. There is a guy in the Rockies bullpen who does have the right mentality to close games, and would probably do a good job at it. His name is Matt Daley.

Daley is perfect for the role. He was undrafted out of college and has a huge chip on his shoulder. He worked extremely hard to get to the big leagues and instead of being a guy who floats back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues, Daley has pitched well enough to solidify a role for himself as a late inning guy.

Of late, Daley has struggled with pounding the strike zone like he normally does, but even with his struggles he is still sporting a Jimenez-like 0.82 ERA.

The question is why not? Why not give him a chance? Morales has done nothing but show that he is extremely shaky in that role and Rafael Betancourt, who gave up two runs in the eighth, has proven over his career that he does not fit the closer role well.

Daley does not throw hard, he does not have phenomenal pitches, but he gets outs. He has an attitude that believes he can do anything, which he proved simply by making it to the big leagues.

The Rockies should give him a shot, but at this point they should give anyone a shot over Franklin Morales.

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2 comments:

  1. I think you are being hard on Morales, justifiably so, but not hard enough on Betancourt who blew the Rockies' lead in the 8th.

    Also, it is very strange to criticize the offense on a day when they scored 11, but they had just 1 hit after the 4th inning. This is at least the fourth time the team gave away a game they should have won. How many take-aways do they have? And do they expect the bullpen to be 100% effective? I think the offense needs to be more proficient late in games - doing damage against the opposing bullpens for a change. They need to blow open games they already lead and steal games in which they trail if they are going to be a contender.

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  2. Mike,
    It is hard to criticize an offense that scored 11 runs. They should have hit the D-Backs bullpen a little bit better, but 11 runs wins you 99% of games, this one falls on the pitchers.

    As far as Morales goes, maybe I am being harsh on him, but he just does not have that closers mentality. A closer brings the attitude of "good luck hitting this." Morales brings the mentality of "I hope I get this guy out, but I don't know if I can do it." He just can't handle the late inning pressure, even with his stuff. He is young, and new to the bullpen, so it is understandable, but games in April are just as important as games in September.

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