With the Rockies playoff chances on life support and not much fight left in the team, the question has to be asked. Why has this Rockies team, essentially the same team as the Colorado team that won the Wild Card in 2009, failed to reach expectations in 2010?
The easy answer to that question is the injuries that the Rockies have faced.
The only member of the starting rotation that has not been on the disabled list is Ubaldo Jimenez. The other four have missed at least 15 days.
Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, and Brad Hawpe have had stints on the disabled list. Dexter Fowler has missed time due to injury. Even Carlos Gonzalez missed a few games early in the season due to a hamstring injury.
Injuries have definitely been a part of the Rockies season. However, that is not the only reason the Rockies are in the middle of August and nine games out of first place in the National League West.
When looking for a reason why the Rockies look lifeless away from home and why the back of the lineup kills nearly every rally? Yorvit Torrealba.
That may sound crazy. After all, the journeyman catcher turned down the Rockies offer of $5.5 million over two years only to find his tail between his legs as he signed with the Padres for one year and $1.25 million. It also may sound crazy considering the guy that the Rockies signed to replace him was snubbed of the All-Star game and was one of the best five Rockies in the first half.
Well guess what? Miguel Olivo hit .325 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs in the first half of the season. Since then? Try .134 with two home runs and just six RBIs. His on-base percentage in the second half is an atrocious .171. When Olivo is in the seven hole, with Clint Barmes in the eight hole and then the pitcher, no wonder the Rockies can't get runs across the plate. They essentially are giving up at least three innings per game.
Chris Iannetta, the catcher with all the talent in the world who just can't nail down the starting spot, hasn't been much better. Although his on-base percentage is .340, pretty decent for a catcher, he just can't hit the ball. In 40 at-bats Iannetta has logged only eight hits.
Torrealba, despite being the primary catcher in both playoff seasons, was often the joke of a popular Rockies blog. Iannetta was the catcher of choice, and there was arguing differently came with great ridicule.
The argument for Torrealba went beyond his numbers. Simply put, he passes the eye test. Those watching without purple-colored glasses saw that Torrealba mentored young pitchers, hit in the clutch, took good at-bats, and most importantly, played with a fire in his belly. Never once did it seem like Torrealba wasn't giving 100%.
While the same can definitely be said for Olivo, who is by all accounts a gamer, he simply strikes out too much to carry the team on his shoulders the way that Torrealba did at times. Now Torrealba was never the team catalyst the way that Troy Tulowitzki is, or the way that Todd Helton has been in the past, but the fact is, those guys simply cannot come through day in and day out. They need someone who can pick them up as well. That guy was Torrealba.
What has Torrealba done this season? Here are his numbers. The catcher has hit .311 with a .379 on-base percentage. He only has 29 RBIs and three home runs, but he has never been a power hitter and he has not had the number of at-bats that he had in Colorado. One number that stands out for Torrealba is that he has thrown out nearly one-third of would-be base stealers, something that he was criticized heavily for in Colorado.
The biggest argument for Torrealba once again goes beyond the numbers. Is it a coincidence that the catcher went to a team who most experts predicted would lose 100 games and suddenly they have a firm grasp on the National League West race? A talented team with some good young pitchers making a run when no one thought they were good enough to be anywhere near the playoffs. Sound familiar?
Torrealba's influence in the clubhouse won't appear on any stat sheets, but Rockies fans who know how the organization works and still deny that clubhouse chemistry has something to do with success haven't been paying attention.
Should the Rockies have signed Torrealba? They did their best. They offered far more than anyone else was willing to. Torrealba turned them down. That, however, does not mean that they don't miss him.
With Yorvit Torrealba, the Rockies might be in a different situation.
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