As the beginning of May becomes the middle of May and as the Colorado Rockies continue to struggle to find ways to win ballgames, the only thing that the Rockies are doing early is playing their way out of first place.
The club got out to a fast start, inspiring bandwagon fans to dig out their old 'CR' hats and head to the ballpark. Instead of justifying those fans ticket purchases, the club has squandered away their lead. They have done it mostly through poor hitting, but also with poor management decisions, which has led to lost ballgames.
The fact is, when the club raced to an 11-2 start, they were not hitting on all cylinders. Ubaldo Jimenez struggled, then went on the disabled list with a torn cuticle. Carlos Gonzalez was lost at the plate, and the club was getting next-to-nothing production from third base.
They were, however, finding ways to win ballgames. Even when they got down by a few runs, they had a look to them that suggested that they would find a way to get back into the game. Most nights, they did just that. In New York against the Mets, the team was down early in all four games. They swept the series thanks in-part to a winning mentality.
With that same Mets team just leaving Denver, taking two-of-three games, the Rockies looked like a completely different ball club. When the Mets scored a few early runs, the Rockies failed to battle back. Even on Thursday, when the Rockies answered in every inning that the Mets scored in until the ninth, the team couldn't get it done when it mattered, with runners on base.
Part of the issues come from a bullpen that is very good on the plus side, but equally as bad on the negative side. When the club is winning, Matt Lindstrom, Rafael Betancourt and Huston Street have, for the most part, closed the door. Street has dealt with traffic, but has been able to wiggle out of it more often than not.
The flip-side of that is who Jim Tracy chooses, or is forced to choose, when the team is down late in the game.
Felipe Paulino, acquired from the Astros for Clint Barmes, was essentially a hard-throwing starter who had failed at the big league level. The thought behind him was that he might make an effective one-inning guy. That plan is not working out, as Paulino has a 6.94 ERA in 15 games.
On the left side, the Rockies turn to Franklin Morales. Say that name to Rockies fans and the reaction generally isn't pretty. It's tough to give up on a lefty, especially one who possesses the talent that Morales does. However, it seems clear that, despite some early season success, Morales is never going to turn the corner. His ERA is at just 3.21 on the season, but his eight walks in 14 innings is the issue. On top of the eight walks, is the fact that Morales is rarely ever ahead in the count. His control simply isn't something that looks like it will be fixed anytime soon.
The answer for the Rockies? It's time for a change. A team cannot win baseball games when they essentially have a five-man bullpen. It's time to go get Matt Daley, the Sky Sox most dependable righty out of their 'pen, who has given up just one earned run in his 14 appearances, in a Pacific Coast League that boasts about it's hitter's parks. Daley has been with the big league club several times, and has been effective in each stint.
From the left side, it's time to see what Rex Brothers can bring to the table. Brothers was selected in the 2009 draft with the Rockies supplemental pick that they received because Brian Fuentes signed with the Angels. Brothers had a great spring with the big league club, and has been great with the Sky Sox, posting a 3.31 ERA. The impressive stat for Brothers is his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has struck out 30 hitters, while walking just seven in 16-1/3 innings. The Rockies don't want to stunt his growth, but at some point, a pitcher has to be thrown into the fire.
The Rockies are still in a good spot. They still have plenty of time to figure it out at the plate, but the fact is, they need to get things going soon, before early becomes late.