Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Colorado Rockies need lineup stability, not shakeup

The Colorado Rockies are back to business as usual.

After a 7-1 road trip to start the season, the Rockies have fallen back into their old habits, struggling to score runs away from Coors Field.

With the Rockies having a day off following their latest terrible road trip, which included a three-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers, the talk has been about the need for Jim Tracy to make drastic changes in the lineup.

Fans think that Dexter Fowler can't hit leadoff, so he should be moved down. Chris Iannetta should not hit eighth because his ability to take walks is not being fully utilized because he hits in front of the pitcher. There are plenty of other scenarios that people are throwing around as ways to shake up the lineup.

In reality, however, the Rockies don't need to shake up their lineup, they need to stabilize it.

The problem for the club right now is that Jim Tracy has too many tools at his disposal. It is too tempting to try and run Jose Lopez out there to see if he can give some home run pop on a certain day. It is too tempting to give Jason Giambi four at bats to prove that he can still be a big force in the lineup. It is also really hard to relegate a guy like Ryan Spilborghs to strictly bench duty.

If the Rockies want to win, however, they must declare a lineup. They must declare starters at each position, and give those players the vast majority of the starts at those positions.

If Ty Wigginton is the guy at third base, then make him the guy. Don't start him at third base for two straight days, then sit him in favor of Lopez, then insert him into left field to try and get Lopez jump-started.

Don't run Jonathan Herrera out to second base for four days, then let Alfredo Amezega start the fifth day, then slide Lopez over because Wigginton needs to stay in the lineup and will be at third.

If Seth Smith is hot, don't put him on the bench because the team is facing a lefty, and Spilborghs might have a good chance that day. Simply let Smith hit.

The problem that the Rockies have on offense is much the same that a Clint Hurdle-bullpen has. No one knows their role. Jim Tracy essentially has 11 starting players for eight spots. Instead of declaring eight guys as starters, and allowing the other three to work on their roles as late inning pinch-hitters, or defensive replacements, Tracy tries to shoe-horn them all into starting roles.

Doing that creates a lack of rhythm from the lineup. Instead of a few guys getting hot and propelling the lineup, no one is hot because no one has consistent playing time.

Tracy wants his players to stay sharp, but by giving everyone consistent starts, he doesn't allow anyone to get extremely hot.

That is not to say that everyone shouldn't get the occasional start. Everyone needs a day off every now and then. However, not everyone needs a day off every week.

Players like Alfredo Amezaga should not get four starts a month. He should get somewhere in the range of 10-12 starts a season, if he is with the club the whole year. There is a reason he was a minor-league free agent who wasn't signed until February.

The Rockies have touted themselves as being the deepest team in baseball, but there bench has largely underperformed. Part of that might be that no one on the bench sees themselves as a bench player, they see themselves as a starter who didn't play that day. Making a pinch hitting appearance isn't something that they prepare for, because they are a starter in their mind. They haven't adjusted to what their role on the team is.

Sure, it is tough to face Major League pitching when it is a week or more between plate appearances, but that is why there are players who have made a living coming off of the bench. The Rockies don't need depth as far as talent goes, they need depth at every position, and that includes pinch-hitters. Right now they don't have any pinch-hitters. They need guys who see that as their role and prepare for it.

If the Rockies were to pick out their best eight starters and stick to it, with the exception of a few moving parts for days off and knicks and bruises that require a day off, then they may be able to develop a rhythm and finally start getting some hits on the road. Right now, they are simply trying to figure out what their role is, and no one knows.


  1. Spot on, David. It's about time Tracy gets away from his little match-up obsession that earned him the moniker, "Micromanager" in LA. Guys come in and think of hitting the 8-run homer because that, instead of moving the runner or scoring somebody from 3rd with a ground-out to the right side, will get them the starting job. It is tedious to watch Tracy make too many moves, always going by the book on match-ups instead of going for more stability, as you argue for. Well done on your post.

  2. I agree. You nailed it.