Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jim Tracy blows another game, Colorado Rockies loss third straight

This isn't why it was important to start off hot in April. The reason wasn't so that the team could blow that lead in May.

The offense clearly is struggling, and is the predominant reason for the lack of production leading to losses. However, in spite of a lackluster offense, the team has been in games, hence three-straight walk-off losses. The reason the Rockies are losing is because of the captain of the ship.

Jim Tracy is an easy man to fall in love with. He is media-friendly. He gives great quotes. He knows the game inside and out and he believes in his players.

The problem is, believing in his players comes with a cost. Instead of being realistic and seeing flaws, he sees each one of his players as his own child. When a parent looks at their own kid, they generally see a much more talented version than the rest of society sees.

Tracy is also extremely meticulous. He thinks about every last detail. Not just in baseball, but in life. It is hard not to like him. However, it will be tough to find a single Jim Tracy fan in all of Colorado when the sun rises on Sunday.

Tracy painted himself into a corner once again on Saturday night in San Francisco. It is a well-known fact in baseball that righties hit lefties better, and lefties hit righties better. However, that does not mean that a lefty can't get a righty out, and vice-versa.

The Rockies manager prides himself in playing for the win in nine innings, and then figuring it out from there. However, on Saturday, Tracy didn't try to win in nine innings, he tried to win in eight. It seemed to be working out well, until that stubborn old rule popped up again. Yep, that's right, the umpires enforced the rule that the game has to go nine innings.

In the seventh inning, Tracy brought in Matt Belisle to replace an extremely effective Clayton Mortenson. The Rockies were tied at two, after the offense finally got the bats going against Madison Bumgarner.

Belisle is a work-horse. In 2010, he logged 92 innings. That was probably about 15 too many, but he did a great job for the club, and was able to work out of many different roles. On several occasions, he went two innings.

So on Saturday it was baffling to see Tracy walk out of the dugout after Belisle had retired the first two Giants. Tracy signaled for the lefty Matt Reynolds to face Giants shortstop Mike Fontenot. Reynolds proceeded to give up a double to Fontenot, walked Buster Posey, then was able to strike out Aubrey Huff.

(For a great recap of the game, and always great Rockies opinion, visit Mark Townsend's Rockies blog, Heaven & Helton)

The Rockies got out of the inning, but Tracy had wiped two pitchers off the books in order to get three outs.

What that meant is that Matt Lindstrom got to pitch the eighth inning, then the Rockies, still looking to break the tie, only had Felipe Paulino, Franklin Morales, Rafael Betancourt and Huston Street left in the bullpen. Street would be saved for if the Rockies took the lead, and Betancourt threw over 30 pitches on Friday, so the choices were Paulino or Morales.

Pick your poison.

The only one surprised to see what happened next was Tracy. The loss was almost not a heartbreaker, because the reality of Paulino and Morales combining to get the job done was slim-to-none. Sorry, but neither has been an effective reliever. Morales has been better in 2011, but does anyone trust him to throw one strike, let alone three? Does anyone really believe that Paulino is going to get outs in a high-leverage situation?

The Giants immediately got two runners on base off of Paulino. Tracy then went to Morales, who sailed a pitch to the backstop, allowing the winning run to reach third with no outs. Morales did not delay the inevitable. He grooved a pitch to Fontenot, who drilled it to right, deep enough to score the winning run.

Tracy has to take responsibility for the loss. However, so does Dan O'Dowd. Matt Daley has been phenomenal at Triple-A Colorado Springs so far. He has big league experience, and has proved to be an effective reliever. Paulino has not. Despite the lack of options on Paulino's contract, Daley should be up, and Paulino nowhere to be found in a Jim Tracy bullpen.

The other issue is Morales. Although he has been better, the Rockies have a lefty in Colorado Springs who has been everything that was advertised in Rex Brothers. The sandwich pick in 2009 looks to be ready for the big leagues, and sorry to the remaining Morales fans, but he isn't going to come around. He isn't a pitcher. He is a thrower, and if that hasn't changed by now, it never will. He can't consistently hit the strike zone, and pitching in the big leagues is impossible without command.

The loss is frustrating. Frankly, the offense needs to decide to show up. They need to decide that they are going to be better than mediocre, or they will continue to scuffle against good pitchers all year long. It has nothing to do with mechanics, it has nothing to do with pulling too many balls, it has everything to do with their mindset. That is what needs to change.

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  1. While I respect your opinion David and for the record most of your article is dealing from a factual standpoint which seems to get lost by most baseball writers. Does it not stand to reason that if JT is working with the same players in may as he did in April then we should praise him for the incredible management job he has done with the same talent that he is losing with now? So much is overlooked when a team loses late and not enough credit gets put in place for the 8 innings leading up to that. As a player/employee I would want my boss to care about me and believe in my talent which gives me confidence and so much of a relievers role is played by the 6 inch space between his ears. No team goes through a 162 game season without winning a couple and losing a couple late. The bottom line is I think JT has done an incredible job and should be up for manager of the year right now. If I told you in April that we would be in first place in May with Cargo starting the year as he has and Jimenez having 0 wins at this point there is no way you would believe me when I tell you that the Rockies would be in first. As for bringing up the talent from Colorado Springs lets not forget the past mistakes we have made in bringing up pitchers too early because the talent in the big show is loop warm at best. I would rather look at the big picture with the younger arms in the minors let them develop more and be successful in the bigs for a long term solution then a quick fix and throw them into the fire and kill their confidence. I think the Rockies are on the cusp of something special this year and the main reason is because of a guy like JT blending talents egos and role players the correct way. Sit back and enjoy the season Rockies fans for once we may not have to win 15 out of our last 17 to get into post season and it is only a matter of time before Cargo has one of those great months and Ubaldo is eventually going to start winning. Talented guys like him always find a way.

  2. Michael-
    All excellent points...and I do completely agree with you that most of the time a manager only takes heat when his team is playing poorly, and how quickly is it forgotten that he had his team playing better than anyone in the Majors without his best talent performing. That is a good point.

    However, Tracy was playing with fire a little bit with his bullpen during the hot streak. In my opinion, he mixes and matches too much, which is the downfall of many MLB managers. Half of the problem is that there are two members of the bullpen who are either completely ineffective, or completely untrustworthy. It is tough to win games when your bullpen is only five deep. His use of Paulino in the 9th inning two nights in a row was bordering on asinine. The guy is adjusting to pitching in the bullpen. He should be used in the 6th or 7th, not in high leverage situations. All that will do is destroy his confidence.

    Thanks for the comment.