Thursday, June 30, 2011

Colorado Rockies show how far away from being good they actually are

Bless Todd Helton.

On the day that he played his 2,000 career game, all in a Colorado Rockies uniform, his team did what they do best. They lost in agonizing fashion.

In all 2,000 games in which Helton has played in, how many times has his team gone down in a heartbreaking fashion. The grizzly veteran has to be getting used to it. He has to quit feeling the agony. However, based on the way he is begging this team, and this ownership group to go out and get another starter, it seems like the losses are starting to hurt even more.

Last week on Jim Rome's nationally syndicated radio show, Helton candidly told Rome that he believes that the Rockies need to get another starting pitcher if they want to have a shot at winning the World Series. He didn't mind offending teammates. He was being honest. He wants to win a World Series and he feels it is going to take another solid arm in the rotation.

The only problem with his statement? It goes far too short of what the Rockies actually need if they even want to dream of another shot at the World Series.

If the Colorado Rockies were simply a starting pitcher away from contention, they would already be winning games. They would be losing every fourth or fifth day by the score of 8-7 and 10-9. Instead, they are losing games in which they are scoring four runs or less. They are consistently losing games that they have no business losing.

Thursday's matinee was the latest example. Twice the Rockies had the bases loaded and less than two outs. Twice they failed to score even a single run. Twice Ty Wigginton failed to advance runners when it was his time to shine. Instead, he went a resounding 0-for-5, leaving a whopping seven men on base.

Wigginton's home run stretch may have been the worst thing for the Rockies. He is clearly over-swinging. He looks like he is trying to hit every pitch 500 feet. However, picking on just the third baseman isn't fair.

In the 10th inning, with the Rockies down by two runs, Seth Smith led off the inning against White Sox pitcher Jesse Crain. After working the count to 3-0, Smith proceeded to swing at ball four twice. He didn't swing at pitches that were close to the zone, he swung at pitches that weren't within a foot of the zone.

Ryan Spilborghs pinch hit for Aaron Cook in the sixth inning and struck out on three pitches, waving at a horrible inside slider for the third strike.

Eric Young, Jr. pinch hit for Matt Lindstrom in the eighth inning, looking to get something started. He swung at the first pitch and grounded out harmlessly to shortstop.

The point is, these Colorado Rockies simply cannot execute. They swing at terrible pitches. They allow pitchers to get back into counts. They simply do not play like a good team plays.

The word that the Rockies offense seems to have no clue about it's meaning is: Execution.

Instead of letting pitchers get themselves into jams, or letting the opposition feel the pressure when the bases are loaded, the Rockies feel the pressure themselves. They swing at pitches out of the zone, they seem nervous and wishing that it was anyone besides them at the plate.

For proof, look no further than the club's performance with runners in scoring position. 2-for-10, now look at the number of men that were left on, nine. Baseball team's don't win too many games when they hit .200 with runners in scoring position. Good teams find ways to punch balls into holes, send balls flying into the outfield, ground out to the right side, or slap a ball back up the middle. The Rockies seem to find ways to strike out, pop out to the infield, or hit a weak grounder back to the pitcher.

Helton may think that this club needs another starter to contend, however, their issues go far beyond a starting pitcher. Their issues are deeply rooted in how they go about their business and how they approach the game.

Colorado Rockies add second baseman Mark Ellis; Aaron Cook's days may be numbered

One thing is for sure, the Colorado Rockies believe that they are contenders.

On Thursday afternoon before the Rockies took the field against the White Sox, the club traded Triple-A right-hander Bruce Billings and cash to the Oakland Athletics for second baseman Mark Ellis.

Ellis is having a difficult season, hitting just .217 in 62 games, but he is a career .265 hitter and is a very good defender at second base. The move gives the Rockies another veteran who can fill in at second base, where the club's bats have gone cold since Jonathan Herrera started the season on fire.

This is just a theory, but I believe the move represents the end of the Aaron Cook era in Colorado. How does acquiring a second baseman end the era of a pitcher? Well, the Rockies currently do not have any additional spots remaining on the 40-man roster. That means to squeeze Ellis on, the club must make a move. That move could easily be designating Cook for assignment, opening up a spot, then optioning either Eric Young, Jr. or Chris Nelson back to Triple-A in four days in favor of a pitcher, most likely Greg Reynolds, when Cook's spot comes around.

Whether that happens or not should be interesting, but the move seems to be something that indicates the Rockies are looking for a veteran hitter who can bring some leadership to the clubhouse and take some good at-bats, something the Rockies have struggled with throughout the first half of the season.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Un-Ty-er; Wigginton singles Colorado Rockies to walk-off victory

Stranger things have happened.

When Troy Tulowitzki hit third base and kept on going, scoring from first base on a Ty Wigginton bloop single to give the Colorado Rockies a 3-2 victory in 13 innings against the Chicago White Sox, it was time for a celebration, but an odd one.

Scoring from first doesn't always happen on a line drive into the gap, let alone a blooper to center field. However, White Sox centerfielder Brent Lillibridge was playing deep, guarding against a ball in the gap, then didn't hustle to pick up the ball that Wigginton had softly hit, and Tulowitzki simply kept on going. Lillibridge's throw seemed unprepared, and the Rockies first walk-off win of the season was in the books.

The Rockies were in desperate need for a good start to an important six-game homestand. The club is now one game over .500 at Coors Field, a figure that wouldn't have been good enough for even the horrible Rockies teams of the early 2000's. This homestand needs to be one in which they go 5-1, or 4-2 at worst the re-establish their home dominance.

On a perfectly hot summer night at the ballpark, Jason Hammel and Gavin Floyd were locked in a pitcher's duel early on. Both pitchers had thrown less than 30 pitches through three innings of work, with Hammel being the only one to surrender a run, a solo shot from Alexi Ramirez.

The Rockies, however, were able to get two runs across the board, thanks to Seth Smith, who singled in Todd Helton in the fourth inning, then hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Chris Nelson in the sixth. That was good enough to keep the game tied, the bullpen did their part, with scoreless innings from Matt Belisle, Huston Street, Matt Reynolds, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Lindstrom, and finally Rex Brothers, who picked up his first Major League win.

The bullpen combined to pitch six scoreless innings, surrendering only two hits and walking only one White Sox batter. That type of work is what is needed to give an offense a chance to put something together to win an extra inning game.

Before the game Jim Tracy said that it is not imperative for his team to make a run before the All-Star break, that they just need to maintain ground. That sounds great, and that takes pressure off of the club, but the reality is, the road looks quite a bit shorter if they can go into the All-Star break down by just two or three games in the division, rather than five.

At some point, the sense of urgency needs to kick in, and the Rockies need to not waste anymore time sitting in the hole that they dug for themselves in May.

Tuesday night was a great start for that goal. The team pitched phenomenally, including Hammel twice pulling a Houdini act and getting double plays to end White Sox rallies. The team didn't exactly crush the ball at the plate, but found ways to get the little things done when they needed it to happen. Smith's sixth inning sacrifice fly being the perfect example. Instead of trying to get a base hit, or crush a home run, Smith simply hit the ball deep enough into the outfield to score the run.

Doing the little things right is going to be the first step for the Rockies to climb back into contention. Good pitching from the bullpen and timely, fundamental hitting is a step in the right direction.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Colorado Rockies are in a world of hurt

It was just one game. It was just one loss.

However, for some reason, it seems like the Colorado Rockies loss to the Chicago Cubs in a makeup game at Wrigley Field meant more than that.

The Rockies had their ace, Jhoulys Chacin on the mound. In his right arm, the Rockies had a chance to go home with a 4-3 road trip. They had a chance to build on some positives that happened away from Coors Field. They had a chance to build a little bit of momentum before a run of 13 games in 13 days before the All-Star break.

Instead, Chacin faltered, and the Rockies couldn't push runs across the board on Chicago's Matt Garza. The Rockies lost, and they currently sit 5-1/2 games behind the division-leading Giants, a team that has enough pitching to allow them to win games 2-1 and 1-0 consistently.

It's not quite doom and gloom for the Rockies yet. They still have a chance to make a nice run and put themselves back into contention. However, the talk of going on a run goes on and on, with no sign of anything significant on the field.

The reality is this. The Rockies have huge issues. Their starting rotation is missing Jorge De La Rosa, and Ubaldo Jimenez is a shell of his former self. He looks good every now and then, but to say he is dependable is a stretch at this point. Those two alone were carriers of quite a bit of the expectation load coming into the season.

Beyond Jimenez and De La Rosa, does anyone seriously think the Rockies should consider themselves a viable playoff option with Aaron Cook pitching every fifth day? To get inside of the collective front-office's heads, it would be a stretch to think that they believe that they can win with Cook out there for the rest of the season. However, improving on that fifth spot is easier said then done.

The best trade target that the Rockies have for another starter is Wandy Rodriguez, currently in the Astros rotation. He has a great left-handed curveball and can get the job done. His ERA is below 3.00 in one of the best hitter's parks in baseball. However, don't be fooled into thinking that the Rockies can ship off a couple of Single-A prospects and get Rodriguez. That simply won't happen.

The Astros are going to need to hire another receptionist for the amount of calls that they are going to be getting on Rodriguez. He is the most valuable starting pitcher that might be available via the trade, so every team in contention is going to at least call. That makes the price go up significantly.

On top of the high demand, Rodriguez just signed a three-year $34 million deal in the offseason. To take that contract on seems like something that is out of character for the Rockies ownership group.

On top of the Rockies needing another starter, it's not as if the club is doing just fine on the offensive side of the ball. They have yet to hit their offensive stride, which, to many, means that at the half-way point, they probably won't hit their offensive stride. They are who they are at this point. Ty Wigginton has done an excellent job filling in at third base for the disappointing Ian Stewart, but after a great road trip, Wigginton is playing well above his expectation level.

Chris Iannetta has done a great job of taking the reins and being a valuable starting catcher, but the power that he possesses comes out far too rarely. His swing still has a slight hitch in it that causes the Rhode Island native to just barely get under the pitch to hit. When he connects, the ball travels a long way. However, that just doesn't happen enough for what the Rockies need.

Todd Helton is also exceeding expectations. He is showing how good of a player he is, and always was, but at some point, it is almost certain that some of the back issues will re-surface.

The point is, if the Rockies want to get into contention, the talk of going on a run needs to turn into the act of going on a run sooner, rather then later. They need to get close, and they need to do it before the All-Star break. If they don't, they may just be the latest example of a Rockies team that failed to reach their expectations.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Colorado Rockies drop rubber match, lose series to Yankees

Rookie Juan Nicasio was perfect through 4-1/3 innings. Then, as has happened to many young starters facing the Yankees, New York figured him out.

After the Rockies put themselves in a position to take the three game series, going up 3-0, the Yankees battled back, getting back-to-back home runs from Nick Swisher, a two-run shot, and then a solo blast from Jorge Posada. The homers knotted the game up at three, and spring boarded the Yankees to victory.

Ty Wigginton, who has been a savior for the Rockies in the wake of Ian Stewart not turning the corner, continued to light up American League pitchers. He drilled two home runs for the second time on the road trip. His total for the trip is five bombs, two in Cleveland, three in New York.

Thanks to Wigginton and Chris Iannetta, who added a solo shot in the fifth, the Rockies were still in a position to win the game. It looked like they might get their chance when Matt Belisle induced Russell Martin into what would have been a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play ball. However, sure-handed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki couldn't handle the hot-shot, and instead of getting out of the inning, the Rockies were staring at two men on with one out.

Belisle then gave up a soft single in the third base hole to Eduardo Nunez, plating the Yankees fifth run.

A series loss is never something to be happy about. However, to look on the bright side for the Rockies, they went out in three games under the bright lights and in front of far more media than they play in front of on a daily basis, and didn't get distracted. They didn't fold under the pressure. In fact, they didn't look like the typical Rockies team on the road even once.

Instead of playing as if they were going to get beat the whole time, the Rockies battled and fought in all three games. Even with a "B" lineup on the field Saturday against CC Sabathia, the Rockies found a way to scratch out a run, when, with Aaron Cook on the mound, they really had no chance to begin with.

The Rockies fly to Chicago to make up a postponed game from May on Monday. A win would give them a 4-3 mark on the road trip and a reason to be optimistic going into a six-game home stand against the White Sox and Royals. With Jhoulys Chacin on the mound in Chicago, the Rockies have a good chance at ending the road trip on a positive note and coming back to Coors Field with a .500 mark.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Time for the Colorado Rockies to cut Aaron Cook loose

All things must come to an end.

Whether it is at the end of this season, or sometime before then, Aaron Cook will end his tenure as a Colorado Rockie.

However, if the Rockies have any chance at making the postseason, that difficult decision needs to be made sooner rather than later. As in, before his next start.

Moves like that are easier said then done. Keep in mind, Cook is the all-time wins leader for any Rockies pitcher. His 69 wins are more than any other pitcher to don the purple pinstripes. Sometimes though, tough decisions need to be made, and this is one of those decisions.

After Saturday's 8-1 debacle in which the Rockies never really had a chance, Cook continued to look nothing like the pitcher who had mastered the sinker and was throwing complete games with less then 100 pitches.

Some might argue that Cook needs to be given a chance to find his groove, that he is struggling because he has been removed from a Major League mound for so long that he hasn't been able to get back into the swing of things.

The problem with that argument, however, is that Cook has been nothing short of awful since his All-Star appearance in 2008. His ERA has never been close to below 4.00, and asking Cook to protect a lead has been mission impossible. On top of that, the sinkerballer seemed determined to mix in a curveball. He came into spring training in 2010 eager to tell the media that he had developed the breaking ball and that he would be utilizing it.

He certainly has been utilizing the curveball, however, hitters have also been utilizing it, sitting on the hanger and driving it.

Why change what has been working? Cook was effective as a sinker ball pitcher. There was no reason for him to try and trick batters. Much like Mariano Rivera, who throws a cutter that everyone knows is coming and still can't hit, Cook should simply throw the sinker and let hitter's frustrate themselves by driving the ball into the ground.

The biggest reason the Cook should be let go is because he is to pitching what a double play is to a rally. When he is on the mound, he kills any momentum the team has built up over the past few days. After a big win on Friday night in New York, the Rockies should have come out ready to take the series on Saturday, regardless of the fact that they were facing CC Sabathia. However, the energy level was nearly non-existent, and they played lethargically all day long.

It was as if the Rockies had conceded before the game even began. Take a look at Jim Tracy's lineup and try to argue differently. Obviously there are times when guys need to sit on the bench and take a day off. With Sabathia on the hill, it is as good of time as any to give some lefties the day off. However, how in the world can Tracy even consider putting Seth Smith on the bench right now? Smith is one of the hottest Rockies hitters. He won a game for him in Cleveland single-hand-idly and nearly won the finale, but came up two feet short of a ninth inning home run.

With Smith out of the lineup, Tracy also chose to sit Chris Iannetta, who admittedly caught the night before, and many times a catcher will sit the day after a night game. However, on top of Iannetta, who had an extremely productive night on Friday, Tracy possibly made the most head scratching move of all. He inserted Eric Young into right field. That has happened before, however, the Rockies and everyone who watches EY play know that putting him at second base is questionable. Right field, however, is a total joke.

If there was any question that the Rockies looked lethargic on the field, it may have been because Tracy had essentially conceded the game before it ever began.

Those types of games completely stop any type of momentum a team might be carrying. If there is one thing that has been certain, it is that these Rockies are a team that lives and dies by momentum. If they have it in their favor, they win, if they don't have it in their favor, they lose.

With Aaron Cook on the mound every fifth day, it poses a serious risk to the Rockies ever gaining serious momentum. If they want to go to the playoffs, they must put aside feelings and emotions and find a way to remove Cook from the rotation.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Colorado Rockies take first game in New York against the Yankees

They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. They left 11 men on base, including leaving the bases loaded on two separate occasions. They couldn't seem to get the knockout blow when they needed it most.

But they won.

On Friday night in the Bronx. The Colorado Rockies, led by a 3-for-4 night from Jason Giambi, and a stellar pitching performance from Ubaldo Jimenez, won the opener of a three-game set at the new Yankee Stadium.

Giambi, after receiving cheers in his return to New York, launched a 2-0 pitch deep into the right-center field bleachers, a no doubt home run. The blast seemed to return the rest of the Rockies to a baseball feel. Both Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki seemed hyped playing their first games on the stage that it Yankee Stadium. After Giambi's blast, the rest of the club seemed more relaxed, and willing to work the count instead of swinging at everything AJ Burnett was throwing to them.

Early on it didn't look good for Jimenez. The former ace was having trouble hitting his spots. After walking Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, Jimenez gave up a double down the line to Alex Rodriguez, scoring Granderson from second. Luckily for Jimenez, Robinson Cano's smoked liner found its way into Chris Nelson's glove, and he alertly threw to Tulowitzki doubling off Rodriguez at second base. Without that play, the game may have taken a turn in which the Rockies might not have recovered from.

Frankly, Jimenez looked horrible through the first four innings. He worked nearly every batter to a three ball count. He was missing his spots by feet rather than inches, and the velocity was closer to 90 on the fastball than it was to 96. Jimenez's delivery is unorthodox by any definition, and he tends to fly open on the front side more than most pitchers do, but on Friday night, he was swinging much further open than he ever has in the past.

Despite poor mechanics and sketchy control, Jimenez was still able to limit the Yankees to just four hits through seven gritty innings. He struck out seven and walked four. Mechanics aside, the right-hander got the job done when it mattered most, and found his groove after giving up the Yankees second run in the third inning.

The Rockies win, if nothing else, should be enough to make them feel that they are not an inferior team to the almighty New York Yankees. They mystic of playing at Yankee Stadium should subside and the club should be able to play the game the way that they know how to.

Winning the first game was a huge step in the right direction for this Rockies team. A series win might be what it takes to propel them into a hot streak that puts them back on top of the National League West.


Todd Helton says the Colorado Rockies need more pitching

He doesn't say much, but when he talks, everyone listens.

Todd Helton is the soul of the Colorado Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez may have stolen the spotlight, but make no mistake about it, those two combined do not carry the clout that Helton carries. He will be the first Rockie with his number retired, and, if he continues playing well, may be the first Rockie in Cooperstown.

So when the grizzly veteran speaks, everyone stops and listens.

On Wednesday afternoon on sports radio, Helton told Jim Rome that the Rockies could make the playoffs with the talent that they have on the current roster. But then, Helton made a comment that caused eyebrows to raise.

Helton, without hesitation, told Rome that if the Rockies want to do any damage in the playoffs, or if they want to win the World Series, that they will have to get starting pitching help. Whether that is through a trade or from the minors, it is going to take help for the Rockies to win the World Series, a clear goal of the team in spring training.

That may not sound like an off-the-wall statement, but consider what Helton is saying and it becomes a bigger issue. The first baseman is well-respected within the organization because when most veterans would have asked out, Helton stayed true to party lines when it came to rebuilding. He was patient and he waited for the tough years to go by in order to win. He is a company man.

This statement goes against party lines. He is essentially distancing himself from the Rockies front office and saying that they need to do something before the trade deadline if they want to get a ring.

It goes further than that too. It is well known that Helton and starting pitcher Aaron Cook are good friends. They hunt together in the offseason, and their families spend time together often. At RockiesFest in January, Cook pointed to Helton as his best friend on the team.

When Helton makes a statement like that, it tells Cook that he is not the answer in the Rockies rotation, and that a change needs to be made.

Maybe it is an almost-38-year old Helton seeing his chances at winning a ring get smaller and smaller and deciding that he doesn't care who he offends, or maybe, just maybe, it is Helton leading this team in the way that he knows how to. Maybe he is calling out his teammates and friends and giving them a swift kick to the backside to tell them it's time to get going, or it's time to make a change.

If there is a person who can deliver that message in the clubhouse it isn't Tulo, it's not Cargo, it's Helton. Maybe this was his chance to do something that he normally wouldn't do, use the media to fire up his team, and spur them into the next gear to prove to their leader that they are good enough as-is to win now. To prove that they don't need outside help and that they can do the job.

It will be interesting to see how the club reacts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Balk this way: Jason Hammel balks Colorado Rockies to loss

Jason Hammel wound up, made the turn, pulled the ball out of his glove, and then stopped. That's right. He just stopped. Home plate Umpire Sam Holbrook then made the easiest balk call of his career.

With two outs in third inning, runners at second and third base, and Indians DH Travis Hafner down to his final strike, Hammel committed the most embarrassing moment of his career. He forgot what pitch he was throwing, and simply stopped mid-way through his pitch, allowing Cleveland to score their second run of the night.

It wouldn't have been as big of a deal, had the Rockies not used the bat of Ty Wigginton to put them within one run. However, after Wigginton homered twice in the game, he couldn't get a base hit off of Indians closer Chris Perez with Seth Smith on second base to tie the game up.

The run that Hammel allowed to score ended up being the difference. Isn't that the way it always works?

Regardless, the Rockies won another series. They won a series against a first place team, on the road. Two of those wins were one-run wins. That is a huge step in the right direction. These Rockies are taking steps forward, regardless of their difficult schedule.

Make no mistake, the road ahead does not get any easier for the Rockies. They head into New York to play the Yankees, and frankly, they didn't get the best draw when it comes to pitching matchups. On Friday night, the Rockies send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound to face AJ Burnett. New York may have wanted to run Burnett out of town last season, but he has had a resurgence in 2011, he is currently 7-5 with a 4.05 ERA, a far better mark than the 5.26 ERA he posted a season ago. Jimenez, as anyone who follows the Rockies knows, is nowhere near the Jimenez who started the All-Star game for the National League in 2010. He has shown flashes of the old Jimenez, but his 2-7 record with a 4.68 ERA isn't anything close to what the Rockies were expecting from him.

Saturday features Aaron Cook vs. CC Sabathia. Hoping for a Rockies victory in that game, given the way Cook has looked since returning from injury, and frankly, since his appearance in the 2008 All-Star game, gives the Rockies little hope against the perennial Cy Young candidate.

Sunday will see potentially the most winnable game for the Rox. They send Juan Nicasio to the mound to face Ivan Nova of the Yankees. If Nicasio is able to pitch with the stuff that he showed in his first two starts, the Rockies offense may be able to get to Nova to get a chance for the win.

The Rockies look to win their fourth series in a row at Yankee Stadium, and may have a chance to do just that if they are able to use the short porch in right field to score runs off of the New York starters.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Seth Smith knocks the Colorado Rockies to victory

Seth Smith might not say anything about being used as a platoon player, but his bat is doing some talking.

On Tuesday night, Smith gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning on a no-doubt two-run homer down the right field line. Then, in the top of the ninth inning, when the Rockies bullpen had allowed the Indians to tie the game up, Smith drilled a slider to right-center field for his second home run of the night.

Two nights in a row, the Rockies may have surprised their fan base by winning games that they had made a habit of losing just a few weeks ago. Instead of finding new ways to lose, the Rockies are finding ways to win, much like they were throughout the first three weeks of the season.

Smith's home run in the ninth inning may have been the most surprising, coming off of Indians closer Chris Perez, who hadn't given up a long-ball all season long.

These Rockies are so interesting to watch. One or two guys don't get hot or cold at once, they collectively find ways to either be ice cold, or white hot. There seems to be no middle ground with this group of players that certainly has the talent on paper to play in October.

Colorado has earned the title of streaky, but maybe they just needed to figure out who they really were. With their 11-2 start, it almost seems like they didn't believe that they were that good. The streak may have gotten into their heads, making them wonder if they could duplicate it. Once they realized that they didn't have to win every single night that they took the field, it seemed like things slowed down for them.

Another reason the Rockies seem to be turning the corner is due to Tuesday night's starter Jhoulys Chacin. The righty pitched 6-2/3 innings, giving up just one run on two hits. He struck out seven and walked six. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Tuesday night. However, his command was lacking, as he got himself into trouble twice with walks.

It is easy to forget that Chacin is only 23-years old. When he takes the mound for the Rockies, wins are expected. His stuff is so good that opposing hitters can't find the ball. Often working behind in the count, Chacin still had good enough stuff to keep the Cleveland hitters off balance. He may have stayed in the game longer had his pitch count been lower.

Seth Smith will steal the headlines on Wednesday morning, but Jason Giambi is showing that he isn't quite done yet. On Tuesday he went 3-for-4 with two doubles, consistently putting his teammates in a position to drive him in. His value as a DH is incredible. If he can find a way to translate the at-bats that he takes when he gets four at-bats a night to his late-inning pinch hitting chances, the Rockies would be in a great place.

As many fingernails as he causes to be chewed to the cuticle, Huston Street still found a way to get another save. He always seems to make it interesting, but his 22 saves his the most in the National League. He tests the nerves, but the reality is, most of the time he gets the job done.

The Rockies go for the sweep on Wednesday afternoon. The Rockies send Jason Hammel to the hill to take on Josh Tomlin. Tomlin should present a bigger issue for the Rockies than the previous two starters the Tribe has sent out against them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Colorado Rockies use two-out rally to win opener in Cleveland

One month ago, this would have been a blowout.

Instead, the Colorado Rockies rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat the Cleveland Indians 8-7 at Progressive Field.

With two outs in fifth inning, Chris Iannetta harmlessly walked to turn the lineup over. Then Carlos Gonzalez singled, and Chris Nelson followed with a two-strike single up the middle. Suddenly the bases were loaded and Todd Helton was at the plate. Helton calmly worked the count full, then watched as Indians starter Fausto Carmona threw low-and-away to walk Helton, and cut the Indian lead to 4-2.

After Helton walked, Troy Tulowitzki delivered in an odd way. He bounced the first pitch that he saw off of the back corner of the third base bag, causing the ball to carom into foul territory down the left field line. What ended up being a double scored two runs and tied the game at four with two men in scoring position.

With American League rules being used, designated hitter Jason Giambi stepped to the plate and delivered a no-doubt three-run bomb to right-center field to give the Rockies a 7-4 lead.

The Indians rallied, but a fly ball that landed two feet shy of the stands in the bottom of the ninth off of the bat of Grady Sizemore was as close as Cleveland came to tying the game up, giving the Rockies the victory.

This game is an example of who the Rockies can be if they allow themselves to be. Over the course of May, when the Rockies struggles were at their height, when the offense got two outs, fans may as well go make themselves a sandwich or take a bathroom break, because the offense shutdown. It seemed that with two outs, they weren't confident enough that they could string together more than one base hit, so they may as well wait for next inning.

Monday night showed why it is so important to take good at-bats, regardless of how many outs there are, or what inning it is.

The Rockies easily could have given in and hoped for better. It was clear that rookie Juan Nicasio did not have his best stuff. He was missing his spots by just enough to get into trouble. In the bottom of the first, Travis Hafner launched a three-run homer deep into the right field stands. Iannetta had called for the ball to be on the inner-half of the plate, Nicasio ran the pitch right back over the center of the plate, and Hafner didn't miss.

In May, with a struggling starter on the mound, that game is a loss. The offense's confidence is nowhere to be found and instead of getting after a struggling starter like Carmona, the Rockies would have made him look like he deserved to be in the All-Star game.

Those types of games are the type that good teams win. They battle in every single at-bat. They don't hang their heads when the opposition takes a big lead. They believe that they are going to find a way to scratch and claw their way back into the game.

When a team battles back, and has a reputation for doing so, it wears down an opponent. Even with a big lead, they are walking on egg shells because they feel like they have to play perfect baseball in order for the other team not to come back. They feel like they have to score more runs, and play perfect defense. When a team lays down, the opponent can kick back and relax, knowing that the game is in the bag.

The Rockies are good enough to be the team that fights their way back into games. Of course it's not going to happen every night, but taking quality at-bats should happen in every inning. Hitters should work the counts and foul pitches off. They should always be looking for a way to move runners over and play fundamental baseball. When the Rockies do that, they are as good offensively as any team in the league. However, on the flip side, when they fail to do that, they usually only put up a run or two and find themselves wondering why they didn't win.

If the Rockies, as streaky as they are, can continue to battle and take quality at-bats, they might just find themselves in contention when the season starts to wind down.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Colorado Rockies finish good homestand, but must continue to be better at Coors

Let's face it. 6-4 at home isn't going to cut it.

The Colorado Rockies finished off their longest homestand of the season by facing the toughest pitcher they have faced all season long. On Sunday, Justin Verlander absolutely dominated an offense that had caught fire. The flame-throwing right-hander tossed a complete game, giving up just one home run on a Ty Wigginton solo shot in the fifth.

For all intents and purposes, the game was over when Aaron Cook surrendered two runs in the top of the third inning to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. With Verlander on the hill, the Rockies didn't stand much of a chance.

There were definitely some positive moments for the Rockies on this 10-game homestand. Tossing out Sunday, this club seemed to turn the corner offensively. They figured out how to score runs in bunches, and not quit with two outs. They didn't lose a series, splitting four games with the Dodgers and taking both series with the Padres and Tigers.

However, the fact is, the Rockies are going to need to be better than a 6-4 team at home. They might be able to walk away from the homestand with some positives, knowing that they are capable of being a better team than they were throughout May. Yet, 6-4 at home, with as many struggles as this team has away from Coors Field, simply isn't going to cut it.

The reality is, the way the Rockies struggle on the road, the club needs to play phenomenal baseball at home. Just picking up positives along the way isn't going to cut it. Even though 6-4 still represents a .600 winning percentage, the reality is, that number needs to be closer to .700, or .650 at the least.

Looking back at the homestand, the Rockies lost momentum on the third game against the Dodgers. That was when Jim Tracy made the most changes to the lineup. He sat Seth Smith, and he left Chris Nelson and Todd Helton on the bench. Giving guys days off is important, but when a team is on a winning streak, even a modest three-game winning streak, the manager needs to run the exact same guys out there and go with what is working.

Of course, blaming Jim Tracy isn't going to solve anything. He doesn't swing the bats or throw the pitches. Yet, he has to take his fair share of the blame.

Three-of-the-four losses came in a row, two against the Dodgers, and then the opener against the Padres. The momentum from the first two Dodger games was stopped in it's tracks.

One Dodger loss came when Ubaldo Jimenez was on the mound and simply didn't have it. He was back to the confused Jimenez who was often seen in April and May. His velocity was down and his pitches didn't have any bite. The good news for the Rockies is that the dominant Jimenez returned to the mound on Saturday, helping the Rockies take the series verses the Tigers.

The finale on Sunday was a lost cause. Aaron Cook is still looking to prove himself, and frankly, he hasn't been the same pitcher that was once the ace of the staff for a long time. Pitting him against Verlander was a horrible matchup from the get-go, and honestly, the Rockies' chances were not very good from jump street.

The 10-game homestand, while not where they needed to finish, still provided hope for these Rockies. The offense is clicking. They are finding their groove. Even the defense seems to be less sloppy. However, the next challenge is finding a way to bring the same offense with them on the road, something that has eluded them since their inception.

Maybe playing two good American League teams will break them out of their funk on the road. That would certainly take some of the pressure away from winning at Coors Field.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Colorado Rockies ride Ubaldo Jimenez to get back to .500

With a big 6-5 win on Saturday night for the Rockies, they are now back to .500. Seventy games into the 2011 season and the Colorado Rockies are exactly where they were before Opening Day.

The Rockies rode the right arm -- and the bat, of Ubaldo Jimenez to victory on Saturday. The right-hander was sharp through five innings. He gave up three runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out five. His line was not a great representation of the way he pitched. For the first time at Coors Field in 2011, Jimenez looked like he was dominant again.

His numbers would have been better, however, Jimenez was forced to leave the game in the sixth inning after giving up two base hits. Concerns arose when his first three fastballs of the inning failed to hit 90 MPH on the radar gun. Even with his velocity well below where it was in 2010, Jimenez throwing fastballs in the upper-80's was a major cause for concern.

After he exited, with what turned out to be a minor calf cramp, Matt Lindstrom came in and gave up a double that scored both of Jimenez's men.

While Jimenez looked sharp on the mound, his greatest damage came in the bottom of the second inning, when Tigers starter Phil Coke pitched around Chris Iannetta with two on and two out. Without giving him the intentional pass, Coke made sure not to put anything near the strike zone for Iannetta to do damage with.

Jimenez, hitless on the season, drove the first pitch he saw back up the middle, scoring two runs and giving the Rockies the lead.

Even if Jimenez never finds his velocity back near 100 MPH, seeing sharp movement on his pitches is a very encouraging sign. Without that movement, and without the velocity, the Dominican is simply another Major League pitcher, nothing worth fearing the way he was in 2010.

Beyond Jimenez, new Rockies continue to contribute. After knocking his first Major League home run on Friday night, Chris Nelson provided on encore. His 408-foot shot to left-center in the sixth inning minimized the damage created by the two runs given up in the top half. It also proved to be the game-winner, as Huston Street allowed a run in the ninth following the first two outs.

Every member of the Rockies offense contributed. From top to bottom, if the player didn't log a hit, they got on base via the walk. That is how baseball games are won, when the entire lineup is contributing in some way or another.

With the win, the Rockies are back to .500. They need to seize the opportunity as a fresh start. They are playing well, having a chance to finish their longest homestand of the season with a 7-3 mark, they need to simply build on each win.

If they are able to get a few games over .500, they can stay in a position to make up some ground when the Giants and Diamondbacks falter above them. Playing team baseball, where everyone contributes, is a huge start.

On the defensive side, fundamental baseball needs to continue to be played. On Saturday, the Rockies executed three plays perfectly that contributed greatly to the win. In the fourth inning with runners on first and third and no one out, Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta executed a sound play to get the out at first on a ground ball, then get the runner going to second base in a run down long enough for the runner at third to commit to going to the plate. At that point, Tulo gunned the ball to Iannetta who put the tag on to save a run.

Later, with Lindstrom on the mound, Lance Raburn launched a bases loaded double to right-center that looked like it would tie up the game. Instead, Ryan Spilborghs made a perfect throw to Tulowitzki, who made a perfect relay throw to the plate to nail Jhonny Peralta, who was trying to score from first.

That type of defense is what the Rockies have been missing. Throughout May, someone would drop the ball on those types of plays, or the throw would be off-line. A good fundamental team makes those plays. Without that defense, the Rockies probably walk away with the loss on Saturday. Instead, the get the win, and with a win on Sunday against Justin Verlander, the Rockies would leave town with a sweep of a first place team, something to build on moving forward.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Colorado Rockies show who they can be at the plate

It got to the point where people were questioning if they were as good as they had been touted.

The Rockies struggles in May, and through the first week of June, created doubters out of some of the biggest believers. On Friday, however, the Rockies showed that the talent is there.

Colorado made Detroit starting pitcher Rick Porcello look clueless on the mound as he tried every which way to shutdown a Rockies attack that saw 10 men stroll to the plate in a six-run second inning. No matter what Porcello did, the Rockies seemed to have an answer for it. Even Jason Hammel worked a bases loaded walk in the inning.

The Rockies offense is showing what it has the capability of being. They were patient at the plate, they worked counts, and they hit the ball where they needed to, when they needed to. Carlos Gonzalez has turned the corner, driving in four runs on a 2-for-4 night that included a double, a home run and a sacrifice fly.

Make no mistake about it, Troy Tulowitzki is still swinging a hot bat as well. The shortstop seems to be having the worst luck of any Rockie at the plate in 2011. Despite a boxscore that shows Tulo going 1-for-5, the story was different for those watching. The 26-year old scorched three balls that found their way into Tigers gloves, two balls to left field, and one to center field respectively.

Everyone knew that at some point, this offensive team would show up. It had to. There is simply too much talent in the Rockies clubhouse for the team to not put together a game like they had on Friday night.

The question now is whether they can continue to roll. They don't need to go out and score 13 runs a night to prove that they are a good offensive team. They don't even need to score half of that to get the job done. The key is proving that they can take quality at-bats. The Rockies need to build on what they have been doing over the past three games, which is getting the job done when they need to.

Getting the job done when it needs to get done does not necessarily mean hitting a home run either. Sometimes it is a base hit. Sometimes it is a walk, sometimes it is a sacrifice fly. The key is to simplify the game and focus on the task at hand at that moment.

One of the turning points for the Rockies might be the emergence of Charlie Blackmon. The left fielder has grabbed the starting job and not looked back. Most of the time, a kid coming up to the big leagues has talent, but spends the first few weeks looking like a deer in the headlights. They look shocked to have realized their dream, but overwhelmed at how to contribute.

Not Blackmon. He simply goes out and plays the game. On Friday he logged his second consecutive four-hit night. There are many big leaguers who play for years before accomplishing a four-hit night twice. Blackmon has done it before his second week in the league was complete. He has a confidence about him that gives off a feeling that he isn't going to make it easy for the club to send him back to Colorado Springs.

With a consistent lineup and a consistent approach at the plate, the Rockies might just be able to turn around a season that looked lost in May. They might be able to crawl back into a race in which they were headed in the wrong direction. If the Rockies can find a way to continue to battle at the plate, they still have time to nudge their way into contention.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Todd Helton deserves to be an All-Star

In August, Todd Helton will turn 38-years old.

For years, many hardcore Rockies fans in Colorado have been saying that the first baseman is washed up. For years he was blamed for taking up a huge portion of the team payroll. People said that he was the most overpaid player in the game. Popular sports writers criticized his declining game.

They were all wrong.

Helton has been nothing short of phenomenal in 2011. After an injury-plagued 2010 campaign, the haters resurfaced, calling for Helton's retirement. Luckily for the Rockies, Helton didn't listen.

Instead, he decided not to baby his surgically repaired back any longer. Sure, he still needs a few days off here and there, but for the most part, he is a consistent force in the Rockies lineup. Not only is he playing consistently, however, he is playing extremely well.

Robbed of the 2000 National League MVP (look up the numbers), Helton was regarded as one of the best in the game from 1999-2004. After battling an intestinal disease in 2005, his power numbers suddenly dropped. He lost strength and the home runs that were flying off of his bat were turning into fly ball outs. While still playing at a high level, the lack of power prompted many baseball experts around the league to consider the slugger done.

If Helton has done one thing in 2011, he has proven that he is nowhere close to done. His power numbers will certainly never return to the level they were in his prime, but his hitting prowess is as good as it ever has been.

His 2011 season thus far is deserving of an All-Star nod.

One of the reasons why many experts around the league suggest that Helton shouldn't be in the All-Star game is because of the depth at first base in the National League. There is no denying that there is an incredible amount of talent at first base. However, comparing numbers side-by-side, Helton should be brought back into the conversation.

The main competition at first base is obviously Albert Pujols, perhaps the best player in the game. Beyond Pujols, the NL boasts Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and reigning NL MVP Joey Votto. Those are four very good players. Yet, Helton should still be considered.

Take a look at the numbers.

Helton is hitting .315 with an on-base percentage of .389. He has nine home runs and 30 RBIs. He has an OPS of .912. The RBI total isn't huge, but it is still very good at this point in the season. Compare his stats to the front-runners, and there is no reason to think Helton shouldn't be considered.

Pujols- .272, 15 home runs, 42 RBIs, .828 OPS

Howard- .250, 14 home runs, 56 RBIs, .829 OPS

Fielder- .302, 19 home runs, 59 RBIs, 1.038 OPS

Votto- .331, 9 home runs, 53 RBIs, .975 OPS

As mentioned, Helton's RBI total is well-below the other four candidates. However, his batting average ranks second in the bunch, and his OPS ranks third.

On top of the comparable offensive numbers is the fact that Helton is a phenomenal defensive first baseman. Those who watch the Rockies on a daily basis know how many errors Helton saves his infield. If he has lost a step, it can't be noticed on defense. His .998 fielding percentage is tough to argue with.

No one is saying that Helton is the best of the bunch, but his numbers do not deserve to be scoffed at. They are right up there with the four first baseman that everyone mentions in All-Star talk.

If National League manager Bruch Bochy decides to take three first baseman, Helton should not be dismissed quickly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chacin nearly untouchable as Rockies roll to series victory

Colorado Rockies fans, you have a new ace.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jhoulys Chacin looked like a man among boys as he dominated the San Diego Padres. His performance has gone far beyond what anyone would have expected from the second-year pitcher.

His final line in the win was six innings pitched, one run on three hits. He walked two and struck out seven. His only real mistake of the game came in the fifth inning, when Padres catcher Rob Johnson smacked a hanging slider over the 390 foot sign in left-center. Beyond that, he was nearly flawless.

With the win, Chacin moves to just one win behind the National League leaders for wins. Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels of the Phillies are tied with nine wins apiece. Chacin's ERA is a measly 2.81, which is also among the league leaders.

It might have sounded like a stretch at the beginning of the season, but the reality is, Chacin has put together an All-Star worthy first half. He could conceivably finish the first half of the season with 11 wins and have an ERA below 3.00. With numbers like that, not giving him a spot on the All-Star team would be a crime.

With all of Chacin's success, it is easy to forget that he is just 23-years old. Almost a year-and-a-half younger than Juan Nicasio, the latest farm system product to produce good results in a Colorado Rockies uniform. Chacin was highly-touted in the minors, but as he neared his Major League debut, many were saying that he didn't possess ace-stuff, that he would top out as a number two or three in the big leagues.

Chacin's performance at such a young age is silencing those doubters. With more MLB seasoning, Chacin could prove to be every bit of a Major League ace, and not one who disappears after a couple of good seasons. His stuff is good enough to anchor a rotation for years.

In addition to Chacin's work on the mound, the Rockies offense finally seems to be turning the corner. Against another team's ace in Mat Latos, the Rockies were patient and waited for their chance to break through. They got that chance in the sixth inning, when they belted seven singles in a row to score five runs and put the Padres away.

Charlie Blackmon, still under 10 games of Major League service time, recorded his first three-hit game. That goes along with three two-hit games. If that isn't impressive enough, the Georgia Tech star is 4-for-4 in the stolen base department. He is bringing an element to the game that the Rockies haven't seen all season long.

The Rockies now look ahead to a three game set with the Detroit Tigers, who come into Coors Field extremely hot, recently taking over control of the American League Central lead. The Rockies need to get to work early because they are scheduled to face Justin Verlander on Sunday, who is fresh off nearly throwing his second no-hitter of the season.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Juan Nicasio dominates Padres, leads Rockies to victory

It is good to have depth.

The Colorado Rockies certainly feel that way. With Jorge De La Rosa out until sometime in the 2012 season, the Rockies season could have been sunk. Instead, they reached to their farm system and brought up one of their top young stars from Double-A.

Nicasio has been extremely impressive. On Tuesday night, he continued to look like he belongs in the rotation. The 24-year old pitched six innings, giving up two runs on six hits. He struck out nine while walking only one.

The impressive part for Nicasio was his ability to work out of jams. In the first inning he gave up a leadoff home run to Chris Denorfia, and then proceeded to hit Jason Bartlett. Instead of folding under the pressure, and allowing the inning to snowball, Nicasio struck out the next three batters, stranding Bartlett at third base.

In the fourth inning he did it again. With runners on first and third with one out, Nicasio got Ryan Ludwick to chase three pitches, and then struck out Anthony Rizzo on a change up that was extremely impressive.

The fact that Nicasio is already comfortable throwing his changeup to in big situations speaks highly of his maturity level. This is a kid who hadn't thrown a pitch above the Double-A level until three weeks ago, and he is already attacking the strike zone with all of his pitches. That is rare.

If Nicasio can continue to improve and grow up at the Major League level, the Rockies will have yet another arm that they can depend on for a while.

Nicasio was a breath of fresh air for Rockies fans. However, Jim Tracy continues to baffle common sense with some of his moves. With lefty Wade LeBlanc on the mound for the Padres, Tracy opted to leave hot-hitting Seth Smith on the bench in favor of Ryan Spilborghs.

What does Smith have to do to prove that he isn't a platoon guy anymore? What does he need to accomplish to get a chance to play everyday, instead of five days a week?

If the Rockies were facing a hard throwing lefty with a great slider, the move might make sense. However, LeBlanc is far from that type of pitcher. In fact, coming into Tuesday night, lefties were hitting over .300 against him, better than righties had been fairing.

Smith is the hottest hitting Rockie right now. There is no reason to leave him on the bench because the team is facing a lefty. He needs to be playing everyday.

Later, in the seventh inning, the Rockies got the bases loaded with two outs and a 6-2 lead. With the pitchers spot coming up, Smith was on deck, ready to pinch hit. Tracy, however, called Smith back and had Rex Brothers take his first Major League plate appearance. Brothers, with no intention of swinging, was struck out on three pitches to end the inning.

The move allowed Tracy to leave Brothers in the game to pitch the eighth inning, saving his bullpen. However, the move happened when the Rockies had only a four run lead, not a six or seven run lead. Luckily for the Rockies, Brothers was able to work his way out of a leadoff single and get through the inning unscathed.

The move didn't make much sense, as Smith had the opportunity to blow the game open. A single, or even a walk, essentially buries the Padres. Instead, they get out of a bases loaded jam and have six outs to work with in just a four run game.

After the game Tracy said that both Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt were down because of their pitch counts on Monday night. That meant that he had to ask Brothers to go out and get four total outs to bridge the gap to Huston Street in the ninth inning.

The only problem with Tracy's explanation is that he still had Clayton Mortensen available. While Mortensen is the long guy, who will come in to eat a few innings, would it be too much to ask him to pitch the eighth inning with at least a four run lead? Even if Mortensen struggled, Street could be getting loose and ready to come in at the first sign of trouble. Asking Street to pitch more than the typical one inning is really not that much to ask when he hasn't pitched since Saturday and has a guaranteed day off on Thursday.

Tracy's move paid off, Brothers got out of the inning, but asking a kid who is one week removed from his Major League call up to go out and perform in a way that he was never asked to at the minor league level is risky. Had Brothers given up a few runs in his eighth inning of work it may have been a move that ended up costing Tracy the respect of his clubhouse. Tuesday night's game was as much of a must-win as it gets in baseball.

The Rockies face Mat Latos in the finale of the three-game set on Wednesday afternoon. Winning this series, and getting back on the plus-side of this homestand is very important for these Rockies. They need to find a way to get a positive streak going.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Colorado Rockies lacking true power bat

Make no mistake. These Colorado Rockies hitters have talent.

Despite having talent, however, the Rockies can't seem to get anything going offensively for more than a couple of days in a row. They will go out and score a bunch of runs, but then they go right back to putting up one or two runs for a week.

With all of the talent up and down the lineup, anyone who follows the team has spent their fair share of the time being baffled by the lack of success offensively.

However, the answer is becoming more clear. The Rockies have talent, but they lack a hitter who is completely feared at the plate. They don't have a hitter who is a clear power threat that can hit the ball out of the park at any given time.

That is not to say that they don't have hitters capable of hitting the big fly. Obviously Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Seth Smith, Ty Wigginton and the resurgent Todd Helton have the capability of hitting the ball over the wall, but the reality is, those hitters aren't bona fide power hitters. Those hitters are more of the gap-type of hitters, they hit for high slugging percentage, but they would be considered doubles hitters before anyone would confuse them with a home run hitter.

Chris Iannetta is the closest thing the Rockies have to a true power hitter, but there are very few, if any, pitchers in the league who shake in their boots when Iannetta steps to the plate. He has the capability of being a home run hitter, but frankly, he has never turned the corner that he needs to in order to be a true middle-of-the-order hitter.

So why does having a bunch of doubles hitters make a bad lineup? It doesn't. However, lineups that boast power threats in them are much more difficult to handle. An opposing manager is always thinking about scenarios that would involve that hitter, and how to avoid pitching to him. Oftentimes an opposing manger will burn his better middle relievers early in a game to get that hitter out, rather than pitch in the normal sequence.

With the Rockies missing that true power bat, opposing managers don't have to pick their situations with their top relievers, they can bring them in at any point and feel comfortable with it.

Look at St.Louis, they have a combination in Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday that can hit any given pitch out of the ball park at any given time. They are true power bats. When an opposing manager faces the Cardinals, he constantly has to be thinking about scenarios that involve them doing significant damage with one swing of the bat.

Even in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have Matt Kemp, who has finally turned the corner in his big league career and become a consistent power threat. Now, with him in the lineup, managers have to find ways to pitch around him, or get him out using their top relievers.

Having a true power bat in the middle of the lineup adds a dangerous threat to a lineup, and changes games.

That said, should Tulowitzki be batting anywhere but the cleanup spot? Absolutely not. He is a great hitter who does significant damage, and often hits the ball out of the park. No disrespect is meant to Tulo. However, he does not fit the typical cleanup hitter type. He is a doubles hitter who can hit the ball out of the park, not a home run hitter who occasionally hits doubles.

The problem for the Rockies is that two home-grown talents have failed them. Iannetta, as mentioned, never became the feared bat that many thought he would be in the big leagues. He doesn't have to be a .300 hitter, or anywhere close to it, but he needs to pose a threat to the other team at any given moment. His on-base percentage is great, but the Rockies need him to be a run-driving machine. He needs to be hitting the ball out of the park much more frequently than he does.

The other player who has failed the club is Ian Stewart. The 26-year old has top-shelf power. In his rookie season he launched a ball deep into the third deck in right at Coors Field. He has the size and the power to be a consistent long-ball threat. However, his struggles are well documented. He has never found his stride in the big leagues. In his big league time, instead of pitchers wanting nothing to do with throwing a fastball inside to him, he has allowed pitchers to throw under his hands and force him to back off of the plate, only to take a called third strike. The pitches that he should be punishing are consistently being watched to the catchers mit.

Whether the lack of development of those two hitters falls on the shoulders of the team's management, or the players themselves, the lack of power in the lineup is a huge reason why the club has struggled offensively, even with a lineup loaded with talent.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Colorado Rockies fail to take series with Dodgers

So much for momentum.

The Colorado Rockies looked like they were going to shift it into high gear after taking a series in San Diego, then dominating the Dodgers in the first two games of a four game set.

Unfortunately for the Rockies, they couldn't keep that momentum going. On Saturday night they played their way out of a win, and on Sunday they returned to the field to do it again.

The good news? The Rockies offense has hit it's stride. They are battling back and finding ways to get back into baseball games. Carlos Gonzalez looks like a completely different player then he did one week ago. His familiar line drives that just seem to keep carrying are back.

Todd Helton simply continues to hit. On Sunday he hit his ninth home run of the season, one more than he hit in all of 2010. Seth Smith is proving that he is not a platoon player, and that putting his name into the lineup on a daily basis is something that Jim Tracy needs to make a habit of.

The bad news is that Ubaldo Jimenez still is just a shell of the pitcher that he once was. His fastball was sitting around 91 MPH all day, and the Dodgers were not fooled. He gave up three home runs for the first time in his career, and just didn't have it. The concern for injury has to be in the back of fans minds. He doesn't have the velocity that he had a year ago, and can't get the same movement on any of his pitches.

The other bad news is that the defense looks worse than ever. In the third inning, Ty Wigginton booted a routine double play ball that led to the five Dodger runs. Wigginton is a reminder of how nice it is to have a good third baseman on the field. His glove has been far less than advertised so far in 2011.

Some people seem to be down on Jonathan Herrera. He has looked bad over the past two nights, making a poor decision on Saturday night and then going 0-for-3 at the plate on Sunday. However, in Herrera's defense, the guy did everything that it took to prove that the second base job should be his, he played his tail off, then was sat on the bench for a week and a half when Eric Young and Chris Nelson were called up. The team effectively cooled off his sharp bat.

The Rockies enter Monday looking to take another series from the Padres. These three games are big for a club who needs to not let a couple of bad losses snowball on them. They need to take two-of-three from a team who is far inferior to them and start playing consistently better baseball. That doesn't mean the pitchers need to do better, or the hitters need to do better, but that the fundamentals of all-around baseball need to be executed better. When that starts happening, the Rockies will start climbing in the standings. Until then, they will win a few here and there, but will continue to struggle.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Colorado Rockies overcome sloppy play, still lose to Dodgers

The fight is back in the Colorado Rockies. Unfortunately, the fundamentals are nowhere to be found.

On Saturday in front of a crowd with a renewed sense of enthusiasm, the Rockies played themselves out of the game, before playing themselves back into it, before finally playing themselves out of it again.

The early going was ugly. Misplayed balls, bad throws, no one covering first base, the story goes on and on. Yet, the Rockies were somehow still in the game. That was until Jason Hammel came out of the game with lower back stiffness, and suddenly struggling Matt Reynolds opened the flood gates.

The Rockies offense stormed back once again, coming within one run, but it would not be enough as the bullpen allowed four more Dodger runs, sealing the victory.

As bad as the Rockies have been at the plate this season, their fundamentals have been even worse. With a chance to turn two in the fifth inning, Jason Giambi made a horrible throw to second base, bouncing the ball to Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki made sure to get the out at second, then returned the ball to first, where no one was covering.

The error went to Tulowitzki, and the throw was wild, but there was no one covering first base. When a quarterback throws an interception on a five yard slant pass in which his receiver ran a post, the quarterback still gets charged with the interception, even though the receiver never gave him a chance. That would accurately describe Tulo's error.

In the ninth inning, with runners at first and third and no one out for the Dodgers, Dee Gordon hit a rocket to drawn in Jonathan Herrera. Herrera looked Rod Barajas back to third base, then attempted to tag the runner from first base. He missed the tag, then threw to the plate trying to get Barajas, who had made his break. The throw was late, however, and the Dodgers scored a run without an out being recorded.

Mistakes like that happen, but they happen all too often to the Rockies. They look lost in the field. This is a team that has the talent to be one of the best defensive teams in baseball, yet they continue to make poor mistakes.

While Todd Helton definitely needs to be used with caution, one has to wonder if giving Giambi starts at first base is more detrimental to the team than it is worth. Giambi is probably better suited as strictly a late-inning pinch hitter. He needs to learn how to hit when he only sees a pitch every fifth day or so. If Ty Wigginton can play first base, let him do that when Helton gets a day off, and put Herrera at second and Chris Nelson at third.

The positive for the Rockies is that once again, they fought back. They didn't hang their heads when they got down, even by six runs, and continued to work away at the Dodger lead. If this team can play like that for the long haul, they will win more often than not, and will have a good chance at getting themselves back in the playoff hunt.